If you’re a millennial twenty-something that’s fully immersed with pop culture, then you’re familiar with that one hugot-filled (hugot means ‘the feels’ in English) romantic movie that culminated with a magical scene in Sagada, Mt. Province. Admittedly, my friends and I are–and this was one of the major reasons why we went to this adventure. We wanted to have our own Sagada moment!But hold your horses people! Yes, Sagada is a place for emotional healing. But it actually also offers more fun and physical activities than just lounging around and contemplating about life. To be honest, it was quite surprising for us first-time visitors.
The Majestic Rice TerracesSagada is a quaint, little town located at the heart of Mountain Province. There are a number of ways to get there but our group chose the Banaue route to get a glimpse of the famed rice terraces. We took a bus from Manila which regularly leaves at 10 in the evening and arrives in Sagada around 10 in the morning the next day. As we reached the municipality of Banaue in Ifugao Province, we were allowed to hop out and enjoy the world-renowned Banaue Rice Terraces. Personally, it was a surreal experience seeing the terraces up close. I used to just read about it in books at school and now here I am basking in all its majestic glory.
Spelunking in Sumaguing CaveUpon arriving, we immediately unpacked and prepped up for the first agenda, spelunking! Sagada is home to several caves, and one of the more popular ones is called Sumaguing Cave. It’s nicknamed “The Big Cave” because it has the biggest chamber and is home to a lot of rock formations shaped over thousands of years by nature.Entering the mouth of this humongous cavern was initially quite intimidating. Fortunately, all groups were assigned a local guide who’ll look after and tour them inside the cave. Our guide, Dennis, gave us one heck of a tour. He was a funny man who injected humour in his tour. It actually helped ease our nerves as he cracked jokes while pointing at unique rock formations. At one point it got tricky as we have to maneuver our bodies in very tight spaces while being careful on the slippery floor and the jagged rocks. It was not a walk in the park, to say the least. However, it was a proud moment when we finished the tour. We kept smiling from ear to ear as we re-emerged from the underworld. Another tick off the bucket list!
Sunrise Viewing in Mt. KiltepanWe got up at 4 a.m. the following day to catch the sunrise in Mt. Kiltepan. I was personally looking forward to this since I dreamt of somehow re-enacting the scenes in the movie. However when we got there, hordes of tourists apparently had similar plans. The air had a festive feel to it as people found their own spots, sipping on their coffee and waiting for the sun to rise. And boy, was it a magical moment when it finally shone through the sea of clouds! It shone over everything, displaying right before us the endless mountain ranges, the beautiful rice terraces and all the wonders of the valleys below. It was utterly breathtaking.
Echo Valley and the Hanging CoffinsThis next tour took us around Echo Valley, passing through St. Mary’s Church and finally ending the trek at the infamous hanging coffins of Sagada. The valley was aptly named since anyone who shouts will hear an echo back. We had a good laugh shouting “fried chicken!” and hearing it back. St. Mary’s Church is an episcopal stone church built by American missionaries back in the day. Easily enough, the highlight of the trek were the Hanging Coffins. These coffins are raised and nailed to the side of the cliffs. Our guide Reccia shared that only the natives are allowed to have this special burial. They believe it is the highest honor as the dead is buried closer to the heavens. It was truly a sight to behold.
Sagada Pottery and Lake DanumAtop a jeepney, we decided to make a quick trip to a small shop in town for some pottery demo. We were in for a special treat as the very eloquent potters performed artistry in motion, willing and bending the clay to whatever shape they desired. They even allowed guests to try it out for a small fee. After the demo, we checked out this man-made lake called Lake Danum. This is more of a local spot where people can have picnics and fish on the lake. The locals say sunsets in Sagada are best witnessed in this place.
Gaia Cafe and RestoOur trip back to the metro was scheduled a little after lunch. But after eating, we agreed the trip will never be complete if we didn’t drop by the coffee shop featured in the movie ‘That Thing Called Tadhana’. So we endured a six-kilometre brisk walk back and forth just to get a peek of this tiny shop located in the outskirts of town. It’s become quite a tourist magnet so there were no available tables left when we got there. Still, a couple of snaps were all it took. For a few calming minutes we enjoyed the view from the coffee shop, overlooking rice paddies and the tiny houses at the foot of the hills.In conclusion, what my friends and I experienced was way more than what we expected from the trip. We conquered fears and did a lot of firsts. We enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere while also taking on some extreme activities. Definitely, it is one for the books. There is nothing like that trip called Sagada.
About Jebo MamogkatJebo Mamogkat considers himself a loud introvert. He is a big pile of irony, a self-proclaimed indie junkie with an excellent command of mainstream pop culture. He loves cats and wasting time in coffee shops.