Tuesday, July 22

Exploring Sagada

Earlier this 2014, a day after the new year festivities, I headed to Sagada for a starter trip! It was one of the best feelings in the world -to head out exactly after January 1st. It's like you are owning this year for travel and I do hope the last six months of 2014 will live up to the first half *crossing fingers*

Sagada is one of the municipalities in Mountain Province. It only has a population of 11, 244 people and the crime rate is close to zero. It takes 12 hours to get there, the trip's definitely long but trust me when I say it's worth it! Thinking about it now, even the body pain it'll give you will be worth it, despite of it lasting for 2-3 days. One week being the worst! The place is most popular for activities like trekking, spelunking and exploring caves and waterfalls, rappelling, bonfires, and participating in tribal activities of the locals. Peace of mind? This place is sure to bring you lots. Adventure? More so.

We got our scheduled tour (see, I'm a fan of hassle free scheduled tours) from Parana Tours for P3,200 per person. It depends on how many you are on the group and for this one, there were 7 of us! It was my first time to travel with my 'studious' cutest college friends who knows almost all of my secrets and they surely gave me a great time! Anyway, 8 hours from our meeting point in Manila we had breakfast at Halfway Inn who has a teaser view of the Rice Terraces. It wasn't even the pretty version but we were already amazed. Two hours more of travel and we arrived at one of the view points for the ever-famous-one-for-the-books Banawe Rice Terraces. Coupled with the sunrise it's sure to give you a breathtaking view.

The road to Sagada took 3 hours more. I was lucky I got the window seat this time because the view gave me nothing but bliss. I couldn't stop smiling! It was God-knows-how-much meters above sea level it's gonna give you a bit of the scared feeling but other than that you won't stop looking and being amazed on how this gorgeous scenery is even in front of you. I almost had stiff neck!

We stayed at Hidden Hill Inn throughout our trip. When we arrived, this cute little kid welcomed us and we later on realized that almost all the kids in Sagada looked like her! Try to observe when you get there and you'll see what I'm talking about. Anyway, Hidden Hill has very cozy beds, clean comfort rooms, and it has common areas both inside and outside where you can either watch TV or stay by the trees and light a bonfire. Plus the family who owns it is very hospitable they'll do anything to make you feel welcome!

We had our short lunch at Salt N Pepper Diner who absolutely has good food and excellent service! Be prepared though since meals in Sagada are quite expensive ranging from P150-P250 per person but the servings are huge. It also takes a while when you order, average serving time is prolly 30-45 minutes. The good thing is there are hardly any restaurants that doesn't serve delicious food!

Salt N Pepper Diner

While we were having lunch, our cave guide approached us and presented our options for spelunking. We had to pick before we head down since our entry point will be determined by the path we choose. Since we have two boys on our group and the hardest will always be the best option, we chose to do the cave connection of Lumiang and Sumaguing. Our guide advised us that it normally takes 4 hours since the path is a bit hard and long but it mostly depends on the group. Ours took 6 hours to finish - started at 1pm and ended at 6. Almost 7! That's even more than six hours to begin with.

You will be entering at Burial or Lumiang Cave and exiting at Sumaguing Cave. That's our 'before' shot. Before all the body pain happened, before my leggings were torn, before my shirt had all the mud stains, and before I was nearly crying and begging the capitol sealed jet to take me back because I couldn't do it anymore. (Yes, I'm a Hunger Games fan.)

It's an extreme activity and if you're one of those adventurous souls who are aiming for all the extremes then go for it! I can hardly walk after but thinking about it now, it's worth it. A friend once told me, it's better to look back at something and say "I can't believe I did that" than looking back and saying "I should have done that". I kept it in mind throughout the trip and it absolutely gave me the strength to go on.

Rappelling manually without any harness whatsoever

Fitting into super small holes!

You would have to rappel, fit into ridiculously small openings (couldn't even believe I was able to), and manage to balance and hold on tight for some slippery passages you'll go through along the way. Mind you, one wrong step and you could go running for your life. It's not a joke. We had to go through a stairway of stones wherein if you fall on your right and fail to keep your balance a cliff is waiting for you. Sketchy, huh?

Halfway through there was this natural pool inside the cave you can swim on. According to our guide it was 20 feet deep; looking back I was nervous since I just learned to swim and I'm not really that comfortable yet but what the heck I'm in the middle of a cave and it has this really awesome natural pool and I've been walking and doing all these extreme stuff for 3 hours now, I couldn't let this pass without plunging in! So I went ahead and conquered my fear. For all I know I didn't want to leave the pool after! However, since we have to get back by sunset, I had to let my natural pool go and continue the exhausting journey.

We had to endure the cold temperature three hours more and it's not that easy for the main reason that we plunged in and got our bodies soaked in water. After another round of rappelling we finally get to see the marvelous stone formations Sumaguing Cave has to offer. It was really pretty! Although if you're like me who was almost dead tired from the journey you might not be able to appreciate it that much until you see the pictures. Luckily, our cave guide Kuya Kevin, was able to take photos of the formations.

I wanted to scream a good 'yehey' when our cave guide announced that it's time to go back! Then he said it would take 350 steps I could cry. It was one of the MOST tiring exhibitions I've done in my whole life and up to now I still can't believe I conquered it. Sagada is truly a place for the adventurous. It was just the first day and I felt like I was able to lose 5 lbs already!

Anyway, here is our sample itinerary for Day 1 which was designed by Parana Tours:

  • 06:00am - ETA at Banaue / breakfast / picture taking at view points
  • 07:00am - ETD to Sagada
  • 10:00am - ETA at Sagada / check-in
  • 12:00nn - Lunch
  • 01:00pm - Proceed to entry point for Lumiang and Sumaguing Cave Connection
  • 06:00pm - Estimated time of return from the cave
  • 06:30pm - Back to lodging / wash up / dress up
  • 08:00pm - Dinner / bonfire / socials

(Please note that this is individually quoted and based on the number of persons traveling which was in our case 7)

  • Parana Tours Packaged Tour (just divided it by 3 since it was 3 days) - P1,066
  • Breakfast - P100
  • Lunch - P200
  • Tip for cave guide - P100
  • Dinner - P150
  • Drinks and chips - P50
TOTAL: P1,666.00

Any questions, fun experiences, and ridiculous moments in Sagada? Jot it in the comment box below!

Happy travels!


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