Friday, March 21, 2014

Sagada Tales: Experiencing The Other Side of Philippine Beauty

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The Philippines is a tropical country popular for its beautiful and pristine beaches. This is one of the main reasons why tourists from all over the world travel to our country. I have been to a few of these popular beach destinations like Boracay and Palawan and they are indeed beautiful that you'll feel like being in paradise!

Our beach trips were undeniably fun and unforgettable; however, they were not life-changing for me. But the trip to Sagada was!  My boyfriend and I flew to Manila from Iloilo last November 2012, took a 9-hour bus ride from Manila to Bontoc, and rode a van for 3 hours from Bontoc to Sagada, Mt. Province. Unlike going to Palawan or Boracay, it was not a very convenient trip at all. If you are unlucky, a single road block could let your hours of travel go to waste because if any part of the road is unpassable, you will not be able to reach Sagada. Your choices would be to go back to Manila or head to Baguio.

Sagada, Mt. Province

Sagada did not look like a touristy place. I was a bit disappointed when we got off the van because the driver had us walk to our hotel. It did not feel like a tourist spot because no one bothered approaching us and offer anything like a tour or accommodation. Not even to the foreigners in front of us. I think that's what I like more in Sagada compared to other local destinations. It simply looked like a local community - no big commercial establishments and locals were not so eager to please the foreigners. There were no motorcycles or cabs as well and you can seldom see a jeepney or bus on the street. The cold temperature felt so good and strange at the same time being in the Philippines.

The trip to Sagada was already quite an adventure just by traveling to the place. Hence, we got to see and experience the other side of the Philippines’ beauty too:

  • The temperature in Sagada is almost freezing. 
  • You can witness the sun rise majestically and up close at the Kiltepan Peak. The enchanting feeling was different from the beautiful scenery of the sunset at the beach.
  • The connected Lumiang andSumaguing Caves are the most beautiful caves I've been to in the Philippines. For me, it is even more beautiful than the famous cave in the Underground River in Palawan. Conquering the two connected caves in Sagada was quite an adventure as well as we had to rapel, slide, and climb rocks for 5 hours.
  • The rice terraces are breathtaking! It's hard to imagine how our ancestors built them without any machinery.

Other Tourist Spots in Sagada

Aside from the caves and the sunrise at Kiltepan Peak, there are other tourist spots in Sagada. Bomod-ok falls is a popular destination but unfortunately it was closed when we were there because it was a holiday for the Igorots. There was the Echo Valley as well where you get to see the hanging coffins up close! It might look creepy at some point but it was more of a weird feeling for me to see those coffins hanging at the mountain.

The Igorot Tribe

Aside from those tourist spots in Sagada, the existence and dominance of the Igorot tribe in the place was also life-changing for me. According to my research through the Internet, there are still Igorot tribes in Sagada. What came into my mind was a picture of a person in "bahag" ("garment") with headdress and spear. Just like those Igorots we saw in textbooks at school. So we were surprised to know that our tour guides were actually Igorots! They wear modern clothes instead of their traditional costume though. But during special occasions or tribal events, they still wear "bahag" ("garment").

Our tour guides looked like typical young Filipinos wearing shorts/pants and shirt/sando. So you would never expect them to be real Igorots. Even the caretaker of the guest house was also an Igorot. They told us stories over a bonfire one night and they do not sound ashamed of their ways and beliefs no matter how different it is in our modern society. I'm not saying they are old-fashioned or traditional, they have also coped with the modern world but their traditions and beliefs remain. They still do certain practices like burying a deceased person in a hanging coffin.

Meeting real Igorots may not sound life-changing. But you see, I've only heard about Igorots in my "Sibika at Kultura" ("Civics and Culture") subject during Grade School or "Araling Panlipunan" ("Social Studies") class in High School. Igorots were described as "pandak" (Short), "maitim" (dark skin), "kulot ang buhok" ("kinky or curly hair) at "pango ang ilong" ("snub nose").  So that was how Igorots were pictured in my mind, wearing their bahag ("garment") costumes.

Today, we only normally see Igorots in tourist spots, like Baguio, waiting for us to have a picture with them and give them donation. Meeting a real Igorot, however, was another thing for me. That trip to Sagada was different among other trips we had because it made me feel like a true Filipino. Seeing the Banaue Rice Terraces up close was just overwhelming. They're very beautiful, well-sculpted, and made by our forefathers. There was a distinct feeling of Filipino Pride in me when I saw them.

New Friends!

An added bonus to our Sagada trip was the new adventurous friends we met who were kind enough to let us join their group and hitch with them all the way to Nueva Ecija! ^^

Final Thoughts

For me, traveling is not just about going to places. Rather, it is about experiencing the place you’re in. Sagada, Mt. Province is far from the tropical sceneries at the beach that always depict The Philippines. Yet, it is where I have found the truest sense of being a Filipino.


"Seeing the Banaue Rice Terraces up close was just overwhelming. They're very beautiful, well-sculpted, and made by our forefathers. There was a distinct feeling of Filipino Pride in me when I saw them."

Buti ka pa.hehe.. This is one of my dream destinations. :)

Hi Carissa. Hope you can visit it soon. :)

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