Mountain Province · Mountains · Travel Adventures

Day 1: Memories in the Beautiful Town of Sagada (St. Mary Episcopal Church, Echo Valley and Hanging Coffins)

I was inspired to travel to Sagada, Mountain Province in 2013 by Drew Arellano’s TV Series, Biyahe ni Drew (yeah, I am a big fan!). It was on December 28-30, 2013 that I had my DIY trip to Sagada from Baguio City, with two friends whom I tagged along. I had my own itinerary, but we had a better one after meeting such friendly people on our journey.

Day 1

BUS RIDE FROM BAGUIO CITY TO BONTOC, MT. PROVINCE

In the morning of December 28, we woke up early so we could get an early ride bound to Besao,  a municipality in Mountain Province which is 13km away from Sagada.  We were surprised to see the long lines of people (perhaps locals and tourists) and the conductor said that we still need to wait for the 4th bus (oh dear!). Seeing the urgency in our faces, he recommended to take the bus to Bontoc, which is 17km away from Sagada, then ride a jeepney. Without second thoughts, we followed the suggestion despite the lack of know-how in getting around Bontoc. 🙂

We were the last three persons who got the last comfortable seats at the left row near the back of the bus. The conductor asked us where we are going, and we uttered, “Sagada, Manong…”

In the bus, two gentlemen, both lovers of adventure, were seated on the right row beside us. One said to us, “Sa Sagada din kami” (we’re also going to Sagada). He was Kuya Chad, a seasoned mountaineer and professor from Quezon City. Seated next to him was Kuya Dang, a professor from Manila as well. We were glad to have met new friends from whom we could ask for directions.

What a ride! From Baguio City, the bus passed by the long and winding Halsema Highway and mountain trails. As a mere passenger, I think driving that highway is laborious; there are so many right and left turns on the mountain trail. I admire the driver’s ability to drive the bus with safety on such a zigzag road.

We arrived safely in Bontoc after six (6) hours. The bus dropped the five of us at the highway where a jeepney to Sagada was waiting. With the six hours of travel, you’ll be needing some stretching exercises upon arrival. 🙂

JEEPNEY RIDE FROM BONTOC TO SAGADA

A trip to Sagada will not be complete without a “topload experience.” Thanks to Kuya Chad for the offer. As a first timer, who wouldn’t try riding on top of the jeepney? Yes, I was very excited but a bit nervous also at the thought of falling. But nah, I faced my fears and held on tightly to the iron handles.

The views were scenic and picturesque – the Chico River, the mountains, the mini-rice terraces. Truly, the ride was all worth it!

(Click the pictures to view captions)

THE ECHO VALLEY

After trekking the cemented stairways and pathways from the church, we reached the Echo valley overlooking Sagada town. There were tall pine trees and luscious shrubs everywhere, and plenty of pine cones on the trail. We shouted to test if voices echo… and it did!

The rock formations were also pretty sights. Rock climbing is allowed in the Echo Valley.

THE SAGADA HANGING COFFINS

We trekked downhill to reach the world-famous hanging coffins. For a newbie in mountaineering like me, the hike was not that easy. The Sagada hanging coffins suspended on  the limestone cliffs are one of a kind in the Philippines. The ancestors believed that it is one way of bringing their loved ones closer to heaven. Also, the higher the coffin, the more valued the deceased was.1

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Photo credits: Dang Hernandez

It was sad to know of a sad past that has happened in the Echo Valley. We passed by the memoir of an Italian photographer who fell from the cliff few years back (our sympathy to the family he left behind).

THE SAGADA CEMETERY

As we were exiting the valley, we came across the Sagada cemetery and passed by the Calvary Hill.

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PINIKPIKAN FOR DINNER, SOUVENIR STORES

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It was getting dark, so we bade each other good-bye. The road downhill from the Tourist Information Center accommodated a series of souvenir stores and some restaurants. We passed by Pinikpikan House so we hurried in to taste the famous and well-loved local dish – Pinikpikan – sold at Php120, which was served with red rice.

Pinikpikan came from the word “Pikpik,” which means to hit repeatedly. The dish is prepared by initially beating the live chicken by a stick before cooking. The chicken blood surfaces to the flesh, and this is said to improve the flavor of the dish. The history and procedures in cooking Pinikpikan has been explored in pepper.ph.

We also went to buy souvenirs that night so we won’t rush the next day. There were strawberry jam and wine, rice wine, banana chips, rice coffee, knitted souvenirs, keychains, t-shirts, among others. I was glad to find a yellow Sagada shirt, and I still have it with me up to this time.

Those are our experiences in Day 1. Follow our Day 2 travel adventures in Sagada, Mountain Province.

 

References:

1 Unusual Cemetery: The Hanging Coffins of Sagada http://www.filipiknow.net/sagada-hanging-coffins/

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