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Chronicles of Sagada II: Sagada-cious exploration of the highland...

February 8, 2008 Comments Off on Chronicles of Sagada I: Road to the highland paradise! Backpacking, Mountains & Peaks

Chronicles of Sagada I: Road to the highland paradise!

    (Author’s note: The pictures posted on this article have permissions from the “models” and owners. Names and identifying details were deliberately changed to protect their privacy. The rest of the story are based on real life events.)

“We will meet at Victory Liner terminal at 12 MN tomorrow, be in Baguio City by 6 am and head off to Sagada via somewhere, then be at the town by 2-3PM. Ok ba yung plano?””Okies!” came the bewildered but unanimous reply.

It was as fast as the blink of an eye. The awesome stories of my cousin Fai, so engrossed us, we unanimously decided to go backpacking, the next day – to Sagada. “Are we sure about this?’ Joy asked me. “Cause I’m sure hell excited even if I don’t know anything about the place!” “Wait, we’re hitting Baguio right? It’s just extending the trip to a nearby place. Tutal, nadun na tayo!” I excitingly blurted trying to convince Fai and Joy about the plan. We’ve been talking about a Sagada adventure before but none of this came close to actually embarking on one arduous trip. “Ay ang ganda talaga ng Sagada!” boasted my cousin. I don’t know if he was referring to his experience or the place, but his story telling sealed our decision. “This dinner adjourned! We’re definitely heading for the highland paradise tomorrow”!

By 12 MN the next day we left Manila for Baguio, with our jeans and shirts and sweet shirts on travel pack plus rubber shoes and travel food. I don’t have any mountaineering equipments with me. “Nah we won’t be needing those gadgets. I’m pretty sure Sagada is just another provincial town” I quipped. Then we fell off to sleep. After about 6 hours of travel, we arrived in Baguio city again with no idea where to find the terminal for the bus heading towards Sagada. “Mamang driver asan po ang terminal papuntang Sagada”? asked Joy. Then we rode a taxi going to direction the terminal bum gave us. I felt some sense of relief I saw we were riding a mini bus, so perhaps the roads to Sagada were a bit wider than I thought! The conductor told us it would take around 8-12 hours of travel. “Hu-What?!!!”

Eight hours of travel on a cramped mini bus, with barely a space to stretch your leg is agony. Put the mini bus in some 3,000 meters high up in the clouds, on rough roads where only two vehicle will pass through at a time., on cold breeze with almost fog everywhere, I’d say I’m beginning to panic on my acrophobia. “Relax” said my cool companion. “You’ll like the travel. Just pray” Now, I’m pretty scared.

Yet somehow, the scenery, breathtaking heights and landscapes outside glued me to my seat. I couldn’t count the mountains we traversed, how high we were above “sea level” or where the earth is the bus in right now. I barely slept during the whole trip. The road was pratically rough, and the paved ones looks rather scary high up!“Look o! Ganda! Sana me ganyan sa atin!” I wishfully blurted every time. My point and shoot camera barely rested from my incessant shooting of waterfalls and rock formations just alongside the road. Anything that could catch my eyes for more than 5 seconds is worth taking “the shot”.

At some high point on the road, we stopped by a place for a coffee break. I went into a store and asked for a styro cup. The saleslady just stared at me. “Di ata ako naitindihan”. We just laughed at the incident.

At one point along the road to Sagada we passed by a high curve were people have gathered and was looking down a ravine. On the road side we saw a spine board with a bloodied person lying and seem lifeless. “Oh my!Holy canoli!” A passenger jeep fell awhile ago in to the ravine and six passengers died or have died while rescue was being attempted. The nearest hospital is 30 minutes to an hour a way. “Doc habol pa tayo ng emergency dito!” quipped Joy. I’ve seen worse, but there all in the hospital at the ER on the OR table. But this, this is in the middle of nowhere, high up in the clouds and probably not within a tertiary hospital reach in 3 hours. We shivered at the thought and fervently prayed for our safety and the dead persons souls. ” Are we right in going on this way?” For a moment I hesitated, but Joyy was more emphatic and composed than the surgeon in me. “We’d be okay. Just pray.” I whispered to myself.

It was around 2 pm when we arrived in Sagada. My first impression was,” This is it? It is so quite here and it seems nothing is spectacular with the town’. Quite a number of townsfolk is hanging around the bus stop and side streets. I notice the attention were getting since we’re the only Pinoy looking tourist who came that afternoon. We walked straight to the tourist info center, mindful of a possible place to stay. “Hello” was the warm first word by the English speaking native receptionist in the center. “Hello good afternoon” was our kind reply. We logged in as tourist and the receptionist provided us with a map and a run down of the tourist spots (and fees) in the town. We zeroed in first on the place where we should stay, since its getting dark already. ” Gusto ko ng medyo tahimik na place, mataas overlooking the town at comfortable din” I told the receptionist. “Ako kahit saan” Joy jokingly replied.

I liked the laid back attitude and the location of St. Joseph’s on top of a hill so we headed there. We first went to the cafeteria, named St. Joe and drank coffee. I’m beginning to feel cold.

We probably got the best place to stay in Sagada, judging the accommodation and location of St. Joseph’s Inn.

Owned and run by the Anglican sisters, this place is all American in style, log cabin type house. I like the wooden finish and the quite atmosphere off the yard. “May fireplace!” Cguro pampainit sa lamig ng gabi!” Now that was an oxymoronic comment I made that day.

So we settled in and took breather off the rush of adrenaline we had since starting on this cross town rigodon. We still couldn’t believe that just last night, we were in Dampa at Macapagal Road talking about Sagada. Now we are actually in Sagada! “Yahooooo!”

When we were already a bit rested, we planned our itinerary. “Oc-oc ka guid”( You’re an OC) said Joy. We estimated our “vacation” time and allocations. We made a “rough draft” of what we’ll gonna do later and the next day. Since rain is drizzling outside we cannot do much but hide under our thick comforters and share stories. We agreed to explore more of the town when the rains stops and come dinner time. “Tagal naman ng ulan!” Sayang Oras!”

At first sign that the rain mellowed we hit the road. We went to the only internet cafe we saw and browsed the net about Sagada.

Yogurt House is our next target come dinner time. “You eat yogurt?” Joy asked me”. “If you consider Yakult to be yogurt, yes” It is a short walk downhill but it was dark outside so we overshoot a bit and retraced our steps back. Surprisingly, we still met Caucasian tourists walking up the road.

Just like St. Joe, Yogurt House is All American. Even the kind lady who got our orders is Caucasian. We expect yogurt of course, and there are lot of yogurts you can choose from. I have to ask the kind lady’s recommendation since I don’t know anything about yogurt actually. Except Yakult. “Hahaha! You’re primitive!” I expected their yogurt to be one of a kind, and I was never frustrated. Though not a yogurt lover myself, I devoured all I ordered (and part of what Joy has ordered) with so much gusto. Now I’m worried if my stomach will accept such avalanche of yogurt food.

What caught me about The House is the fireplace and the hanging E. Masfere photos on the wall showing Igorots in all facets of their life, social and religious ritual. It was really an amazing collection.

And the fireplace was a romantic rendition to the Yogurt House but was more of a “warming place for the cold night!”(duh??? yes oxymoron number 2!)

When we went out of the TYH the breeze is icy cold. A little drizzle also made the breeze even more biting. So we walk back to St. Joseph’s fast and shivering. “Darn, its cold up here!” The cold and darkness already prevented us from further exploring the town some more. So we settled in for the night and plan for the next day again.

“Mga oc-oc” we teased laughing at each other’s quirkiness. Then we dozed off to sleep.

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