Hello dear readers! It’s been quite a while since I have last written my last blog entry. Leave it to work and the outdoorsy side of myself that started this hiatus. Nonetheless, what better way to start my 2016 blogging life than to write about our 2015 Year-end Sagada get-away. 🙂
Nestled some 400++ kilometers way up north of Metro Manila, Sagada has always one of my dream travel destinations here in the country even before it was put into the hype and spotlight of the Tadhana movie. Why? The old, rustic, and slow lifestyle I’ve been reading about it before, coupled with the super-close-to-nature adventures it has to offer to its visitors, have captivated me to consider at is one of my travel and outdoor retreats I need to try.
Wifee and I actually were planning to travel to Sagada DIY style, but despite the more-than-one-month preparation, all the (literally) twenty inns and accommodations I’ve called up to reserve our rooms were all fully booked! It actually did not come out as a surprise as December is one of its peak months, with many local and foreign visitors spending the Christmas season there. We were already planning a Rizal-Laguna alternative tour when I came across the 3D/2N Sagada tour of Roadtrip Pilipinas, one of the online-based local travel agencies, in Facebook, and upon inquiry, they still have slots for our intended dates.
As I inferred, these travel agencies already have partner accommodations in Sagada. Suffice to say that they have already pre-booked most of the accommodations, leaving walk-ins and DIY travelers like us nil-chances of reserving for these dates. As such, we decided to book a trip with them. However, since most of the group tours offer a 2-day Sagada and 1-day Baguio tour, we opted to join them just for the first two days and do a DIY Sagada tour for the third and fourth day. Roadtrip Pilipinas was very much welcoming to our idea, and they were able to adjust the costs of our package with them. (For more information, you may visit their website or Facebook Page. They are readily available to answer all of your inquiries!)
Our trip to Sagada on the night of December 26 was taken care of Coda Lines.
Launched just this October 2015, Coda Lines now offer a direct trip from their Quezon City terminal near Trinity University along E. Rodriguez Ave. to Sagada! Unless you still would like to have a quick sidetrip to Baguio or Banaue, this 10-hour direct trip to Sagada is your choice! Trips to Sagada leave at 9pm, and going back to Quezon City at 3pm. There are three stop-overs along the route: the first at Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya (after about five hours), the second is at Bontoc, Moutain Province, and the third at Mt. Polis summit in Ifugao. These are the same stop-overs for the trip back to Quezon City, in reverse order. All of their buses are still fairly new (just three-month old buses) that you could practically smell the scent of the new leather seats! The ten-hour trip was of comfort, and since it was nighttime when we left for Sagada, I literally slept through the entire trip! (For more information, you may visit the Coda Lines website or their Facebook Page as well.
We arrived at the sleepy town of Sagada by around 7:30 the next day. The first thing we did was to look for our accommodation, Umatan’s Lodge.
Ms. Angie is the caretaker of Umatan I-matuba (the complete name of the lodge). “Umatan” is a play on the combination of the words of her husband’s parents, who were the original owners of the lodge, and I-matuba, in Igorot, means “in the house of Matuba”, meaning, they are part of the clan of Matuba. Ms. Angie, just like her husband, are FBIs, or full-blooded Igorots, and you could actually see that each of the rooms of the lodge are named after the Igorot names of their family. That’s Igorot culture for you! 🙂
As we arrived much earlier than the Pilipinas Roadtrip group, wifee and I went strolling exploring the vicinity of our lodge.
The Pilipinas Roadtrip group arrived at around 11:00 am. Our group was facilitated by Ms. Russel, and after they checked-in and rested in their respective rooms, the group met again at around 1:00 pm for our first itinerary – Pongas Waterfalls.
All the tourist spots in Sagada were actually within walking distance from one another, but of course, that depends on how far your feet could carry you! With this in mind, in my honest opinion, if you’re not the type who like to walk, then better prepare physically if you’re going to a Sagada adventure!
Pongas Waterfalls was about a 15-minute drive from the lodge. We hopped off our van when we got to the jump-off point and started our roughly 2.5-kilometer trek to the falls.
Finally, Pongas Falls showed us its majestic sight!
Allan, our trusty guide, informed us that as part of Igorot culture, visitors in the falls must first wash their face with the water before bathing or immersing your body in it. And so we did! We stayed at the falls for about an hour to enjoy its calm and cool waters before trekking back to the jump-off point.
Next in our itinerary was to go see one of the pottery houses in Sagada. I just did not get her name, but (let’s just call her) Lady Potter was one of the most fluently-English speaking locals I’ve seen for today!
According to brother-in-law, in their Sagada trip earlier this year, Lady Potter was actually a local who was able to study in Manila. She did not like the Manila life, thus she went back to Sagada. Later on, she was able to marry an American who brought her to USA to showcase the different Sagada pottery, but eventually decided to come back to her hometown. This might explain her fluency in English. Anyway, here are other pictures of our short tour at the pottery house.
Last stop of the day’s itinerary was sunset viewing at Lake Danum. Lake Danum was just a few minutes’ ride away from the pottery house, and when we arrived, it was already jam-packed with other tourists! Most had already secured their place to best watch the setting sun, thus, wifee and I were left at a spot with a view of the sunset obscured by power lines! 😦 Sour-graping me just thought of the better sunsets we’ve seen atop the different mountains we’ve climbed before, with fewer people. Looking at the brighter side, guess who we met here in Sagada!
The last time we’ve seen Sandy was at the AMCI orientation way back in June (I think?). Happy to bump into you again, Sandy!
Day 1 of the Sagada tour itinerary of Pilipinas Roadtrip done! It was already dinner time when we arrived back at the lodge, and since we were there during a peak season, all the famous joints to eat were full with some even had waiting lines! With our grumbling tummies, we were in no mood to wait any longer, so we looked for alternatives which could serve us food right there and then!
One good thing about this little town is that it does not run out of food choices. Here, there, and scattered everywhere are different stalls selling different food items. Since we did not have any chance at dinner at one of the famous eateries, we found ourselves lining up at one store selling inihaw. Chicken, pork, barbecue – you name it, they got it. We ordered two inihaw na pork chop coupled with three cups of rice to fill our tummies. As dessert, wifee got crepes at another stall. (Oh, while waiting for our pork chops to cook, I was also munching on some fishballs from another stall!) See? Sagada can be considered your one-stop food trip place! Anyway, we trooped back to our lodge and just ate our fares at the common dining table at the ground floor. Happy tummies indeed! Five of our groupmates joined us as well, and this actually beat the stressful, jam-packed eateries out there.
After dinner, wifee and I returned to our rooms, freshened up, and retired for the night, as tomorrow would be a longer day, with a much earlier wake-up call to catch the Sagada sunrise. Day 1 done! Ready for Day 2 tomorrow!
Sagada Day 2 blog entry to follow soon!