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Sagada: A Pocket of Pines, Waterfalls, and Cliffs

Sagada

Looking at pictures of Filipino adventurers and travelers who visited or even lived the United States, European countries, New Zealand, Australia, and more, we feel elated for them. Think about it; not everyone is given the opportunity to step on foreign soil. Just like any other Filipino, seeing those photos sometimes makes us wish that we were in their shoes so that we can feel cool air and walk under the shade of pines. We want to visit countries where coconut trees are hardy present, where icy rivers flow, and where green mountains reign. We want to visit lands dotted with Lincoln log cabins and fireplaces.

As it turned out, we didn’t really need to go outside the Philippines to experience all of these. All we need to do is head north to Sagada in the Mountain Province so we can have a glimpse of landscapes in foreign lands.

We woke up early so we can witness one of the best spectacles of nature: the gentle glow of early morning. The photo below shows a great view of the town from the balcony outside our room. With really cool weather, pine-scented fresh air, and hot coffee, we would definitely love to wake up and greet a day in Sagada with overwhelming enthusiasm.

Sagada

After we ate a nice breakfast prepared by Edzel and his team, we headed to Bomod-ok Waterfalls, the highest and most majestic waterfalls in Sagada. Unfortunately, Edzel had to change our itinerary because of the overcrowding in Bomod-ok Falls. Apparently, as early as we were, there were plenty of people who came earlier than us.

So he suggested a much smaller waterfall in the vicinity called Bokong Waterfalls. The change of itinerary was a bit of a disappointment; we saw how mighty the Bomod-ok Waterfall is in the Net. But such unexpected changes are facts of traveling. So, let’s get it on!

Sagada

Bokong Falls

At the side of the uphill road was a small elevated area that serves as a parking space for vehicles loaded with tourists who wish to visit Bokong Falls. This parking area offered an incredible view of towering agoho trees above us and the green valley below.

Sagada

After everyone was accounted for, we headed down a dirt trail that led to the valley. Except for a few scraps of plastic candy wrappers, the trail was pristine. And being surrounded by verdant and pristine mountains simply filled our hearts with peace.

Sagada

Along the way, we came across this log cabin, which is actually a bar. There are plenty of earthy and rustic log cabins like these around Sagada, which makes it feel as if you’re not in the Philippines but some small town in the US or Canada.
These log cabins are efficient insulators, shielding occupants from the chill of the evening air.

Sagada

Just below the El Cubano bar is a nice viewing deck with carved wooden benches. It’s a nice place to hang out.

Let’s welcome the new dynamic adventuring duo—Botchok and Hannah, or Team Buttercup!

Sagada

From the viewing deck, we could see expansive rice, vegetable, and flower terraces. We can’t help but be amazed at the skill of the farmers who create these magnificent terraces.

Sagada

Botchok admired the terraces so much that he needed to take a photo of it. Hehehe! The leafy forest foliage and the agoho trees gave way to razor-sharp cogon grass.

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All of a sudden, the tall cogon grass parted and revealed this sight. Yes, we know what you’re thinking: the concrete structure destroys the natural view. We agree with you.

Sagada

Bokong Falls is quite a small waterfall; we jumped from higher waterfalls than these back in Cebu. Nevertheless, for its size, it looked pretty awesome. We do not really compare one natural wonder with another; each has its own charm.

Tourists usually climb up the waterfalls via either a trail on the right or scrambling up some rock faces on the left. Then they can jump to that lovely inviting pool below the fall’s curtain.

Sweetie pressured me to jump, but I didn’t because the water was really cold. And thinking about the hassle of changing to dry clothes on the way back to the van made me lazy. Hehehe!

Sagada

The waterfall’s pool actually overflows and drains towards this stream. Apparently, this stream is one of the main arteries that irrigate the terraces in the valley that we saw earlier.

Sagada

We scrambled up the rocks to check out the rushing stream that feeds Bokong Falls. The sight and sound of the stream was definitely intoxicating for us, nature lovers.

Sagada

After the Manila groups had their fill of jumping and swimming in Bokong Falls, we headed back to our homestay to relax for a bit and have lunch. At 1 PM, we headed off to our next stop of this “field trip.”

Sagada

Sigh! If there are rock climbers living in that house, every day would be a great heyday for them. Yes, we would definitely be jealous! Just check out those lovely limestone karsts.

Sagada

The trail passed through a large grassy area which locals use as a soccer field. And we guess sometimes, it doubles as a helicopter landing area. We’ve never seen a helicopter—let alone ride one—up close, so we guess it’s a photo of a lifetime. Hehehe!

When we asked that guy sitting below the chopper’s nose who is the owner of this helicopter, he said it was the property of a Philippine congressman. Yes, we know exactly what is going in your mind.

Sagada

Echo Valley

After passing by this open field, we proceeded down the dirt trail. Even though it was mid-day, the air was refreshingly cool and the lofty agoho trees provided a lot of shade.

Sagada

The trail passed through a public cemetery, and we were extra careful not to step on the graves. For some reason, we found their cemetery beautiful.

Edzel said that the common folks are buried in this patch of land. What about the elite? Well, we’ll get into that in a short while.

Sagada

The trail led us to the edge of a very steep ridge. Beyond the ridge is a stunning valley of pines and karst outcroppings. Locals call this enchanting place Echo Valley since one’s voice echoes in the chasm when he or she yells.

Sagada

Here’s a close up of one of the karst outcroppings in the valley. Somewhere below there is one of Sagada’s main attractions. We will get there in a little while.

Sagada

That’s the entrance to Echo Valley. We believe there’s a secret trail below there.

Sagada

From the echoes of man and songs of Mother Nature,
Comes a haunting melody composed by mortals and spirits
A beautiful rhythm that beckons an invitation of rediscovery
A grand serenade of realization that we all belong to each other

Sagada

We waited for a little while due to the tourist traffic below. Then we went down the slope via a slippery, dirt trail. Be careful!

Sagada

At the bottom of the trail, we saw a group of tents that were set up (check out the left side of the photo below). Our hearts skipped a beat. Does this mean that we can actually camp here?

Sagada

Well, it turned out to be even better because it’s a rock climbing crag! A small one, yes, but nevertheless fun! We’ll make a special post about our short but nice rock climbing adventure in Sagada.

Sagada

Hanging Coffins

After an hour or so of rock climbing, we headed towards one of the attractions that Sagada is very well-known for. Getting there involved a short 5-minute hike from the rock climbing site.

Sagada

Then suddenly, they were there before our eyes: the amazing hanging coffins of Sagada. Based on the photos we saw on the web, we actually thought that the coffins were perched hundreds of feet on treacherous rocky cliffs. In reality, they were just around 10 to 15 feet off the ground.

The photo below should provide you a more accurate idea of how high the coffins are positioned. Pretty low, isn’t it? But we believe there are other hanging coffins around Sagada that are perched higher.

Sagada

There are two interesting facts about these coffins, according to our guide. One, the hanging coffins are reserved for the revered, influential, wealthy, or powerful. Locals believe that these esteemed and respected people are too “grand” to be buried under the ground. So, they are laid to rest in hanging coffins.

Two, the coffin of the esteemed deceased was actually affixed to the cliff days before the burial. Skilled local climbers scale these dangerous cliffs to bolt, hang, or nail the coffin on the rock wall. Then during the burial day, the body is then lifted up and sealed in the fastened coffin.

Sagada

That’s where we came from. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Sagada

Church of St. Mary the Virgin

After everyone had their fill of Sagada’s hanging coffins, we backtracked and headed off to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, which appeared to be the “main” church of Sagada.

Sagada

Check out that beautiful bell tower. The design is very similar to the façade of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

Sagada

The Sagada Parish Center looks contemporary compared to the Gothic style architecture of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

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Sagada’s very own Liberty Bell? According to the engraving, this bell was made in 1921.

Sagada

Around Sagada

Edzel said that we had a lot of free time, so we decided to walk around the town of Sagada. The photo below shows their town center, which is actually small and simple.

However, we didn’t go sightseeing as we had a different and more selfish agenda. Our tummies were grumbling from the hike, so rather than visiting attractions, we hunted for the best culinary delights that Sagada has to offer.

Sagada

We found rustic stores that bake fresh bread. Unlike most of the bread that we’ve tasted in Cebu, these are deliciously crusty.

Sagada

Strawberry jam and wines abound along with nuts and delicacies. Sweetie and I bought freshly harvested and ground Arabica coffee. From Bo’s Coffee, we learned that Sagada’s coffees are some of the best in the world. We wouldn’t want to pass that chance.

Sagada

We visited the Yogurt House, a very popular food establishment that specializes on yogurt. Now, this was a funny experience; we all thought that yogurt is mostly sweet after consuming gallons of commercial Magnolia yogurt.

Well, it turned out that real yogurt is actually sour! Really sour! Deliciously sour! No wonder the banana and strawberry slices along with sweet syrup are included in the dish; their sweetness counteracts the sourness of the yogurt. Yes, it was one of the most unexpectedly delightful foods we’ve ever tasted.

The next time we visit Sagada, we’ll surely make a special feature on the Yogurt House.

Sagada

Near evening, we decided to head back home to have dinner. But before that, we drank some hot lemon tea in the Sagada Lemon Pie House. We got to tell you: the sweet, citrusy tea tastes absolutely heavenly!

Sagada

After dinner, we joined the Manila group in a warm campfire huddle. We shared stories, shared smiles, and had great fun! However, since none of us drink alcoholic beverages, we decided to excuse ourselves and retreat back to bed.

Sagada

Kiltepan Peak

We woke up early next morning and donned our cold-weather gear to see the famed sea of clouds from a nearby hill called Kiltepan Peak. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy morning and the sun hid behind those cottony clouds.

Sagada

Nevertheless, the sea of clouds is still a spectacular sight. Check that out; it crept closer to the community at the base of the hills.

Sagada

Did we mention that it was extremely cold there? Just check out our outfits; we’re stuffed in our winter jackets!

Sagada
(Photo credit: Agnes Amor)

We waited a while longer to see if the sun will break free of the clouds; it didn’t. So, at around 6:30 AM, we went down Kiltepan Peak to our van which was waiting at the base of the hill.

Sagada

After a warm bath and hot breakfast, we packed our bags. It was time to say goodbye to this enchanting place.

Sagada

Manila is still 12 hours away, and we still need to catch our flight. So, we said farewell to the Manila-based team and began the long drive back to the capital city.

Along the way, we saw these beautiful pine forests. It was almost surreal; it’s altogether a very different vista from the usual tropical scenery we usually see in our travels.

Sagada

The highway clings along the side of the mountain. As you can see, a careless turn can send a vehicle off the mountain. In some places, there are no road barriers.

Sagada

We followed a long and winding highway to Baguio, which serves as the gateway city to Manila from the Mountain Province. As we cruised up the highway, we could see terraces as far as we can see. They’ve even been more expansive than the Banaue Rice terraces! The photo below shows just one mountain slope of terraces!

Sagada

Not all terraces were planted with rice. Some terraces are home to vegetables, tubers, and flowers.

Sagada

Some mountains are left undisturbed, but there’s a good chance that these will become terraces in the future as demand for rice and vegetables for a growing population increases.

We have bittersweet feelings on the development of terraces. For one thing, they provide valuable work and income for the farmers and, as an after-effect, boosts tourism. But in another, these immense structures wreck havoc on the mountains’ natural ecosystems.

Sagada

Congratulations and thank you very much, Cebu team! And extra congratulations to the newly formed Team Buttercup! You all made this trip extraordinary.

Our Sagada adventure was definitely a blast, but we have barely scratched the surface of this magical place. For sure, we will come back here, stay longer, and discover more of Sagada’s secrets. Won’t you come with us?

Sagada

Itinerary

Day 0
4:00 PM – arrival NAIA from MCIA, Cebu
6:00 PM – meet up at Mall of Asia
8:00 PM – Departure from Manila

Day 1
6:00 AM – breakfast at Solana, Nueva Vizcaya
8:00 AM – arrival at Lagawe, refuel vans
9:00 AM – arrival at the Banaue Rice Terraces
10:30 AM – depart Banaue, proceed to Sagada
1:00 PM – lunch at Bontoc
1:45 PM – depart Bontoc, proceed to Sagada
3:00 PM – arrival at Sagada, check in, prepare for caving
4:00 PM – explore Sumaging Cave
7:30 PM – end caving activity
8:00 PM – arrive at homestay, shower up, dinner, socials
11:00 PM – lights out

Day 2
6:00 AM – wake up, shower, prepare stuff
7:00 AM – breakfast
8:00 AM – travel to Bokong Falls
8:30 AM – arrival Bokong Falls, swimming
11:00 AM – back to homestay, rest
12:00 PM – lunch
1:00 PM – start trek to Echo Valley and Hanging Coffins
1:30 PM – explore Echo Valley, Hanging Coffins, rock climbing
3:30 PM – free time to explore Sagada
6:00 PM – arrive at homestay, shower up, dinner, pack up for next day
8:00 PM – campfire socials
10:00 PM – lights out

Day 3
3:30 AM – wake up call
4:00 AM – proceed to Kiltepan Peak
5:00 AM – arrival at Kiltepan Peak, enjoy sea of clouds
6:00 AM – head back to home stay
7:00 AM – breakfast, pack things into the van
7:30 AM – short awarding
8:00 AM – depart Sagada, head to Baguio
1:00 PM – arrival at Baguio, lunch
1:45 PM – depart Baguio, head to Manila
8:30 PM – arrival NAIA, dinner, check in
11:00 PM – depart NAIA, flight to Cebu

Budget*

  • P3,400 – packaged tour excluding air fare (minimum of 12 people, maximum of 24 people)

Inclusions

  • private van
  • all entrance fees
  • guide fees
  • 2 nights group sharing accommodation in George Guest House
  • Sumaguing Cave
  • Bokong Falls or Bomod-ok falls
  • Hanging Coffins
  • Church of St. Mary
  • Sagada Weaving
  • Echo Valley
  • Kiltepan Peak
  • Banaue Rice Terraces side trip
  • Baguio City side trip
  • bag tag ID
  • food sharing (2 dinners, 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch)

Optional

  • P 400 – Cave Connection (entering at Lumiyang Cave and exiting at Sumaging Cave)
  • P 2,500 – Crystal Cave
  • P 200 – Dri Fit Extreme Outdoor Club shirt

* We did not include our expense for extra meals, snacks, souvenirs, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, miscellaneous transportation, and sharing scheme from us. Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.

Tips

1. We did not do this adventure DIY because we had some first-time, novice travelers and their children with us. Instead, we had a tour operator take care of our transportation, accommodation, and main meals so that everyone will have a hassle-free, convenient, and pleasant time.

2. Contact Edzel Herrera of Extreme Outdoor Club to book a packaged Sagada trip. Please see contact details below:

  • Extreme Outdoor Club
  • Contact no: (+63) 0908-1111203 or (+63) 0927-6811641
  • Landline: (+63) 7826938
  • Email: extremeoutdoorclub@yahoo.com
  • Facebook page: Extreme Outdoor Club

3. Whether you are doing your Sagada tour DIY or with a tour group, be sure to register at the Sagada Municipal Tourist Information Center at the town center first before proceeding to any adventure in your itinerary; this is required by local law. They provide tourist information, guide procurement, rate sheets, and other things that you need for your tour.

If you’re in a tour group, your operator will register your team for you.

4. Pack light but bring the following

  • water
  • light snacks
  • trekking sandals with an aggressive tread
  • rashguard, cycling shorts, swim suits (if you wish to take a dip in the water falls)
  • hat, sarong, or scarf
  • sunglasses
  • sunblock
  • extra clothes
  • rain gear
  • cold weather gear such as winter jacket, bonnet, gloves, and warmers (you need this to ward off the cold in Kiltepan Peak)
  • personal medicines
  • plastic bags/garbage bags
  • extra money for food, souvenirs, and emergencies
  • camera
  • cellphone

5. For convenience, waterproof your things; you will never know when it rains. Place them inside dry bags or dry sacks. If they’re unavailable, put your stuff inside plastic bags or Zip-lock bags before putting them in your backpack.

6. Keep your voice down and avoid unruly behavior. Do not leave trash in Sagada, even biodegradable ones. Note that vandalism of any kind is punishable by law and by community sanctions.

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About Adrenaline Romance

Rock climbers. Mountaineers. Sweethearts on adventure. Adrenaline Romance is a photoblog that belongs to a loving couple who has an eternal lust for adventure. The blog contains experiences, tips, itineraries, and other useful information regarding adventuring in the Philippines and beyond.

9 comments on “Sagada: A Pocket of Pines, Waterfalls, and Cliffs

  1. Kanindot didto uy… Beautiful feature. 🙂

  2. your pictures are beautiful! i’ve heard and read a lot about sagada and 9 out of 10 everyone who’s been there raved about the place. definitely on my bucket list!

  3. Sagada yogurt! :-P~~~~

  4. Can we pitch tent at kiltepan peak?

    • Hi Cecile,

      We we did saw some tents there. So, it’s very likely that they allow camping at Kiltepan Peak.

      Personally, though, we’re not sure if you’d like to camp there. Just think: you’re sleeping soundly then suddenly, at around 3 or 4AM, you can actually FEEL hundreds of people walking past your tent door.

  5. […] A. (2015). Sagada: A Pocket of Pines, Waterfalls, and Cliffs. Retrieved from https://adrenalineromance.com/2015/01/24/sagada-a-pocket-of-pines-waterfalls-and-cliffs-2/, 8 November […]

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