Most people know Sagada as the place where broken hearts go. Others know it for the Hanging Coffins, or maybe for its good, old headhunting days. Whatever it is you know it for - to us, it has always been home away from home.
Bobby & I first travelled to this place back in the summer of 2014, during our first ever 5-day road trip together when he decided to show a 12-hour long trip could be life-changing.
Indeed, it was. If there's anything about it that we love, it's waking up to the smell of fresh air, birds chirping, and the site of clouds just above the rice terraces.
Ever since I laid my eyes on this place, I couldn't help but feel like this was such a safe haven for us. In fact, in my last year of college when I learned I was pregnant - imagine a frazzled senior trying to complete thesis and seeing the two lines on the stick - oh man, my brain went on overdrive. I was anxious, panicking, and feeling all sorts of shit in my gut. Next thing we know, we're hiking in Sagada trying to find answers; trying to deal with everything.
Last year, for Christmas, Bobby decided to treat us with a 5D/4N stay in Sagada so we can show Yñigo how much this place has brought clarity & meaning to our lives.
A Brief History
Within the Cordillera Mountains in Northwestern Philippines lies an enchanting town called Sagada, one of the six (6) provinces of the Cordilleras. A popular destination for local and foreign tourists, Sagada is known for its pleasant climate. The coolest months in this area is from December to February when temperature can drop to 40 Centigrade (40F). However, mountain temperature is usually moderate, offering warm days for hiking and cool nights for sleeping.
They say that a man from eastern Abra named Biag was the first person to settle in Sagada. Legend has it that his whole family was forced out of Abra by headhunters who took over their village. They first stayed in Candon but left immediately when the Spaniards were forcing new systems, having them baptized and giving them "new" names. Biag knew he couldn't deal with this shit, so he went further inland, and discovered this place.
2016 marked the first of our many adventures with our little boy. We wanted to greet 2017 with a bang, and why not do it by bringing our son to the place that has touched both Bobby and myself? When we shared it to our family & friends, most of them went "What are you going to do with a baby there? You won't enjoy as much."
This is why I'm writing this. It's for the families who have been wanting to go to Sagada and aren't really sure what to expect. For someone with a one & a half year old boy (at that time), finding activities that we could all bear was somewhat a challenge, but we made it worthwhile for all of us.
Where To Go
Echo valley & Hanging coffins
Take a short hike to the view point and then down to the valley to see the coffins up close. You’ll pass through the Anglican cemetery, then find yourself standing at the top of Echo Valley where there’s a beautiful spot with a breath-taking view.
Try yelling when you get there. Nakakatuwa ‘cause you’ll really hear the echoes.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
A church built by American Anglican missionaries who arrived in Sagada during the early part of the last century.
Despite converting to the Anglican faith, many Sagadans continue to practice their pagan beliefs.
sagada public market
It’s quite small, but my boys and I have always made it a habit to visit every public market in the places we go to or we’ve been to.
They mostly have veggies, herbs, spices, local snacks, fish. Bihira lang meat and it’s quite pricey compared to the other things you can buy there.
Eduardo Gaudan Longid Centrum
You can also visit Eduardo Gaudan Longid Centrum which is somewhat their community center. Here you can find stores to buy souvenirs, ukay-ukay, a local salon, Dap-ayan Bread & Breakfast, other general merchandise stores, and even a tattoo parlor.
This small museum is packed with an anthropologist’s dream of sculptures, jewellery and other Kankanay artefacts.
Be sure to chat to the owner, the son of the late founder Christina Aben, who is a font of information about local culture and history. Ganduyan is the traditional Kankanay name for Sagada.
We couldn’t take photos inside, but it is worth the visit, especially when you want to know more about Sagada and its roots, its history.
where to eat
A community-based Kankanaey cafe by Gawani in Ambasing, Sagada. Its tree-house-inspired cafe made from repurposed wood is located on a cliff with a 270-degree view of the valley on the way to Sumaguing Cave.
The name means “Mother Earth” in Greek, and they serve organic, community-sourced ingredients from around Sagada.
The menu is mostly vegetarian, but not limited to it.
Our favorite place in Sagada that we always go to. Located at almost the end of Sagada Road, Sagada Brew is not just a cafe but a restaurant where you can have an amazing food experience where they offer breakfast/lunch options, and home-made baked goodies at sulit rates. We eat breakfast here whenever we’re in Sagada. The food is just too good and I love how homey it feels.
TBH if Bobby and I had a cafe, this would be a peg.
CAFE BODEGA IN ROCK INN & Cafe
Indulge in an unforgettable culinary experience as they serve you the most sumptuous cuisines from the freshest ingredients available in the high valleys of the Mountain Province.
Bobby used to stay at this place a lot back during his ‘single’ days. It’s pretty isolated from all the other places in Sagada. Behind the cold, concrete facade, Rock Inn flaunts the glamour of the rough luxe—making it a rustic, yet accommodating retreat for family vacations, romantic escapes or rural breaks with friends. To be frank, we haven’t stayed here… but Bobby can vouch for them. His experience was always excellent. The place was originally an orange orchard before becoming a bed and breakfast for weary Sagada travelers. Families can try orange plucking from their farm (if in season).
Yoghurt House offers fairly good options of pasta courses, chicken, pork, holiday specials, sandwiches, vegetables, salads, desserts, and, of course, their homemade yoghurt.
Orders can take a while, but the place is cozy to hang out in so read a book, or probably start writing something while you wait.
what to do
There are many ways to go about it. For a beginner / first-timer, best to do Sumaguing Cave. Enjoy 2-3 hours of being underground, surrounded by beautiful natural formations. We paid around P 800 for a guide (1-4 pax)!
Those who want to be more daring can try the Cave Connections. It takes 4-6 hours depending on your pace.
There are over 60 caves discovered underneath the town of Sagada. Sumaguing Cave has the biggest chamber, which is where its nickname “The Big Cave” came from. A guide will be there to help you through the different routes of spelunking. We only did the Sumaguing Cave, but there’s also a Cave Connections route where you enter from Sumaguing and come out from Lumiang Cave. You’ll spot lots of limestone formations, bat poop, and probably 200+ coffins that have survived 500 years of natural and man-made disasters. Eerie yet fascinating!
Visit the Sagada Pottery located along the main road to Besao. This is the place where my love for the art of pottery deepened.
Sagada Pottery is welcome to everyone. Potters will show off their skills for a small fee (P100 or so) and you can try your hand at the craft for an additional P100. It’s 1.5 km north of Sagada. I will never forget my experience here. I felt one with my soul. I honestly see myself doing this!
expect the unexpected
Be on the lookout for things that can happen. When you visit Sagada, you’re never so sure what to find.
In our last trip to Sagada, along with our friends, we headed out to Lake Danum at night to drink, chill, and stargaze. We saw a bonfire with a group of people circled around it. As we walked closer, we learned that some of the local tour guides were there feasting and dancing. If I remember correctly, they don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas but the guides wanted to come together to celebrate the spirit of it!
Next thing we know, we found ourselves in front of their bonfire - dancing, drinking, and throwing our worries away with them!
Sagada will always be home away from home.
Any adventures or recommendations you want to share? Feel free to share them down below, or let’s collaborate on making a more extensive list for families who want to take that trip up North, and let Sagada take their breath away!