Some people may ask why I feature destinations abroad whereas the Philippines has a lot of tourists attractions that can rival other countries as well. Why not promote what’s ours? It’s true that we have a number of world-class attractions that we can be proud of. But venturing outside our own country also gives us a wider perspective and see more potential in our country beyond our myopic vision when we are stuck here. We see practices and conditions which can help both our thriving local tourism industry as well. Our visit to Sagada recently was prompted by our recent visit to Sapa, Vietnam. These two places are quite similar with the later being more sophisticated, engulfed by modernization which had us worried about the present condition of our beloved Sagada.
Traveling to Sagada is a butt-numbing journey spanning more than 12 hours of land trip. It’s an arduous journey but clearly has it’s rewards. On one thought I think this long journey and hard accessibility is also a boon to the place since development will catch up a little later at the place. Coming from Manila to Baguio then hopping on a Bus going to Bontoc to check out the Museum there than an hour more of journey finally got us at the footsteps of St Joseph’s Resthouse where we lodged when we were in Sagada.
Since it was an off-peak season and with a category 4 storm looming, I’m sure most people wouldn’t risk going here at this time, making Sagada a lot less crowded when we were there. The sun was shining when we were there with only occasional rain showers in the afternoon. So far so good nothing much has changed except for a large construction in the middle of the town center. We wondered what this was and was worried some big hotel or a commercial center being set up here. A staff from St Jo’s told us that it was a new Municipal Hall being re-built. I say re-built since originally the first Municipal Hall was placed there before it was burned to the ground last 1975. Now the new Mayor is rebuilding it there.
Roads has greatly improved. Last time I was here, probably more than a couple of years ago, the road from Masfere Restaurant going down south where the Sumaguing Cave can be found wasn’t paved. It was always dusty and rocky and when rain comes, it’s a muddy walk. Roads are now well paved making it a lot easier to walk down or up this sloping road. Even local kids are clearly enjoying this while they take their scooters and rides up the upper road to slide down.
Speaking of kids, they are as friendly as ever. Unlike the ones in Batad which I already find too touristy already due to the locals asking for money whenever you pass by them, or even a photograph. They still live a simple rural life. I was just surprised by this one little kid who was peeling a fruit with a sharp knife. She’s just a little girl and I’m quite surprised she’s handling a sharp object she could be injured with.
Nights are still quiet in Sagada. Deafening quiet. They still have their regular curfew of not allowing minors to venture outside way past 9pm. Most locals also prefer to stay indoors at that time. I guess with added entertainment options like Satellite TVs, DVD movies, computer games and internet access most locals are more pre-occupied in the evenings at their homes.
It’s still cold at night as we felt while we were outside shooting St Mary’s Church under the moon light, way way past the curfew time. There are watchers at night as we found out as well. They are quite lenient with people as long as you don’t have any bad intentions to roam around at night.
Sagada hasn’t change much which is good and I’m glad it didn’t. I guess my fears of it being as close to Sapa’s town have to wait several more years ahead. If you by chance visit Sagada, don’t forget to register at the tourist center. It helps them document visitors and with a little fee, also helps to the town’s maintainance. Very useful information could also be found there like listed below:
Sagada Transpo hire/fare from Municipal Hall to the following sights:
- big cave (sumaging) 1 way – php 250/waiting – php 400
- cave connection – lumiang burial cave 1 way – php 200/waiting – php 250
- big falls via bangaan 1 way – php 400/waiting php 550 / via agud 1 way – php 550/waiting – php 700
- kiltepan tower junction 1 way – php 250
- bokong falls 1 way – php 250/waiting – php 250
- lake danum – php 500
- echo valley – php 100
- mt. ampacao base – php 250
- one day tour – php 1,800
Sagada standard guide rates:
- CAVE CONNECTION – (1 – 2 pax) php 800 • (3 pax) php 1,200 • (4 or more pax) php 400/pax
- CAVING – (1 – 4 pax) php 400 • (5 pax) php 500 • (6 – 9 pax) php 800 • (10 pax) php 900 • (11 – 14 pax) php 1,200
- TREKKING/BIG FALLS OR MT. AMPACAO -(1 – 10 pax) php 600 • (11 – 15 pax) php 800 • (16 – 20 pax) php 1,200
- TREKKING MT. POLIS – (1 – 10 pax) php 1,200 • (11 – 15 pax) php 1,500
- SIGHTSEEING(3 sights) – (1 – 10 pax) php 400 • (11 – 15 pax) php 600 • (16 – 20 pax) php 800 (choose from any of the ff. spots: lumiang burial caves, kiltepan viewpoint, echo valley, bokong falls, underground river, lake danum)
- ESCORT – sugong hanging coffins and burial cave – php 200
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.