I never get tired of Sagada. Even if go back to the same places I visited there again and again, even if there were hassles or inconveniences encountered going there, the allure never fades. On my recent trip to Sagada, I wanted to venture further and explore the “new” sites recently opened for exploration. My friends and I visited SAGGAS (Sagada Genuine Guides Association) office and was greeted by the jovial, Yaki. We were inquiring about a particular tour but curiosity led us to change plans seeing the map on their wall. We decided to head east then traverse southeast of Sagada going along the border of Alab down south. Our first stop is Kamanbaneng Peak, one of the alternative sunrise destination in Sagada.
Hike On Damp Grounds
5am was the call time. Yaki and Gareth would wait for us at the highway near the turn going to Rock Inn where we were staying. Since Kambanbaneng Peak is near our place, we decided to walk our way there. Eastward we go and we noticed Hamlin, the huge but friendly dog from Rock Inn accompanying us on our hike. We passed the road going to Kiltepan and continued further east on another wide dirt path. There were no signs nor directions here yet but the road was big enough for a vehicle.
Having rained the night before, our hike was squishy and sploshy. Going on the trail sides avoiding the puddles and mud. Gareth with his occasional bits of trivia kept us entertained or on our toes. To keep himself entertained, he would pick out a fern and do some crafts with it like a weaved-ring. We thought Hamlin, the dog would accompany us all the way to the peak but eventually left us when we reached a gate which was still Rock Inn property.
45 minutes into our hike on a gradual ascending trail, the path became narrower and the morning blue ambient light begins to illuminate our trail. Gareth warns us to hide the plastic bags we’re carrying as we might attract the cows here as they are used to people bringing salt in plastic bags. I guess for cows, salt is their candy. We were getting excited as we saw the cloudscape on our sides and the rolling hills before us. Avoiding some dung and being careful not to slide we reached the main peak they call Kamanbaneng Peak which is one of the higher peaks in Sagada bordering the region of Alab.
The wind chill drops the temperature drastically. We felt the cold increase in folds as soon as we stopped hiking. Yaki and Gareth attempted to start a camp fire as we waited for the sunrise. The sunrise took its time with the fog enveloping much of the view. Moisture quickly formed on our gear so I was forced to hide my camera in the bag for the meantime. Then people noticed even my spiky hair, eye brow and lashes were forming dews.
Late but Great Sunrise
It was already almost 7am when the clouds began to lift and it was a glorious scenery. We may have not seen the sunrise above the ocean of clouds but the clouds dancing until it fizzles out into the air was also breathtaking. Kamanbaneng Peak or more popularly known as Marlboro Country is marvelous. Unlike Kiltepan, people here have a 360 degree view of the surrounding areas of the mountain province. Sagada on the west, Bontoc and Sabangan on the east.
Then the cows came in, ready for their routine morning feed. It was a welcome company seeing them on their grazing grounds. And there were three wild horses. Gareth told me there used to be only one, but the two horses with her were released by their owner so the lone horse would have companions. It’s good to see horses on these hills, unfortunately they are all mares.
We took our sweet time taking pictures while we saw Yaki and Gareth were playing with a boomerang throwing it in the air. The mountains, ravines, the clouds and the animals just came in together naturally forming a breathtaking scenery. Kamanbaneng Peak is now a new favorite sunrise spot for me in Sagada. Will definitely go back here probably in a different condition like the sunset next time. It’s a great alternative to the often crowded Kiltepan Viewpoint.
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.