How I found myself in Sagada

by - November 21, 2019

I wasn't planning on publishing this post, since it has been a year when this trip took place. I was cleaning up files when I came across photos from the past year. Reliving the calmness, and the adventure while scrolling through them made it apparent that they needed to be immortalized. 

It's fitting that I entitled this "Lost and Found" since I felt that I had lost these photos, but more so, the primary reason I agreed on going on this trip was because of the hopelessness I felt last year while finishing my undergraduate thesis, and needed a way to distract myself from moping in my apartment. My good friend Dianne was the one who suggested that we actually go on an out of town trip, and thus here we are. I'm looking through my physical journal from entries during that time to try to be as accurate in describing how everything was.


The easiest way to go to Sagada is through bus. We chose the bus route that went straight from Cubao to Sagada. We secured seats with Coda Bus Line through PH Bus Travel Philippines. I'm no stranger to 15 hour flights but this 12 hour bus ride was something. If you are prone to motion sickness I suggest you take medicine for motion sickness an hour before the ride. You can purchase Bonamine from the local pharmacy in the Metro.

We actually missed our initial bus schedule which was supposed to be at 8 PM, but luckily they had 2 spare seats on the 10:30 PM bus schedule. We had to pay an extra 10% for the ticket, but at least we didn't lose our seats entirely.

I suggest that you sleep for the first 8 hours of the bus ride, but once you hit Ifugao, keep your eyes peeled because you might miss these breathtaking views.

I want to go back and actually set foot on Banaue Rice Terraces. I felt like I was taking a tour of the provinces in Korea, Japan or China, with all the fog, and beauty. Sometimes we take for granted the beauty and grandeur of our homeland, since I mostly resided in the Metro, because of this trip, I intend to travel and see more of the Philippines in the future.

Funnily enough the thing I was most excited about was heading to the Sagada Pottery. This was our first stop when we arrived and dropped our bags to where we were staying. 

I also wanted to note that try to look for places to stay once you've arrived, instead of booking for a place to stay online. We ended up staying at place that costed more that it looked like.

Albeit I didn't get to kiln and glaze my pot. It triggered my interest in pottery and hoping to actually get to try out pottery lessons at an actually studio.


They had a collection of their products by the entrance of this small hut. I managed to sneak in a photo of some of their pieces. I bought 3 mugs to gift to my siblings for Christmas back in California. The price was quite hefty, but it's been a year and they've still been enjoying their "Ate" mugs.

Afterwards we decided to take a short hike down Echo Valley to see the hanging coffins. I remember learning about this back when I was in elementary, and seeing it in person was unbelievable. 

The trail was pretty okay since the city already provided these rails on the side to make it easier for tourists. Some of the path had already been paved, but there were still a certain amount of steep natural unpaved pathways. I found the hike a bit difficult because I didn't get the chance to sleep on the bus, and it was quite strenuous for someone who hasn't had any sleep. Shout to our awesome tour guide Kuya Francis for being our tour guide for this trek and for the rest of our trip.


The rocks on the cliff where the coffins are placed are actually made out of limestone. It actually helps prevent the rotting of the coffins. The existence of limestone actually proves that many ages ago, Sagada was underwater, and the ground rose up. 

The common practice in the Philippines during all Saint's Day, November 1, is to visit their dead relatives at the cemetery. In Sagada it is believed that it 's the dead that visit their families. Similar to Mexico's Dia de los Muertos. During Mahal na Araw they actually light up bonfires with charcoal and wood instead of candles, since the gust of wind was so strong up top, that it would extinguish the fires of candles.

In the past, during one's death, the families would hold the wake for only 24 hours. They would sit the body upright on a chair facing the front door inside their house. (I didn't get to ask what the purpose of this was.)

Before the hanging coffins, tribes used to place their coffins inside the caves. They opted hanging the coffins on the cliff because wildlife ended up rummaging the remains of the bodies. Some people still uphold the tradition of being placed on the hanging coffins, though they're located on a much more secluded area. During the ceremony, they pass the body from the beginning of the trail to the coffins. It is believed that any essence of the dead, whether it be, blood, sweat, or tears, if you were able to be "stained" with some, it is believed to bring you luck.

One of the interesting things I found out about the people that live here is they carry two names. They have tribal names, most of which are the one written on their coffins, and they also have christian names, to which they get during baptism.

After our hike we ended up having dinner at Log Cabin Sagada. 

We both ordered Chicken with Sour Cream sauce, french fries, and fresh salad. We weren't entirely "wowed" with this dish, but the ambiance was definitely an experience. I wish I had hot chocolate or something. That would've been more fitting, since it was a log cabin.


I got a good night's sleep. The nights in Sagada felt like fall mornings in California. This was the view from the placed we stayed at.

Nothing like a Filipino breakfast to start the day. This was our complimentary breakfast. We had a hearty breakfast since we were going spelunking on the second day.

On the way to the caves we passed by this interesting run down bus that had beautiful graffiti art.

We stopped by to look at these Terraces 

By the entrance of Sumaguing cave


I honestly didn't think much of this choice of adventure when we started the day, but when we looked up on how far we've climbed down, it was terrifying. The cave was pitch black. Our tour guide had a gas lamp with him. There were moments we were thinking "what have we gotten ourselves into".

I swear, I thought I was having flashbacks of the movie "The Descent". I watched that movie when I was 13 and it made me scared of ever going spelunking / caving.


Nevertheless, Look at the beautiful things I wouldn't have gotten to witness if I opted out.

This was near the entrance before we entered the cave. We were blissfully unaware how much physical strength we needed to use that day. Haha! Dianne if you're reading this. I'm down to do it all over again. OMG

The light at the end of the tunnel. Once you've surfaced, you'll be greeted with this lush greenery, and you'll feel reborn. Another term for "I can't believe I didn't fucking die".

Afterwards, we ended up the town center and came to eat at this quaint Cafe called "Strawberry Cafe". A lot of people raved about Yoghurt house to have the best yogurt, but trust me when I tell you, we tried both, and that "Strawberry Cafe" tops everything. Be sure to order the mango yogurt combo because surprisingly their Strawberry yogurt wasn't amazing. This place is a MUST.

We had dinner at the Famous Bana's Cafe and finally got to try Kopi Luwak. I vicariously live through watching movies, so tasting this made think of the movie "The Bucket List".

Kopi luwak (Indonesian pronunciation: [ˈkopi ˈlu.aʔ]), or civet coffee, is coffee that includes partially digested coffee cherries, eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus).

-DAY 3-

On our last day we woke up early to go trekking to witness the Kiltepan sunrise. We hadn't hadd any breakfast because we also underestimated how long this trip would go. It was an hour trek, but we actually ended up going faster than we thought. We arrived 20 minutes earlier that expected.

It was very cold and foggy. There was a bonfire set up where other tourist gathered while waiting for sunrise.

They had breakfast booths set up on the side. Serving Arroz Caldo and Champorado, hot chocolate and coffee.

Sadly it was too foggy for us to see the sunrise. We were hoping to witness this view, but maybe that just means that I'll have to go back a second time around. Advice to people who are interested to see this particular view. It's best to go during Summer time, around April.

We ended up taking silly photos instead to make use of our effort during our last day.


On the hike down

I felt like I was on the set of the one of the Twilight movies. Forks, Washington. Everything looked surreal.

On the way back to the town center we asked our tour guide if we could drop by Rock Inn Cafe and go orange picking at their orchard. It was supposedly season for orange picking.

You can eat as much oranges within the orchard, when you opt to go orange picking, but they'll charge you per kilo when you decide to take some home.

Arounnd the same lot were these Ifugao huts. Having studied Architecture it was interesting to see in person how the Ifugao huts were constructed.

HOA plates are screaming. lol

The owners had several dogs within the lot. 

We tried to make a stop over at Gaia Cafe, to be the stereotypical tourist and visit where they shot the indie film "That Thing Called Tadhana", but it was currently full and there was no one attending the front desk. So we just took some pictures and left. 

Maybe next time around I'll get to actually "tambay" and enjoy a good cup of coffee while talking about my life problems. lol

Initially I thought that Sagada wouldn't be as beautiful as what people said it would. That it had been too commercialized because of the film, but it still stays true to what it is. A quick escape from reality. A haven for the lost. Somewhere to go to for some peace and quiet.

I'm definitely coming back. Hopefully sooner rather than later. 

To more adventures!
<3 Mariel

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