By Christian Jay B. Quilo
ITCHING to escape from the heat and bustle of the city? Around 10 hours by car from Manila is Sagada, a town in the Mountain Province flocked by tourists for its breathtaking terrain and unspoiled nature. Last October, SunStar was invited by MyEventology Co for a media tour to the Cordillera Administrative Region, in partnership with the Department of Tourism. On this trip, we got to see and experience the best of what Sagada has to offer. Pack your sweaters and hiking shoes as we go on an adventure up in the mountains! Here are some must-dos when in Sagada:
Catch the sunrise at Kiltepan Peak
Start the day extra early and go up to Kiltepan Peak. Seeing the sky gradually change in color and the fog move between the mountains is definitely a magical experience. Trust me, the 4am call time is worth it. Take all the pretty pictures, but don’t forget to pause and take a moment to marvel at the beauty of the sunrise. On a semi-related note, the arroz caldo sold near the parking lot at the peak is perfect for the early morning chill.
Trek through the Echo Valley
It’s called Echo Valley for an obvious reason: your voice echoes when you shout. As tempting as it was to test the echo for ourselves, our tour guide discouraged us from shouting as it is quite rude considering the valley is also home to hanging coffins.
Check out the Church of St. Mary the Virgin
Built in the early 1900s, the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin was the first church established in Sagada. Sagada is known to be to be the only Philippine town that is predominantly Anglican with majority of its residents baptised into the Episcopal Church of the Philippines.
See the Hanging Coffins
It is a long practiced tradition of the Igorot tribe in the Mountain Province to bury the dead, mostly honorable elders, in hanging coffins to protect the bodies from animals. This was during the time when burying the dead underground was not introduced yet. Hanging of coffins is still practiced until today, although not as common anymore. Among the coffins in the picture, the latest was installed in 2010.
Eat lemon pie and yoghurt
Foodies should not forget to try these two Sagada specialties. Although you can find them almost everywhere in the municipality, Lemon Pie House and Yoghurt House (aptly named, as you can see) are basically institutions in Sagada and are great places to have a taste of these sweet and tart treats.
Explore Sumaguing Cave
Sumaguing Cave has three stages with varying terrain conditions, from manageable to challenging. Dress appropriately: light clothing and non-slip footwear is the go-to look; although at some point in the cave, you will be asked by your guide to remove your footwear as bare feet provide better traction. Spelunking can seem daunting, especially for first timers, but the natural ice-cold pools and beautiful limestone formations—and just the thrill of the experience—make it one for the books.
Make your own pot at Sagada Pottery
Visit Ganduyan Museum
Located right in the town center, don’t let its humble size and nondescript facade fool you—the museum is filled with beautiful artifacts, each giving a glimpse into the town’s rich history and culture. Photography is not allowed, so just squat on the polished wooden floors and enjoy the owner’s stories and his well-rehearsed punchlines. Fun fact: “Ganduyan” is the traditional Kankanay name for Sagada.
Pick oranges at Rock Inn and Cafe
Rock Inn and Cafe has an orange plantation right at the back of the property. Get your dose of Vitamin C from farm to table, er, mouth? You can pick and eat all the oranges you want within the plantation for P50. Upon registration, you will be given a pair of garden shears to use for picking. Go early to get dibs on the ripe ones! Don’t worry about the peel—it’s good fertilizer so you can just toss them on the ground. If you want to take some home to bring to your family and friends, it’s P80 per kilo.