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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sagada – Banaue Adventure Part IV

During our last night in Sagada, we’re having some transportation issues on going back home due to fully booked bus tickets to Manila. Actually, our original plan was Sagada-Baguio trip but because of Typhoon "Mina" road from Sagada to Baguio (Halsema Highway) was closed due to several cases of landslides. We never lose our hope to have a successful trip, good thing someone called me and offer a tour to Banaue rice terraces for 300php per head which referred by the owner of George Guest House . I didn’t hesitate since trips from Sagada to Manila are all fully booked, so we decided to divert our way to Sagada-Bontoc-Banaue-Manila. Honestly, it’s out of our budget but we have no choice but to avail the tour package or else we will be stuck in Mountain Province but the good thing is we will be able to see up close the famous Banaue Rice terraces. And since there is a Florida bus station located at Banaue, Kuya who offered the tour also helped us to reserved 8pm seats to Manila.

After finishing our last itinerary for the day we started packing our things and prepared our lunch since our service to Banaue will arrive 2 in the afternoon. We travel almost 3 hours from Sagada to Banaue with a bit of delay on the road because there’s a clearing operation due to minor landslide. It was an exhilarating ride since the cliff road is too narrow and rain started to pour…but eventually your mind will be diverted on how gorgeous the landscape you will see; full of rice fields, trees, mountains and fogs.  Our first stop was the Bay-yo Viewing point which exposes few rice terraces, but equally breathtaking views. After few minutes of enjoying the coldness of the place and few snaps on our cameras to capture scenic views, we continue our travel up to the jump off point of Banaue Rice Terraces.

Bay-yo Rice terraces

Bay-yo rice terraces

Closer look of Bay-yo rice terraces

When we finally reached the magnificent Banaue Rice Terraces we were so amazed; we didn’t expect it to be that stunning. So breathtaking, it’s an amazing creation of God.  Banaue Rice Terraces is actually claimed as one of UNESCOS’s World Heritage Site and considered as the 8th wonder of the world. It is one of the country’s most admired and most visited tourist attractions. This panoramic beauty was built over 2000 years ago by the Ifugao tribes with only primitive tools such as stones and woods. This exquisite beauty gives a glimpse to everyone who visits the place. While staring at the terraces you will be amazed on how intelligent, having great engineering skills of native Filipinos in building this wonderful creation. You will never get tired of gazing at this masterpiece again and again, that’s how wonderful it was and we’re so lucky to see this masterpiece. Truly God is so amazing in creating such lovely chef-d'oeuvre. While staring at it, you’ll realize that our country is truly rich with this kind of treasure and we should raise awareness to conserve this national treasure because it’s a part of who we are as Filipinos. 

Banaue Rice Terraces

great engineering skills 
Rice Terraces

Magnificent Banaue Rice Terraces
Banaue Rice Terraces

Rice fields of Banaue

Wondrous Banaue Rice Terraces

Breathtaking view of Banaue Rice terraces 

Overall, our trip to Mountain Province was a great experience! Nothing really beats in discovering such wonderful places, good people, rich culture, best food and wondrous interaction with nature. Sagada and Banaue in Mountain Province are among the best beautiful places in the Philippines you shouldn’t miss visiting.  Words are not enough to describe the scenery, you should see it yourself, it’s just so amazing! 

Sagada – Banaue Adventure Part III

We started our 3rd day journey at Sagada in the wee hours of the morning because we wanted to witness the beautiful sunrise in Kiltepan Peak but weather didn’t permit us to see Mr. Sun. Still, we continue the trip and even in the middle of the fog we saw the beauty behind the clouds, it's overlooking a river and rice terraces. 

Pine trees + cold breeze = perfect place

So foggy

pardon me for this blurry photo

Fog on the trees

And since we arrived at the viewing station with gloomy weather and high fog, we just took pictures in the area then proceeded to our next destination, the Lake DanumLake Danum is not that far from the town. It is located in the borders of Sagada and its neighboring municipality Besao. It looks like a big pond than a lake, however, one cannot deny that it's one of the most beautiful places to visit in the region. Feels like you're in a foreign land while staring at its enchanting beauty. The water in the lake turns into different color depending on the season, sometimes brown and sometimes green.

Lake Danum

Lake Danum

Lake Danum

Enchanting beauty of Lake Danum

After cam whoring at Lake Danum we then proceeded to our next destination, the Lumiang burial cave. We travel for about 15 minutes from Lake Danum and stopped over at an observation deck offering a view of Echo Valley and  panorama of its jagged limestone rock formations. From the viewing deck you can also catch some oldest hanging coffins in Sagada with skull in the middle coffin. 

  Jagged rock limestone with hanging coffins in the middle.                                              Closer look.

From the drop off point, we trek down 30 minutes of slippery slope aided by a steel railing up to the cave’s entrance. Even if it’s raining a bit, we enjoy trekking down because of great lush green scenery and sounds of the humming birds. 

Amid pine trees (Sagada)

going down

Magdagdag ng caption

refreshing (Sagada pine trees)

After arriving at the cave the feeling is so eerie, as more than 200 wooden coffins that is about 500 years of age are exposed and stacked up at the very entrance of the cave. Once you’re there you will notice that the coffins are a little small for a full-grown adult. According to our friendly tour guide Fred of SAGGAS, the coffins are carved out of pine tree trunk and dead should be forced to a fetal position in order to fit in the coffin. Addition to that, we saw some coffins with gecko carvings which Fred described as a guardian spirit for highly-respected leaders. The place is so sacred and only the privileged can be buried here. People of Sagada believe that the higher they are physically buried, the faster they will reach heaven.

lumiang cave entrance

Stack of Coffins in Lumiang Burial Cave

Lumiang Burial Cave

Coffins in Lumiang  Burial Cave

Bones! - Sneak shot in a slightly opened coffin

Coffin arrangement in Lumiang Burial Cave

Close look of coffins in Lumiang Burial Cave

Sagada's Lumiang Burial Cave

What’s really creepy on our trip is upon reviewing our photos and videos back in Manila, we noticed an unusual howl while trekking down the cave. We don’t know if it is a kind of bird (but too loud howl for a bird) or something else. Maybe some element is welcoming us to the place. But in general, the trip to the Lumiang Cave was really worth it. Given the chance, I will surely go back in here with my friends. You will not just enjoy the scenic view along the way, but you will learn a bunch from Sagada's majestic tradition. A dream come true for us and it is so fulfilling!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sagada – Banaue Adventure part I

Our group’s original plan of going to Bohol last year was cancelled due to unexpected opportunity of working abroad in months. Since we want to have a worthy bonding before flying to Malaysia, we altered the destination forthwith and opted for Sagada as an alternative trip. With the date of our trip coming closely, everyone got excited and already packed their things. All is set except for the weather. Typhoon “Mina” was traversing North Luzon where Sagada is located and we are closely monitoring the weather situation from time to time. In the height of the storm, Friday night of August 26 2011 when we decided to still pursue our trip and bad weather won’t hinder us from discovering the beauty of Sagada.

The night trip schedule of Cable Tours bus in E. Rodriguez was 8:30 and we got stuck in traffic arriving 30 minutes late before departure. Thank God the bus driver and conductor understood our situation and waited for us despite the left & right complaint of other passengers (Sobrang paimportante kami ng gabing iyon, hehehe). Travel to Sagada will consume you 12 butt-aching hours from Manila. There are 3 options getting there:

First – Manila-Baguio-Sagada via Victory Liner to Baguio and Lizardo bus from Baguio market to Sagada.
Second – Manila-Banaue-Bontoc-Sagada via Florida bus to Banaue, 2.5 hours jeepney ride from Banaue to Bontoc and 45 minutes jeepney ride from Bontoc to Sagada town proper.
Third – Direct route from Manila to Bontoc via Cable tours bus and 45 minutes jeepney ride from Bontoc to Sagada town proper. (650php bus fare)

Bus details:
Victory Liner Cubao – +632 727-4688; +632 727-4534
Victory Liner Pasay – +632 833-4403; +632 5019
FloridaBus Sampaloc – +632 855-1030
Cable tours bus Manila – +63929-8194688 (beside Trinity University of Asia)
Cable tours bus Bontoc – +639185215790

Sagada town
It was really a brave gesture when we pursued our travel amidst of bad weather. Our 12 hours land travel went smooth though it drizzles at times particularly upon entering Mountain Province which was signal number 2 then. After few hours of battling with slippery steep road, we safely arrived at the town of Bontoc and rode a jeepney heading Sagada town proper. It was a 45 minutes breathtaking road trip because of mostly winding and steep roads. We even safely passed by a few small landslides; thank you God for Your guidance throughout our trip. It started to rain hard and very cold climate greeted us when we arrived at Sagada town proper. 

Central town of Sagada

We immediately checked-in at George’s Guest House to drop off our stuffs and ease ourselves from a long trip. GGH has two buildings, one is walking distance from the central town and the other one is the George Guest House extension located 250 meters away from the main building and walking distance from Sumaguing cave. We chose GGH for our preferred inn for its good review and recommendation from Sagada Genuine Guide Association (SAGGAS) where i got my SAGADA reference to make this trip possible. Our home for 3 nights is a 2-storey house with complete facilities for big groups that costs 250 php per head per night. It has 3 bedrooms that can fit 10-12 pax, 3 bathrooms, living room with fireplace, and kitchen where you can cook your own food. Staying at GGH is like staying at your own home because everything you need is there.

George's Guest House Extension 

George's Guest House Extension

Other accommodations that you may want to check out are as follows:

George Guest House                -           +639185480406; +639206070994

Traveler’s Inn                          -           +639207992960;  +639195171833

Canaway Inn                           -           +639182915063

Sagada Kanip-aw                    -           +639282847507; +639298162233     

Yabami Bed and Breakfast       -           +639497472245         

Yellow House Inn                    -           +639092549783; +639478351985

Sagada Guest House               -           +639189385601; +639193002763
(with kitchen)

Masferre Country Inn              -           +639183416164

Ganduyan Inn                         -           +639212738097

Wondering what are the places of interest in Sagada? Here are some of them:

* Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves

* Bomod-ok and Bokong Falls

* Aguid Rice terraces
* Echo Valley
* Kiltepan Peak
* Underground River
* Lake Danum
* Hanging Coffins

* Pongas falls
* Orange Picking
* Yoghurt House
* Lemon Pie House

After resting a few minutes, wee took our lunch at Cusina Igorota at the central town even if the power supply was cut due to typhoon “Mina.” We really savor the good food at CI especially the tenderness and freshness of the vegetables; undoubtedly that we’re in the home of fresh vegetables. 

Cusina Igorota Sagada

While we’re walking back to our hotel, the rain began pouring hard and the wind started blowing vigorously. Bad weather pre-empted us from touring the town and there’s nothing we can do but stay on our hotel. Before dusk, the power was cut and our light that night was just some improvised lighting made with cooking oil. All of us decided to sleep together in just one room upstairs since there is a typhoon, we want to be alert and look after each other because we know that we will be having an unusual night: a sleepless typhoon night.

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