Taking off evening of December 25th, I met up with the guys at the bus terminal and took the 10-hour land travel to Banaue via Ohayami Trans. We chose to take the Banaue route to Sagada and the Baguio route on our way back to Manila.
At 7am of December 26, it was touchdown Banaue and we headed immediately to a nearby local restaurant, Las Vegas, to have breakfast. The restaurant has good native coffee and serves the usual Filipino breakfast variants (tapa, hotdog, tocino, etc.), which cost Php 100.00.
By 8.30am, we were on our way to Sagada via Jeepney and what made this road trip more exciting was when we experienced that 25-minute ride seated on top of the jeepney. It was windy, cold, and a bit scary but very much satisfying.
On our first stop, we were all amazed at the view waiting for us… Banaue Rice Terraces. Never have I imagined that I would be this close to one of the world’s treasures so I inhaled the beauty of it all while wishing for time to stop. It was truly an amazing experience and something that I can check off my bucket list.
It was a 3-hour ride, which cost us Php 300 each, from Banaue to Sagada town proper with stops in between for photo sessions. We reached Sagada town proper at around 12noon and headed to Lodge Labanet to check-in. Lodge Labanet is relatively new, opened just last 2013, managed by owners of George’s Guesthouse, and a 3-minute up walk from SAGGAS office.
For other accommodations, you may also check out the ff.:
- George’s Guesthouse
- Residential Lodge
- St. Joseph Resthouse
Upon checking in, we took a 2-hour rest period then headed to SAGGAS tourist office to finalize our itinerary for the whole stay. SAGGAS office staff is very accommodating and courteous, and even suggested best options to help maximize our stay in Sagada.
Day 1 – sight-seeing tour from 4pm to 6pm
Day 2 – cave tours starting at 6am; Bonfire Music Festival 7pm onwards
Day 3 – sunrise at Kiltepan and trekking in Bomod-ok falls; Bonfire Cultural festival at 8pm onwards
Food tasting and embracing the local culture are highly relevant in making any out of town trips extraordinary; hence, part of this blog post is our share of experiences with the local food, culture and activities.
As much as we could, we tried several different restaurants in Sagada and the experience was deliciously satisfying.
Sagada Lemon Pie House – The much talked about Lemon Pie was a bit overrated for me. It was a bit bland and lacking of sweetness but the food on the other hand was more satisfying. Rice meals available (i.e. chicken curry, chicken adobo, red chicken, etc.) only cost Php 130-150 and the serving size can already be shared by 2 people. Also, the lemon tea and mountain tea were buzz worthy and the interior has cozy ambiance.
YSAGADA – they serve superb breakfast rice meals (i.e. daing na bangus, tapa, longganisa, etc.) and the hot chocolate is to die for. Breakfast meal with hot chocolate per head costs around Php 180.00. Hot chocolate and the cold weather go perfectly together, so better not miss having YSAGADA’s hot chocolate during your stay in Sagada.
Pinikpikan Haus – coming from our 4-hour cave connection tour, we were all famished to say the least and wanted to eat a really satisfying meal. I ordered their house specialty – Alibama Rice (fried chicken with red rice and veggies) and the others ordered the Pinikpikan. My food was just ok or maybe I was more tired than hungry but as for the Pinikpikan, my friends seemed to enjoy it. The meal cost us Php 150 per head.
Masferre – this restaurant was another unexpected choice that exceeded our expectations. For one, they serve food cafeteria style, where you have to line up and choose the food you want and price was downright affordable. Second, the exterior has a different vibe. On the outside, it seemed like a high-end restaurant offering European cuisines but when you enter the restaurant, the menu offers an entirely different experience as it is consisted mainly of Filipino traditional food (i.e. liempo, bistek tagalog, pakbet, chopsuey, etc.). Food prices were around Php 80-100.
Yoghurt House – we only got to try their famous Yoghurt and breakfast options – pancakes with fruits and Yoghurt. The pancakes were surprisingly good despite the sour taste of natural yoghurt. The yoghurt with choco chip cookies was not really a good combination, so, I would suggest that you stick with fruits and yoghurt combination. The yoghurt costs around Php 100-140 and the pancakes cost around Php 150-180.
Also, this restaurant is always packed, closes during off-peak hours, and opening hours vary at times. For me, this restaurant is a bit overrated but definitely a must-try during your stay in Sagada.
Strawberry Café – the food in this restaurant is similar with Lemon Pie House. Their famous Strawberry Yoghurt, in my opinion, is better than that of Yoghurt House. It is sweeter with fresh strawberries and fruit preserves, and also cheaper, costing around Php 80. This restaurant is also always packed, closes during off-peak hours, and opening hours vary at times.
Sagada Brew – this restaurant serves extraordinary food choices mainly due to their resident chef. The Sagada Orange Chicken I ordered with salad and red rice was just ok but more than the food, it was the lava cake that blew our mind. Moreover, this restaurant was the most expensive we’ve eaten in as the meal per head costs Php 250.00 and the lava cake costs around Php 150.00.
WHAT TO DO:
Sight-Seeing Tour – this tour is good for 2 hours of trekking. There were also sudden drops and slippery slopes but very manageable. We managed to cover the following tourist spots:
- Echo Valley
- Calvary Hanging Coffins
- Underground River
- Sagada Weaving – for that unique and one of a kind souvenir items, Sagada Weaving is the place to go. Also, purchasing items at this store will help the livelihood of the Sagada community.
- Saint Mary’s Church
- Bokong Falls – The Bokong Falls is good for swimming but not during the cold season and the water is more than 10 feet deep.
This tour costs us Php 600 covering all 5 of us and with one tour guide.
Cave Tours (Entry at the Burial or Lumiang Cave and Exit at Sumaging Cave) – this tour is not for the weak and faint-hearted. It took us 4.5 hours to finish this tour spelunking, hiking, climbing, swimming, and rappelling. We lost count on the number of times our lives were in danger because of the slippery slopes, sharp-edge rocks, sudden drops, pitch-black cliffs, and more. Indeed, it was a once in a lifetime experience and everything we did, felt and risked, even the bruises and scratches, were truly worth it given the amazing rock formations and learning the history captured within.
WE SURVIVED the Sagada Cave Connection adventure!
This tour costs us Php 400 each with 2 guides assisting us. Also, during peak season, it is best to start as early as 6am so as to enjoy the cave with not so many tourists yet because at 9am onwards, a lot of tourists will start pouring in and you will no longer enjoy the beauty of it all.
Bonfire Festival – this festival aimed to promote Sagada community’s ethnicity, and the music performances featured were all in sync of the community’s culture and traditions. But more than the music and cultural night, this bonfire festival signifies an ending and a beginning. It signifies letting go of all the feelings, issues and fears bottled up inside, while hoping and wishing for a fresh start in 2015.
Time to let go of what was or what has been and face what is. Live in the moment.
We failed to do everything as planned following our itinerary, hence, given the chance to come back, I would surely take the opportunity to go at the places and dine at the restaurants we missed:
- Sunrise at Kiltepan Peak
- Bomod-ok Falls
- Pongas Falls
- Mt. Ampacao trek and Sunset in Lake Danum
- Sagada Pottery
- Ganduyan Museum
- Log Cabin Café and Gaia Café
In any out of town trips, going home has always been the hardest part. We were very much reluctant to go back to Manila on December 29th but we have to. Taking the Baguio route, we waited in line for the bus, a few meters away from the Municipal hall, for 1.5hours and endured the 6 hours travel time to Baguio. The fare costs Php 220.
Upon arriving in Baguio, the city was packed; it seemed majority of the Manilenos decided to spend their holidays in Baguio. Pressing for time, we had a quick dinner in SM Baguio before heading to Victory Liner for our trip back to Manila, which would take another 6 hours and cost Php 445. Finally at 2am, it was touchdown Manila.
This year-end trip was planned quite unexpectedly with the unusual group of individuals. Except for one, this was the first trip I took with my colleagues, and 2 were even new acquaintances. More than the adventure and scrumptious food, it was truly amazing how traveling connects people. Our differences don’t matter as long as we share the same passion in wanting to experience the beauty of life and see all that is good and wonderful that this world has to offer.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine