Sagada, Mountain Province – Part 1

Let me get this off of my chest first. I have a pet peeve with shortening the name of the province to Mt. Province. I’m not the abbreviating type of guy (I never refer to Facebook as FB unless I’m really tired), but other than that, Mt. is short for Mount, not Mountain. So there…

I arrived in Bontoc from Tinglayan around 1pm. I immediately asked around where the terminal for the vehicles going to Sagada was (with the help of my new friend P.A. who was going back to Manila via Baguio). I wasn’t too hungry so I didn’t mind not having lunch. After walking two blocks, I found the jeepney going to Sagada.

When I asked the dispatcher if I could be on the topload, he said it was full. Are you kidding me? There were only four people on topload! That wasn’t even half of the number of people on the topload going to and from Kalinga. He realized though that I really needed to get on that jeepney so he let me go up.

Being on the topload was a source of pride for me. When the jeepney I was on overtook a bus, I sort of held my head up high in a way that I was subtly showing off to the passengers on that bus. Why, it is embarrassing to write that!

The road to Sagada was mostly, if not entirely, uphill. As we got closer to the town, it was getting colder and colder. I was starting to regret why I was only wearing my running shorts and a thin shirt (with holes). Thankfully, the trip only lasted less than an hour and the sun was shining bright. I alighted the jeepney and paid the driver P45 for the fare.

Posted along the road were tarps advising visitors to register at the town’s Tourist Information Center, so I went straight there. I paid the fee of P35 and I was told to keep the receipt because it would be checked in some places before you could enter them.

Every visitor is then given this helpful flyer which contains the map of Sagada, bus schedules, contact numbers of hotels and rates of guided tours.

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Alternatively, you may walk down the street to SAGGAS. I was not able to proceed there because I was just too lazy so I had no idea what their rates were. But it would help if you have something to compare. You won’t miss their office because it has a big sign. Their website needs some updating though. Some posts are still so 2008. 🙂

I was surprised to find out the rates were way lower than I expected. P.A. told me that they paid P2500 for short caving alone. I paid less than that for four guided tours.

I then went to check in to St. Joseph Resthouse. Out of the three hotels I contacted, they were the only one who responded so I immediately booked a private room here. I was told through text that the rate for the private room was P1000 per night but when I checked in I was asked P1200 per night. I saw in their website that it was indeed P1200 per night so the text might have just been in error. They also had economy rooms available at P500 per night. The flyer only has their Smart number and I was told Smart does not have a good signal in Sagada, so this is their Globe number – 09272360344.

St. Joseph was right at the center of the town, just a few steps away from the Tourist Information Center. I didn’t see the gate in front of the Information Center right away so I went around and inside the other gate.

After settling into my room and finally eating something, I went back to the Information Center to arrange my tours. I booked the Kiltepan Sunrise Tour, Cave Connection (aka long caving) and the Central Sagada Eco-Tour (I guess they call it the Eco-Tour because of the Echo Valley. Harhar!).

When I got back to my room at St. Joseph, someone knocked on my door and found it was Ivan (again, not sure if I got his name right), the other guest I met in Luplupa Riverside Inn in Kalinga. His friend Lian (the injured guy) wanted me to come with him so he would have company since Lian could barely walk. He had already been to Sumaging Cave so he asked if I wanted to come along with him to Kiltepan the next day. I agreed I would so I went back to the Information Center to cancel the one I booked with them.

Ivan booked his Kiltepan Sunrise Tour at SAGGAS for P350, while the Sagada Tourist Information Center charges P500. The SAGGAS tour though only involves a hike while the Information Center would actually provide a vehicle. I think hiking early in the morning was better.

So the next day, I woke up early to get myself ready to go to Kiltepan. I waited for the guide Jim starting at 4am but he didn’t arrive until about 4:40am. We would have been too early anyway if we started at four. I was glad I had time to wait because I had a very inappropriate outfit. The temperature was almost freezing (fog was coming out of my mouth which amused me) and I was wearing the same shorts I wore the previous day. The extra time made me realize I needed to change.

The hike was about 40 minutes going to Kiltepan, so we got there before 5:30am. Many people were already there so it was a bit noisy but fun. Some people were saying that the sunrise was scheduled at 6:34am in Sagada that day and indeed the sun showed up around that time.

Without further ado, this was the sunrise…

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And here are the rice terraces below our spot.

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