Category Archives: Mountain Province

Sagada, Mountain Province – Part 3

Going back from the small falls to the highway was really exhausting. It involved climbing up the concrete steps and by the time we reached the road, Kuya Larry and I were spent. We had to find air and relax our legs before heading back to the town proper.

We had lunch in one of the karenderya at the basement of the municipal hall. We still had another hike for the day going to Lake Danum, so I badly needed some carbs. I’m on a no-rice diet but I had to eat rice for this entire trip.

After lunch, I went back to St. Joseph to clean up and change. Kuya Larry warned me that it was going to be cold in Lake Danum so I wore my hoodie and my only pair of jeans.

I met up again with Kuya Larry in front of the Tourist Information Center at exactly 2pm, well maybe it was 2:05pm. We then started the trek right away.

The first part of the hike was mostly uphill so I was really worked up. I had to take my hoodie off because I was just sweating big time. I was left wearing a singlet but I didn’t feel much cold. The trail was fine though.

We made a lot of stops and during those stops, I would have good, and sometimes repetitive, conversations with Kuya Larry. I found out that he was just a year older than me (I still kept calling him Kuya after learning this). He said he used to be a mountaineer but stopped this hobby when he got married.

He also told me that on December 27, the number of tourists in Sagada was several times more than the number of tourists that day, so I was lucky to avoid that crowd (you must have noticed by now that I really hate huge crowds).

We passed by a group of cows (I’m too lazy to search for the collective noun for cows). I got scared there for a while. I’m not scared of cows at all but they were big enough to topple us down if they wanted to. They were just easily scared by our presence too so they ran away when we approached and left this sole cow on top of the hill.

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Actually, I have another picture featuring the group of cows but I like this picture better.

We then rested on a spot overlooking the town of Besao and, surprisingly, Tirad Pass which, according to Kuya Larry, was already part of Ilocos Sur. I didn’t know that Ilocos Sur had a boundary with Mountain Province but I guess there is.

That community partially hidden from view is Besao and that mountain in the far center with a pointed tip is Tirad Pass
That community partially hidden from view is Besao and that mountain in the far center with a pointed tip is Tirad Pass

We all know from our elementary history class that Tirad Pass was where the hero Gregorio Del Pilar died. It was nice to see that piece of history even though it was far.

We continued through a not-so-dense forest of ferns and pine trees with moss around their trunks. We must be in the mossy forest now.

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From that point, it was mostly downhill but there were still parts that were uphill, so we made a few more stops to rest.

The wind started to pick up and I was afraid the weather might turn bad. It also started to drizzle so that wasn’t a good sign. But it didn’t go on for long.

Kuya Larry expected us to reach Lake Danum by 4pm. But we made so many stops that we only got there by 4:30pm.

Sadly, the sky was overcast when we got there so we didn’t see the sunset. Whatever! I just took pictures of Lake Danum instead.

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Kuya Larry told me that the only source of the water in the lake is rain. It is not connected to any river or any larger body of water at all. Even during the dry season, it only shrinks but does not completely dry up.

We decided to head back to town a few minutes after. It was about another four kilometers of walking. I was too hot from all the hiking we did that while other people were shivering from the cold, I was only wearing a sleeveless shirt and still sweating.

We reached St. Joseph around 5pm. I paid Kuya Larry and said goodbye. He’s a really nice guy. You may contact him directly at 09483841791.

When I finally got to rest for good, I checked my phone and found that I walked more than 33 kilometers that day. That’s way longer than a half marathon. I haven’t run for a few weeks now, up until this writing, because of a broken toe but my all-day hiking seemed to have made it better. I would feel some soreness in my legs, however, for the next couple of days.

Because of all that trek that day, I really had a good night sleep.

I woke up early the next day to supposedly catch the 5am trip but I was too tired to hurry so I caught the 6am bus instead. The flyer did not indicate a 6am trip so they must have added buses to accommodate visitors going in and out of Sagada at that time of the year.

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Sagada, Mountain Province – Part 2

It was a few minutes after 7am that I got to St. Joseph after hiking back from Kiltepan. I had breakfast at the restaurant where they also served free coffee.

I changed back to my running shorts. If you’re a first time spelunker, it would really help to wear loose or stretchable shorts. You never know how much leg stretching could be involved.

At 8:30am, I went to the Tourist Information Center to meet my guide for the day – Kuya Larry. I was going to first have the Cave Connection (long caving – P800), then we would have the Sagada Central Eco-Tour (P600) and Kuya Larry talked me into doing a hike to see the sunset at Lake Danum for P800. I found out later that we were actually doing the Langsayan Danum Traverse which cost P1000 on the flyer.

We immediately started the walk towards Lumiang Cave (don’t forget your registration fee receipt). Along the way, Kuya Larry picked up the lamp that he was going to use to light our way through the cave. I also made sure to buy water. I sweat a lot and therefore I require constant water.

At the entrance of Lumiang Cave were dozens of coffins piled up. Kuya Larry said coffins were placed there as late as 2006. He added that this was the only place people could go near the coffins.

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I asked if we could open one of the coffins. Kuya Larry said no. I was somewhat serious about this request but I realize this is disrespectful. I just peeked into one coffin instead and found the skeleton.

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It was difficult just like the caving I did in Siquijor and at Islas de Gigantes in Iloilo, but I must say the one in Iloilo was the most difficult I ever did so far.

There were nice rock formations inside and a “mini” pool which according to Kuya Larry was very deep. I still don’t know how to work my camera in the dark so I had to use my phone to take pictures.

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The "mini" pool
The “mini” pool

After more than an hour, we reached Sumaging Cave. You know it’s Sumaging when it’s flooded with people. Kuya Larry didn’t want me to get stuck in human traffic, waiting for a group of 10 people to slowly descend or climb a rock, so he would ask other guides if they could let me through (this annoyed at least one man) or he would find a way around.

There were plenty of rock formations in Sumaging. The most interesting were the naughty ones that they named the Queen, the King and the Princess. Why they named them such? Just see for yourself.

The Queen
The Queen
The King
The King
Look more closely and you'll see the Princess
Look more closely and you’ll see the Princess

Here were the other rock formations:

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Kuya Larry commented that I was good at caving, albeit with a wry smile. I thought to myself after I did that caving in Siquijor that that would be my last, but I’m guessing used to this now.

The flyer says the Cave Connection usually takes 4-5 hours but I did it in just 2 hours. We got into Lumiang Cave at 9:40am and got out of Sumaging Cave at 11:40am. I think they took into account the number of people inside the cave that can get one stuck there for several minutes.

We were able to hitch a ride back to the town proper so we avoided the 40-minute walk. After taking a short break, we proceeded with the Eco-Tour.

We passed by a nice church which I now realize was St. Mary’s and is part of this tour. We also passed by a modern-day cemetery. Kuya Larry said that during undas (All Saints/All Souls Day), people would actually use charcoal instead of candles since the winds would just easily blow the candles out.

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When we reached the Echo Valley, people were gathered at a certain spot so they could shout and hear the echoes. I wasn’t one of those people, I’m too shy to do that.

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One can also do rock climbing at Echo Valley. I wasn’t interested.

A few meters more and I got to finally see the world-famous Hanging Coffins. I was very lucky that it was only me and Kuya Larry in that area at that time. No one else took my brief moment away.

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Kuya Larry said that coffins were being hanged here as recently as 2010. The most recent one is that brown coffin nearest me (pictured above). He told me that people use scaffolding to be able to hang the coffins. I had to Google to check what a scaffolding is. I really thought it was a ladder.

While making our way to the next destination, Kuya Larry pointed to me the coffins that were inserted onto a wall on the side of the mountain.

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He explained that it wasn’t as high as it was before. He explained that some time ago, the ground at the foot of the mountain sank because of the nearby river.

We then made our way to Sagada’s own Underground River. Kuya Larry threw shade at the Underground River in Palawan while we were there. He said that the Underground River in Palawan is not exactly a “river” but a part of the sea. That was his opinion, not mine.

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All this time, by the way, a black Labrador named Dwight kept us company.

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We then made our way back to the highway. We were supposed to eat lunch at Rock Valley Inn but they were no longer serving food when we got there, so we decided to just delay our lunch and just go to our last destination which Kuya Larry referred to as the small falls. I think it’s officially called the Bokong Natural Swimming Pool.

Kuya Larry was urging me to swim and jump from the top of the falls. I asked him how deep the pool was. He said 10 feet. Nope. I’m not that confident swimming in fresh water that deep without someone swimming with me. So I just posed for a picture instead.

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