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Sagada is more than just finding your ‘Tadhana’

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As a young tourist destination, the municipality of Sagada in Mountain Province should now be included in your bucket list. Yes! Its fame catapulted in a recent film but it does not mean that Sagada is ready to receive the influx of tourists coming to visit although becoming a popular tourist destination.

So here you go, these are the Top Places to Visit-slash-Things to Do in Sagada I made for first-timers!

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Explore Sagada’s Town Center

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Upon arriving, the bus will stop right in front of Sagada Town Center. But first, register and pay the environmental fee of PhP 35.00 at the Municipal Tourism Office where they will issue you a government receipt and will also give you a pamphlet of the tourist spots and lodging houses found there, with corresponding fees and contact numbers.

TuristaBoy Tip:  When going to all the tourist spots in Sagada, ALWAYS bring the receipt of your environmental fee payment. All local guides located at the entrance of each tourist spot will look for it before heading to your destination. (I think this is for regulation purposes.)

Limestone Rock Formations around Sagada

Limestone Rock Formations around Sagada

When strolling around town, you’ll also notice lots of limestone rock formations. It is because Sagada is believed to be submerged underwater thousands of years ago.

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Also around the town center, you’ll find:

a.) Ganduyan Museum

  • showcases indigenous arts and crafts from local Sagada artists and artifacts that can only be found there. (Cameras are not allowed inside!) There is an entrance fee of PhP 20.00-25.00.
The Ganduyan Museum Facade Sagada

The Ganduyan Museum Facade

b.) Saint Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church

  • The main Anglican Church in Sagada is founded by Father John Staunton who came to Sagada and spread the Christian faith to the highlands. The municipality is around 95 % Protestant by faith. Located in Staunton Road, the church is also known for its rose petals-stained glass. The altar is also locally made by a Sagadan artist and is made from wood and rocks.

c.) Public Market

  • Where you will find mobile shops that sell local fruits and vegetables and are adjacent to the town hall. They also have a Saturday Market (located at the Town Basketball Court), where the food items and commodities are much cheaper.
The Sagada Open Public Market

The Sagada Open Public Market

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Hike at the Echo Valley, Calvary, and Hanging Coffins

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Echo Valley is famous to tourists because when you shout into the cliffs, your voice really echoes (thus, the name). The Calvary can be reached by passing through the cemetery first, where you’ll also find the tomb of one of the SAF Fallen 44. Down the echo valley, you’ll find the more popular site of the hanging coffins (according to my friend, who is a Sagada local, this tradition ended in the early ‘90s) where only the members of high society or those who are from well-known Sagadan families would be buried in this manner. Others would then be buried in caves.

TuristaBoy Tip: These tourist spots are just adjacent to each other and you really need to walk!

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Go rock-climbing!

Rock Climbing in Sagada!

Rock Climbing!

For only PhP 400, you can try all the 4 courses of rock climbing all you want! From beginner’s level to the most expert course, they have it! In the vernacular, locals term it ‘unli-climb’ or ‘want-to-sawa.’

When I tried it, it was really scary because it was my first time. The rock handles are bit sharp and rough (which is a good thing, to have a good grasp) but the actual climbing is the real thing. The people managing the climb would require you to wear specialized climbing shoes which are very, very tight, I tell you, to have a better stance throughout the climb. What makes it easy is that there are markers indicating that that rock can be a good grab point or not. It was so fun because we were all just laughing it out and making the most out of the experience.

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Visit and eat at Yoghurt House, Sagada Lemon Pie House, and Gaia Arts and Crafts Café

These are just three of the most visited restaurant / cafés in Sagada.

Yoghurt House

Their specialty is, obviously, their homemade and locally produced yogurt, in different presentations. What I ordered is their Banana, Granola, and Strawberry Preserves Yoghurt. The taste of the yogurt is legit as it is somewhat sweet and salty at the same time, added by the flavors of its toppings.

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We also ordered their Mexican open sandwich, made from spicy pork cutlets, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, cheese, sugar beets and butter sauce. Their menu is basically modern and Western and they serve pasta and rice meals, too, aside from their yogurt favorites – at a reasonable price.

The Yoghurt House Menu - Sagada

The Yoghurt House Menu

But when we ate there for dinner, power supply was cut because of the sudden influx of people in the area. Their power suppliers could not handle the additional establishments that require power, thus cutting the supply and worse, having no supply of power at all. This is one of the setbacks of the influx of tourists in Sagada.

Other Information:

Address:

South Road, Sagada, Mountain Province

Contact number:

+63 908 112 8430

Website:

www.yoghurt.sagada.org

Social Media Account:

Facebook: @yoghurt.house

Business hours:

0800 – 2030 H

Business days:

Monday – Sunday

Travel time:

10-15 minutes’ walk from the town center

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Sagada Lemon Pie House

Their lemon pies are to die for, and are only PhP 30 a slice! Their staff said its pies and other products are freshly made every day to avoid spoilage and surplus of supplies. We just ordered their lemon pies because we came from a long walk from Gaia Arts and Crafts Café. Their signature lemon pie is locally known in Sagada because of its distinct sour tinge taste, complemented by the sweetness the rest of the pudding and bread base. Definitely, a slice is not enough and you will be tempted to buy a box of it as a pasalubong.

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Other Information:

Address:

South Road, Sagada, Mountain Province

Contact number:

+63 907 782 0360

Website:

www.sagadalemonpiehouse.blogspot.com

Social Media Accounts:

Facebook: @sagadalemonpiehouse

Twitter: @survivingsagada

Business hours:

0600 – 2000 H

Business days:

Monday – Sunday

Travel time:

20-25 minutes’ walk from the town center

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Gaia Café and Crafts

Is an artsy and vegan-type of a restaurant where all their food items are organic and sourced directly from their backyard with local and indigenous artworks hanged on its interiors.

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The design of the restaurant is inspired by the traditional houses of the indigenous Kankana-eys of the Mountain Province. (I’ll research on this further!) The structure also depicts strength and agility as it stands across a hill, between the entry and exit points of the Lumiang-Sumaguing Cave Connections and overlooking the majestic and cascading rice terraces of Mountain Province. The restaurant-café is also featured in the movie “That Thing Called Tadhana.”

Other information:

Address:

Barangay Ambasing, Sagada, Mountain Province

Contact numbers:

+63 949 137 6777, +63 915 727 6831

Social Media Account:

Facebook: @gaiacafeandcrafts

Business hours:

0900 – 1900 H

Business days:

Wednesday – Sunday

Travel time:

40-45 minutes’ walk from the town center

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Chase the sun rise at Mount Kiltepan and see it set at Lake Danum

Although an up-and-coming attraction, you’ll have to wake up very early to avoid the sudden flow of people coming to Mount Kiltepan. What I suggest you do is to wake up at 4 am and hike to the site for one hour and treat yourself for an early exercise (because riding a vehicle going to the site is too mainstream.) It is also way much better to walk to the sights found in Sagada because its roads are relatively narrow and there are few or no sidewalks in some parts of the town center. It’s just also as disappointing and appalling because some tourists do not know how to throw their garbage in the right place.

TuristaBoy Tip

When going to a different place, especially for a vacation, be always mindful of your trash. It’s just an eye-sore to look at garbage scattered everywhere and it is also an additional expense for your host destination to clean up these – practice responsible traveling.

Lake Danum before sunset

Lake Danum before sunset

In the afternoon, try chasing the sunset near Lake Danum at around 5:30 pm or later. You’re lucky if there are no clouds covering the scene. Hike to the site for at least one to one and a half hours and the natural beauty of Sagada all around. Also, you’ll see the Sagada Pottery House (update on this soon!) where you can have the first-hand experience of making a clay pot the traditional way! There are also some art-crafted clay pots that are for sale in the area.

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Spelunk at the Lumiang-Sumaguing Cave Connection

Your Sagada visit would not be complete if you haven’t traversed this well-known cave connection. Spelunking the cave would roughly take you about 4-5 hours, depending on the number of people inside the cave. Human traffic at a different context, that is. Because sometimes, there can be long waiting times due to small holes that only one person can pass through and there are also parts that require you to rappel and pass through knee-high waters. It is but more challenging when you explore the cave during the rainy season in the Philippines (June-December / early January) because the water inside can be chest-deep and is ice cold!

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The Lumiang Cave is an old burial site where traditionally-engraved coffins are also present. Some coffins and scattered bones are found at the entrance of the cave. The Sumaguing Cave is a smaller cave network which will give you a site of different rock formations, unique fossils, stalactites, and stalagmites carved for thousands of years. Unfortunately, there are also portions of the cave vandalized by some tourists.

TuristaBoy Tip

NEVER touch scattered bones inside the cave, this is to show respect to the remains of the dead because it is still believed by locals up to this day that the spirits of those remains are present in the cave.

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Eat Etag and Pinikpikan

Your Sagada trip will not be complete if you haven’t tasted their famous Etag (cured and preserved loin meat) and Pinikpikan (battered chicken meal) – two of the common dishes found in the Cordilleras.

Pinikpikan is prepared by battering the chicken slowly (in the neck) so that its blood will clot and will give it a tastier flavor. It is best served as adobo or tinola. On the other hand, Etag is prepared by cutting portions of lean meat from the butchered pig, spreading and massaging salt and other seasonings and preservatives all over its portions. It is then cured by tying it up and exposing it in the open air until it is wrinkly and dried up. These dishes are often prepared as part of the locals’ rituals and traditions dating back to pre-Spanish period – one culture that is slowly dying because of modernization and cultural merges.

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TuristaBoy Tip

Pinikpikan is best served with etag because the saltiness of the cured meat will give the pinikpikan natural saltiness, not requiring additional salt and pepper to give taste to your meal.

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As a first-timer in Sagada, these are the things that I recommend you to do on your first visit. Although there are a lot more interesting sites in town (refer to the pamphlet given by the Municipal Tourism Officer upon registration), it’s always up to you on what you want to do and how you want to do it. Traveling is exploring, too!  🙂

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Verdict: 8/10

Sagada is still an up-and-coming tourist destination in the North. It is just a small town with a population of 154,187 and it seems to be not ready yet to receive a large number of tourists because of logistical issues.

Although the tourist spots found in Sagada are really breathtaking, to die for, and is very close to nature, I just observed that some tourists are very careless and just don’t mind littering everywhere. I hope that the Local Government Unit of Sagada would formulate new and strict ordinances and laws concerning the maintenance of tourist spots in the municipality.

Roads are also narrow and quite dangerous and they lack a central transport system within the area. They only have jeepneys bound for Bontoc (Capital of Mountain Province), vice versa – so you really have to walk, use your private vehicle, or hire a vehicle to go around Sagada, now adding to the congestion they are currently experiencing especially during long weekends and holidays in the Philippines.

Having said that they are not prepared in accommodating a large number of tourists, they also lack power and water supply when the demand gets higher. For their water supply, they source it straight from the mountains and their power supply can only handle what is enough for the whole municipality.

Sagada is a budding tourist destination, it just needs to intertwine its traditional way of living with the ever-changing modernization effectively and efficiently to help make ends meet. And we are the driving factors to make this happen – for the benefit of everything and everyone.

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Want to know how I got to Sagada? Check out my version of the Sagada Travel Guide here!

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Didn’t see what you’re looking for? Want me to go to other interesting and must-see places on my return trip? Drop a comment below!

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