For my 25th birthday, I decided to head back to one of the few places I totally fell in love with. I first visited Sagada in 2012, and I have wanted to visit it again since then. Thankfully, I was finally able to do so partly due to the Pope’s 5-day visit in the Philippines which was declared a special holiday – a very long weekend!
It was on Thursday night (January 15) when we headed out to Sagada via Banaue to hopefully catch a glimpse of its famed rice terraces (once featured in the Philippine 1,000 peso bill). Unfortunately, when we arrived at Banaue on Friday morning, it was very foggy so we did not see the rice terraces at all. It was okay for me because I have already seen it when I first traveled that route, but I had hoped my mother could have seen it, too. Anyway, there are other terraces in Ifugao and other provinces, like the ones in Sagada. 😉
I think it was about 9 or 10 in the morning when we finally arrived in the quaint little town of Sagada. We registered ourselves in the tourist center and met up with the owner of the house that would be our lodging during our 3-day stay in Sagada. When we were finally settled in the house, we planned our entire stay: the sites we wanted to visit and things we wanted to do. We decided to do the following: spelunking at Sumaguing Cave, hiking up Mt. Ampacao, trekking to Pongas falls, having a buffet dinner at Log Cabin, and visiting St. Mary’s Church, Echo Valley, and the hanging coffins.
On our first afternoon, we went spelunking at Sumaguing Cave. During my first visit, I did the “cave connection” which would take tourists through two cave systems: Lumiang and Sumaguing. We decided to explore only the latter this time because we did not want my mom to be too exhausted. Past the halfway point, my mother decided not to continue and instead, went with other groups that were headed back to the mouth (entrance) of the cave. She said it was too cold, and it was indeed. Nica and I continued but I soon found our decision unwise because there were far too many people and we had far too many stops – not really ideal since it was really cold inside the cave and stopping, especially at portions where you’re submerged in ice-cold water, was not fun. Anyway, we survived the cold and were in and out of the cave in less than 2 hours. That night, after eating and taking a nice hot bath, we opened up a bottle of Amarula and joined other tourists on a bonfire. It was a good first day, but the more eventful day awaited: my birthday!
I woke up on my birthday (January 17, Saturday) feeling very cold. I was instantly reminded that I was not in my own room, but was on a rented bed, in a rented house, in Sagada. I joined my mother in cooking breakfast and after eating, we prepared for the day ahead.
Our first activity was hiking up Mt. Ampacao (1,899 MASL). I was under the impression that it was the highest mountain in Sagada, but I found out that it was not. Mt. Sisipitan in the northern part of the town is more than 300 meters taller. Anyway, Mt. Ampacao was what we came there for so we went on with the hike. Nica and I did a run-hike combo while our guide hiked with my mom. It was very cold on top of Ampacao particularly because of the heavy gusts of wind blowing from every direction. We did not linger there, we just stayed for a brief while, took some pictures, and headed down. Mt. Ampacao was my 34th unique successful summit. 🙂
After a filling lunch of fried chicken and pork sinigang at Sagada Happy House, we headed to Pongas falls. There are many waterfalls in Sagada and three among them are popular tourist destinations: Bomod-Ok or the Big Falls, Bokong or the small falls, and Pongas falls. Since I have been to Bomod-Ok and Nica has seen Bokong, we settled for Pongas. We did a short trek to reach the falls. Once there, we only marveled at the sight for a moment, captured some souvenir shots, and trekked back to our car. The best part of my birthday celebration was yet to come!
A dinner buffet at the Log Cabin is among the many things one must definitely experience when in Sagada. In my first Sagada visit, I tried to experience just that but failed because the place was fully booked. This time around, I made sure I would be able to experience it. A week before our stay, Nica had already made our reservations. One thing I can say about the Log Cabin buffet experience: the food (especially the vegetable dishes) were great! The buffet spread consisted of dried shrimp soup, fresh salad, carrot-potato bread, cabbage kraut, mango chutney, sauteed Brussels sprouts, vegetable and cheese gratin, spatzle, baked potato hash, pork ribs, roasted pork, and chicken rolls. We also had unlimited mountain tea throughout the meal and lemon squares and banana pudding for dessert. There were also fresh fruits available. The dinner was perfect! After dinner, we could do no more than have a good night’s sleep – not before heading back “home” and cleaning ourselves first, though!
We woke up late on our third and last day in Sagada. It was okay, though, we did not have much planned. After preparing for our trip back home, we bid goodbye to our hosts and headed to the town center. We visited St. Mary’s Church and Echo Valley, stopped over for a bit of souvenir shopping at Sagada Weaving, then made our way to Baguio. We were back in Manila by 2 AM on Monday – our Sagada sojourn had officially ended.
P.S. Check out my post about my first time in Sagada: In Retrospect: Banaue, Sagada, and Baguio 🙂