Sagada has been on my travel bucket list for a few years now. But the success of the movie That Thing Called Tadhana put Sagada on the radar of so many people which caused an influx of tourists to the town. So I let a few years pass by and chose a date that didn’t fall on a long weekend or holiday to enjoy Sagada with as few tourists as possible. Sagada on a Tuesday is so quiet compared to Sagada on a Saturday. I am very glad I gave up a couple of my vacation leave days to experience Sagada.
I and my boyfriend chose a date that was in between my birthday and our month anniversary for our first trip together. We stayed in Sagada for 4 days so we can do all the tiring activities on the first 2 days and just relax on the second half of our trip.
Also, we chose not to join a packaged tour because we wanted to explore and enjoy Sagada at our own pace. We also didn’t monitor our spend so our itinerary and expenses below might come as a shock. LOL. We just wanted to enjoy Sagada and we don’t regret any of it.
How to go to Sagada from Metro Manila:
Coda Lines Corporation is (I think) the only bus company that offers direct trips to Sagada from Quezon City. Fare is Php 720 per way and they have daily trips to Sagada at 9pm. They are located at Monte de Piedad corner Maryland street in Cubao.
Their seats are very comfortable. We were able to sleep all throughout the trip to Sagada. We almost missed our stop because of this. LOL.
Because they only have 1 daily schedule for Sagada, seats can fill up fast. So I reserved our seats a few weeks before our travel date through PinoyTravel. There is a booking fee but the convenience of not having to go to Coda Lines’ office made it worth it. 🙂
I wrote a more comprehensive review of our experience with Coda Lines and PinoyTravel in a separate blog post.
Our home away from home for 4 days and 3 nights in Sagada became Misty Lodge and Cafe. I found them on Facebook and their reviews were good. The clincher that made me book with them was their location. They are located outside of Sagada Town proper which meant that their place was quiet. Although I found that noise isn’t really a big issue as there is a 10pm curfew in Sagada. Their food is delicious and I’m salivating just thinking about it while I’m writing this.
An overnight stay in their room for 2 costs Php 700 per night with a common bathroom shared with other guests. We opted to stay in their cottage room which costs Php 1,500 per night. It had its own bathroom and a great view from the windows. Because the cottage is separated from the main house, we didn’t have to worry about disturbing other guests and lining up for a turn in the bathrooms. The cottage can accommodate up to 6 pax and the rates vary according to how many will people will stay in the room.
Because we stayed at Misty for 4 days, I have a lot to say about the lodge. I wrote another blog post especially for Misty Lodge and Cafe 🙂
The Itinerary 4D/3N:
We arrived in Sagada at 7:30am. The bus stopped in front of Misty Lodge and Cafe so we could drop off our bags and eat breakfast before venturing to the town for our scheduled activities. We were initially shocked at how cool the weather was. However, we got over it once we drank something hot and started walking to the town.
Our first stop was at Sagada Tourism Office to pay for the mandatory tourist fee of Php 35. The staff were very attentive despite the number of people lined up that morning. Just outside their window is the desk of the SEGA guides where we booked our guide for the Cave Connection activity and expressed our intent to catch the sunrise at Kiltepan View Point the next morning. Basti, our guide, advised us to leave our jackets and non-essential items at the tourism office so we could explore the caves freely. We were given a choice to rent transportation to take us to and from the caves but we opted to walk. It was Php 400 that we didn’t spend. We slightly regretted the decision when we realized that it was a bit of a walk.
We started at Lumiang Burial Cave and ended at Sumaging Cave. The activity lasted for 4 hours that we thought would never end. To be honest, I underestimated the caves thinking it would be easy. We had to scale up and down rocks, crawl through tight spaces and climb up and down steep slopes just to finish the course. It was definitely risky and sometimes scary. Good thing our guide was very calm all throughout the ordeal and his expertise of the caves was very obvious. Whoever said this was easy was lying. LOL.
It was the boyfriend’s first spelunking experience and he survived despite his asthma. I am so proud of him ❤
There were fewer tourists at the side of Lumiang Burial Cave. When we got to Sumaging Cave, the area was starting to get filled with tourists. Good thing we started early and ended just as the cave was getting noisy and crowded.
After we paid our guide, we walked to Gaia Cafe and Crafts to eat lunch. They offer vegetarian food and use natural herbs, spices and seasoning with no MSG. I am picky with the vegetables I eat but Gaia offers so many choices in their menu that I didn’t have a problem picking what to eat. Too bad my first 2 choices were unavailable at the time though 😦
We went back to Misty to wash off the sweat and dirt from the caves and to rest for a bit. For dinner, we walked to Sagada Brew and arrived to fully packed restaurant. Another couple was finishing up as we arrived and so we took their place. I lined up at the cashier to place our orders and I was told that we had to wait longer than usual for the food because of the long queue. If only we knew that we would wait for a freaking hour for our food to arrive, we would have chosen another restaurant. Boyfriend liked his beef caldereta but my rosemary chicken arrived warm but cold in the center. It took me less than 10 minutes to finish the food that I waited an hour for. I was that hungry.
After dinner, we again walked back to Misty. There is no means for commute in Sagada and our legs were starting to ache from the caves earlier. Day 1 and it felt like all our energies were already drained. We were a bit jealous of the people in the group tours because they had vans to take them around the town.
We woke up at 4am for our 4:30am call time for Kiltepan View Point. The driver picked us up from Misty and another group we were sharing the van with from their lodging. It was a 20-minute drive to Kiltepan View Point. We passed by a couple of people who chose to walk to the peak. We also planned to do the same but we chickened out because of the cold.
We were among the first groups to arrive at Kiltepan. But other tourists arrived in large groups within 10 minutes. I was thankful of the vendors selling arroz caldo for at least we would have something to warm our bellies. The sky was still dark but everyone already claimed a spot so they could watch the sun rise.
I wish I could say that I found the experience magical. But I was distracted by other people there that I wasn’t able to appreciate the moment. Those talking so loudly, snapping pictures non-stop with flashes on, countless monopods obstructing the view, shining flashlights in other people’s faces. We made the decision right there to come back the next day when there would be less people. Kiltepan attracts the most number of people on Sunday morning as this is when tour companies usually schedule the sunrise viewing for their joiners.
Our driver brought us back to Misty and we slept for a couple of hours more. We woke up at 9:30am to eat breakfast at their cafe. We also requested the staff if they could call a guide to take us to Bokong Falls. They said we didn’t need one because it was easy to find. So off we went, guide-less.
The way was easy but we had to ask for directions from locals several times to find the site. There were no signages pointing to Bokong Falls. It was a cute little falls located amidst the fields in Sagada. It was a sunny day and we were sweating a little when we arrived. It would have been great to try and take a dip in the waters. We didn’t bring a change of clothes though 😦
There are other falls in Sagada, like Pongas Falls and Bomok-Od Falls, that are more majestic. We just chose Bokong Falls because it was the easiest trek. At this point, our bodies were heavily feeling the aftermath of yesterday’s spelunking escapades and it was a big effort just to walk.
We went back to Misty to rest again after the trek. At 3pm, we walked to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. We went inside to check the interiors and say a quick prayer. From there, it was a short walk to the starting point of the Echo Valley Trail.
There is an entrance fee of Php 10 per person and a guide is required to enter the trail. Luckily, there was an available guide with the tourism folks stationed at the entrance. He took us first to Sagada Cemetery where it was free to bury the dead according to our guide. He also pointed out the spot where one of the SAF 44 was laid to rest.
We continued on to Echo Valley and we made a quick stop somewhere along the trail to take pictures and of course, to shout a bit. Throughout Echo Valley, tourists can shout and hear the echoes of their voices bounce back. I only shouted a quick hello and I was good to go.
Out final stop was to see the Hanging Coffins. This is one of the many burial sites of Sagada. Traditionally, natives used to bury their dead in hanging coffins nailed to the side of a cliff, high above the ground until the Americans introduced the concept of burying the dead 6 feet below the ground. Now the residents of Sagada can choose to be buried at the cemetery or in a hanging coffin. The site we went to was the burial grounds for the elderly married natives of Sagada who wished to be buried there. If there is a missing criteria, the dead will be hung in a different burial site. As the area is sacred to Sagada, we were reminded to keep noise to a minimum.
The Echo Valley Trail took us just an hour to complete. There were few people we met along the way because most of the tourists already left that morning. 🙂
We also passed by a rock climbing area which I badly wanted to try, but the boyfriend had no energy left. It was Php 800 for a maximum of 2. An additional person would have to pay Php 400.
At 4pm, we made our way to the Tourism Office and approached the SEGA desk to look for transportation to take us to Lake Danum where we can watch the sunset. There wasn’t another group to split the fare with, so we paid Php 550.
Just as it was near sunset, the clouds blocked the sun. Good thing our driver told us that there was a small hill we could go to watch the sunset. I enjoyed the sunset on this little hill more than the sunrise at Kiltepan. There were fewer people and there were no monopods to block the view.
It was at this point that our stomachs started to grumble and we remembered we forgot to eat lunch. LOL. So we quickly went back to our driver and headed for Yoghurt House to eat dinner. We arrived just before the busy dinner hour so our order arrived quickly. I enjoyed my roasted pork and their famous yogurt even though I am not a big yogurt fan.
We originally scheduled for a trek to Marlboro Hills to catch the sunrise on this day. But the Php 650 shuttle fee and guide fee of Php 600 stopped us. It was too expensive for just the 2 of us. A take two for the Kiltepan sunrise was our plan B but it was rainy and cloudy so our plan was cancelled. It felt good to sleep in though. 😀
We woke up at 12 noon because we were hungry. Lunch was at Sagada Lemon Pie House and I loved the chicken curry I ordered. Their lemon pie was also delicious!
After lunch, we walked around the town to purchase pasalubong. We bought 5 shirts, a shawl, ref magnets and a hat. The souvenir shirts cost Php 160 each, Php 140 if they are kids’ shirts. Sagada pashmina shawls cost Php 250. The ref magnets costs Php 50-135. We went inside around 5 shops and the prices were all the same.
Shopping done, we went back to Misty to basically laze around and to wait for our massage therapists. I found Ms. Gloria Wal‘s contact details from one of the posters in the tourism office. I texted her that morning and told her our preferred time. I thought that she would only be the one coming and I and boyfriend would take turns for the massage. But she informed that she’ll be going with another male therapist for my boyfriend. We both availed the traditional Sagada whole body massage. It was pure bliss especially since my body was aching so much from spelunking and all the walking we did. Ms. Gloria managed to find all my aching and knotted muscles (even the ones I didn’t feel) and soothed them. It was the same for the boyfriend. The 1-hour massage costs Php 350 but we added some tip because we were so happy with their service.
We opted to eat dinner at Misty since we were too lazy to walk to town. Our meal there was the most delicious (though most expensive) dinner we’ve had in Sagada. ❤
We hoped to start a bonfire that night right outside the cottage and make s’mores. But it rained the whole day 😦
This is the day we say goodbye to Sagada and go back to Manila 😦
After checking out at 11am, Kuya Awing of Misty brought us to town to wait for our bus. We left our bags first at the Tourism Office and walked to Bana’s Cafe for brunch. Food was so-so for us. Maybe because we ordered safe breakfast items.
We claimed our bags and waited for our bus at Coda Lines’ booking office. It turns out that the bus to Manila is parked at their Bontoc terminal. A jeep picked us up from the office and drove for almost an hour to Bontoc. I didn’t mind the transfer because at least I got to see another town of Mountain Province.
Our first stopover on the way back to Manila is Mt. Polis. There were several stalls selling vegetables along the road so we went down to purchase some to bring home.
The second stopover was supposed to be the view deck for Banaue Rice Terraces, but the fog was so thick that afternoon 😦
This was a DIY but not a budget-friendly trip. Since this was our first trip together, we just wanted to enjoy the moment and not worry so much about expenses. LOL.
All of our expenses are listed below to give you an idea about the prices of being a tourist in Sagada. There are many ways to bring the cost down:
- Choose a cheaper accommodation. There are homestays in Sagada that charge Php 350 per night for 2 people.
- Travel with friends so you can split the tour fees with more people.
- Eat at carinderias located in Sagada Public Market. I read (but I forgot where, sorry!) that a meal costs Php 50 there.
- Try not to go crazy when buying souvenirs, pasalubong and snacks. 😀