Sagada, Mt. Province – Tales From A Newbie

Studying in an art school has a lot of perks, and one of those is being able to visit places that provide a rich source of culture and inspiration. I’m glad that just before I decided to change courses, I got the chance to visit Sagada. It’s a place up north near Baguio, and it’s full of wonderful activites and surprises. If you want to get away from the city and experience a cooler climate, plus if  you’re into nature and hiking and all that, then Sagada should be your top choice.

Actually, I wasn’t really supposed to be part of this trip, since I wasn’t part of their class, but my professor said yes, so there I was. The trip to Sagada wasn’t too comfortable. It was okay, since we rode a private bus, but seriously, it’s not fun to sit on a small piece of cushion for hours and hours and hours. It’s not butt- friendly. Well that was the only downside, the travel time was long, but once you’re there, you won’t even feel how sore your arse was from all the sitting.

Banaue Rice Terraces
Banaue Rice Terraces

Ifugao stone marker

Our first  stop was the Banaue Rice Terraces, and we were still a couple of hours from Sagada. It was about 5 or 6 in the morning, and we were all asked to step out of the bus. Yeah we were all groggy and tired, and then boom, the cold temperature hit us all like a punch in the face. It was freezing, and we all couldn’t help but seek comfort in our cigarettes, but it didn’t help much. Haha. When your professor tells you to bring warm clothes, do not be content with long sleeves and cardigans, we are talking about winter clothing here.  But despite the sudden change in climate, seeing this view made me feel warm and tingly inside. When I was a kid, I only got to see this place in pictures or on tv. Standing there in that moment, did make me realize that there really must be something greater than all of us, watching over us.

My friends Rafa, Jess, and Nic, all geared up for the cold.
My friends Rafa, Jess, and Nic, all geared up for the cold.

After that short stopover, we headed to Bontoc, the provincial capital, where we checked out the Bontoc musuem. From what I remember, the upperclassmen from our school along with exchange students from De La Salle Singapore, curated the current exhibit during that time, called “Common Threads“.

Bontoc Museum

Common Threads exhibit by DLS-c

De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde is a mighty good school especially when you’re considering a career in the arts. I, for that matter used to take up Arts Management, and this exposure  trip helped me understand and value the relevance of indigenous cultures in the Philippines. Seeing Bontoc culture was a delight because it was different, yet their traditions were kept alive by the younger generations. I’m glad that every year, our professors take students to Sagada because it is a learning experience, and for me, a lot of firsts!

An elementary school right beside the museum.
An elementary school right beside the museum.

After the museum stopover, we were back on the road again. In Sagada, one thing I noticed was that it was cold during early mornings and evenings. Afternoons were a different story, it was hot, and we all ended up getting sunburnt cheeks, which was kind of cool because it made it seem like our cheeks were naturally rosy. Haha.

Our group stayed at the St. Joseph’s Inn. We got stay in a big cabin good for 7 people. It had 2 floors, 2 bedrooms and a loft, we even got to share  the space with our two professors. Haha. I don’t really have a picture of the place, but for a minimum of 500php a night, it’s pretty decent and comfortable. Food is okay, but the prices are a bit high compared to the other restaurants outside. We explored the town on foot most of the time, since the establishments were very close together. The very first place we visited was the Salt &Pepper Diner, a favorite amongst our professors and schoolmates. I don’t know what the fuzz is about this place. The food was satisfactory, and the service was okay, although we had to wait a while before we could eat. There’s nothing unique about home cooking especially when you know you’ve had better. The next place we tried was The Yoghurt House. Prior to this trip, we’ve already heard many good things about this one. They say, the yoghurt here is the best. I wasn’t particularly wowed by it, because I found it too sour. One good thing that I can say about this place though, is that they sell the best darn cookies I’ve ever tasted. People here are very nice too. Aside from the eating part, what I enjoyed most was the conversations we’ve shared with a few locals and tourists.

Salt and pepper diner sagada

image

Now finding the best place to eat was challenging, especially when you had to go on foot all the time. Our day trips were so tiring that we didn’t have enough patience to check out different restaurants.  There was one beside St. Joseph’s, which was called the Ganduyan Cafe. They served tocino, longganisa, tapa, and the like. They also had a little shop that sold souvenirs. Food tasted great, and everything on the menu was affordable. You’ll have no problem if you’re looking for quick service. The restaurant that tops my list though is this next one. Good thing, we discovered the George Guest House. I’m not sure how we found this place, but it was definitely a good find. They serve the best tapsilog, plus, they even have group meals that are very very affordable. It didn’t matter if we had to walk all the way downhill just to eat, it was worth it. Food here tasted like home. *sigh*

Photo from TripAdvisor
Photo from TripAdvisor
Photo from TripAdvisor
Photo from TripAdvisor

Shopping was a breeze of course. Aside from purchasing things, the fun part was really the process of searching for the perfect thing to buy. Most of the products were cheap. But what amused me the most were the native crafts that they had. I bought my dad 2 bags of wild mountain tea, and 3 pieces of Ikat mats which I got for 25 pesos a piece. We got to visit the Sagada Weaving Center, where we got to see the native women weave cloths and patterns which they are well-known for (more on this later). Anyway, that’s it for now. Sagada is indeed a comfortable place, but it took me out of my comfort zone while I was there. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve experienced a lot of firsts. This post is where all the comfort of this trip ends, because up next I’ll tell you about my ultimate extreme adventure. Curvy gals can be extreme too, you’ll see.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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