At the onset of flooding in Baguio City caused by Typhoon Pepeng, media is one in expressing, Baguio, the respite from the city has become one congested city too. Thus the recall of this article written in 1998 when we declared that to simulate the authentic Baguio atmosphere, one must escape farther up North, to Sagada.
There is Still Magic in Sagada
No Ride. We missed the Lizardo Bus at the Dangwa station in Baguio for the direct trip to the town. As early as 6 in the morning of Sunday 28 December, all the 6 buses were filled up and dispatched early.
No Food. We were rejected several times at the Log Cabin, St. Joseph, Masfierre Inn and Shamrock for food and drinks.
Sagada, Mountain Province
26-28 December 1996
The Serenity of Sagada and Mt. Data
A stillness in the woods. Serenity in nature. Or serenity amidst insurgency, if you wish.
In Bontoc, the capital of Mountain Province, an Armed Personnel Carrier rumbles through the main street and helicopters fly overhead. Foot soldiers patrol the mountain roads leading to Sagada. And at the Mt. Data Hotel, helicopters and Sikorsky gunshots land men and supplies only a kilometer away, in the process destroying some vegetables. A hunt for NPA rebels is on.
Local and foreign tourists need not be discouraged, however, for the areas seem relatively safe for civilians and visitors keep coming in. But don’t travel with the military and don't go to Mt. Data at night, for the military has clamped a 7 p.m. curfew.
Sagada and Mt. Data may be reached through Baguio, with several bus lines-including Dangwa Tranco and D’ Rising Sun-plying the route In Mt. Data, there is only the Mt. Data Hotel but in Sagada, there are several inns and resthouses-the best known being Masferre, St. Joseph’s and Daoas-all with inexpensive rates and affordable meals.
Perched 6,000 feet above sea level, the town of Sagada continues to cast a spell over Filipino and foreign writers and artists, European backpackers and cave explorers.
There are an undetermined number of caves in Sagada, some with very clear and very deep waters, and interesting rock formations. Once a native boy fell into a hole, survived on water, then emerged in another barrio a month later.
At the mouths of the caves are the burial grounds and hanging coffins of the Igorots and other tribes of Mountain Province. The tribal believe that the sprits of their departed are happier when their coffins are suspended and wedged above ground. Alas, some of the coffins with ornate designs have been stolen, and sold to antique dealers and collectors. Some of the bones date back to 100 years.
Our native guide knocked on one long coffin and then left a lighted cigarette atop it. “Pasigarilyuhin natin siya para sumaya,” he intoned.
One large cave, Sumaging, takes a whole day to explore. Once deep inside the cave, the guide said, foreigners (men and women) have no qualms about stripping to their underwear so their outer garments won’t get wet.
Two adventurous members of our group-photographer Rex Toledo and assistant Benjie Espartero-ventured into the cave, with the help of the guides, but had to give up at a certain point because of the darkness (light from the Petromax was insufficient) and the treacherous holes.
There are pine trees all around Sagada, and a fascinating valley with well-maintained vegetable terraces. The town is not too commercialized, and it should be kept this way. Baguio must have looked like this during the olden days.
Less publicized-but higher and colder than Sagada or Baguio-is the Mt. Data Hotel, about two-hour ride from Sagada. From a distance you can see Mt. Pulog, the second highest mountain in the Philippines (next to Mt. Apo). And in Benguet, enroute to Baguio from Mt. Data, you will come across the highest point on the Philippine Highway System (watch for the sign), elevation 7,400 feet, with a panoramic view of the mountains and the vegetable terraces.
The Mt. Data Hotel has 22 cozy rooms, a much-needed giant fireplace, and hot and cold water, among other amenities. By day you can hike, and watch the sun rise and set over the great Cordillera ranges.
At night, you can play chess, squabble or cards, gather round the fireplace and sing (bring a guitar along). Better still, you can, upon request, watch authentic dances and rituals of the Bontoc tribe, climaxed by an “audience participation” number in which you will be give a simultaneous massage: A Bontoc woman massages your head and back while a Bontoc man massages your feet with a stick. (It tickles, but only at first.)
Whether Peace Zones and War Zones, surrounded by pine trees and wild flowers, far away from Manila, Sagada and Mt. Data continue to be a refuge for nature lovers. --1992
-Amadis Ma. Guerrero, Traveller’s Choice From North to South (Metro Manila Philippines: Anvil Publishing House, Inc. 1993)
Logic ng Sagada - Ang Ibang Ibig Sabihin ng Magic
26-27 December 1996
Puede Ring SAKANA for both of us or SAGAD na SAGAD. It all started when Mitch said he was going to Baguio even before the holidays. All PAL members of Commonwealth invited themselves. I didn’t. Because I was only available after the 26th. And Mitch said “magSasagada ako kung may kasama ako.” Mula noon I get inquiries and lines like “See you in Baguio on the 25th.”
Nagconfirm ako sa 074-442-xxxx 10:30 p.m. ng 25 December ”Mitch dadating ako sa 26 ng umaga. Huwag kang aalis, magSasagada tayo. Oo namang ang sabi niya.” 5 AM. Sa Session Road, malamig na malamig 12°C, nangising ng lasing “6:30 AM ang biyahe sa Sagada, magpack ka na at makita tayo sa Chowking.”
· Lake Danum-Mitch’s favorite. Except that his meditation at the peak was cut short by my hurrying up. Some guys said 8 minutes to the Lake. True enough, exactly in 8 minutes, we were there. Pero saan ang daan papuntang Demang?
· The Lardizabal Series-you’re not in the track. Go back and set into my lot if you want to do cross-country at Mt. Ampacao. He was accommodating enough to pick us up at the main road to St. Joseph and showed us the back down to St. Joseph. My name is Lardizabal. Sir, where is the way to Mt. Ampacao?
· The Ramon Series-are you here for the ___? Bawal dito. Ano ang tunay mong pangalan? Come on , tell the truth.
· The Lizardo Line Series-Senior citizen and students-No ID, No discount. Smoking With Free Ride. No Smoking, no free ride. Pero nasaan ang Pulag?
· The Novi Encounter at Chowking-kung sasama sa Pulag, kung si Wing ay pupunta sa Sagada and kung kailan aakyat si Mayan. Most importantly kung sino ang kasama ni Noving babae. At bakit siya hindi kasama sa PAL?
· Go to Sagada House-is it the same as going to Sagada weaving?
· Inn Hoping-ang Shamrock, para sa mga rockers
· Ang Country Inn-ang most expensive sa rooms at sa beer
· Masferre-ang pinakamatagal sa service
· Ang Log Cabin-ang pinakamasarap at pinakasosyal. Isnubish rin
· St. Joseph-pinakahomey. Mapiyaaw-ang pinakamalayo.
· Village Bistro-ang pinakamadilim. Casa Olahbinan-pinakamaiinit dahil sa fireplace
· Casa Hamada-pinaka accommodating
· Jayvee Gayoso and Jet Araneta-sino sila? At ang gaganda ng mga chicks nila. Isama mo narin ang 4-wheel drive nila.
· Ano ang scientific massage-pressure per inch. Magkano?
· Ang kwento ng babaeng ma kasamang puti-ang lost camera at and lost guide from Bontoc. Sino sa dalawa ang sisipinging ko.
· Whatever Mitch Wants, He Gets-guide sa kweba, si Willy and Exekiel. Photographs from Peter the Singaporean and Gerardo the Brazilian. Ano ang address nila?
· Bidang bida ako-kasi sabi ng hapon sa akin “Herro.”
· Ang mga tanong ni Mitch-Nasaan si Wing, Nasaan si Art. Nasaan ang Kiltepan Tower? Nasaan ang beer? Bakit walang mist sa bibig dahil walang ilaw. Bakit simang ang babae sa Tamaraw FX? Kasi lumampas daw sila sa Baguio. Bakit lito ang mga babaeng taga bangko sa St. Joseph? Kasi walang bangko. Sino si Mario de Vera at bakit puro Solano ang kwento nila? Kasi puro Louisians.
It was trip well worth. Pagadating sa Baguio hindi makapagrelate sa tao sa Session Road, sa mga barkada sa likod ng Mountain Crest at sa top of the world. At nagpakalasing.
Bakit? Kasi iyan ang logic ng Sagada. Happy New Year!
Chito Razon 17 Jan 1998 Revisited 11 Oct 2009