Monday, December 16, 2013

Sagada, Mountain Province

A few days before I left for Hong Kong, my co-worker asked if I would want to accompany her to Sagada for some meetings and R&R the weekend after I returned. Jumping at any opportunity to see somewhere new, I said “yes!”

When I returned from Hong Kong exhausted, I wasn’t sure if I was up to go away for another four days. But after an amazing week with friends, I knew I didn’t want to sit alone in my apartment all weekend in Santiago. Sagada ended up being quite the adventure I needed.

First on Friday morning, we arrived at 6:30am to catch the bus to Bontoc. Now I had just ridded the Super Deluxe Florida bus from Manila to Santiago a couple days ago. That was a five star resort compared to this crappy motel on the side of road bus we took on Friday. This rickety, old metal bus pulled up and I thought, “that is going to drive us 7 hours up steep mountainous roads?!”

After comically watching a few guys try to load goats underneath the bus and chase one as it ran away from its fate, we were on our way! We made it, somehow. A few times the bus stopped alongside the mountain where hoses of water spill out from the fresh springs to cool down before overheating. But that was only to Bontoc. Next, we had to catch a Jeepney to Sagada. Jeepneys are the old military vehicles left by the US, which are now a popular form of public transportation. There is no true set schedule as with most things in the Philippines. You simply board the jeep and wait until it’s full. Fortunately, it was Friday afternoon and Sagada is popular destination so we only waited about 20 minutes.

After another 45 minutes up into the wild sunflower covered mountains, we had officially made it to our destination. Sagada is considered a “backpacker mecca” with numerous amounts of hikes that span through the lovely surrounding mountainside. Immediately upon arrival you could tell it was a tourist town with the amount of foreigners from around the world and souvenir shops lining the streets.

Also, it finally felt like December. Well, maybe more like late October or early November. But when Filipinos say somewhere is “cold.” I take it as “chilly.” However, I had to break out my socks, fleece, and scarf for Sagada weather.

Late afternoon after checking into the guest house, we walked around the town peering into shops and walking around St. Mary’s Episcopal Church compound. It’s one of the oldest Episcopal Churches in the Philippines. The building was bombed by the Japanese in the 1940s and rebuilt but the church was established in 1904. Due to the work of missionaries in the area, Sagada is 94% Episcopalian as I was told by a local.

On Saturday we went caving which is a blog post in itself. Check back tomorrow to hear about that life-changing experience.

Sunday morning after attending the mass at St. Mary’s, I walked around the cemetery and down to Echo Valley. The name describes itself. From there you can hike down to see some of the hanging coffins in the caves but I was too sore from the previous day’s caving experience.

Unfortunately, there is a newly constructed cell tower, which has caused much controversy.

By then it was time to head on to see Andrew, another YASCer, in Tadian.

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