Friday, May 06, 2011

The Road to Sagada

I have long wanted to visit Sagada—an enclave in the Mountain Province known for its stunning natural sights, fascinating history and laid-back hippie vibe. What kept me from going all these years was how difficult it is to get there. The most reliable way of reaching Sagada is on public transportation as no one can negotiate the vertigo-inducing roads and hairpin curves of the Cordilleras like seasoned bus and jeepney drivers. My friends and I agreed to do it the "Lonely Planet" way and bus it to Sagada. Here, tales from the journey.

We left the bus terminal in Sampaloc, Manila on Florida Bus Line's 10:45pm deluxe bus. A deluxe bus is called such because there's a bathroom on the vehicle, though I personally find them generally repulsive and never used this one. Florida's bus was relatively comfortable; their seats were similar to airplane seats that have headrests that cushion your head on both sides so that it's easier to get some shuteye. I get drowsy within minutes of sitting in any moving vehicle though so I was pretty much knocked out for the entire trip, only getting up to use the bathroom and partake of the ubiquitous balut that seemed to be a staple in every bus stop. By bus stop, I mean joints that look like this:
And by balut, I mean this:
That, my friends, is a boiled duck egg. It looks funky because the duckling is partially formed. A lot of people (Filipinos included) get squeamish when they see it, but I happen to love the stuff. I've been eating it since I was a kid and am notorious for eating it in the most disgusting manner possible. The common way of eating balut is from the shell in a dimly lit area. People open it up, sprinkle it with salt and pretty much swig it without looking too closely at the contents. I like to dissect the thing on a plate using a fork and knife, leisurely dipping each bite in rock salt. My own family contemplates disowning me when I do this.

While we were at this stop, the bus's fan belt broke so we spent a little extra time there while the driver fixed it. Thankfully it didn't take too long and soon we were back on the road and I was knocked out again. I didn't wake up til we arrived in Banaue a little before 8AM. We decided that instead of taking a jeep to Sagada, we would hire a van to drive us there. The jeep rides can be quite an adventure:
I've done this before, back when the roads in Banaue were still rocky and unpaved so I didn't need a do-over. We elected to go by private van instead for P3500 (approximately $81).
Before starting the next leg of our journey, we stopped for breakfast at Hidden Valley restaurant. The place is not much to look at and the fare is really simple, but you don't need a lot of frills when you have a fab view (and a captive market).
Banaue is famous for it's beautiful rice terraces, carved out of the mountains by hand 2,000 years ago by the native Ifugaos. The last time I was here was maybe 6 years ago when the roads were still raggedy and unpaved. It was also on a January, when the terraces weren't fully planted yet. This time, the terraces were lush, green and simply breathtaking.
I could've stayed there forever but Pia and Vic told me I would see so many more rice terraces that I'd be sick of them by the end of the trip so we should get a move on. Back on the road to Sagada, we did in fact see them in various iterations, from the village-side rice terraces to a road that runs through rice terraces.
I spent most of this leg asleep too, only waking up for the pretty sights. The drive from Banaue to Sagada took 5 more hours. After approximately eleven hours of traveling, we finally got to our destination.
After too many years of putting it off, I finally made it to Sagada. Though the trip was long, the time breezed by with long naps and stunning scenery at every turn. And as soon as I experienced some of the most amazing things Sagada had to offer, I knew I'd be willing to make that trip again and again to discover more of this wonderful place's charms.

Up next: our wild adventure spelunking in Sagada. Stay tuned for more!

Photographed by Pia de Leon

Phone Florida Bus Lines at +6327433809 two days before departure date to make a reservation.


  1. I eat balut the same way. Heehee! My entire family leaves the dining table when I eat balut.

  2. prettywicked - haha glad to know I'm in good company!

  3. wow! i would love to visit sagada too.

    anyway, i was inspired in your mt. pinatubo post. it seems that my feet is itching to visit it when i am back in pinas this

    i am so amaze on how you plan your travelling. it was all fantastic!

  4. I can't claim credit for the planning. I've been lucky to have great friends who helped me plan a lot of my trips. Couldn't have done it without them! I definitely recommend going on this one!

  5. Sounds like quite an adventure! Can't wait to see the adventures you had there!


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