Sagada Madness

Months after the much related and talked about top “hugot” movie of the year, we gave in to the craze. The movie is all about a woman taking attempts on finding out the answer to the question “Where do broken hearts go”.

The plot anchors on the seemingly unrealistic strangers turn travel buddies: made up of a girl who doesn’t want to go home yet and be alone with her thoughts plus a guy who is just willing to come along. Of all places she chose Baguio which later on leads them to Sagada. Then came the momentous climax where she blurted out her heartaches throwing yells from the cliff where they stand. Hoping the sea of clouds stretching to the horizon in front of her would absorb the sorrow and take away her pain all together.

Suddenly lots of people want to travel all the way up to Sagada to do the same thing (or maybe at least see the spot where the scene exactly happened). Being just normal people who at one point or another experience a related heartbreaking experience, my friends and I decided to take this “hugot” trip.

So, is Sagada really the place where “broken hearts go”? If yes, why? Does it transform us? Does it take away the pain? Well, just like in the movie, going places does not actually answer those questions. But it somewhat gives a hint that what’s important is you are not staying on the same ground. That wherever it takes you as long as you’re moving on then maybe, just maybe, you will end up just fine.

Doing the tour with friends rather than a prospect partner does not rip away the Sagada essence. Because who says you always have to find a romantic solution for being heartbroken?

Sometimes, like in that movie, you just need someone who will continue the song you are so choke-up-with-tears to finish. It’s that simple, unpretentious yet ecstatic feeling of having somebody to keep the song going. And who else could have hit those notes the way you started it? That is, not hitting any notes at all.  -Your closest friends I guess.

IMG_3100 “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

So here comes the journey: We are able to book a 3 days/2nights package tour (10 pax) scheduled in May. Our trip also consists of side tours to Baguio, Banawe and Benguet. (See itinerary and budget below.)


We took our first stop on the municipality of Banawe, province of Ifugao. At the entrance point (an ark with imprints “Welcome to Banaue” stood), we just load off the van and took mandatory selfie and groufie shots.

After the 8-hr night travel, Banaue welcomes its weary visitors.
After the 8-hr night travel, Banaue welcomes its weary visitors.
We made it on time! 6am May 8,2015
We made it on time! 6am May 8,2015



Next, we head to the famous Banaue Rice terraces. The view is so familiar as it is always depicted on postcards, charts and books since elementary. However, it is still a sight to behold and being just a few meters away from the celebrated stairway of fields is still far amazing and captivating than seeing it on prints.

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We checked-in at Sagada Homestay Inn.

Arrived by 11am just right for Lunch Time
Arrived by 11am just right for Lunch Time
View from our inn
View from our inn

First activity commenced early afternoon after we settled our things and consumed our lunch. First stop is in the Burial Cave.

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We take the Sumaguing-Lumiang cave connection that costs us additional 450php. The cave connection took us 5 hours as we treat every turns a photo opportunity.

One of the higher part of the cave which serves as a platform looking down on a vast arena.
One of the higher part of the cave which serves as a platform looking down on a vast arena.
As expected at 2500 feet underground, it is pitch black. The guide is carrying a lamp and each of us had headlights on.
As expected at 2500 feet underground, the place is pitch black. The guide carried lamp and each of us had headlights on.
This rapel is one good photo op
This rapel is one good photo op
Sumaguing cave boast of its big chambers and notable rock formations.
Sumaguing cave boast of its big chambers and notable rock formations.
At some point, you have to fit on very small holes and irregular entrances to get on the caves multiple chambers
At some point, you have to fit on very small holes and irregular entrances to get on the caves multiple chambers

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Most of the time, the guides serves as human foot holds on this spelunking adventure.
Most of the time, the guides serve as human foot holds on this spelunking adventure.

Before heading back on our inn to rest we stroll around for a food-tripping experience. We tried the lemon pie house as well as the yoghurt house.

Tried Yoghurt House best seller banana, Granola Strawberry preserves. Also tried the famous Sagada Pinikpikan dish
Tried Yoghurt House best seller banana, Granola Strawberry preserves. Also tried the famous Sagada Pinikpikan dish

Day2 Everyone is energized for the next early morning Bomod-Ok trek.

Crossing fields on the way to Bomod-Ok Falls
Crossing fields on the way to Bomod-Ok Falls



Bomod-Ok falls
Bomod-Ok falls
Water from the falls gives you a freezing feeling you have to stay close to get warm.
Water from the falls gives you a freezing feeling you have to stay close to get warm.

We took the opportunity to have a ride on top of a jeepney on our way back to the jump-off.

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Before heading to the Echo Valley we already passed by Sagada weaving (closed on that day) and Orange farm (off-season). So we were not able to enjoy both attractions. Next activity is a little trek to the Echo Valley, where we passed by St. Mary’s church and Santo Campo cemetery. A little side story on this; our tour guide encourages us to shout to experience why it was called the “echo valley”. So my friend belted out “Walang forever!” (Forever doesn’t exist!). We are expecting the exact words to bounce back when a simultaneous yell “Wag kang bitter” answered us from the other side of the hill. Then comes the laughter and the exchange of “hugot” remarks such as “maghihiwalay din kayo” among others.

On our way to echo Valley and hanging Coffins
On our way to echo Valley and hanging Coffins

The tour guide lectures a little history about the ancient customs and the practice behind the hanging coffins. At some point, you can actually see the skeletons inside of the wooden casket.


We stayed a little more to accept the challenge offered on the way back; the rock climb. The activity costs 400php per person worthy of unlimited climb. My companions participated. I declined. (I was not prepared because it was not part of the itinerary and I wore a loose lacy short.) Because of this, we missed the pottery stop.

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 IMG_3208Learned a lot about Sagada and neighbouring province customs from our next stop; the Ganduyan museum. Here we paid a somewhat “mandatory” donation of 25php. The owner explains later on that since the museum was not yet subsidized by the government, their family single-handedly runs the maintenance of the place. So they need some help through donations. The amount we pay anyway is very much worthy of the knowledge the dedicated curator was able to deliver. (Picture taking inside is not allowed.)

By around six o’clock, we’re already back at the inn. After dinner, we stroll around the area and some have already bought Sagada shirts and souvenirs. As we are already leaving the next morning for our side trip to Benguet and Baguio, we decided to orchestrate a little bonfire session. Three questions were to be answered by each one of us. Being with the hype that time, these three questions were all “hugot” queries. Some even got emotional and cried. And finally, by around past 11 pm, we acknowledged the fatigue our body had and reward ourselves with some rest before we leave by 5am the next day.




We are so excited heading to Kiltepan viewpoint as we drove before dawn. We are racing with sunrise. Then, as if being mocked by the valleys, we arrived there with no trace of the sun at all. What we saw were equally disappointed groups of tourists. The weather has been cloudy that it blocks anything from the sky. It breaks our already broken heart. (hugot!)

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Then goes the side trips: first on the highest point of Philippines highway system (Atok, Benguet) then to the summer capital Baguio City.


Atok, Benguet
Atok, Benguet

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And that ends the trip. Is it worth it? Sure it was. We’ve come a very long way because we measure journey by friends rather than miles 🙂

Itinerary: (3d/2n Sagada tour with side trips on Banaue/Benguet/Baguio)

DAY – 0

09:00pm – Assembly (Mc Donalds North Ave. in front of Tri Noma Mall)

09:30pm – ETD to Sagada

DAY – 1

06:00am – ETA Banaue /Breakfast (on pax own acct.)

Banaue Town Banaue Rice Terraces View Point Sagada Town

12:00nn – Check-in / Lunch (On Pax Account)

Lumiang Cave / Burial Cave & Sumaguing Cave, or Caves Connection

06:00pm – Back to hotel / Dinner (On Pax Account)

DAY – 2

07:00am – Wakeup Call/Breakfast (on pax own acct.)

08:00am – Bomod-Ok Falls Trek Swimming (optional)

11:30am – Lunch (On Pax Account)

Orange Farm, Sagada Weaving, Pottery,

Ganduyan Museum St. Mary’s Church,

Campo Santo(Cemetery), Echo Valley & Hanging Coffins

05:00pm – Back to Hotel 06:00pm – Dinner (On Pax Account)

DAY – 3

05:30am – Optional Kiltepan View Point Sunrise Viewing/ Check Out/Breakfast ( on pax own acct.)

08:00am – ETD to Baguio Highest Point (Philippine Highway System) Atok, Benguet

12:30pm – ETA La Trinidad Benguet Lunch (On Pax Account)

Strawberry Farm Souvenir and Pasalubong Hunting

Burnham Park and Swan Lake (Baguio)

Kennon Road View

Point Lion’s Head

03:30pm – ETD to Manila

07:00pm- Dinner (On Pax Account)

09:00pm- ETA Manila

Package Agency: N.E.C tours


Package Cost: 2850

Sumaguing-Lumiang Caves: 435


Shirt: 150

others: 100

Pasalubong: 500

Foods: 900(est 150php/meal)*

Total: 4935php/person

*We bring our own grocery consisting of breads, cup noodles etc for our breakfasts so I only consider 6 meals instead of 9.

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Why Not, Maranat?

It lies between the provinces of Bulacan and Rizal.

Three o’clock in the morning, my alarm rang so loud, it also woken up my room mate. Well, I had to make sure I would not be late on my first ever hike-experience.

We are heading to the Rhino and Lioness Rock formation (mountain?) in Bulacan. The trek is expected to be just an hour walk. That’s why I joined anyway, because it is perfect for beginner like me.

But fate might have woken up on the wrong side of the bed that day and decided to play s trick on us. As we head to the site, we are welcomed with the news that it’s not open anymore for hiking. Yeah, just like that. It is already private. No entry allowed.

Our heart sank. Then fortunately (or unfortunately), one of us knows another mountain near the area. So, should we give it a try?

Mt Maranat. Never heard it before (And so are you right?). When I was told it would be a 3-4 hr hike for one way trek, I almost choke up. But then again, looking at my companion’s eager faces, I somewhat absorb their enthusiasm. They would not be denied. Not today. So yeah, why not Maranat?

The gang getting ready for the hike
The gang getting ready for the hike

No training, no preparations (I don’t even have the appropriate shoes) and not even a single last minute stretching. By the time we arrive at the jump-off, we say a little prayer and went straight on to hiking.

River-Crossing at Mt. Maranat
River-Crossing at Mt. Maranat


Sunset at Mt Maranat - Not the best angle though.
Sunset at Mt Maranat – Not the best angle though.

After hours of walking, climbing and river-crossing, we reached the top. Not actually the summit but the highest point mountaineers were allowed. I contemplate for a good few minutes on the entire vastness of greens and browns below me. I do appreciate nature but I have to say that this is not the most breathtaking I have seen. Not even extraordinary. I had to question myself (being a first-time hiker), had we go through all that trouble to only see this? I stood for quite a few more minutes, and then the wind blows hard yet soothingly as if to clear my then subjective mind.

Mt Maranat ascend - Our eyes feast on the rich flora that extends up until where our sight can reach.

That’s when I understand what it meant by “happiness is not the destination, it’s the journey”. It is that moment that these great words moved from my mind to my heart. That in the span of 8 hours we’re on the trail, I saw people challenging their selves. Exceeding their limits. Encouraging each other. Waiting and helping those left behind. Falling and stumbling yet laughing in the process. Aside from the eye-pleasing nature around us; I saw humility, adversity and friendship.


The experience makes me understand that going up is optional but going down is mandatory. That you can’t stay up there no matter how good and comfortable it is on top. That at some point in our life, we must go down. Transcend contentedly.

It taught me that going down requires as much time as going up. That you will meet people going up the same trail, encourage them and give them advice.

Maranat hike proves that sometimes, unexpected events turn out to be the most memorable ones. That when fate moves you to a change of plan. You just have to follow the flow. Who knows, it might just lead you to something better. And being unexpected, makes it sweeter.

Most importantly, climbing Mt. Maranat taught me how to endure. That no matter how slowly I go, I can finish off something as long as I do not stop. That stamina is sometimes more important than strength.

Into the jungle...
Into the jungle…

Wrapping-up the excruciatingly long-almost-unending hike to Maranat, I must say that yes Miley, you are right! It ain’t about how fast I get there. Nor is it about what’s waiting on the other side. Indeed, It’s the CLIMB.

How to go to Mt. Maranat:

Our team has rented an exclusive van that caters our round-trip transportation from Ayala, Makati to Maranat jump-off.

If you opt to commute:

Starting point: Ortigas/Edsa

Ortigas to Tungko: P60 (Aircon Bus)

Tungko to Sitio Licao Licao: P27-P30 Jeepney

Sitio Licao Licao – Mt. Maranat Jump off: P25 pesos/person

Guide Fee: Optional

Washed Fee: P15 – P20


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The Mountain’s Call

There are all kinds of Mountains in the world but never the same mountain twice.

From the famous qoute of Sir Fitzgerald(tweak up a bit), this, I know by heart to be true.

Dati pare-parehas lang tingin ko sa mga bundok. Lahat mataas, lahat malayo, masukal, maraming hayop, delikado, in short, “hinde masaya”.

(Before, I thought mountains were all the same. All were high, remote, home of wild animals, dangerous, in short, “not fun” at all.)

But not unless you make that first step up the mountain slope and not until you take your first life-risking shot up on the summit will you understand, the unspeakable joy mountain hiking has to offer.

The more I hike, the more I prove that each mountain is unique. Like different teacher on different classes giving different lessons. In two months this year, I had climb four mountains and each has generously imparted to me unique learnings. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all - Helen Keller

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

Mt Maranat – Bulacan. – Stamina is sometimes more important than strength. That he who can endure is better than he who is strong.

The mountain is characterized by an 8-hr hike breath-taking(literally) unpredictable trail. This is my first ever hiking experience and that’s what makes it more special. Up to date, no other mountain has caused me so much fatigue than this one.

Mt Maculot, Batangas -Take Chances. Nothing is 100% definite until it’s done.

Here I miss my suppose to be first summit and traverse. After the rockies, we should be heading to the summit (where the view is actually by far average than the view from the Rockies). The tourguide notify us that the traverse path will be closed for that day. So i opted to just wait on the campsite while they continue on the summit. And once there, woah! change of restrictions, traverse is now open. While going down the same path, I was full of what ifs and could have been. And the regret I carried down is heavier than the force of gravity I had to endure going up.

Mt Daraitan, Rizal -Travel light. Excess baggage can drag you down.

My longest hike yet. My first overnight at the jungle. Truly,  how heavy an object is, depends on how long long you would carry it. Even a bottle of water becomes unbearable if carried all day. Are you dragging extra baggage with you? Let it go.

Mt Arayat, Pampanga -The universe is wider than your views of it.

My highest peak so far. Standing at an elevation of 1030 MASL with unobstructed view of central Luzon plains, I saw how vast the world in front of me is. And how small I am. A humbling experience indeed.

(Will post on each hike experience separately.)

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Finding myself means getting lost in wander.