Saturday, October 15, 2005

A journal...4 months ago (Part I)

I was supposed to post this in my blog last July but never got the chance to do it. I was able to post only the journal but not the pictures. Then my original blog was erased for reason I still don't know up until this time.

I wanted to promote this place so when I saw my saved file, I tried to figure out a way of how to upload the several pictures that should be included in this post and I found about photobucket (guess it was a late discovery for me hihihi). I guess this post is meant to be publicized after all, though it was noted four months ago, hahahaha.

PS - Jols, you can finally see the pix and beauty of the place now. I hope you'll get the chance to visit the place during the dry season but don't think of bringing your car huh! =)

Our Sagada trip...A journal.

Dennis and I planned that he'll take a vacation on the week of my birthday (July 15) so we can celebrate it together. Unfortunately, his boss asked him to take a break earlier than that because they will be busy by then. Before he came home, we thought it would be nice if we go out of town so we can be by ourselves. We had to consider our budget and the weather condition since it has started raining already. One of our options was to go to Vigan, Ilocos Sur since the road is fine whether it will rain or not. Our other option was to go to Sagada. My friend just came from there and she mentioned that the place was great. We would take the Sagada option only if the weather is good. If not, come what may.

Dennis arrived home on Saturday, 25th of June. The weather in Baguio then was fine. On Sunday, we went home to Acop (my hometown) and hoped that the weather will remain ok. In the afternoon, it started to rain. I got our things (clothes and food) ready that night and just hoped for a good Monday morning. But it kept raining the whole night and Monday's weather condition was not as good as we expected. I had the chance to get a contact number of one of the receptionists of an Inn in Sagada so I sent her a text message asking how the weather is there. She mentioned that it rains in the afternoon but we can have the mornings for the activities. Seeing Dennis' urge and excitement, I said "ok, rain or shine, let's go!". So we got up early at 5:30am, had a quick breakfast and off we went under the rain.

DAY 1 (trip to Sagada)

The 1st bus going to Sagada leaves Baguio at 6:00am so we had to be in the tollgate in Acop on or before 7:00am. Contrary to the adage "the early bird catches the early worm", it looked like the "bird" was too early this time J The bus finally arrived at 8:00am.

We were both excited when we got into the bus that Dennis almost tipped over an old man next to him. The Lizardo Trans bus we rode had no aircon, there was no need for it anyway. We even had to keep our windows closed since the breeze was really cold. Bus fare from Acop to Sagada is Php200 per person (Php210 from Baguio).

The view along the way was, as Dennis described, majestic. The thick clouds were either touching the tip of the mountains or covering majority of it. I had the feeling that I was riding on a plane, not a bus, because of the view. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the scenery because I thought I'd have a same glimpse of it on our way back (which to my dismay was no longer the same).

From Tublay, we passed thru other Benguet towns - Atok (where the famous Mt. Trail and the highest peak along Halsema highway are found) and Buguias where we had our 2nd stopover. There are portions of the road where only one vehicle can pass at a time. On our side, we can clearly see the ravines. It is scary, I suggest that if you go there and if you have fear of heights, don't look! Then we entered the Mt. Province territory. The road started to get rough there (Benguet's part of the Halsema highway was concrete and smooth). We passed thru the towns of Bauko and Sabangan. There was a part of the road that looked like the mountain was just chipped off so one vehicle can get thru. You can see that the rock was not totally blasted. Just as I was about to doze off again, I saw the road sign pointing to Sagada. I was so excited that I had to wake up Dennis. It turned out that we were on the Sagada and Bontoc road intersection.

The bus still had to go up a winding road, not cemented but good enough even for a multicab (yes, like the green PUJ multicabs you see in Robinson's Imus, we were surprised when we met a Sagada town police car - a multicab along the way J ). Finally, we reached the place at 1:30pm. It took us 5 hours and 30 minutes to travel. Luckily, it didn't rain during the entire trip.

We opted to stay in St. Joseph's rest house and took a private room for Php500/night (take note, there is no hot water but you can request for it for Php40/pail). We checked in, had a few minutes rest, left our things and went out for late lunch in the cafeteria, St. Joe's, just a few meters away from the rest house. We had combo meals and had a good time enjoying the red rice served with it.

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Private rooms are located in the 1st floor, upstairs are individual rooms with shared toilet, Php150/person/day

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Cottages are also available at Php1,500/day. It can house 3-4 persons. The occupants at the time we were there were foreigners.

After dining, we went back to the rest house and planned where to go since there was no rain yet. The receptionist told us to go to the tourist info center in the municipal hall to check the activities. So we dropped by the center and checked the tour packages. The tourist office opens as early as 7:00am. Caving package costs Php400 while trekking costs Php600. We asked if we need to make a reservation for a tour guide but we were informed that we'll just go there in the morning since there are several tour guides readily available daily.

Days before Dennis came, I surfed the net for tips and maps of Sagada's tourist spots. I had them printed and studied so we can go by ourselves. We noted the spots nearest to where we stayed. The most visible and just a few meters away from our place is the St. Mary's Church or the Episcopal Church of St. Mary. It was originally constructed under the direction of an American missionary and consecrated in 1921, and was again repaired by the Americans after it was badly damaged during World War II.

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View from the back door of the church

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The church looked like a Catholic's but it is an Anglican denomination. Most of Sagada's folks are Anglican. Few meters from the church is the St. Mary's school.

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It started to drizzle already but sensing that it wouldn't rain hard yet, we moved on to nearby spots. From the map, we noted that we can walk to the small falls named Bokong Waterfalls. We had to ask for directions from the folks along the way even if we had our map. So we followed the footpath and later on, had a glimpse of the waterfalls. It looked near but the thick clouds signaled us of the coming rain. We just then opted to have few pictures and set another day for it.
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On our way back, we dropped by the famous Sagada weaving center, a weaving shop established in 1978. The shop offers a variety of quality products such as backpacks, beltbags (Dennis bought one for himself), shoulder bags, blanks and woven Bontoc cloth. If you want to buy one, don't think twice. Retail price elsewhere (we saw one outlet in SM Baguio) is more expensive of course.

Masferre Gallery is within the area so we walked thru the muddy road to have a glimpse of the collections of old photographs of the cordilleras by Eduardo Masferre (also famous for the t-shirts). To our dismay, the house was closed. We were informed that it only opens when the family has visitors (usually foreigners) to entertain. I thought it shouldn't be marked in the tourist map anymore. On our 2nd day, we learned that there is a Masferre Country Inn & Restaurant which displays selections of old photographs. Dennis also realized that there were some posted on the walls of St. Joseph's rest house. We learned from that Masferre is Spanish married to a Mt. Province local (from Bontoc) who settled in the Cordilleras. One will appreciate the old way of life and the beauty of cordillera women from his photograph (in black and white prints) collections. The owner of the Inn is from the 3rd generation.

The rain indeed started to pour harder so we went back to St. Joe's for an early dinner. We had our packed food for our meal and we ordered for a bowl of crab and corn soup and a kettle of mountain tea with lemon grass. Both taste good. Dennis loved the tea.

We slept early that night so we can start the next day early since we had to make the best while the sun is up.

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