02.03.2008 10 °C
On the night of Christmas 2006, me and 3 relatives went to the beautiful and enchanted mountains of the Ifugao. We stayed in Banaue Hotel under a tour package provided by the Philippine Tourism Authority. On our 2nd day of stay in Banaue, as part of our tour package, we travel to another off-the-beaten-track tourist destination, Sagada.
Sagada, is a small town in the Mountain Province, in the midst of the Cordillera Mountain Range on the island of Luzon, Philippines. Sagada is about 3 hours drive north of Banaue through zigzaged and rough roads on the steep mountain sides of Cordillera. Sagada is a well known tourist destination for its underground caves and the hanging coffins. Around the town's limestone cliffs, wooden coffins can be found hanging by the cliff side. It was a burial tradition performed by local tribes that inhabit the mountains.
The drive to the place is quite long and a bit tiring but the mountain areas that you'll pass by is amazing and very beautiful. You'll pass by rice terraces, vegetable terraces and pine-fill mountains. Driving thru the dirt road will make you feel like you're on top of the world. Along the path, we passed the town of Bontoc, the capital of the province around 11am. Our guide informed us that we'll proceed to the Sagada Cave first since there will be more tourist flocking the cave by noon and afterwards.
On arrival to Sagada, our tour guide brought us to the town hall to register and pay a small amount for the environmental fee. The charge it to keep their site clean and safe for tourists. After paying, we were told by our guide that we should make ourselves ready to get wet. Really get wet, upto the waist. And so, we decided to buy a pair of slippers and put our wallets and cellphones into water-tight plastic bags.
And so, we head on to the caves, which is a short ride from the town hall. On the way to the cave, we saw some of the hanging coffin sites. And when we got there, we had to walk done a number of steps to reach the mouth of the cave. The cave was deep and some parts are slippery, so we are told to take care. Inside the cave, lines of tourists are walking down the trail with their guides holding their lamplights. Without the lamplights, the place is pitch black. It was cold inside and has a lot of pools the are filled by water dripping down from the cave's ceiling. Getting in the cave, you'll have to make use of your hands and feet as there are areas where you'll crawl the cave wall or grab ropes to let you cross deep crevices. We had to wade, waist deep on some parts or crawl through narrow passageways. It was exhausting. But when we got into the deepest part of the cave, it was a great achievement. It was beautiful! Well, after a few picture sessions, we again start our way up, passing through the same path that we went through. We had to take a breather when we got back to the cave's mouth.
After that cave, we move to another one but only walked down upto the its mouth where dozens of wooden coffins are stacked by the cave's entrance. We took some pictures and head back to the town center for lunch.
After having lunch, we start our way back to Banaue but we made a short stop at Bontoc to see the Bontoc Museum. The museum features pictures of the Ifugao, Igorot and Aeta tribes who lived on these mountains long before the Spanish came. It also features different ornaments and idols made by these tribes. There are also the different replicas of the typical tribal houses.
That day was a long one and exhausting, but it was one of the travels that I made that I'll always remember. Including our way back through the rough, zigzaged road to Banaue. On our way back, we were caught by darkness as night fell. The road being challenging as it is in day time has become more challenging as there were no lights and the clouds began to engulf the road. It was a creepy road but luckily we made it safely.
For my other travel blogs, please do visit my PauTravels site at http://www.pautravels.com