Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Sagada Way



Sagada is one of the best destinations in the Philippines with so much activities and picturesque landscapes to offer.

Hiking, spelunking, culture, rice terraces, gastronomy, arts - they have it.
Famous for its magnificent caves, rice terraces and rustic lifestyle, Sagada regularly attracts thousands of tourists specially on weekends. Even made more famous by the movie “Tadhana”, more and more people come to Sagada to find their own “tadhana” (fate).

Viewing sea of clouds in Marlboro Country.

But before going there, make proper preparations. Sagada is a highland with climate different from the usual tropical setting.

Here are several things to consider when visiting Sagada
The sacred lake Banao / Danum.
  1. Be Culturally Sensitive. This is the most important of all. Don’t go around asking stupid questions like where you can find Igorots. The kind of Igorot you’re looking for does not exist. Igorots are the ones who live there and they’re the ones you meet around the place. The Igorots are not uncivilised, short, dark-skinned with kinky hair. They are educated, fair-skinned (unless they work in the farm constantly exposed to the sun), they have average height like most Filipinos, and many have aquiline nose and maybe better looking than those seeking for the ugly Igorot. Be respectful of the local traditions and culture. Don’t vandalise around especially their sacred places. Sacred places include their burial grounds and their mountains. You can shout at the echo valley but that doesn’t mean you can scream in every mountain top you visit.
  2. Wear sensible outfits. Don’t wear a skimpy short and keep complaining about the biting cold while waiting for sunrise in Kiltepan or Marlboro Country. Sagada is a highland with cold temperature and winds are freezing especially at night and at dawn. When going spelunking in the caves, wear shoes that you can dunk into the waters as you will be passing through underground rivers. Be prepared to get dirty especially when visiting the caves and the hanging coffins.  
    Underwater river system inside Sagada's caves.
  3. Bring emergency kit. Some of the trails are slippery so bring your med kit. With the freezing wind, you might like to expose yourself to the sun but this will give you sunburn. Use sunscreen protection. Also bring mosquito repellent.
  4. Register - All Visitors are required to register and pay an environment fee. Your receipt will be checked upon entering tourist areas.
  5. Guide is a must - Sagada is filled with beautiful canyons, cliffs, caves, streams, fields and forest but you could get hurt or get lost so make sure to ask for a guide when go venturing around the municipality. Children are not allowed to guide so ask for legit guides at the registration area. If you plan to sleep somewhere other than the guest houses, let someone know. If you don't turn up where you plan to be, the community will come looking for you. Get the emergency numbers when you register so you could call anytime you get lost. 
  6. Gastronomy adventure. Be daring to explore the food culture. There are the pleasantly surprising yoghurt house and lemon pie. But you should also try the locally-popular “etag” or smoked ham. This traditional way to preserve meat has survived for centuries and it is one of the local delicacies. And don’t forget the Sagada Oranges. Because of its popularity, even imported oranges are named after this Sagada native fruit. Make prior arrangement for your meals if you go out on tour to make sure they are ready when you return.
  7. Manage your own garbage - Sagada has no waste disposal system and every household and business establishments manage their own garbage. Do the same and bring home what you brought with you. 
  8. Get immersed with Art and music – We have some music and art hubs in Sagada. Art includes the weaving industry that have designs unique to the place. There’s also the Sagada Pottery where you can try out for a small fee. Of course we also have visual artists, check out some artworks you see around the place. Some of them were made by the locals. There are some folk dens to visit when you want to listen to music.
  9. Walk, don’t drive. Sagada gets pretty crowded during weekends and Holidays because of tourists insisting to drive around. Be prepared to walk if you visit Sagada and leave your cars in your accommodations or in designated parking areas. They have new ordinances that only public transport are allowed inside Sagada to avoid gridlocks especially during long weekends. So if you don’t want to walk, visit somewhere else. 
  10.  Don’t forget number 1. I can write more about things you need to consider when visiting Sagada but these to me are the most important. If you forgot what I’ve written here, the most important really is number one, be culturally sensitive. Like that famous phrase “When in Rome, do what Romans do,” when you’re in Sagada do it the Sagada way.

See you on the road.

The hanging coffins.



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