When I finally got away from the things to do in Manila, I headed to the northern part of Luzon.
The scenery on the ride was ravishing, and the bars that were imprinted on my buttocks for the next 2 days from sitting on the top of the jeep up the snake winding, unpaved road, were equally great.
As we continued to gain elevation the environment around us changed from humid tropical to mountain fresh. Palms were converted to evergreens and even the cuisine changed from buko (coconut) juice and adobo to mountain coffee, pancakes and yogurt.
The jolt of clean air could be felt from my nostrils all the way into my lungs as I enjoyed the raw beauty and felt as though I was in Northern Arizona, far far away from the Philippines.
Sagada immediately struck me as a magical fantasy land in the Philippines. Everything about the town, from the available guest house options to the coffee shops, to the inhabitants who were charming and homely. Every woman in the town who served me food, or sold me something, seemed to immediately act like a motherly figure with a display of genuine kindness and love towards me.
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Though I wanted to sit at my guest house (I chose the extremely delightful Sagada Homestay another Motheryly Discovery) for a few years reading a library, contemplating, and chugging coffee, I decided to be active and used some great advice from Visit Sagada, an incredible wealth of information regarding the town and activities in the vicinity (check them out).
I decided to put on my hiking sandals to indulge in a number of the local attractions. The first day I checkout out the small waterfall (bokong) and big waterfall (bomod-ok). The big waterfall is definitely worth the hike and does not require a guide to reach the destination which takes about 3 hours round trip from Sagada with a goosebump-ing swim in the middle.
One of the traditional practices in the cave area especially around echo valley in Sagada is to hang the coffins of deceased on cliff walls or stack coffins in caves. Some of the coffins are tiny, barely reaching my waist if stood vertical. Corpses are often squished into the fetal position before being inserted.
I asked my guide the reason for not burying the dead in the ground and he replied, “they are not buried so their souls can roam around the world, so the family can associate with the spirit.”
It was a very interesting practice to observe, something I had never seen before and feeling like Indiana Jones was a bonus.
Sagada is also known these days for the caves, the only activity that really requires a guide. After entering the mouth of the cave there is a short muddy, rocky, and slippery hike. 15 minutes later the lantern illuminates an immaculate environment. The underworld limestone formations with flowing water is absolutely exquisite.
Wishing I could stay a while longer, it was time to bid farewell to Sagada. On my way out the mother of my guest house informed me that her real mother was about to pass away and invited me to stay for a pig butcher and pork feast-ation later that day. I expressed my gratitude, and continued on my way, definitely sad to leave.
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