My trip was almost cancelled because I’ve been in a pensive mood in the past couple of days, it just didn’t feel right to Get Away. Things were so fucked up at work, I couldn’t find it in myself to just pack up and leave for the weekend. Alas, my sister convinced me that I desperately needed a break because I was on a verge of a breakdown so at around 11:30PM on Thursday night, I told Pau that it was definitely a GO.

When we finally arrived, I realized that it was indeed a much needed break for me… I was lovin’ Sagada. Every minute, every moment.

Night Travel
April 27, 2007

Dad and Bryan picked up me, Pau, and Maggie at the office and we headed straight to Florida Bus Tours (Manila-Banaue route) located at the back of España. Bryan already bought the tickets the day before for Php. 450/ea so we definitely had seats, thank God. A week ago I booked 4 seats at Cable Tours (Manila-Bontoc route), I’ve been texting them every other day to confirm but the day before the actual trip, the fuckwits texted me that there were no longer buses available. WTF?!? I was so stressed and pissed that I had to ask Maggie to just fix the transpo details. Anyway, our bus left Manila at around 8:30PM and we arrived in Banaue by 5:30AM. The bus conductors urgently shuffled us out of the bus because apparently, they had to rescue another group whose bus got stranded somewhere.. poor kids.

Note: I recommend taking Florida Bus because I’ve heard too many horror stories re: Cable Bus Tours. They seem to have a habit of cancelling your ticket reservations. You can’t buy the tickets in advance either so if you arrive there and they seem to have forgotten your reservation.. well, you’re fucked. It’s such a hassle having to run to the next bus station to check if they have available seats to Baguio or Banaue.

Day 1
April 28, 2007

By six o’clock we rode a trike to the town of Banaue. Kuya Cesar was a blessing.. he was very good with tourists. He showed us to where the Banaue-Sagada jeep would wait and he brought us to a nice coffee shop so we can have our breakfast (Filipino Breakfast: Php.70). After breakfast we just walked around the small town.. checking out the scenery until we met Kuya Cesar again. Apparently, the driver of the jeep (Kuya Andy) was his cousin and he offered to bring us up to View Point (areas overlooking the terraces) for Php.25 each. Kuya Andy will just meet us at View Point with our luggage. Instead of waiting for an hour or so staring at each other, we took the chance, hauled our bags inside the Jeep, hopped into Kuya Cesar’s trike and headed to View Point. The view was MAGNIFICENT.

This is the exact terraces found at the back of the One Thousand Peso bill.

Kuya Cesar left us at the top most View Point and advised us to hang out by the road by 8:00AM, right about the time Kuya Andy will probably drive by. An hour passed and we were already fidgety. It was so funny at how alert we were whenever a vehicle was in sight. I was getting impatient already.. good thing Kuya Andy rolled by at around 9:00AM and then we were off to Sagada. Again, the view was so spectacular that some of the photographers rode on top of the vehicle to get nice shots. Bryan rode on top as well.. pfft.. he didn’t even have a camera, kaya sayang lang! I would’ve volunteered my phonecam! We entered the boundary of Sagada in less than three hours.. then we had a flat tire. Good thing they were able to change the tire because I didn’t want to walk.. parang ang layo pa kasi hahaha.

Kuya Andy dropped us off at the Mapiya-aw Pensione driveway before going into town. I had a strange feeling we were in for a loooong walk when I saw the signage.. 50m walk. Hmmm.. a closer inspection will reveal that the original signage actually states 100m and NOT 50m. Oh, goodie.. as if they can MOVE the entire house 50m closer… they just stated 50m so as not to scare the tourists in walking that friggin far. Plus, there’s no other way but to walk uphill. No trikes, no jeeps, no bikes. Fuck.

My first choice for accommodation was actually George’s Guest Inn but at the time when I called to make a reservation, they were already fully booked. Next on the list was St. Joseph’s Inn… I was able to book AND CONFIRM our reservation for a small cottage but two days before our arrival they text me that there’s something wrong with the CR of the cottage we were booked in. YEAH RIIIIIGHT. The girl that texted me said she’ll book us in Igorot Inn instead… 500 bucks per person. WTF? Thats too expensive for Sagada accommodations so we settled for Mapiya-aw (Php.300/pax with own CR)… I tried to convince ourselves that we needed the warm up exercise. Bleh.

After settling in, we headed towards Yoghurt House for a pig-out lunch. There we met Brian and Grace. Brian read my previous Sagada blog entry and asked to join us in some of our guided tours… this would bring down the cost afterall. Brian then introduced us to Archie and Arthur, they all met at the bus and will be joining us as well. Brian, Grace, Archie, and Arthur were our new found Sagada buddies.

Note: If you will be in a big group, contact Kuya Andy at 0921-9715019. He’s very nice.. he even stops the jeep when I’m taking pictures of the scenery outside his window, yep, the driver’s side, hehe. You can probably ask him for Kuya Cesar’s number as well if you need a trike ride from the Bus station to the town. Since the jeep was full, Kuya Andy ‘s Banaue-Sagada ride only cost us Php.200 each.

For the guides, I suggest going to ASTG (Association of Sagada Tourist Guides). You may contact Gareth at 0926-3431918 for more information. Their office is located near the Yoghurt House. You may register with them instead of going to the Municipal Hall.

This is Joseph, our kickass guide throughout the entire trip.

Sumaging Cave
Guide: Php.400 / 4pax
Optional Vehicle: Php. 350
Time: 2:30PM

If I had known how far we’d have to walk suuuper far uphill, I’d have insisted on the optional vehicle. Heck, I’d volunteer to pay for it by myself even! On our way to Sumaging, we stopped by the roadside. We were to go down a couple of steps. By a couple of steps I mean wa-poise asthma-inducing steps. To think we weren’t even at Sumaging yet haha! At the bottom of the whole hike, we reached the mouth of Lumiang Cave and took a few pictures. At the mouth of the cave you’ll see several stocked-up coffins. We kept taking pictures, not really freaked out that there were dead bodies and dried-up old bones in those things. The realization came later on. Haha.

After camwhoring, we had to trek back up those miserable steps to get to the road. If you’re going to take the Cave Connection adventure (not for newbies), you wouldn’t have to go back up.. you go inside Lumiang Cave and come out at Sumaging Cave. Since we were all Sagada first-timers, we opted to try with the easiest and most recommended Cave first… Sumaging.

You’d know you’re at Sumaging when you see the Sagada Cave Man by the roadside. I suggest you buy water (Php.30 for a big bottle) before going in so you’re prepared. Hehehe.

We went in, we went out. There’s no point in narrating the details because it’s different for everybody. :)

Notes: Bring sandals with straps so that it sticks to your feet. These are better because it won’t slide off. For the love of God, DO NOT wear rubbershoes. Wear simple simple shirts and shorts.. DO NOT wear your favorite outfit or light-colored clothes. I personally recommend wearing lycra jogging pants.. when the time comes where you’d have to crawl in bat-poo, you’d thank me. Cloth/cotton jogging pants may be too heavy if they’re soaked in water. Have swimwear underneath your clothes so that if your pants/shorts/top get ripped, your swim wear will save you (recommended based on personal experience!). Buy Kodak disposable underwater camera! It’s also important that your cameras have flash because it’s pretty dark in the Cave.

After our caving adventure (est. 7:00PM), We had the famous dinner buffet by Chef Aklay at St. Joseph’s Inn. Yes, it’s supposed to be at Log Cabin but at the time we were there, the Log Cabin was being renovated so St. Joseph hosted the buffet. Better make a reservation in the morning because it really gets crowded… call/text 0918-3113161. They reserve a table for you and your friends… if there’s no available table, good luck na lang. People don’t really pack up and leave after eating hehe. I certainly didn’t want to just pack up and leave because I was dreading the trek back to Mapiya-aw… yes, it’s that friggin far. Bry and I walked back to the lodge first and just left the flashlight with Pau and Maggie. Though there were no light whatsoever (there were no lamp posts and houses on the way!), it felt pretty safe.. that’s how Sagada is. After a twenty-minute walk uphill, we all crashed into bed. The vodka will have to wait till tomorrow night.

It was a great first day. :)