Sagada is one of those places once experience you wanted to keep it all to yourself, not for selfish reason but simply because you are afraid that once expose it may never be the same again. True enough, it was once an unknown place but recent interest and popularity increase particularly among local tourists after it was featured several times on national TV travel shows.
Sagada is indeed one of a kind. It is a breath of fresh air, where the sky is perfect blue and the weather is cooler, a blissful feeling particularly if you are coming from the crowded and polluted metro.
To reach the small town of Sagada, first you need to travel all the way to Baguio City and head to the Old Dangwa Bus Terminal to catch the bus heading to the town. The first bus departs at 6am while the last one leave at 1pm and the journey takes approximately 5 to 6 hours.
Upon reaching the town, the first thing any visitor should do is head straight to the Municipal Hall and register. The registration booth is also an information desk to help tourists with their needs of finding accommodations, directions to the famous hanging coffins and inquiry for accredited tour guide and corresponding fee per activity.
There are several inns and guesthouses available though the best one for me is Sagada Homestay. Apart from the homey traditional wooden interior, the location provide an excellent overlooking view of the whole town and beyond, plus in the evening there is usually a bonfire to keep you warm while lounging outside the balcony passing time.
Make sure to bring enough cash when traveling to Sagada, there is only one ATM machine in the whole town and proven to be unreliable. You don’t need to bring so much money since your expenses will be limited to paying the guesthouse, bus fare, activities requiring tour guide, food and if you wanted to spend some extra cash for yogurt, lemon pie or purchasing traditional Sagada weaving souvenir items- all these are within a backpackers budget.
Sagada is best explore on foot, starting early in the morning when everything still quiet though the town is relatively peaceful all throughout the day. In the evening, not every street is well-lighted particularly the highways in and out of the town, thus the local government impose a curfew of 9pm-4am daily which residents and visitors should abide.
Upon arriving in Sagada, all I wanted to do is just walk. Having spent only few days in Manila made me craved for the calming sensation of simply walking- walking without any purpose, without any sense of direction but just wanting to free my mind and excitedly anticipate for new places to unravel itself.
Without any guide or map to consult, my walk led me to Marlboro Country, a place which basically derives its name from the iconic image of Marlboro cigarette commercial of wild horses running across the open field.
According to the story shared by one of the local resident I met while making my way to the peak of Marlboro Country is that back when he was a kid there used to be a lot of horses freely running around the area but nowadays it would be a miracle to find one.
The walk to Marlboro Country despite the lack of signage is very easy, which led me to believe that Sagada is one of those places that does not require any signboard at all, maybe because it is compact in size or maybe because the town has the unexplained effect of removing any doubts to anyone about getting lost, as if no matter what happen you will still find your way back to your hostel main door.
Sagada is a good start to get you acquainted about the culture and custom of Mountain Province residence. They are hard working and honest individuals who welcome visitors with such open arms, ready to share the beauty of the very same land they called home.