The Walks of Kulot


I WOK’d in SAGADA.

The long and winding road Early this year, the National Geographic website hailed the Cordillera region of the Philippines as one of the 25 Best New Trips to explore this 2010. This recognition was just in time since together with my adventurous friends we have decided to explore the mountainous area of the Philippines on our next adventure trip. So we traveled up north, to the culturally rich and adventure-packed town of Sagada. From Manila, it was a grueling 12-hour bus ride going to Bontoc. The long trip was literally a pain in the ass; most especially to some of us who agreed to sit on monoblock chairs just to make it to the last trip. It was hard at first, but I got the hang of it afterwards. From the town of Bontoc, we rode a jeepney going to Sagada. We were feeling adventurous that moment, so we opted to be seated on the jeepney’s rooftop. We enjoyed the ride at first but as we were traversing the rough and rocky slopes of the mountain it felt like I have made the wrong choice. Imagine a zig-zag road with no barricades that can only fit a jeepney. One wrong move of the driver could be the end of our lives. We had fun anyway, but for now I am just charging it to experience.

Pitstop before heading to Bontoc.

The quaint town of Sagada It was past seven in the morning when we arrived in Sagada. The scent of musky pine trees, the magnificent view of green valleys and the cold weather was a welcome feast to our senses. Time suddenly came to a standstill. The town’s rural charm was a breather from the usual noise and pollution of the metro. Houses were nestled on mountains as if they were part of the natural landscape. Suddenly, I realized the view from the houses on top must be really spectacular. It was a pleasant Thursday morning in Sagada. The people are doing their usual daily routine – women sweeping their backyards, old women chewing nga-nga (bettlenut with herbs) in their front porch, vendors arranging their goods to sell and some tourists getting ready for the day’s activity. It was just the start of the day for most the people in Sagada and just the beginning of one great adventure for us. The atmosphere was peaceful and laidback that even dogs are lazy to bark and would rather lie down on streets. We thought it must be the cold weather and cozy atmosphere that make people and even dogs stress-free in Sagada.

Nestled on a hilltop

Yoghurt House
Filipinos have the penchant for naming every region or town in the Philippines as “The (insert famous product/good of the region here) Capital of the Philippines”. And I was surprised that Sagada wasn’t given any distinction yet. So I thought of naming the town of Sagada as “The Yoghurt Capital of the Philippines”. Why? Simply because yoghurt is all over the place in Sagada – from bottled yoghurt to fresh yogi garnished with fresh fruits and strawberry preserve. They even have a restaurant called the Yoghurt House that serves yoghurt daily in different flavors.

The generous serving of yoghurt with strawberries at the Yoghurt House

Cave Connection: The Lumiang Cave and the Sumaguing Cave
After sleeping soundly the the night before, our bodies were ready for a tiring yet adventure-filled activity Sagada is famous for – cave exploration and spelunking. We had our carbo-filled breakfast and hurried to the Sagada municipal hall to hire cave guides to accompany us. We were advised that we cannot enter on our own, so it was mandatory to hire cave experts when entering inside. Our starting point was the Lumiang Cave. At the cave entrance, coffins were piled up on walls. It might be an eerie sight for some, but the Lumiang cave is given utmost respect by the Sagadians because it serves as burial ground for their love ones. The atmosphere suddenly became humid as we went down the big boulders. Yellow lights from gas lamps carried by our guides light up our trail as we move deep into the dark. The cave smelled like moist soil and it was cold inside. We were trying our best to fit in every hole–big or small–carefully pushing ourselves in with eagerness. It was a long hike inside the Lumiang cave and the obstacles seemed easy to us. Not until we entered the chamber of the Sumaguing cave. Unlike the rocks inside the Lumiang cave, the rocks and boulders inside the Sumaguing were bigger and the obstacles were more challenging. The sight of stalactite and stalagmite formation was a magnificent natural wonder. According to our guide, different formations and images were formed over time. Some looked like big curtains of rocks, a frog carved from stone, a humongous mushroom and even the male and female genitalia were formed from rocks and stalagmite. Deep within the cave was an underground river and pool. The water was freezing cold and jumping into the pool was like being submerged in a container filled with ice. After our quick dip, we continued our uphill climb but this time the rocks were more slippery and steeper. There was a time when I felt that all my energy was exhausted and I was about to give up but I realized that I have to push myself further or else I will be left behind. Finally, I saw the light from the cave’s exit but the path wasn’t easy at all. The steps were slippery and there was something weird about the smell of the place. I looked up and I realized bats were all over the place and the slimy thing I am actually touching and the slippery substance on rocks was bat dung. Good thing, I wasn’t dropped with bat blessings. It was a sigh of relief when we reached the exit. We were all exhausted but it was all worth it!

A trek down to the Lumiang Cave

Coffins are piled up at the entrance of the Lumiang cave (Photo by Alison Segarra)

Our tour guides gave us a briefing before we entered the cave. Notice the gas lamps?

Pitch Black. (Photo by Alison Segarra)

Spelunking Series1: The rocks inside the Sumaguing cave are rough and it is advisable to be barefoot because it is easier to climb and walk on the rocks.

Spelunking Series 2: Our tour guides are really cave experts. They have mastered the trail very well and were patient enough to teach us on how to maneuver in difficult situations.

Spelunking3: Break time.

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A souvenir shot taken at one of the stalagmite formations inside the Sumaguing cave.

The Sagada Rice Terraces and the Bomod-Ok falls
We still have a hang-over from our spelunking adventure, but we woke up extra early the following day to catch the sunset in Kitepan. Unfortunately, Mr. Sun wasn’t in the mood to show his gloriousness and decided to hide behind clouds. But according to our guide, the sunrise in Mt. Kitepan is a must-see attraction in Sagada. Oh well, better luck next time.

After having our breakfast, we were off to our next adventure—a trek downhill to the Bomod-ok falls. It felt like that the steps were endless. Our guide told us that the trail we took was actually the “short cut” but it seemed the other way around. The view going down the mountain was really breath taking most especially the Sagada Rice Terraces. It was postcard perfect! – the green carpet of rice fields were arranged into perfection. As I walk along the cobblestones of the rice terraces, I couldn’t help but stop and enjoy the magnificent view. The place was serene and relaxing. I wanted to take pleasure in every moment because that was a natural wonder I don’t see everyday.

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This kid also took a break after the long trek down the mountain.

The hues of green is relaxing.

Amazing Engineering. The Sagada Rice Terraces are arranged into perfection.

The rice fields looked like a giant green carpet draped over the mountain.

Another group shot with the wonderful view of the rice terraces.

After almost an hour of trekking downhill, we finally reached the Bomod-ok falls. Unfortunately, there was not enough water going down from the falls because of the dry season. But nevertheless, the natural pool at the foot of the falls was a treat to tired and exhausted trekkers like us. A lot of tourist flocked the place and spent their time swimming in the cold water.

The endless staircase.

The sight of this natural wonder was worth the long trek.

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The Bomod-ok falls. Almost dry yet still inviting.

I Survived Sagada! Sagada is not a travel destination for the impatient and faint-hearted. A lot of challenges await adventurous travelers who are willing to experience its terrain, but one thing is for sure–the reward at the end is all worth it. The amazing views, the Sagada rice terraces, the exciting feeling of jumping into freezing water, the sigh of relief after spelunking, the sense of accomplishment that you made it all by yourself, these are just some of the personal rewards you can experience in Sagada. This sleepy little town up north is worth coming back to. It has the perfect mix of laid back atmosphere for relaxation and a lot of extreme activities to those seeking for a great adventure. I take pride that I have overcome the challenges of Sagada – from the monoblock bus ride to the non-stop trekking and a lot more. Now I can finally say, that I survived Sagada!

Till then, Sagada.

*I would like to thank Ces, Chey, Terrie, Josh, Alison, Lady and Tes for the great company as always. Till our next trip. My camera’s lens gave up during our trip so I wasn’t able to take much photos. Thank you to my friend, Alison who was kind enough to lend me her digicam so I can post this Sagada entry.

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11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Honestly naiinggit ako . Dream ko kasi mapuntahan to Martin

Comment by juanderfulpinoy

Sobrang okay sa Sagada. I recommend that you visit one of these days habang di pa sya masyadong pinupuntahan ng maraming tao. Kakagaling ko lang dun uli last December pero di ko pa nablo-blog..haha..will try to post something before January ends. May mga bagong lugar kami na nadiscover na okay. Thanks for visiting.

Comment by walksofkulot

I wish I could join you in one adventure, kulot! =)

Comment by Pauwikan

Hi Pau! How I wish, I could join yours too 🙂 But if ever, it would be my pleasure…Thanks for dropping by.

Comment by walksofkulot

WOK WOK WOK!! hanggang sa susunod na adventure! galing mo kulot!

Comment by terrie

Woho! Saya nito. Pero payaman muna tayo kasi minsan nakabubutas bulsa ang magbakasyon. Well worth it though. Ipagpatuloy, at sana marami pang makababasa nito. Sa susunod na WOK!

Comment by tokwa

Maraming salamat sa suporta. Hanggang sa sususnod.

Comment by walksofkulot

You’re welcome Martin! And thank you too for being with us on the trip! ‘Til our next adventure! 🙂

Comment by alon

Maraming salamat uli Alison! Sa uulitin..

Comment by walksofkulot

Wow, you really explored the place! Makes me want to go back and do those things. Next time it won’t be just a pit stop but the main destination na. And I like your rice terraces photos 🙂

Comment by Aia

Thanks Aia! You should really visit the place, I realized visiting Sagada is something you should do while you’re still young…hahaha…

Comment by walksofkulot




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