Somewhere in the Cordilleras: Banaue, Sagada, Baguio

I recently had the fortune of traveling to some of the provinces in Cordillera Central Luzon: Banaue, Sagada, Baguio last month.

Banaue, Ifugao

This was our first stop. We reached Ifugao at around 6 in the evening. Although we took the  long Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya route, it was really the traffic in Bulacan that delayed us.

banaue1 We originally planned to only do a short  stop in Banaue, but it was already dark. And because we went there to see the terraces we decided to stay the night just so we can see the Banaue Rice Terraces in all it’s glory by morning.

We stayed at People’s Lodge and Restaurant for the night and we had dinner at the restaurant’s terrace. While we were busy chitchatting and laughing, we suddenly wondered about the sound of running  water from somewhere. We couldn’t see the view so we assumed it was either, a river , a stream or a water-supply machine. The view was pitch black and all we could see were little firefly-like lights flickering  in the darkness , which we, again, assumed were lights from residents’ homes.
We couldn’t wait for morning; we were excited to see the view.

Restaurant and Inn experience? food was alright, and the place is neat. It had a pretty living room and a small convenience store in the ground floor. Our room didn’t have air condition, but we didn’t really need it. We were all wrapped in our blankets because it was friggin’ cold (in a good way).

Morning came…

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Took this photo when we checked out of the lodge.

and well, the view we were all so curious of? WE LOVED IT!! and the sound of rushing water? it was a from a stream below.

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woke up to this view

banaue5 banaue4 The cold breeze, the view *sigh*. Beautiful. What a wonderful view to wake up to.

We initially booked our tour with JCE Travel and Tours so our ride and accommodation were all covered. Their service is awesome — an 11 out of 10. I will place contact details, as well as my budget breakdown at the bottom of this post.

While  we were waiting for our ride, we snacked on some bread and took a few photos. It was 6 in the morning and we were a little hungry.

First of the few terraces viewpoints lining the road to Bontoc — The Changi Viewpoint.

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She’s 90+; can you believe that?

You can get your photos taken with nanay (that’s not her name, but I usually call old ladies that. It means mom, in  tagalog). banaue7

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Kuya Joel drove us a little farther to another famous viewpoint of the rice terraces. banaue11

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This view is supposedly the angle featured in the Philippine’s 1000-peso bill, but I couldn’t get the right angle sooo… this one here is not really it. HAHA

So amazed how the Ifugao’s ancestors built these into the side of the mountains just like that. banaue9 Just above this view is a small snack house where we had our breakfast — Garden Snack Hauz and Restaurant. The food is really good and I fell in love with their TINAWON ORGANIC RICE COFFEE. It was so good I knew I just had to buy a pack for me to take home.
The owner of the restaurant told us that the TINAWON ORGANIC RICE COFFEE is a household quintessential in Ifugao. She even added that it was good for the tummy and that even kids can drink it.
You can check the restaurant’s menu here.

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Tinawon Organic Rice Coffee

Just below where we parked is a souvenir shop where you can buy some Banaue goodies.

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some of the items sold at the souvenir shop
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Wrist candies of the day. Two of which I bought at the souvenir shop for 20 pesos.

After a hearty breakfast and short shopping spree, we were on our way to Mt. Province.

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stopped here for a short photo op on our way to Bontoc

 

Sagada, Mt. Province

After hours of eat-nap-laugh-sing-chitchat-pee-repeat we finally arrived in Sagada. We passed by Bontoc and the place is daayyyuummm beautiful, but I think I’ll save the Bontoc-getaway for another time. The place is too idyllic and too picturesque that it deserves an entirely different trip.

Bontoc

 

We checked in at Salt and Pepper Inn in Sagada. Cute, decent, clean, plus the rooms are new. There’s a pasalubong shop in the ground floor  of the inn and a restaurant in the second. Their servings are huge!  Five stars for me.  You can check Salt and Pepper Inn’s Diner menu here.

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Morning walk to and from the Salt and Pepper Inn

We ate breakfast at the inn’s diner and headed straight to Lumiang Cave to start our spelunking adventure.

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passed by a view of some of the hanging coffins in cliff lime stones on our way to Lumiang Cave

Only three of us (me, gerx and mitch) decided to do the Lumiang-Sumaguing 4-hour cave connection while two of our companions(jess and riza) only took the short spelunking at Sumaguing Cave.
We brought Riza’s camera with us, but on our way to the cave the camera’s shutters got busted. Shheesh. Tough tough Luck!

Armed with only ourselves, our guide, his backpack and a kerosene lamp (and no camera *sigh*) we entered the cave.
I am not scared of darkness, I am not claustrophobic, and definitely not the first time to enter a cave, but geez this was the longest time I spent in one to crawl or lie down on bended knees up and down huge piles of rocks, to walk steep paths to get around its walls without a harness, to step from one slippery stone to another, to see all pitch-black view of the bottom of a steep we should slide our way through, to dip in ice-cold water that we need to cross, to step on things we couldn’t see and to brave narrow(and i mean really narrow) holes and tunnels we have to fit ourselves into.
There was even a time when Kuya Marlon was forced to leave us for a couple of minutes just because he had to check on the other group in case they ran out of kerosene. So, the three of us (me and 2 of my friends) sat curled on the floor with our limbs close to our torso and our head close to our knees like lost and abandoned kids in the street on a rainy day. LOL We chatted for a while and just found out later that the pitch-black area we 3 were staring at the entire time we waited for Kuya Marlon was a deep deep deep cliff like area (whatever that’s called). hahah

For 2 hours we worked our way through the caves, with our guide Kuya Marlon helping us every step of the way . When he sees the step to be risky, he offers his shoulders, hands and thighs for us to stand on. Kuya Marlon gave us a lot of confidence to haul ourselves up, to slide down, and to navigate our way through. We are so grateful for our wonderful guide. Our lives were in his hands and he did an awesome job. If you plan on doing the cave connection. Please give your guides a tip.

Lumiang is the small cave, famous because of its incredible labyrinth through unbelievable rock formation. Sumaguing, on the other hand, is the big cave, and boasts for its spectacular chambers and beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. It is most probably the reason why many, who do not try the four-hour cave connection expedition, prefer to limit their cave experience into Sumaguing.

When we emerged at Sumaguing Cave, we felt relieved, exhilarated and so damn proud of what we just accomplished.

We were  fast according to Kuya Marlon. We reached the other end of the cave in roughly 2 hours instead of the usual 4; maybe because there were only 2 groups spelunking that time and it wasn’t crowded, or  because we did not play around much, or we didn’t bring our cameras with us and we didn’t really take time posing one by one for photo ops of all the magnificent formations and cool spots we saw. Could be that we were just quite in a hurry or maybe we were just too good. hahahaha.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t really matter now. All I know is, we survived and we are happy and proud! 2 hours! read that? 2 hours! HAHAHA *insert victory laugh*

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The Queen’s Curtain @Sumaguing Cave

 

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i have no idea what that looks like. pfftt hahaha
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what animal do you see??

After an afternoon of adventure, we went back to our room to rest for a bit and then we decided to eat dinner at Sagada’s L emon Pie Cafe and Resto.

SagadaLemonPieHouseEvening

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the famous lemon pie

 

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took this photo when we had our breakfast the next day at the restaurant across

We then went to Yoghurt House for round 2 of dessert. It felt more like a pub than a yogurt house to be honest, but it ain’t that bad. The name yoghurt house just didn’t seem to fit. lol 🙂

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The Yoghurt house counter
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the yogurt I ordered

Since there were five types of yogurt in the menu and there were five of us, we decided to order all the types of yogurt they served. *wink*
A European tourist got so intrigued about the different servings in our table that he came to us and asked what  we ordered. hahaha He ended up ordering all the yogurt in the menu too and had them all in one bowl. 😉

Day 3: still in Sagada

We woke up really early so we can catch the sunrise at Kiltepan.

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Kiltepan

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the sun because there was too much fog and a lot of clouds that day.

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feeling dramatic and all…:P
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I sense a hugot line coming haha

We returned to the inn and walked the streets to search for a place to eat breakfast. I know the inn’s diner is accessible and serves good food, but we agreed to change restaurants every single meal just so we can have several dining experiences in Sagada.

We ate breakfast at Happy House Restaurant, situated just across the Lemon Pie Cafe. I ordered their egg and chicken arroz caldo and it did not disappoint. Just what I needed on a cold morning. For Happy House’s menu, click here.

Sagada Happy House Restaurant
love the color of wood

After breakfast, we were all set for our 2-hour trek to Bomod-ok Falls. From the drop-off point, we met Ms. Maria (our guide) and walked down to Barangay Fidelisan, a small village in the northern part of Sagada. Bomod-ok Falls is a 200-meter waterfall hidden behind the rice paddies of the small mountain village.

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Drop off point
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A far-away view of the village. The little white crooked line situated 1-oclock from the village is Bomod-ok Falls.
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Ms. Maria

While the trail is manageable, you have to have iron lungs and strong legs and feet for this cardio-intensive workout. *wink*

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sagadabomodokminiterracessagadatrekkingtobomodokfalls

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ice-cold water and slippery boulders of rocks, but that didn’t stop us from getting a closer look

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The water is ice-cold but it’ll help you freshen up for the long hike back.

On our way back, we stopped by a small house to buy home-made yogurt.

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No exaggeration…this yogurt is one of the best I’ve tasted. Different, but really good.

 

We also met two solo backpackers, who also just met that day — Grace who’s from the U.S and Sarah who’s from Australia. They didn’t know where to go so we asked them to join us for the rest of the day if they wanted to.

They went with us to the pottery  and weaving house, the orange orchard at Rock Inn for orange picking and lunch, and in Lake Danum to watch the sunset.

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We helped ourselves to all the orange we can manage to eat within the 30-minute tour
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Grace and her orange-tree-climbing adventure lol
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Eat-all-the-orange-you-can at the Rock Inn’s orange orchard

We ate lunch at Cafe Bodega, which is still in Rock Inn. Cafe Bodega is by far the best restaurant I’ve been to in Sagada.  Huge servings, really good-tasting food, reasonable prices, good customer service and Trish, the charming attendant from Iloilo, speaks Bisaya. yey!

I ordered their Pasta with Tuna in White Sauce and it was gooooooood. The serving was so big though that even with my appetite I was not able to finish what’s on my plate. Good thing my friend came to my rescue and finished it all for me.

You can check a part of Cafe Bodega’s menu here.

We also did a quick stop at the Sagada Pottery. They do not only sell finished products, but the  potter will also demonstrate and explain the steps and process of  pottery making.

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At the pottery house.

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Lake Danum

After Sagada Pottery and a quick stop at Lake Danum, we patiently waited for the sunset atop a hill.

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After a fun and tiring day, we headed back to the inn and prepped up for dinner.

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evening walks… ❤

We ate at Sagada Brew, a quaint and cute cafe/resto just a few houses away from Salt and Pepper Inn. While my friends and I were talking about pasalubongs and wines, we met Dee, a solo backpacker who offered us a glass of Bugnay wine because she heard us talk about it. She is currently working in Manila, but yes, she understands and speaks Bisaya. (another yey!) We also met her two new couple-backpacker friends from Belgium who climbed Mt. Ampacao with her.

Sagada is indeed a mecca for both local and foreigner mountain backpackers and adventurers.

sagadabrew
I ordered Orange Chicken and the meal came with a brownie and a drink

Next day, we had an early breakfast at Masferre, where another Bisaya-speaking resident is also working at. We met Darling, who’s from Davao, the other night while we were busy chatting and speaking in bisaya on our way back to the inn. She suddenly came up to us and asked us in our dialect if we can eat at the resto she works in. We happily agreed.

After a good breakfast, we went back to the inn and prepped up to visit the last few spots in our Sagada itinerary (the market, Eco Valley and St. Mary’s church) and of course, for Baguio.

I initially thought Echo Valley was spelled without an H. Only then did I find out it was spelled with an H when I tried shouting in the valley and my voice echoed. hahah

At the Echo Valley, we did a short trek to get close to the hanging coffins. We started walking from the church grounds of St. Mary the Virgin and trekked to a cemetery until we found our way down to the valley. It took us about 30-45 minutes to trek downhill until we reached the lowest ground of the valley where a cliff stands on the middle with the hanging coffins on sight. The trail is easy, but never forget that you will be traversing the side of a cliff and that one wrong step could be fatal. Don’t forget to watch your step and be extra careful.

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Hanging Coffins at the Eco Valley
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Halo-halo after the short trek. What’s unique is that it has macaroni 😉
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St. Mary’s

Before we knew it, we were on our way to Benguet…

Benguet

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Short photo op at Benguet — Philippine Highway System Highest Point

Since we’re already in Benguet, of course, we did not miss the Strawberry Farm even though there weren’t strawberries for harvest yet.

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young strawberries
benguetlettuce
lettuce
strawberrytaho
the famous strawberry taho
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strawberry ice cream

It was around 6 in the evening when we arrived in Baguio City. We did a quick stroll around Burnham and decided to eat dinner at the food stations near the park. We then headed to the nearest grocery store for tomorrow’s breakfast.

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quick stroll

In the morning, last day of the trip 😦 , we toured Baguio City (Botanical Garden, Minesview Park, The Mansion, Wright Park, Session Road, Our Lady of Lourdes grotto, Lion’s head, etc), lit candles in Baguio Cathedral, ate breakfast at Good Taste and then we went off to go back to Manila for our 11pm flight.

Till next vacay!
Thank you, God for another chance to travel. 🙂

*********************************************

BUDGET BREAKDOWN

  • 700+ – Cebu Pacific Airfare CEB to MNL (round trip)
  • 7800 – JCE Travel and Tours for 5 days and 4 nights(accommodation, a private van, entrance fees, etc)
  • 22 – Fare to airport
  • 4540 – on-tour expenses
  • around 150 – CR fees

D1:

MANILA to BANAUE:

  • 0 Breakfast @NLex – free (A friend who had to back out from the trip allowed us to use his contribution as pocket money for food ;))
  • 25 wilkins NLEx Select
  • 10 Puto sold in BULACAN (gas station)
  • 80 lunch @ jollibee NUEVA ECIJA
  • 10 shell CR NUEVA VIZCAYA
  • 0  People’s Lodge dinner- free (c/o friend’s pocket money)
    =125

D2:

BANAUE:

  • 6 Bread @ people’s lodge convenience store
  • 10 tip @changi viewpoint
  • 350 meal/ and tinawon organic rice coffee pack @garden snack hauz and restaurant
  • 40 souvenir (bracelets)
    =406

SAGADA

  • 85 pandan and red velvet crinkles @ Salt and Pepper Inn store
  • 10 oatmeal bar
  • 0 lunch (free c/o friend’s pocket money)
  • 50 bottle of water
  • 500 spelunking Lumiang Cave/Sumaguing Cave connection
    = 645
  • 145 dinner @ Lemon Pie House
  • 45 bottle of water
  • 250 Sagada T-shirt
  • 90 Yogurt House
    =530

D3:

SAGADA:

  • 30 Coffee @ Kiltepan
  • 70 Egg and Chicken Arroz Caldo breakfast @ Happy House
  • 100 load
  • 20 yogurt@ bomodok
  • 20 each for Ms. Maria (our trek guide)
  • 175 Rock inn
  • 50 fee for orange picking at the orchard
  • 0 sagada weaving
  • 0 pottery
  • 0 lake danum and sunset
  • 6 glucose biscuits at sari-sari store
  • 200 dinner @ Sagada Brew
    =671

D4:

SAGADA:

  • 240 Masferre/Country Inn breakfast
  • 80 filled bread (Across Country Inn) (PASALUBONG)
  • 195 sunflower and guava jelly at masferre souvenir shop (PASALUBONG)
  • 55 candy
  • 25 halohalo near st. mary’s

BENGUET

  • 45 for 1 1/2 kilo of Lettuce in Benguet (PASALUBONG)
  • 140 each  lunch @ Benguet (chicken with ampalaya, rice, tilapia, soup, etc)

BAGUIO CITY

  • 415 PASALUBONG baguio (1 ube jam, 1 small strawberry buobuo 2 bottles strawberry wine, 1 small strawberry jam)
  • 120 dinner at burnham park 54 each grocery for D5 breakfast (bread, eggs, coffee, cheese, etc)
    =1369

D5:

BAGUIO:

  • 150 mines view (photo with 2 st. bernards – king and chloe, and with genuine the horse)
  • 100 photo wearing ifugao costume
  • 20 taho
  • 65 eco bag 10 lumpia gulay @botanical gardens parking lot
  • 50 pinipig near The Mansion (PASALUBONG)
  • 20 botanical garden photo op with elders
  • 175 good taste lunch 27 tissue (select gas station)
  • 13 rebisco (select gas station)
  • 35 siopao (airport)
  • 25 mineral water (airport)
  • 50 brewed coffee (airport)
  • 54 checked-in luggage division
    =794

Pasalubong list:

  1. 2 strawberry wine
  2. 1 big ube jam
  3. 1 small strawberry jam
  4. 1 small buobuo strawberry jam
  5. 3 Lettuce
  6. 1 kilo strawberries
  7. 2 pinipig
  8. 1 small plastic container choc coated sunflower seeds
  9. 1 guava jelly
  10. 4 packs filled bread from sagada (malagkit, coco, cheese, ube?)
  11. 1 small plastic bag of tinawon organic rice coffee (boil 2 tbsp in 4 cups of water)

Thank you to JCE Travel and Tours! You can check their facebook page here or visit their website http://jcetravelandtours.com/

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