It was love at first when I first saw Sagada last January. My original plan was to go to Batad and see the rice terraces for my birthday and do some soul-searching. I was still reeling over grief and had to get away. I was also tired from the daily commute, usual work routine, traffic and everything in between. For some reason, I re-watched Antoinette Jadaone’s indie turned commercial film That Thing Called Tadhana starring JM de Guzman and Angelica Panganiban and was convinced to go to Sagada instead. Sagada is on my list but I wasn’t too keen with the 10 to 11-hour bus ride from Manila. As my manager from Sydney told me, “You could be in Sydney in 10 hours!” However, the urge was too strong when I saw the sea of clouds again from That Thing Called Tadhana. I told myself, why not re-trace the steps of Mace and Anthony in Sagada and Baguio?
I booked a one-way bus ticket through the Coda Lines web site. Coda Lines is the only bus company that offers a direct route from Manila (Cubao) to Sagada with a stopover in Banaue and somewhere in Bontoc. I also booked a 2-night accommodation at Isabelo’s Inn and Café and 1-night accommodation in Baguio.
I boarded the bus on a Thursday night (January 19) at the HM terminal located in Monte de Piedad, Cubao. The bus left at around 10:00 pm and had a stopover in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. I didn’t get much sleep at all as the bus navigated through the winding roads going north. We had another stopover in Banaue at around 4:00 am where most of the foreign tourists alighted.
I decided to stay awake and just enjoy the breathtaking views from Banaue to Bontoc. We had another stopover (last) in Bontoc I think. I bought a cup of noodles for breakfast. I was too excited when I saw a blanket of clouds. I knew we were almost there. We arrived in Sagada’s town proper at 8:30 the following morning. We got off across Sagada’s tourist center. I headed to the tourist center right away and paid 40 pesos (DENR fee). You need to keep the receipt at all times and show it when you enter a tourist attraction (Sumagauing Cave, Bomod-ok Falls, etc). You can also get local guides from the tourist center. I talked to a very nice local from the tourist center and mentioned to him my itinerary (quite flexible). My original plan was to do the Echo Valley/Hanging Coffins tour on Day 1, Bomod-ok Falls on Day 2 and Kiltepan sunrise on Day 3. I told kuya that I’m alone and if there’s group looking for one more to text me. I had to check in and I wanted to rest. The good thing is that Isabelo’s Inn is located across the tourist center. I quickly checked in at the inn and prepared my trekking bag. I wanted to see the beauty of Sagada right away. Never mind the lack of sleep and real breakfast. I went back to the tourist center however most tourists already left and booked their tours. Oh well. I decided to trek the Bomod-ok Falls first instead of Echo Valley. I asked for directions how to get to the jump-off point. I was told to ride a jeep to Barangay Bangaan and get a guide there. Fare is 20 pesos. You’ll have to wait for about 20 to 30 minutes for the jeep to depart. I asked the nice lady sitting next to me to tell if we’ve reached Bangaan already. She assured me that it’s the last stop. It was a 15-minute ride to Brgy. Bangaan where you need get a guide. Guide fee is 500 pesos and you need to pay an additional 10 pesos (per person) at Brgy. Fidelisan. The guide fee is good for 7 persons so if you’re in a group, you can split the fee. I was introduced to my guide, the lovely Ate Eliza who gave me an improvised walking stick made of bamboo. And off we go.
Bomod-ok Falls known as The Big Falls (Bomod-ok means big in Bontoc) is one of the most popular and must-visit destinations in Sagada. I remember reading somewhere that Sagada is not for the faint-hearted with all the trekking from one destination to another. Oh boy, it’s true especially trekking to Bomod-ok Falls. From the jump-off point or main road to the waterfalls, you need to endure a 2-kilometer trek to the falls. The trail is all downward with never-ending cement steps with some steep portions. Imagine going back up. Oh and yes, you need the walking pole for support unless you’re an experienced hiker (I am not, I want to though). The 1.5-hour trek was very much worth it though because of the trail and breathtaking views. You get to see moss-covered rocks, rice terraces, streams and some beautiful flowers (sunflowers and orchids included!) along the way. You’ll also pass by Barangay Fidelisan located between the jump-off point and the falls. There are several rest areas along the way so rest if you must. My guide mentioned the flowers that grow along the trail and how farmers manually weed and clean the rice paddies. I also asked her about their harvest season and if there are people who moved to Sagada after visiting their town.
After a 1.5-hour trek (depending on your pace of course), my guide and I finally reached the beautiful Bomod-Ok Falls. She is grand and beautiful all at once. There were several people swimming when we reached the falls. I just took some photos of the famous falls of Sagada, rested for a while and asked my guide to take some pictures so I have a remembrance of the trek as well.
Imagine the endless concrete steps going down, brace yourself trekking up. I had asked for several stops as it was a pure ascent going back to Brgy. Bangaan. My colleague told me they took a different route going back. Ate Elisha and I finally reached the jump-off point/registration point where I had to wait for the jeep going back to the town proper. I was too hungry so I bought another cup noodle and realized it was way past lunchtime. The store owner told me to enjoy my time in Sagada. So, the total trekking time is around 3 hours back and forth. My guide finally yelled that there’s a jeep going back but will not reach the tourist center or town proper and have to walk. You’ll get used to the walking, I tell you. I boarded the jeep along with an old German guy who was telling me that he visited several provinces in the north already. The jeepney driver told us our stop and he didn’t ask for us to pay the fare. The people of Sagada are the nicest.
I went back to the inn and rested because I was tired, sleepy and hungry all at once. Then, I decided to check out Yogurt House for some snacks even though I’m not a fun of yogurt. I ordered a tart and cookie with yogurt as topping. Still not a fan. 😛 I also checked out several shops selling souvenir items such as shirts, magnets, key chains, bags, etc. I finally settled at Strawberry Café for dinner.
Was the 10.5-hour bus ride from Manila worth it? Definitely yes. Was the almost 3-hour trek to and from Bomod-ok Falls worth it? Hell yeah. Will I do it again? Definitely,and if I have enough sleep and energy.