Sagada is as different from the rest of the Philippines as Darjeeling is to the rest of India. It’s an oasis of beauty with a slower pace. After an 18 hour journey to get from Manila to Sagada, I arrived at my guest house and was invited for coffee and cake by some educators, they were in the region for a conference on curriculum for indigenous children. They were going caving that afternoon and invited me to join them. I jumped at the chance and got changed.
An hour later we were making our way to the cave opening, there were 9 of us and 3 guides. Most of the folks on the tour were middle aged and the caving trip was much more dangerous than anything in the US. I can not imagine finding such an adventurous group of middle aged people in the US. The cave was amazing, there was some light technical climbing and some water crossings as well as some climbing with knotted ropes. The guides were great and knew exactly what to do to help some of the less in shape members of our group get up, over or around obstacles safely. It’s the most fun I have had in a cave. The cost was about $5 US per person including tip. A trip like this in the US would have required training, lots of safety gear and a hefty fee.
The next day I went for a hike to the top of a mountain. There are no good maps available of Sagada, I think it is a way to encourage folks to hire a guide. With very rough directions I started to make my way up the mountain. I missed a turning and ended up climbing up the rice terraces half way to the sumit, then i found the path. About 3/4 of the way up in dawned on me that no one knew were I was or when I was coming back. If something happened to me up there, I was on my own. I made it to the summit and there were 3 houses at the top, but no one was around. I took the path on the way down and was glad I took the terraces on the way up. There were turnings off the path on the way up and no way to know which way to turn, so by getting a bit lost on the way up, I save a bunch of time not taking false paths and had a much better experience.
Ken, Joalalito, Me, Wama and Jayson
I also took a walk to the little falls as the big falls were closed. At the little falls there is a swimming hole and I had a nice swim with some locals. four young people that worked at a local guest house invited me to join them at a nearby summit for some drinks and a sunset fire so I did. They were from different parts of the Philippines and had come to Sagada for work. We had a great time hanging out, talking, taking pictures and dancing to music from their cell phones.