All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low. – John Wooden
Sagada – a backpacking mecca in Northern Philippines.
It’s pretty interesting to note that a rolling terrain, with cows or horses freely roaming and a 360-degrees spectacular view, would often be termed as Marlboro Country. Well, at least, here in the Philippines. Cases in point, Marlboro Country in Batanes (aka Racuh a Payaman), Marlboro Country in Mount Pulag (a campsite via Akiki Trail), and Marlboro Country in Sagada (aka Lamagan or Kamanbaneng Peak). Shall we start blaming the ads of Marlboro (the cigarette)? Nuff said with this common moniker, all three Marlboro Countries are a delight to the eyesight, each of which offers a unique beauty.
Marlboro Country or Kamanbaneng Peak is a 30-45 minute hike from a drop off point in Lamagan, Sagada. To me, it is justly an easy walk. It is like strolling along Camp John Hay in Baguio with a gradually ascending ground. The trail is pretty scenic, and you will find yourself smitten by the wild flowers (and berries), and the soaring pine trees that line the terrain. There are no signage going to the peak but you will know that you have reached the end of the trail when a complete vista unwraps with a bursting mountain views.
At the peak, it is windy, making the cool Sagada temperature drop a bit more. There are areas that are perfect for pitching your tent while you either wait for the sun to rise or the sun to set. From time to time, clouds would hover above the hills and terraces. Grazing cows in the area will keep you company as you marvel over Sagada at the west, and the towns of of Bontoc and Sabangan on the east.
I have visited Sagada 10 times for the past 7 years, and have sauntered my way to its Marlboro Country 4 times. I was hoping I would see the wild horses roaming the area. Unfortunately, the first three hikes I did weren’t lucky enough for me to have a sight of those animals once featured by Howie Severino in his documentary show. Unexpectedly during my 9th Sagada visit (and 4th Marlboro visit), I was so thrilled to see that elusive wild horse.
Marlboro Country is definitely a relaxing spot for those who want to reflect and commune with nature. It is also a great place for photography. And yes, an awesome alternative to the now crowded Kiltepan Peak.
If you are quite hesitant to make your way to this place on your own, you may hire a guide from the tourism office for 600 pesos to take you to Marlboro Country. This is the rate if you’re travelling as a group of ten or less.
How To Reach Sagada:
From Manila to Baguio City to Sagada: There are ample buses bound for Baguio City like Victory Liner, Genesis and Dagupan Bus. Most of these buses are found in Cubao, Quezon City. Bus ride from Manila to Baguio is between 5 – 7 hours. Upon arrival in Baguio, go to Dangwa Bus Terminal where buses bound for Sgada are.
There are hourly bus trips leaving Baguio from 6:00 a.m. with the last one leaving at 1:00 p.m. everyday.The non-airconditioned bus trips cost less than Php300 per person and it takes about 5-6 hours to get to Sagada, with two short stops for meals and personal necessities. As of the moment, there is now 1 air-conditioned bus traveling to Sagada.
From Manila to Banaue to Sagada:
There are daily bus trips from Manila to Banaue that leave at 10:00 p.m., with tickets costing about Php600 per person. The transit companies plying this route are Autobus and Dangwa Tranco, and both have terminals in Sampaloc, Manila. The trip from Manila to Banaue lasts nine (9) hours with regular stops along the way for meals and personal necessities. Once in Banaue, there are jeepneys, and sometimes mini-buses or vans, waiting to take passengers to Sagada. The jeepney ride costs about Php250 per person, and it takes another 3 to 4 hours to get to Sagada.
More of Sagada here at https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/sagada-mountain-province-philippines/