Kaman-utek Hills (Sagada, PH)

Perhaps most of us Filipinos (and to a certain extent, also foreign visitors) have one thing in mind when we talk about picturesque hills and that is the ever famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol. Recently, the Green Hills in Quitinday, Albay are also starting to carve its niche in the Philippine tourism hub. Little would most people know that there is a unique set of mini hills in Sagada that turns to blue-green especially when moistened called Kaman-utek (also Caman-utek) Blue Soil Hills.

0bsh

Being one of the newest natural attractions being promoted by the Sagada Genuine Guides Association (or SAGGAS), these blue hued landscapes has made Sagada an ever more worthy destination. Despite the fact that the hills aren’t very accessible, a trek to this place would surely fire up the adventure-seeker in you and is definitely worth it in case you get lost. 😉

During my 8th visit to Sagada, a local friend and I went to saunter our way to these hills. And believe me, we almost got lost. Hahahaha! From the town center, we made our way to Marlboro Country (Kamanbaneng Peak) which was pretty easy as I have hiked the place 3 times already. From Marlboro, there is a trail leading to the Blue Soil Hills (that’s according to my friend who is from Sagada himself). And so we followed a trail southward of Kamanbaneng that eventually led us to a limestone cliff.

0bsh1

The trail to the hills was picturesque in every corner. We even passed by a seemingly garden of limestone rocks. But when we reached the cliff, we wondered to ourselves how get down. To cut the story short, we tried our best to descend from the cliff (note, it was pretty challenging). Good thing I am physically fit to deal with the unexpected adventure. (hahahaha).

After the perilous descent, we found ourselves on an open grassy field with a small pond from which an awesome view of the limestone cliff (that looked like a dome) we passed through is seen. Later on, we were informed that this spot is called Kaipitan (a marker that would mean the blue hills are already nearby). We spent minutes to rest and marvel at the surrounding (to which I imagine is a perfect spot for camping).

0bsh4

From there, we found a trail and followed it. A few more minutes and the sight of a distinct blue shade appeared our very eyes. At first, I was in disbelief and scanning my brain for some possible explanations as to why the soil is blue. The thought that these pieces of land contain certain chemicals like copper sulfate may be high, for a moment, satiated my yearning for answers. (Later on, this was proven true, according to a guide I asked). Also, it is believed that the blue color intensifies once the soil gets even more moistened.

0bsh2

The area where the blue soil hills isn’t that big but is large enough to be admired. Pitcher plants and pine trees abound the area and some electric lines that are quite a sore to the eye. Nonetheless, the charm of these blue hills are really pleasing and refreshing to the eyes.

If you want to visit these unique wonders of Sagada, you may contact the Sagada Genuine Guides Association (SAGGAS) at 09295569553 (Sir Gareth Likigan) or you could drop by their office which is situated near the Yogurt House.

0bsh3

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust’. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Kamanbaneng Peak (Sagada, PH)

All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low. – John Wooden

DSC_0262

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.

4

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.

0sagada (2)

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.

10270777_698670663526060_6358690123751721843_n

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.

CSC_2733

More of Sagada here at https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/sagada-mountain-province-philippines/