SAGADA Beyond the Usual Itinerary

For a couple of weeks now, I have been feeling stressful at work. I have been planning to go somewhere the past weekend to just chill and relax but I always end up staying in bed or just giving in to the whims of my family and some friends. Also, I have always been eyeing on a possible return to Sagada because it has been a while since the last time I was there. I guess the thought of that long bus ride during weekends is just to tiring. However, after acknowledging to myself that work has been really burning me out, I made a spontaneous decision to push my long overdue Sagada return. This was further ignited when a friend of mine recommended me to stay at a seemingly relaxing place that is not yet known from among travellers and tourists.


The next thing I know, I was already inside the 3a.m. Lizardo Lines bus, sleepy and no concrete itinerary at all. However, at the back of my mind, my goals for this trip are: to gather my thoughts and have my dwindling supply of motivation be rejuvenated.Having been to Sagada 8 times between 2007 and 2014, I have to say I have done the usual “tourist activities. So here is my “beyond the usual Sagada itinerary” over the weekend.

Staycation. Staycation at a relatively unknown (slightly operating) accommodation a good friend offered me to stay at. They call it “Shire of Sagada” Looking at the photos, you will automatically decipher why it is called such. To my friends who’ve been asking about details, I will post soon contact number and possibly rates as the owners are yet to officially launch it.


Bring a book to read. I brought with me a Haruki Murakami book that I get to read from time to time, even in between walking and resting while trekking my way to some unknown Sagada woodlands near my accommodation.

Explore off the radar restos. I went to eat at restos/cafes that are off the tourists’ radar. It is nice to try the unpopular one’s and you’ll be surprised as to how cheap they can be. Although I went to eat yoghurt at the Yoghurt House and have a slice of lemon pie at the Lemon Pie House because I can’t help myself not to. You can’t blame me if my palate misses them after not visiting Sagada for 5 years and 4 months.

Walk – whenever, wherever. I just walked around whenever I feel like doing it. I did not want to pressure myself that I should go see this or that place. I literally just walked wherever I wanted to without a certain pace. I walked the main street stopping every now and then checking out what is new, grab some street food to munch or just go randomly take photos. I even trekked my way to a relatively unknown pine trail passing by some rice paddies.

Sleep. Rest.Having just arrived from a 3-month Europe trip, my sleep hasn’t been going well. Jetlag must’ve hit me terribly. So, I promised myself to grab as much sleep as I could while in Sagada though it was tough not to wake up really early for the sunrise. But yes, I did a lot of lazing around while reading a book.


Try local beer! Go drink a glass of beer… At a brewery… Inside a pine forest. I may have been to Sagada several times but it was my first time to go see the Sagada Cellar Door, known for their craft beer. And even though I ain’t a beer drinker, I just had to try it since a Php250 fee is a must pay (but is consumable). I had my beer with a delicious, spicy sausage!


Wait for the sunset and sunrise.I wanted to watch the sunset at Lake Danum, something I have done during my 2nd Sagada trip. BUT, my legs were too tired from walking so I didn’t push through. But lo, and behold! The sundown was visibly stunning when I was at Sagada Door Cellar. Despite the high pine trees, the tangerine hue from the drifting sun swathed the forest.So yes – to watch the sundown somewhere I didn’t intend to watch it – CHECK!


As an early bird, waking up early isn’t really much of a problem. Just like my initial plan for sunset watching, I wanted to wait for the sunrise at Kamanbaneng Hill (aka Marlboro Hills). However, the same excuse as to not going to Lake Danum applies. Marlboro requires extra time and effort of walking. So when I woke up the following day, I gazed outside my window and I was greeted with a pretty sunrise. I guess my wish to view the sunrise from some place no one knows happened! Yay!


Laugh with locals.What makes an experience unforgettable is our encounter with people we meet along the way. As I was staying at a local family’s house (being turned into a homestay), I had a great time talking with the owners. It was a happy feeling laughing my heart out while sharing stories with locals around a fireplace, which in turn kept my sometimes cold heart and feet, warm.


It was a short but relaxing weekend in my happy place. I pray that all these good things would happen again. So there, I hope you would have the courage to treat yourself a well-deserved getaway. Believe me, the mind, the heart and the body will love this kind of pampering.

Shout out to Mitch Pelayo’s fam for having me, and to Robin for the recommendation.

Cheers to spontaneous weekend getaways! Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy.

Kiltepan Peak (Where Broken Hearts Go)

Where do broken hearts go?

And so the song asks…

I could vividly remember this one conversation I had with a good friend of mine, about my plans a month after I had a major, major heart break. She, too, was a victim of this sinful crime of passion and was then, on the verge of picking up her shattered pieces.  “We” were sharing the same “spotlight”.


So what’s your plan?” – she reluctantly asked me.

I knew I gave her a blank stare, followed by a deep sigh. I didn’t know exactly what to utter and just opted to kid around and say…

I don’t know… What do you think? Where do broken hearts go? – I smirked, only to laugh quietly when my friend started singing that line from a Whitney Houston song.

This happened long time before the now infamous movie “That Thing Called Tadhana (Destiny)” made the song and the line “Where do broken hearts go” popular again. It became tremendously popular not only for the movie’s lovely story but also because of the movie’s setting – Baguio and Sagada.


One particular spot in Sagada that captured the eyes and the heart of the movie-goers and travel aficionados is Kiltepan Peak.

The Kiltepan Peak is considered by most people visiting the cool and idyllic town of Sagada in Mountain Province as the best vantage point to look out for the sunrise. It gives a view of the Kiltepan Rice Terraces where one stands atop a chasm that is around 1, 640 meters above sea level. What makes this place even more captivating is when the sun rises gradually as it starts to fill the sky and the seemingly floating sea of clouds with vibrant colors.


If you want to see this beauty, one should really wake up pretty early in the morning (maybe around 4 am since it requires some lengthy uphill walk from the town center). Well, others opt to arrange a transportation to the campsite of the peak. But for me, the approximately 3 kilometers walk is a great way to start a day in Sagada. Despite the chilly walk, the silhouette of tall pine trees along the way is still a sight to behold. Plus that unsullied air that you get to breathe is very relaxing to the senses.


Upon arriving at the peak, one will be stunned with what you’ll see.  Today, a lot of people flock their way to this now famed peak. I am just too glad that it wasn’t hyped yet when I got the chance to visit it on 3 occasions with friends. My experience at Kiltepan Peak is really remarkable, I got lost for words. The sea of clouds, the golden sun and the verdant surroundings were beyond grand.

So did I come here when I was broken-hearted? Well yes, several times. Did it really help me mend my broken heart? Somehow. But at the end of the day, when I am resting inside my room, I would still hear my heart say, “Lester, I was here all day and night long. I am still here. Still shattered. Still crying. Still asking a lot of questions.


So where do broken hearts go? Kiltepan Peak in Sagada. Maybe.

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

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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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

Bontoc Museum (Mountain Province, PH)

The Bontoc Museum was founded by a Belgian nun whose aim was to preserve the history and heritage of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera region particularly that of the Ifugao people. Hence, this museum houses an array of authentic artifacts and photos reflective of Ifugao’s culture.


Before entering the museum, one will already be amazed with its façade and the building itself as it is patterned after a traditional Ifugao house. Once inside, the more will you be stunned with the various cultural treasures you’ll see.

The cultural and artistic assortment ranges from traditional costumes, tools used for hunting and farming, and various photographs of headhunter warriors and the like, and even American missionaries and their attempt to convert the locals of the region.  Even archaeological materials dug within the caverns of the Cordillera region plus some Chinese ceramics are displayed in the museum.


At the back of the museum is a replica of an Ifugao village with several kind of houses. Visitors can even go inside these houses and have a closer look at various objects natives use for daily living. This is where one can take a lot of photos since taking pictures inside the museum is prohibited.

Admission Fee:  Php65

Opening Hours:  Monday to Saturday 8am – 5pm, Sunday 3:30 – 5pm

Address:  Bontoc, Mountain Province, Cordillera Administrative Region (The museum is near the plaza and basketball court for your reference).


Don’t be was ted soul, be ‘juan’derlust’. Take it easy ebriwan.

Let’s Eat: The Yoghurt House (Sagada, PH)

Do you want to experience and understand the lingo of food? Then Sagada is one place your palate must come to taste.

Besides the numerous natural attractions this mountainous town offers to every tourist, it is also being raved for the growing number of cafes and restos that prepare good food.


***Some of the above photos were captured by my good friend Marje 🙂

Perhaps, the most established among these is The Yoghurt House. Cliché as it may sound but you haven’t been to Sagada if you haven’t eaten at this famed “yoghurt” place. It is called such because it was their yoghurt that made this food hub well-known. Topped with granola, strawberry preserves and banana, their yoghurt’s sour with a hint of ssaccharine goodness kept me coming back for the past 8 years.


Aside from yoghurt, they also serve a variety of pasta and meat dishes which are all palatine-satiating and tummy-filling. The food price ranges from P80-300. (Some may find it quite expensive but I am pretty sure that once you taste it + that generous serving, you wouldn’t mind paying for such amount).

The place in itself is a delight to the eyes. The vibrant signage outside would easily catch one’s attention. The interior is adorned with Cordilleran artefacts. The wooden tables make the place more cozy, homey and really inviting. I personally love the balcony.


So if it’s your first time in Sagada, make sure to drop by The Yoghurt House. From the municipal hall and the bus station, it is just about a 5-minute walk.

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

Maligcong Rice Terraces (Mountain Province, PH)

Considered as one of the emerging treasures of Bontoc, the Maligcong Rice Terraces is known for its stone walls which make the terraces more steady in withstanding erosion. Although often overshadowed by the famous Banaue Rice Terraces, a visit to this place would be an awesome experience.


The Maligcong Rice Terraces, an upland barangay in the uplands of Bontoc, is situated 18 Kilometers away from the capital town of Mountain Province. This wonder is best viewed by scaling the Ang Tong Faw mountains (specifically Mt. Kofafei). Two of its sitios, Favarey and Fang-orao primarily make up the Maligcong Rice Terraces.

The name Maligcong was derived from the word “ligcong” which means to level land for a rice field. True to its name, and through the locals hardwork, years of labor paved way for whittling the mountains into stunning terraces.


The best time to visit Maligcong Rice Terraces is during the month of April and May when the fields are green and have started to grow. The best vantage point to marvel at Maligcong’s beauty is at the top of Mount Kofafei. (Read Mount Kofafei entry here at

How to get to Maligcong,Bontoc?

From Manila take a bus bound for Banaue. (Ohayami Bus) The terminal is located at Lacson/ Fajardo St. Sampaloc, Manila with the fare of Php 450.00 each.

From Banaue, take the jeepney bound for Bontoc.They can be found across the tourism office near the People’s Lodge, fare is Php 150.00 each. One may also opt to take the van bound for Sagada and just inform the driver to drop you in Bontoc near the Municipal Hall.

Once in Bontoc, go to  the municipal hall of Bontoc and there you will find  jumbo jeepneys bound for Maligcong. It has a specific schedule of departure until 4pm. Fare is Php 25.00 each.


Where To Stay:

Suzette’s Maligcong Homestay:  It is located 8.5 km north of Barangay Caluttit. It is accessible through a seven km road that ends at sub-sitio Fabuyan. Any type of vehicle can travel this 30 minutes – 40 minutes. Jeepney travels from its jeepney station located at the market compound in front of Pines Kitchenette and Inn beside the municipal plaza, passing by Upper Caluttit, Sac-angan, and Tala. The jeepney fare is 20 pesos.

For your reference, jeepney schedules are as follows:

Schedule of jeepney going to Maligcong from Bontoc

8:00 am
12:00 noon
2:30 pm
4:30 pm
5:30 pm

Schedule of jeepney from Maligcong going to Bontoc
6:30 am
8:00 am
9:00 am
2:00 pm
4:00 pm


Don’t be a wasted soul, be a wanderlust. Take it easy ebriwan. Roamulofied out…

SAGADA (Mountain Province, Philippines)

“Always take a picture for everywhere you go; if you don’t, then all you just lost was the precious memories and moments”

Long before the movie “That Thing Called Tadhana” made this place popular, the quaint and bucolic town of Sagada has been my favorite Philippine destination.

Sagada – a fifth class municiplaity in the Mountain Province, Northern Philppines – and is considered as a serene mountain backpacker mecca for both locals and foreigners. It is located north of Manila (taking at least 12 to 15 hours by bus), 6 to 7 hours bus ride from Baguio City, and is adjacent to Bontoc, the provincial capital. It is nestled in a valley at the upper end of the Malitep tributary of the Chico River some one and a half kilometers above sea level in the Central Cordillera Mountains, enveloped between the main Cordillera Ranges and the Ilocos Range.

Sagada maybe a small, one-street town to some, but it is a haven for various nature activities. The hanging coffins used to be the primary attraction drawer of this town, however, through the years various activities that involve trekking, and exploring waterfalls, spelunking, bonfires, rappelling, visiting historical sites, nature hikes, and participating in tribal celebrations, have made this once quiet town a must place to visit. Guides can be found upon registration at the tourist-office in Sagada Proper (the main town) for a small fee.

Here are the places that will leave every visitor in awe of Sagada:

CAVES of SAGADA: Sumaguing and Lumiang are the most well-known caves where one can do spelunking. Marvel at the unique stalactite and stalagmite formations inside the cave.

spelunkers (84)
Spectacular Sumaguing Cave.

WATERFALLS of SAGADA: Bomod-ok (Big Falls), Bokkong (Small Falls) and Pongas Falls are all worth the long trek (except for Bokkong which is pretty near the center).

PicMonkey Collage

Sagada also offers stunning sunrise and sunset views. Most people would wake up early and make there way to Kiltepan Peak to witness the awe-inspiring sunrise plus a blanket of clouds. While viewing the sun set is a romantic site to behold atop Kamanbaneng Peak (more commonly known as Marlboro Country). While some would walk there way to Lake Danum and wait for the setting of the sun.

More of Kamanbaneng Peak here at

PicMonkey Collage2
Top: Sunrise at Kiltepan Peak Mid: Jumpshot during sundown at Marlboro Country Bot: Sunset at Lake Danum

The unique landscape of Kaman-utek Hills. The blue hue becomes more evident after a rain, and is due to the rich deposit of copper.

Kaman-utek/Blue Soil Hills.
Kaman-utek/Blue Soil Hills.

Rice Terraces of Sagada: Nestled in the Mountain Province, Sagada also boasts off beautifully made rice terraces/ Some of these are those found in Fidelisan, Suyo, and Ambasing.

PicMonkey Collage3
Rice Terraces of Suyo, Fidelisan and Ambasing.

Hanging Coffins of Sagada: These century old coffins speak much of the culture of the people of Sagada.

Hanging Coffins as seen from Echo Valley.

The mountainscapes of Sagada is something most visitors rave about. Whether you are on top of Marlboro Country or Kiltepan Peak or even atop Mount Ampacao, everything youll see from above is a feast to the eyes.

PicMonkey Collage4
View from Marlboro Country, Kiltepan Peak and Mount Ampacao.

There is more to these natural wonders. You can also visit the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin – which is the first Anglican church established in Sagada. One may camp at the Lake Danum, shout your lungs out at the Echo Valley, then trek your way to the Latang Underground River. You can also do some orange picking at the Rock Inn Cafe. Wait, there’s more. Sagada is also a heaven for food lovers with the many cafes/restos that lines up the one-way street of Sagada. (A different write-up will be posted soon).

PicMonkey Collage5

Orange Picking in Sagada:

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.

Where to Stay in Sagada: *Here is an updated list of homestay/inns and their contact number:

Residential Lodge – 0919 672 8744

George’s Guesthouse – 0918 548 0406

Alapo’s – 0921 327 9055
Alfredo’s Inn – 0918 588 3535
Ganduyan – 0921 273 8097
Sagada Homestay – 0919 702 8380

Hilltopville – 09129014749

A-7 House 0921 287 6093
Billy’s House 0921 603 2745
Churya-a 0906 430 0853
Mapiyaaw Pension 0921 390 0560
Rocky Valley Inn 0918 643 2784/ 09184036018
Shamrock Tavern- 09301955680

Rock Inn 0920 909 5899
Yabami Lodge 0920 411 9976
Gecko Inn 0920 289 5471

Igorot Inn 0928 630 5479
Olahbinan 0928 406 7647
Travelers’ Inn 0920 799 2960

Ligaya’s House & Cottage –  09183438415/ 09207849633


Caving in Sumaguing
# of persons in the group Guide Fee


# of guides


1 – 4 500 1
5 600 1
6 – 9 1,000 2
10 1,200 2
11 – 14 1,500 3
15 1,800 3
16 – 20 2,400 4
21 & above is charged 125 / pax Guide:client ratio (1:5)
Cave Connection (Sumaguing and Lumiang)
# of persons in the group Guide fee


# of guides


1 800 1
2 800 1
3 1,200 1
4 & above is charged 400 / person Guide:client ratio (1:3)
Mount Ampacao/Lake Danum Trek
# of persons in the group Guide fee


# of guides


1 – 10 800 1
11 – 15 1000 1
Sight Seeing Tour (choose 3 spots)
# of persons in the group Guide fee


# of guides


1 – 10 600 1
11 – 15 800 1
16 – 20 1,200 2
21 – 30 1,600 2
31 – 40 1,800 3
41 – 45 2,400 3
Select 3 from these Tourist Spots
Dokiw/Sugong Coffins Echo Valley
Lumiang Burial Cave Latang Underground River
Sumaging cave Entrance Bokong Falls
Kiltepan Peak Pottery
Escort Tour –  this the term when you choose just 1 spot from the sight seeing tour
# of persons in the group Guide fee


# of guides


1 – 15 200 1
16 – 30 400 2
31 – 45 600 3

*Rates taken from SAGGAS.