Every year, I spend my birthdays on a solo trip within Manila. When I started earning for my own needs and wants, I aimed to have a birthday trip outside Manila, but since my birthday falls after a major holiday, promo fares from airlines are highly unlikely.
Luckily, when I expressed my desire to visit one of the most recently hyped tourist destinations, Sagada, my friend offered to tour me around since it was her hometown.
On the way
My trip to the Mountain Province was a 12-hour 900php bus ride from Cubao to Sagada. Two days before my planned trip, I bought my ticket because I was afraid that I won’t be able to catch a ride to my destination.
I left Manila at 9 in the evening and arrived in Sagada by 7 in the morning. After breaking my fast, I contacted my friend who instructed me on how to travel from the city to their place which is Brgy. Fidelisan. I learned that in their province, public vehicles are rare and fare is quite expensive considering the distance of your travel.
Here’s how I was able to live the relaxed life in the mountainous province situated within even higher mountains!
Live with the locals
As I’ve mentioned before, I stayed in Brgy. Fidelisan where a community of Kankanaeys live self-sufficiently. The families here have rice farms and poultry that could supply them of their daily meals.
The first night of my stay, as perhaps customary, my friend’s family prepared Pinikpikan, a dish where the chicken is slowly beaten to death. Prior to my visit, I promised I would not dare try this out, but when I was in that certain situation, I realized that it would be worse if I turn down their offer and would disrespect their culture.
For days, I stayed within the community because for one, going in and out of the place would take perhaps half an hour trek on steep concrete stairs.
Try rice planting
The Philippines used to have so many rice farms until industrialization converted some of the lands to factories. However, up in the north, the residents made farmlands out of mountains, and these northern regions are known for their rice terraces.
Since my friend’s family also owns some rice farms, I told her I’d be more than happy to help. Incidentally, they were about to plant rice early that month.
So on my second day, my friend and I trekked to their farmland, across a number of pilapil (dikes) and into the muddy farm instead. Indeed, “magtanim ay di biro!”
Take the ice-bucket challenge
Brgy. Fidelisan shelters the great Bomod-Ok Falls, a famous destination in Sagada.
From the entry point of Brgy. Fidelisan, an hour’s worth of trek through the concrete stairs and the pilapils would be the primary way to reach Bomod-Ok Falls.
Arrival at the foot of the falls would leave the travelers in awe. The air is absolutely cool and the rushing waters create such tranquilizing sound.
A dip in the waters of the falls is more than just refreshing; it can be compared to the ice bucket challenge!
Trek the Marlboro Country
Sagada’s Marlboro Country is not very famous, but sits calmly near the tourist-y Kiltepan View Point. From the highway, it would take about an hour to trek on to the Marlboro Country. The roads are not steep but quite slippery because of the morning due, or maybe that’s the place’s natural state.
Locate the Blue Soil
My companions decided to search for the blue soil after our quick trek to Marlboro Country. None of us know which way to take but perhaps instinct brought us to the right path.
It was also quite amusing because on our way to the blue soil, we pass by some places where the floor is sometimes mixed with blue-shaded soil. That kept us going until we reach the place where blue soil actually rests.
We learned that the soil becomes blue when mixed with water, so some in these molds have dirty-white hues instead of blue.
Hitch hike to your destination
As I’ve mentioned before, public transpiration is rare in the Mountain Province. Jeepneys have scheduled trips, and there are no tricycles, pedicabs, or habal-habal. Most places could be visited via private cars or private tours.
When we left Blue Soil, my friend told me we would walk along the highway and wait for any passing cars that could take us to our destination.
Luckily, a truck was parked just outside our exit point and they allowed us to hitch hike until we were near Sumaguing Cave. From where they dropped us off, we waited for another car that would allow us to hitch hike again. The family in the van led us straight to Sumaguing Cave.
Also try the top-load ride allowed in this region. The view would be absolutely stunning as the cool breeze envelopes you.
Learn more about their culture
Part of Mountain Province’ highly known culture is their burial practice. Within the city proper, visitors could view the hanging coffins where the bodies of the deceased are kept in wooden coffins, tied to ropes, and are placed on the sides of the mountains.
Other burial practice includes having the wooden coffins kept within the caves or dropping the deceased’s body off high points of the place.
Get lost; Get found
We were planning to walk from the Echo Valley to Brgy. Fidelisan, but since none of us knew the exact way, they tried to remember whatever useful memories they have, which left us quite a bit lost in a paradise that is part of the Echo Trail.
In my four-day stay in the Mountain Province, I have lost track of time. My mind was cleansed and my body well rested. Although I cannot provide any proper DIY itinerary, I must remind everyone that the air and waters in Mountain Province is cooler than that of Baguio, but if you are like me who is highly resistant to cold, the atmosphere is an additional reason to love the place.
I became sure that my love for culture heightened during my stay in the Mountain Province. Being immersed in their culture that is highly different from the one I’ve lived for more than 20 years made me more than curious as to how we perceive cultural practices either as outsiders or insiders. It was also during that time when the issue about the dog-killing scene in the film Oro was highly talked about. What cultural immersion this birthday trip left me with.
View more photos on: My Travels and Thoughts in Mountain Province.