My boyfriend TJ and I had been planning to go to Sagada for a long time, and we only had the chance to do so this year. At last. He had already visited the place back in 2005 and his stories about the town made me look forward to seeing it. In fact, even before going, I was already certain that I would fall in love with it. So we scheduled this year’s trip for January 23 to 26. The typical length of holidays here in the Philippines is three days, two nights, but I think four days, three nights is much better because it gives you time to actually travel to the destination, explore the area, then relax and experience the place. I had already planned what I wanted to see and where I wanted to eat, and I even created an itinerary for each day. Eventually, I said, “Fuck it” and decided that winging it would be best. All I really wanted to be sure of is that we got there on time and without a hitch.
A couple of days before the actual trip, we went to the station of Ohayami Trans in Manila to buy our tickets in advance; each ticket cost P450. Fun fact: Despite its Japanese-sounding name, Ohayami is Ifugao-owned and -operated and is simply the reverse of the surname of the owner, Rafael Imayaho.
So on January 22 in the evening, we headed to the Ohayami station in Manila. We actually got there pretty early at 8:30 p.m. although the bus was supposed to leave at 10 p.m. Yyyyyyeah, I think we were pretty excited. There isn’t much to do in the station but sit, watch TV, and perhaps buy a box of donuts from one of the people selling them in the area. If you bought your tickets ahead of time, you can just get there 30 minutes before the bus leaves so you don’t have a long wait ahead of you. The bus left promptly at 10:00 p.m. The bus isn’t very roomy, but it’s not horrifically cramped. And then I fell asleep most of the trip and wasn’t sure where we passed. I woke up around 4 a.m. and saw that we were already in the Saveoil station in Nueva Vizcaya; people have to pay P5 to use the restrooms.
We arrived in Banaue after 7 a.m. The bus stopped along the street, and there were a bunch of guys waiting outside for tourists who were staying in Banaue and those who were moving on to Bontoc or Sagada. We were directed to a red jeep downhill, which we reached by walking down some long steps. The jeep was heading directly to Sagada and the fare cost P300. It’s P75 more expensive than the original plan of riding to Bontoc then stopping there to get a ride to Sagada, but TJ and I just considered the extra P75 as a sort of convenience fee.
It took a while for the jeep to get a move on because the driver was waiting for the vehicle to fill up. We stayed in the jeep to save our seats and watched the town from there. Chewing nganga or momma is blessedly still very common, as evidenced by the number of people with brilliantly red lips and teeth, so there are signs reminding people not to spit momma in random places and informing them of associated penalties.
The whole ride took over three hours and included a couple of stops. The first stop was at a viewdeck where we went down to view the Banaue Rice Terraces.
I was…underwhelmed. As kids, we’re taught that it’s an engineering marvel and should be considered one of the world’s wonders. While the terraces are indeed spectacular, one can see that many portions have fallen into disrepair. As TJ explained, much of the younger generation isn’t interested in farming, opting to leave Banaue to study and work elsewhere. I’m rooting for the rice terraces to flourish again in the future.
The second stop was to see the Bay-yo Rice Terraces.
The entire trip was uneventful, just very bumpy and cramped as the driver was determined to maximize the amount of space in the jeep. Our row consisted mostly of foreigners. At some point, the matriarch of the family sitting in the row across asked me to ask our jeepmates what country they come from. The woman beside me, her travel companion, and a couple of their friends came from Czech Republic, and we talked about their country for a bit and which places I visited there, even demonstrating the very little Czech I remember.
We arrived in Sagada before lunchtime, which was earlier than I expected. We stopped by the Municipal Hall to register and pay the P35 fee for visitors, then walked around 300 meters to Kanip-Aw Pines Lodge. After taking a quick nap and putting our stuff away, we headed to the popular Yoghurt House for lunch.
Next: Sagada, Day 1