Some years ago, when the world was younger and I was more than a few pounds lighter, I had the chance to visit Sagada with my family via Banaue and Bontoc. Back then, I still wasn’t into traveling as I am now. And in fact, I kind of resented joining that family trip to the Cordilleras because there was this big party that I wanted to attend on the same date as the trip.Anyway, that was also at a time when my siblings and I still found it hard to say “no” to our parents and so we reluctantly tagged along.
This does not in any way mean that I had a miserable time. In fact, I had a great time and I was glad that I joined this family trip. There are some things that you simply realize only through hindsight. In Bontoc, I like how the main road of this drab and quiet town livens up and explodes with color and noise during the Sunday Market…where I wasn’t expecting to see Muslim merchants that far up the mountains. (But there they were. Represent!) The Rice Terraces are always a delight to see up close, especially when one walks on the actual terraces itself, and not just from a view deck. And of course, visiting and experiencing Sagada for the first time was the highlight of the trip.
However, since our lodging house was based in Bontoc, we treated Sagada as a mere day trip destination. Basically, we just set off from Bontoc one morning, arrived at Sagada, drove around, explored the Sumaguing Cave and then drove back to Bontoc.
Back then, Sagada was already famous among backpackers and adventurers. A lot was written about it in the printed media as well as the Internet, and I actually have friends who have gone there and were raving about how great the place is. I knew for a fact that our day trip only showed us a small fraction of what Sagada had to offer. I promised myself that one day I will return and explore the place more and for a much longer duration.
So the year is 2011. It has been 3 years since I became a traveler but I haven’t made a return trip to Sagada yet. It wasn’t because I lost interest in returning there. It’s just that an adventure in Sagada seemed to be best made with a group. And as those of you who know me would attest, I’m not too good at being part of a group. Any group. I always tend to go my own way and this is why I never really got to be part of a barkada when I was younger. I’ve learned to be comfortable with it.
Anyway, that’s just one reason, which leads to another – expenses. As a general rule, traveling in a group effectively lessens the expenses of each one because everything gets divided evenly. A solo trip to Sagada and exploring its best spots would entail fees (transportation, guide, miscellaneous) that would be too excessive for just one person. Clearly, traveling solo was an option only for those who has deep pockets – which I didn’t have.
Enter Travel Factor.
In a nutshell, Travel Factor is a tour provider. This means that they coordinate group trips to different places and they take care everything – transportation, lodging, food, guides, etc. …And all one needs to do is pay the published fee before the specified deadline. I found this to be a convenient setup and I liked it so much that I signed up and joined their trips in…
I actually signed up for another one of their trips in Calaguas, Camarines Norte last March, but that one got canceled due to unfavorable sea conditions. They offered to refund the money I paid, but I opted to let them keep it as “credits” which I could use for my next trip with them. For most of the summer, I didn’t give this much thought, until I realized that my “credits” had an “expiry date” which was June 30, so I had to sign up for one of their trips soon.
At around this time (and not entirely by coincidence), my friend Gracey was likewise looking for an adventure and had been earnestly reading up on Sagada. She was even contemplating on doing a solo trip there. However, the lure of convenience led her to also consider Travel Factor so we ended up both signing up for their Conquer Sagada 2.0 trip on Rizal Day weekend (June 18-20, 2011.)
So after 7 years, I was finally going back to Sagada. What followed was an adventure like no other and in the next blog entries I will try not to run out of adjectives to describe just how awesome it turned out to be.
(End of Prologue.)
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This entry is part of the Sagada series dated June 18-20, 2011:
1. Sagada Adventure (Prologue)
2. Sagada Adventure, Day 1 (Arrival)
3. Sagada Adventure, Day 1 (Marlboro Country)
4. Sagada Adventure, Day 2 (Marlboro Country)
5. Sagada Adventure, Day 2 (Cave Connection)
6. Sagada Adventure, Day 3 (Walking Tour)
7. Sagada Adventure, Epilogue (Banaue Exit)