Sagada Adventure, Day 1 (Arrival)

So Jose Rizal Day* weekend was coming up and a lot of people who have normal jobs were busy making vacation plans due to the declared special holiday.  Normally, people in the same industry as I am would be excluded from making such plans as everyone else due to the fact that we normally don’t follow Philippine holidays.

He won’t mind.

As it turns out though, and by coincidence, I had a “holiday” off (a different one, long story) on that same weekend.  While everyone else had the Monday off, my own holiday off was the Friday before that.  And so I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of honoring Dr. Jose Rizal on his 150th birth anniversary by …er …traveling.  (For travel junkies, any excuse will do, including invoking the memory of a revered hero.  What’s nice is, this country has a lot of heroes.)

THE PLAN

Travel Factor’s “Conquer: Sagada 2.0” teaser.

Now, I mentioned in the last post that my friend Gracey and I signed up for Travel Factor’s “Conquer: Sagada 2.0” trip.  The “2.0” appellation was because the itinerary for this one was a bit different from their usual Sagada trip offerings.  For one thing, the trek to the famous Bomod-ok Falls was excluded and was replaced with an overnight camp at a place called Marlboro Country.

Since I’ve heard and seen nice things about Bomod-ok Falls, I seriously entertained thoughts about making an off-the-itinerary side trip there while we were in Sagada, and even actively coordinated with a TF acquaintance Sarah and her friend Deanna, who were likewise joining this trip and were also interested in doing the side trip.  “Negotiations” with TF on the matter was positive but didn’t result in any assurances and so we didn’t push the issue anymore as the trip drew near.

BANAUE STOPOVER

Since we’d be entering Sagada through Banaue, we would going by the longer route passing through Nueva Vizcaya.  We rode one of those pink Florida buses that had rest rooms in them.  So from Sampaloc, Manila to Banaue, it was a grueling 10- to 11-hour road trip inside a rolling freezer.  By the time sunlight came, we found ourselves in Nueva Vizcaya, passing by one small town after another.

Eventually, we reached Banaue and had breakfast at this roadside canteen named “Hidden Valley Restaurant” (good personalized service, bland food).  Another TF group going to Batad was with our group for the entire journey and the two groups only separated after having breakfast.  The boarding of the different jeepneys caused some hilarious confusion as one of our trip companions, Beau, actually boarded the jeep going to Batad.  It’s a good thing that our coordinator, Edge, double checked our jeep, as we ourselves weren’t sure who was missing.

This is Beau. He’s nursing a bad hangover here, but he sort of normally looks like that anyway.

[Can you imagine what would have happened to Beau had he gotten all the way to Batad?  Take this scenario for instance…

BEAU:  “Wowwwwww, ang ganda!  Ang daming rice terraces!  Manong, pa-picture naman…”
IFUGAO BYSTANDER:  Sige po!  Posing na kayo.  Jump shot, gusto niyo?”
BEAU:  “OK!  Tatalon ako, tapos sisigaw ako ng ‘SAGADA!'”
IFUGAO BYSTANDER:  “Um, …boss… wala kayo sa Sagada.”
BEAU:  “Ha?  Eh, anong lugar ba ito?”
IFUGAO BYSTANDER:  “Nandito kayo sa BATAD.”
BEAU:  “Ache-che!”  (sabay talon)
IFUGAO BYSTANDER:  *CLICK*

It occurred to me just now that that scenario doesn’t really fit Beau’s personality.  Knowing him, he probably would have just shrugged it off and gone through the entire Batad trip anyway.  Haha!]

So once everything got sorted out (and Beau was safely in our jeepney), we then proceeded to a view deck to see the famous Banaue Rice Terraces.  It was really just a place where we could have the customary picture taking with the terraces as the backdrop.  This was different from the view deck that I visited in ’04.  This one didn’t have any nearby terrace where one can actually walk on.  But for the purposes of keeping to the itinerary, I think this one would do fine to avoid spending too much time.

The Banaue Rice Terraces

However, it was kind of depressing to see some Ifugao elders in full native attire being relegated to mere curiosities and picture props.  They looked shabby and beggar-like.  It was a sorry sight and I just wish that the local government would provide enough support to these elder indigenous Filipinos so that they won’t be forced to earn money in such a degrading way.

ARRIVAL

Sagada turned out to be still a couple of hours away and those of us who had difficulty sleeping the night before in the bus certainly fell asleep in the jeepney at some point.  The skies were clear enough, and in some parts of the road, it was even dusty. After one brief final stopover, some in our group went “top load” all the way to Sagada.  On my next visit, I’d probably do that too.

The town of Sagada.

To me, the first indication that we were already in Sagada was when I saw St. Theodore’s Hospital pop into view, along with a lot of tricycles and jeepneys parked along the small road.  From there, it was straight to our lodging house at Alibama Inn, where we were to be assigned our rooms and have lunch before preparing for our first destination in Sagada.

Alibama Inn (photo credit: Allia Donna Go)

For obvious reasons, rooms didn’t have air conditioning.  They were clean and furnished with the basic necessities – good enough for the purposes of backpackers.  We occupied an entire floor (6 rooms) and had to communally share 2 bath rooms.

Lunch was very sumptuous, and there was this vegetable dish with mushroom bits that was really excellent.  I made it a point to load up on carbs (purple rice) because I knew there was going to be some hiking later in the afternoon.  After a bit of rest, we were off for some overnight camping.

(Next, Marlboro Country.)

* Rizal Day is normally commemorated every year at December 30, which was the day of his death.  For 2011, a special holiday was designated on the Monday after June 19 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Jose Rizal’s birth.

= = = = = = = = = =
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)

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