Sagada Adventure, Day 3 (Walking Tour)

Our last night in Sagada was also the first and only night we’d get to sleep in a real bed.  (The previous night, it was on the hard ground of a tent, and before that, we spent it in a bus on long 10-hour ride.)  We had ample time to sleep and it certainly gave our aching joints and muscles time to recover after the previous day’s activities.  This day’s sole activity promised to be more laid back as we would be doing a simple walking tour of the different places of interest in the Sagada town proper.

By the way, our plan to make a side trip to Bomod-ok Falls did not push through.  Erwin said that there was a ritual being held there that temporarily closed the falls to the public.  But even without that, I don’t think anyone of us would have been in a position to do any more hard trekking.  The mental fatigue from the previous day’s activity still lingered and we wanted to take things easy for a change.

For this trip, we each got a freebie limited edition t-shirt from Travel Factor commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal. We all wore this t-shirt while touring that day.

The group wearing their Jose Rizal t-shirts from Travel Factor.

Breakfast at Alibama Inn was once again superb and a good leisurely walk around the town was just the appropriate thing to do while our full stomachs digested our food. Before long, we were being led by Erwin to our first stop which is a roadside not far from the inn.  That spot in the roadside allows one to view a certain area of the town which is this one:

According to Erwin, it’s the oldest part of the town and the patch of green on the lower left hand corner of the picture.  It was once the site of a massacre of Sagadans by marauding Bontocs.  There used to be houses in that area, but since people (including women and children) died there, the ground was considered cursed and from that point onwards, no houses were ever built there again.

Erwin giving a brief lecture on Sagada history.

We next walked towards an elevated spot where a large sports field is located.  Here, Erwin continued his lecture on Sagada history, mostly involving their age-old enemies, the Bontocs.  He also explained why most Christians in Sagada are Episcopalians (Anglicans), unlike the rest of the country, which embraced Catholicism, and the role the Americans played in the modern history of Sagada.

It wasn’t particularly quiet in Sagada, but all the elements of the surroundings – the pine trees, the pine needle-strewn paths, the cold weather, the quaint vistas – all combine to give one a very peaceful feeling while walking around the town’s places of interest.  And as far as places of interest go, there were lots of it and some were very inconspicuous.  For example, there was one elevated path that we walked on which seemed so ordinary, until it was pointed out by Erwin that underneath it were formerly caves where people with highly communicable diseases were quarantined.

The Campo Santo cemetery.

Next stop was the Campo Santo cemetery near the place called Calvary Hill.  At first glance, it looks like any other moderately crowded provincial cemetery that you’d see anywhere in the Philippines.  Upon closer inspection, one would notice pieces of charcoal lying in bunches on each tombstone.  The explanation for this is was a pre-Christian practice of the Sagadans giving charcoal to the dead so that their spirit would have something to warm themselves with.  Anglican Church authorities were largely permissive of this practice and it was preserved.  (So while the rest of the Philippines has folk Catholicism, Sagada has folk Anglicanism.)

The path to Echo Valley.

Near the cemetery begins a mountainside path that leads to the famous Echo Valley.  The valley didn’t use to have a name and one side of it was simply a spot from which to view the hanging coffins at the rock formations on the other side.  Somehow, somebody discovered that echoes sound particularly distinct in the area and thus, the name was given and it stuck.

Gracey taking a photo of the hanging coffins at the other side of Echo Valley.

It took a while before one of us shed enough shyness to make the first shout.  (From what I remember, it was either Erick or myself who started it.)  But once somebody did, then everybody began to shout too.  It was also an excellent place to take photos due to the very picturesque background and places where one can perch for a nice shooting angle.  We were told that a path leads downwards to the valley and it was actually possible to get near the coffins.  By general consensus though, no one was interested in going through with it anymore, and so we just proceeded to the next stop, which was the Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin

The church is unarguably the most famous Anglican Church in the country, which is really no surprise because among the Anglicans in the Philippines, Sagada has the highest concentration of them in a single town.  (Jens Peters gives a 95% estimate.)  Incidentally, the name “Church of St. Mary the Virgin” is also the name of an older Episcopalian Church in New York.  It is possible that this church in Sagada was named after it.  The architecture isn’t particularly impressive, but it does blend well with the surrounding woodland and it is well-situated on top of a hill.  It was unfortunately closed when we were there.

Stray dog at St. Mary’s. (There were lots in Sagada.)

The church was actually our last stop and so everybody just goofed around and posed for wacky pictures in its vicinity, mostly under the direction of Edge.  Here’s a few of them:

Tres Marias imitating the Tres Chonggos.

Before push-button phones, people dialed.

An old Chinese way of ringing a bell (using a young Chinese.)

From there, people had a bit of free time to explore the rest of the town on foot and to have lunch prior to our departure in the early afternoon.  While most of the group checked out a store that did some traditional weaving, Gracey and I decided to check out the Lemon Pie House, which another famous eating place in Sagada.

The place was easy to find and the staff was gracious enough to welcome us, but we figured that the limited menu wasn’t really to our liking, and so we went back to Yogurt house, where we caught up with the Hardcore Drinking Group, at least one of whom was looking buzzed.  See for yourself:

Gracey posing with the Hardcores.

After some last-minute shopping for souvenirs came the last-minute packing of bags for the long trip back to Manila via Banaue.  I didn’t really waste a moment giving the place one last look.  I know for a fact that I’ll be back and that I’m sure Sagada will still be the same by then.

(To be concluded.)

= = = = = = = = = =
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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