Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Wonderland Called Sagada

We left Banaue half past noon, and took an ordinary bus going to Bontoc. The non airconditioned mini-bus was loaded with commuters in and on top of the bus and before I could get in, I have to wrestle with the others and squeeze my body in just to get a seat! The bus floor was carpeted with sacks of rice, onions, garlic and vegetables.Watermelons were scattered and keeps on rolling back and forth underneath my seat. I commend the bus driver for his mastery in driving along curved, rocky and dusty roads and also the passengers who can sleep soundly amidst the dusty road with their mouths open swallowing all the particles of dust along the way. But I'm not complaining.

Travel time from Banaue to Bontoc was about 2 hours, we took another jeepney going to Sagada and after 30 minutes...we're in Sagada! Ahh...Sagada...Sagada...Sagada. Where in the world is Sagada? Such a cozy little village in the Mountain Province, dominated by towering pine trees, making the place lush. Flowers of different colors and kinds adds beauty thus making the places so attractive! Weather is pleasant, people warm and hospitable.

Sagada is located in the Mountain Province, Luzon. Its elevation makes the weather favorable all year long knowing that Philippines is a tropical country. The coldest temperature are from the months of November to February.  Tourists flocks in during summer to get away from the hot weather in the metropolis thus it has become the favorite summer haven. Cultures and traditions are still being practiced in the village. Indigenous culture and practices was passed on from the founder, by a man named  "Biag" pronounced "bee-yag", who was a native of Abra. History tells that Biag originated from Abra, a province in the Philippines in the Cordilleras. The villagers including Biag's family, were forced out of their "ili" or village by the raiding headhunters during those times driving Biag to move to Sagada. Later, Biag chose to settle for good in Sagada even though his family went to their normal lives in their hometown. The main occupation of the people is agriculture. Nearly all households have a small piece of land from which they raise rice, corn, vegetables and fruits. Swine-raising in a small scale is engaged in by practically all households as additional source of income and as a source of meat supply vital to the performance of rituals.

The indigenous people of Sagada are generally called Igorots and they speak Kankana-ey  , they can also speak well in English due to the influence of the American Missionaries who came in the early 1900's after the Spanish regime. So tourists from other country don't have much problem when communicating with them. The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary is the mother church of Sagada, the only town in the Philippines which is largely Protestant when it comes to the numbers of baptized in the church. The most popular landmark in Sagada is the St. Mary Church which was founded by the American missionaries in 1904.  An impression of dedication from towns folks and abundance came to light as I saw the church. Its thick old stone walls is a symbol of the people's faith to God as gratitude for their blessed land.

Beside the church is the Centennial Sawmill, another famous landmark in Sagada a centennial marker for 100 years of mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. The wheel was previously part of a sawmill brought by the United States to Sagada. When the mill stopped operating, the wheel was discarded and left lying on the ground for almost a century. I can't imagine how the Americans brought all the materials for construction with not much advanced technology and then brought it up 5000 feet above sea level, it must have been one solid team work!

One day is not enough to roam around Sagada, there are plenty of beautiful places to go to, more activities awaiting. And I'm going to tell about it on my next blog. Thank you for reading.

How to get there?
1. Take a bus from Manila going to Banaue. Florida Bus Liners leaves everyday on single trips.
2. From Banaue take another bus or jeepney goig to Bontoc. Jeepney terminal is located near Banaue Public Market.
3. And from Bontoc, there are several jeepneys available going to Sagada. Enjoy!