What the Filipino: Sagada

Though not the most peaceful-sounding name in the world, Sagada is an oasis from the maniacle machinery of Manila. As you walk down the steep road by dozens of guest houses, weaving and carving shops, and small restaurants, you hear the faint sound of the waterfalls falling from the mist above the town. Occasionally this lovely soundtrack is accompanied by the sound of roosters crowing, pigs oinking, and the ladyboy belting karaoke down the street (completely normal).

To get to Sagada, you must take a bus to Banaue (achieved overnight) or to Solano (from where you can take a jeepney to Banaue). The trip costs only about 200-300P ($5-7) but the distance and time traveled are pretty expansive. The journey is worth it.

Sagada is a gorgeous little village in the Mountain Province of the Philippines. Everywhere you look are rice terraces, waterfalls, infinite landscapes of greenery, and intriguing rock formations.

Get to Sagada, then do this:

The Caves

Visit the burial caves somewhat early in the day. If you wanna solo-it, take a lantern. Otherwise you can hire a guide from the place right next to Kimchi Cafe. The cave is creepy but cool, and is worth atleast a brief look.

Ginger Tea and Hot Chocolate (literally just cocoa & a bit of water – delicious) from Gaia in Sagada.

On the way back, hit up Gaia Cafe for Ginger Tea, Hot Chocolate, or one of the owner’s many organic, homemade, homegrown, foodgasmic dishes. We’re talking Adobo, Squash soup, and the best peanut-butter & banana sandwhich you’ve ever had. Did I mention she calls you “darling?”

When you’re done eating, check out Gaia’s little shop featuring local goods and a library (dedicated to her late father, who taught her to love books). As if the place could get more adorable.

Spend some time checking out the local weavers, carpenters, and fresh produce merchants scattered along the main road. Some of the goods are touristy, but some are simply beautiful, handmade works of art.

Go to the Yogurt house for dinner. Order whatever you want for dinner, but save room for dessert: oatmeal cookies. For some reason they’re a thing in Sagada as well as nearby areas like Baguio.

The top of Mt. Kiltepan (full-fog mode).

The next morning, get up early (we’re talking 4:15am) and climb Mt. Kiltepan. Get directions from a local – you don’t need a guide – and make it up before sunrise. The super-thick cloud cover eventually clears so you can see down to the rice terraces, the village, and even more on a sunny day. Rainy weather provides occasional views of the terraces, but is still super cool.

Homemade orange marmalade and Mountain Tea at the Rocky Inn & Cafe orchard in Sagada.

When you’re finished with your climb, head to the Rock Inn & Cafe and gently knock on the door. The owner will rush over (probably still in her PJ’s) and offer you a table, where you have fresh toast, homemade marmalade from the oranges outside your window, homemade yogurt, and some locally-grown coffee or Mountain Tea.

While in Sagada, just take it easy! Walk slow. Savor the super-strong but delicious tea. Stare out at the rice terraces for awhile. The place is a misty wonder – a perfect way to lower your Manila-born high blood pressure.

*Something to note: Sagada has a curfew! If you’re staying in a guest house, take note of this, as you might get locked out/in without warning. Most hosts have foresight and usually provide you with a key to the gate, but make sure you have a means of entrance/exit!