During our road trip up in the mountains of Cordillera, we spent a couple of days in Sagada and boy I was not prepared for THE hiking adventure waiting for me at this lovely destination.
Woke up early and prepared ourselves for a whole day hike in Sagada and Bontoc, Mt. Province. Obviously I was not totally prepared since I was just wearing jeans and Chucks, yes Chucks but will I back out now? No!
First stop, Kiltepan View to catch the sun rising, although it was foggy and cloudy when we were there, it was still an amazing view.
Breakfast at the hotel then off hiking, so we reached base camp at around 9 am which is roughly 20 minutes hike from the main road we rode a 4×4 by the way, and then off we went hiking at Marlboro Country in Sagada. They called it Marlboro Country for the reason of wild horses in the area and the plan is, tourists can ride horses while hiking however we did not. The place is still lush green, untouched, so to say unexplored. Maybe because not many tourists know about this place YET.
And I lost tract of time we reached Marlboro Country top and the view is spectacular, you’d see the mountain ridges of the Region, limestone mountain on the right and everywhere you turn you see green. I even saw sleeping beauty. And wild berries.
We got a little lost, but our guide sure knows our way back on tract. Then to Kaman-utek Hills also known as Blue Soil in Bontoc (according to Tourism Officer in Bontoc it is part of their Municipality). This is nothing like I have ever seen elsewhere. The soil is like white sand but green-ish on top, and they say it is blue-ish when wet. Experts are still studying what causes it to be green or blue but whatever it is, it’s amazing.
Then we reached the main road on the other side however the “short-cut” going down to the cave was closed so we had to find our way. Rode the 4×4 again and oh did I mention I could not feel my legs and could not lift my feet anymore? Then we have to go down again to reach the entrance of the cave to have lunch. Lunch at around 2 pm.
We entered Balangagan Cave in Sagada roughly 3 pm. This cave is not that open to public yet. Despite of that there’s a lot vandalism and burned wood inside which is sad. Aside from the stalagmites and stalactites there are burial jars and coffins inside the cave. This was my first spelunking experience and I think it was cool even though I decided to go bare foot.
We went out of the cave in pitch black environment with tired feet but it was fine. It was one hell of a hike!
Early 2019, there’s been confusions between local laws regarding tourism activities in this quaint town. Sagada was bombarded with tourists since their attractions became ”Insta-famous” for the last few years. The local government then required all tourists to go thru and register at the Tourist Information Office. And must only be accompanied by registered local tour guides. As for transportation, tourist vehicles (private and agency-owned/hired) are required to park their vehicles all throughout the duration of their stay at their hotel parking area or in pay parking areas. Only local transport shall be allowed to ferry tourists to identified tourist sites which are stationed at the Tourist Information Center. For accommodations, only LGU registered under the Sagada Inns and Hotels Association (SIHA) will be allowed to operate and accept bookings. Published by the LGU via social media.
These ordinances were not welcomed with open arms by tourists. Since I’ve seen with my own eyes how self-organized tours became popular, so popular, abuse in such places were at stake. Over tourism at its finest. Then Sagada fought back by posting photos of locals with handwritten messages that says, ”Please respect our culture. Keep distance from our rituals or sites you are scared. Do not touch or disturb coffins or burial sites.”
As I’ve said years ago, pay the local Tourist Information Office before anything else and be a RESPONSIBLE TOURIST.