Banaue, Sagada and Baguio in 30 Hours

The Philippines, Travel Anecdotes and Then Some

Since my wanderlust kicked in sometime during my late teens, I’ve been wanting to explore the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao province. It is a landmark that somehow put the Philippines on the global tourism map, because of the impressive rice paddies made by ancient Igorot farmers.

Unfortunately, other priorities, along with the call of more prestigious local and international destinations put my visit to Ifugao on hold indefinitely.
Over the past 10 years, I prepared my itineraries and made inquiries and plans on getting there but everything fizzled at the last minute and my trip never materialized.
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During the most recent long weekend, I’ve made yet another plan to go to Banaue. I initially planned to join a group of UP students having their SEA 30 class in Banaue but traveling with people I don’t know at all, discouraged me. besides, I will be the oldest in the group at the tender age of 30 while my fellow travelers will be between 16 to 18 years old.

I was about to give up and wait for another opportunity but unexpectedly, one person I’ve met through couchsurfing, Ashley announced that he is going to Banaue. I immediately contacted him and expressed my intention to join.

There were no prior hotel bookings and I wasn’t aware of the itinerary but I steeled myself and said that it was gonna be now or never.

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To make the long story short, I agreed to join Ashley and two other couchsurfers in a trip that I would never ever forget, not only because of the amazing sceneries I witnessed, but because of the great friendship I’ve made with awesome people.

I was prepared to buy round trip bus tickets but I was pleasantly surprised that my travelmates are planning one great road trip.

What I thought was a simple visit to the rice terraces turned out to be a tour de force from Manila to Ifugao, Sagada in Mt. province and to Baguio in Benguet in a span of 30 hours.

Can it be done, I asked myself, but what the heck, I’m in.

Manila to Banaue (August 17, 10 pm to August 18, 8:30 am)

As soon as we finalized our plan, the only girl in our group Boom, bought tickets from Ohayami Bus Lines from Manila to Banaue. The ticket costs P450 one way.

For employees like us, it’s lucky that most trips to banaue leave late at around 10 pm. Even though I wasn’t able to pac my bags prior to the trip, I had enough time to prepare my basic kit and enough clothes before getting to the Ohayami Bus terminal located at Fajardo St., corner Lacson in Sampaloc.

There are other bus lines going to Banaue such as Florida, but Ohayami is the cheapest and most expats prefer this line to stretch their budget.

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The bus left promptly at 10pm, our supposed departure time and we got ready for the long drive. The trip to Banaue took about 10 1/2 hours, with about three bus breaks lasting 15 minutes each. The trip gave us spectacular view of the province including a breathtaking cliff near the fork between Kiange and Banaue.

There was also a metal bridge over a river with raging waters. Unforgettable.

Not wanting to waste any time procrastinating, we hurriedly jumped out of the bus as soon as we reached Banaue and had a simple breakfast at a roadside restaurant.

You see, a lot of tourists spend a lot of time in Banaue and others go directly to Batad, about 1 hour away from Banaue to see better formed rice terraces.

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But out group had a different itinerary. We all agreed that seeing the rice terraces is our priority and we don’t want to bother with the lesser know attraction.

We arranged for a vehicle service that would take out to various Banaue Rice Terraces look out point and immediately take us to Sagada, in Mt. Province.

Without wasting precious time, we went to the most popular look out point in Banaue and purchased some products /handicrafts made by the locals. About 30 minutes of picture taking and marveling at the grandeur of the terraces, we decided it was time to start the nest leg of our giant road trip.

Banaue to Sagada (August 18, 11am to 2:30pm)

As soon as you get off the Ohayami Bus in Banaue, local touts will approach you for service vehicles to various destinations. It’s quite easy to get vans going to Batad or Baguio but we decided to take a jeepney going Sagada, Mt. Province.

The trip from Banaue to Sagada will take about three to four hours depending on the weather. It was raining during our trip and we knew that the trip would take longer.

Remember, we just got out a 10 1/2 hour bus trip from Manila and our muscles are still aching from the long drive. My travel mates, decided that to make the trip to Sagada more enjoyable, and there’s no better way to pump feed your adrenaline rush than to travel via topload.

Being afraid of heights, I prayed to the heavens that they keep us safe during the drive to Sagada. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t even try topload travel but I didn’t wanna be a party pooper.

I braced myself for what is to come but I learned soon enough that the heavens want to taunt me instead.

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It has been raining in the region for the past days and the roads leading to Sagada were rough, filled with rocks that have fallen from the mountains. The water also made the roads slippery and from time to time, the jeepney would keel sideways and we would shout in panic/exhiliration.

As it is, the roads in Mt Province are narrow, and each curve would send you inches beside the ravine. As you get closer to Sagada, the temperature drops even further and the roads ascend, giving travelers aerial views of the entire Banaue and Mt. Province.

Along the way, you will pass by farmers planting in terraces and they will wave to you as your vehicle pass by.

It was quite an experience and the four hour land trip to Sagada is an adventure in itself.

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Sagada (August 18, 2:30pm to August 19, 12:30pm)

Sagada was as majestic and breathtaking as I expected it to be. The location is so high up that the houses almost touces the sky. The weather is cool and everyone will greet you with a smile.

Never in my life, did I expect that I would be able to reach Sagada. In the past, discussions over the 12 to 14 hours of long drive to Sagada discouraged me, even though I’ve heard of great tales about the place.

The first thing that greet visitors is the modernized district hospital. Right beside it is the mysterious St. Mary’s episcopalian church.

Now, I am not a very religious person. In fact, but the interesting architecture of the church called my attention.
We immediately proceeded to St. Joseph’s Rest House, praying that we can get cheap hotels to sleep in. With luck, we were able to secure a dorm room with four beds amounting to a measly P1,000.

As advised, we registered at the Sagada tourism office. It’s a way for the local tourism officers to know that we are there, in case we encounter some problems.

After an hour’s rest (we badly needed a break after almost 14 hours of road trip), we proceeded to the tourism officers and availed of the cave connection tour which costs P800 for 1-2 visitors and another P400 for every additional visitor. the service is P400.

The cave connection was unforgettable. Please see my other post: Sumaguing Cave

The following day, my travel mates decided to try the Central Sagada Eco-Tour which involves a three-hour trek to the Echo Valley Hanging Coffins, a visit to an underground cave and a trip to Bokong Waterfalls. The travel package costs P600 good for up to 10 visitors.

I wanted to join that along with the zipline, which costs P100. We were supposed to try the Kiltepan sunset viewing (P450 for the ride good for 10 people), but the weather was uncooperative.

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Sagada to Baguio (August 19, 1pm to 7:30pm)

We left Sagada at around 1pm by taking the GL Lizardo bus located just outside the St. Mary’s church.
One of my travel mates Nuki, made a mad dash to the Yogurt House downtown right before we left and we were able to taste the famous banana yogurt and the lemon pie.

To get to Baguio, you have to pass by Halsema Highway, considered as one of the most dangerous roads in the world and I am not kidding.

It a 2 to 4 lane highways which stretches 130 kilometersfrom Bontoc, Mt Province to Baguio City. At an elevation of 7400 feet, it is the highway with the highest elevation in the Philippines.

Passing through this highway is not for the faint-hearted as hour after hour, the road trip gives you a spectacular view of ravines, cliffs and mountains.

There are lots of portions that are so high up, the view is totally obscured by fog and low clouds.

Along the way, passengers will get off the bus and walk to houses literally standing on the side of the ravine, it;s just so scary.

Baguio to Manila (August 19, 10:10pm to August 20, 3am).

After a three hour stop in Baguio (we had dinner, went to Ayala Mall, and had starbucks), we took the 10:10pm trip to Manila by Victory Liner.

Now, we could have taken the usual bus which costs P450, but given the road trip that we had, we decided to spend more money in exchange for comfort. We purchased tickets for Victory Liner’s VIP bus, the one with free wi-fi and spacious seats, and rested the entire way to Cubao and Pasay.

We spent the first few minutes of the trip back home, joking to each other but soon enough, the rigorous schedule that we just had finally took its toll on our body and we immediately slept.  We woke up right at the bus terminal in Cubao.

We said our goodbyes and quickly went our separate ways, knowing that we will soon see each other in yet another great adventure.

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Note: All photos appearing in this blog were taken and courtesy of Saboom Daiz, a funny girl and an awesome friend.

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