Summer! The sun is out, clear skies, cool sea breeze, and a good beach tan is just beautiful. Most people would definitely book a trip to the beach and that’s what I habitually do. But this summer, I have changed course and went to the distant mountains of the Philippines to have a different summer experience.
Day 1: MANILA TO BANAUE
We started an early flight from Cebu to Manila, it was 45 mins. to an hour flight. Our driver met us at the airport and we headed to get some breakfast before the long road trip started. The trip to Banaue from Manila was more or less 13 hours drive. It should have been a fun road trip especially I was traveling with my fun-loving pack of 10 friends, unfortunately, I didn’t. I was car sick most of the time. We left Manila around 11:00 AM. The seat was not comfortable enough for my long legs, but I would like to commend our driver, he was nice and forbearing.
When we arrived in Banaue, it was freezing (12 degrees Celsius), I never thought the Philippines would have the capacity to be that cold. We found a little dusty hostel, Wonder Lodge (I think they don’t get too many tourists there) for 300.00 pesos a night. We got a shared room for 2, common bathroom with heater and toilet. There are plenty of hostels and inns in Banaue so accommodation is not a problem.We left at the break of dawn to welcome the sunrise at Banaue Rice Terraces.
DAY 2: BANAUE TO BUSCALAN
(Wang od’s Village)
Leaving Banaue to Buscalan without breakfast, we drove to the nearest town to have something to eat before trekking to Apo Wang od’s village. It was about 3.5 hours drive before we reached the drop-off point where our tour guide was patiently waiting. We parked our van overnight paying a minimal fee. Don’t worry, it is safe to leave private vehicles in the parking area.
The trek took 45 minutes to an hour (depending on your physical ability). It was difficult and hot, especially that we went there first week of summer. I don’t want to scare you about the trek, but I don’t want to sound like it’s only a walk in the park. It’s easy if you’re physically fit, so prepare those muscles. Don’t forget to hydrate and bring something to protect yourself from the sun. Leave unnecessary things in your van or car if you have a private vehicle. Trek light. It’s better to visit Wang od when it’s not rainy since it is more difficult and dangerous when the mountains are slippery. Random landslides are possible during rainy season.
We rented accommodation in the village since most of us didn’t get a tattoo on the first day. For 300.00 per person, it provided basic amenities like shared toilet, bathroom with hot shower, kitchen, 2 common rooms with pillows, bed sheets, and blankets. For food, request from your host. Basic necessities can be provided with a fee. There is a small store in the village where you can buy something to cook.
DAY 3: BUSCALAN TO SAGADA
We left around lunch time after our adventure in Buscalan and met Wang od. ( Read on a separate post about our journey to Apo Wang od. ) Back to our van after we survived the trek back, we headed to Sagada for our next adventure. Heads up: The drive going to Sagada from Buscalan is more strenuous. Prepare your Bonamine.
It took another 3 – 3.5 hours long drive before we are able to stretch our legs again. It was summer, but Sagada was enjoying 16 degrees Celsius of cool weather while most parts of the Philippines were toasted because of scorching heat. Again, we randomly looked for a place to stay for the night. There are plenty of accommodations around the town center so you don’t need to book online ahead of time.
Where We Stayed:
We stayed at Residential Inn for 300.00 a night. It has all the basic amenities with hot shower. A little shop is available in the hostel and they served FREE COFFEE! It is a very convenient place since it’s in the town center. Souvenir shops, restaurants, market, ATM and the tourism office are nearby.
Sagada, Mountain Province
Contact Number: +639196728744
Where We Ate:
Sagada is one of the summer destinations in the Philippines so there are plenty of local and foreign tourists all year. If there are tourists, there is food too. Salt and Pepper serves good food at a very reasonable price. They also arrange tours.
Don’t miss to try one of the best lemon pies in Sagada at Sagada Lemon Pie House. You can enjoy a snack squatting on the floor or sitting on a chair while chatting with friends. The ambiance is cool and homey.
There are plenty of places to visit in Sagada which are very interesting to experience, however, we only stayed less than 24 hours so we didn’t have enough time to visit all of them. For cheaper tour options, purchase a tour with a guide from the town’s tourism office. Package tours online are also available, but obviously, it would cost a lot more.
The Hanging Coffins
In the mountains of Sagada, a unique and may be a bizarre burial ritual is being exercised by some of the locals for centuries. Not far from town, 10 – 30 mins walk is a traditional burial ground of the Igorots (indigenous people). The locals bury their dead hanging on the cliffs with caskets. The most recent burial as per our tour guide was 2010.
Kiltipan Peak Sunrise
One of the most beautiful views that you shouldn’t miss is the Mt. Kiltipan Sunrise. From the viewing point of the mountain is a sea of clouds covering the rice paddies below. When the sun rises, a color of orange-yellow envelopes the mountains reflecting its colors in the fluffy clouds which make it more breathtaking. When you’re done with your photo shoot and want to grab something to eat, small food stalls are located in the area.
DAY 4: SAGADA TO BAGUIO
After we have satisfied ourselves with the beauty of Kiltipan, we rushed to Baguio which was last on our itinerary. Well, it took another 3 – 4 hours drive and of course, the same notorious zigzag road that we needed to endure. Baguio is a city, so it’s crowded and congested. It made me miss the serene mountains of Benguet, Buscalan and Sagada.
We stayed at Upstairs Bed and Bath which we booked online. Our room was dormitory type, perfect for the 11 of us. There were bathrooms on each floor and hot shower. A 24-hour front desk and basic necessities like bottled water, coffee, soda and bottled fruit juices are available. No food.
Upstairs Bed and Bath
Leonard Wood Rd, Baguio,
2600 Benguet, Philippines
Phone:+63 74 446 4687
Where We Ate:
It was a quick side trip to Baguio so I wasn’t able to check its full potential though I have an idea that it is a good place to do food tripping.
Café by the Ruins
The food, the ambiance and the place were perfect for diner with friends and love ones. They have live music while you’re enjoying a sumptuous meal. Great choices of foreign and local food, great customer service and a convenient location in the city. Food: 250.00 – 400.00
Café by the Ruins
225 Upper Session Rd, Baguio,
2600 Benguet, Philippines
Phone: +63 74 442 4010
BAGUIO CITY TOUR
On our way up to the city center, we dropped by the Strawberry Farm. We purchased fresh vegetables and strawberries. It was weird when we went to the Diplomat Hotel. There were scary stories everywhere about this abandoned building atop Dominican Hill. It was believed that there are ghosts haunting the building. During World War 11, the Japanese massacred the Dominican priests and locals who resided there. Our funniest experience was in the Mines View Park, we dressed up like local Ifugaos and took funny pictures. Lastly, we visited the Lion Statue and did souvenir shopping before we headed back home.
- Don’t forget to bring Bonamine, seriously. I am usually okay with long distance trips, but this trip wrecked me.
- Travel light, to trek light.
- Check out the sunrise at Banaue Rice Terraces.
- Make sure to be physically prepared when you trek going to Apo Wang od’s village.
- There is a tendency that you won’t get a tattoo on the same day with Apo Wang od because of the number of people waiting. You have an option to get a tattoo from other local tattooists though it won’t be from the legend.
- For group travel, best to rent a van than commute. Public transportation runs by schedule.
- There are plenty of activities to do in Sagada. Prepare enough time to experience them all because unfortunately, we didn’t.
- You have an option to pre-book or randomly look for an accommodation when you get there. Plenty of accommodations are available in Benguet, Sagada and Baguio. In Buscalan, you need to reserve with your tour guide to make sure home stay is available.
- In Sagada, get a tour guide at the tourism office.
- Sagada and Baguio is good for food trip. (If only we stayed longer)
- Souvenirs, fresh fruits and vegetable are cheap in Baguio. Restaurant prices vary.
- Make sure to taste Baguio strawberry ice-cream.
- Try strawberry picking in strawberry farm. It’s 460 – 480 per kilo.
Planning to get a tattoo from Apo Wang od? Here is a link to our trip. Read on and see her soon. The Tattoo: Meeting Apo Wang od.
Thank you for helping me with some of the photos:
Sherry and Joem 😀