Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Up in the Cordilleras: My best getaway—as lone tourist

The cold, the rich culture, the breathtaking sunrise and sunset

Above the clouds in Mt. Kupapey, Maligcong, Bontoc, Mountain Province. Just a 4O-minute hike to the breathtaking sight of Maligcong rice terraces. (All photos by Medel Sablaya)

This is a luxury that doesn’t cost much—the luxury of getting away from it all by having the will and the energy to do so. I’m doing this alone this holiday season because it’s not easy to find family or anyone who wants this prolonged solitude—and adventure (much of it physical). Yet if you’re willing to and are up to it, the reward is quite unfathomable. You are at peace in your own corner of the universe. In fact, I must be the only tourist in this off-the-beaten-path destination.

The Cordilleras in the North is a place so rich in culture and a world and time away from the stress of the here and now.

To get there, I took the bus to Bontoc where I stayed in a small barangay called Maligcong. The next day I traveled to Sadanga, where I stayed for three days. Then I went to another town, Besao, the one nearest to Sagada. I spent the night in this beautiful house with an amazing view. You can walk-in in the inns in Sadanga although they can be strict with tourists so I make sure I book ahead in homestays (I search blogs). Since the place isn’t frequented by travelers, you can be asked many questions when you book accommodations. (I was even sent to the mayor’s office, for security, because the town isn’t trusting of strangers.)  The Sadanga folk descended from warriors and hunters. They could be wary of strangers, but once you get to know them, like I did, they welcome you with open arms. They’d even send for me at meal time. The inns are adequate, some have hot shower.

You take the jeepneys to go around the barangays; just know their schedule.

Or you can take private vehicles, particularly 4×4. The route is steep.

I spent noche buena and Christmas in Sagada, a guest of the owner of a big organic farm and Salt and Pepper restaurant. The Pekas family welcomed me, a stranger, into their home.

These are the sights you can relish.

Sadanga is a little known town located in the northernmost part of the Mountain Province. Mornings are cold and misty and the view of barangay Belwang is whimsical.

This village in Sadanga has old houses and vegetable farms with a view of Poblacion.

A new attraction in Sadanga is the newly inaugurated Nabenggan suspension bridge, 320 meters long, with a 360-degree view of the mountains.


Atok, Benguet, offers a stunning sunrise amid the vegetable farms.

Aside from being known as jumpoff point for Mt.Pulag climbers, Kabayan, Benguet, is one of the coldest places in Benguet and a perfect vantage point for the sunset.

On a clear day, this is barangay Belwang in Sadanga with its own rice terraces.

Mt.Timbak in Atok, Benguet, is your front row to the sea of clouds.


About author


He gives young stars tutorials in Filipino, plays tennis, climbs the mountains of Sagada, and now braves the streets of Metro Manila on a bike.

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