Art/Style/Travel Diaries

What’s new, Sagada?

‘We travel not to move, but to be moved’

Coffee amid the clouds at Isangwow Cafe (Photos by Medel Sablaya)

Mist-covered mountains (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

After more than two years, Sagada has finally reopened. It’s my go-to place and I missed its surreal atmosphere, the misty alpine views, the chilly weather, the golden sunrise, and the sea of clouds. I also missed walking along the thick pine forest and foggy hills, and just being alone.

Hike through thick pine forest. (Photos by Medel Sablaya)

Sagada Coffee House, new favorite breakfast spot (Photos by Medel Sablaya)

When I went there recently as the alert level eased, I got a glimpse of the old Sagada I knew. It was all quiet, the streets were almost empty of cars, and the restaurants and homestays were either empty or closed. It was reminiscent of the backpackers’ paradise Sagada was once known to be. Business was just slowly picking up, I guess.

After paying my registration fee, I headed straight to my homestay. Since I was the only guest in that big house, the owner gave me the best room with a private bathroom and a balcony with a view, for the same rate as the one I had reserved.

The tourist center showed me the new package tours and rates which were way beyond my budget as a solo traveler.  So I decided to just enjoy the place, and see what I would find along the way.

A Sagada morning (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Walk on a foggy morning (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Unusually quiet morning in central Sagada (Photos by Medel Sablaya)

Picture-perfect Kiltepan peak (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

I woke up early the following morning wondering about the sunrise. It was the usual cold foggy morning. I walked past the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the center of town and watched some locals doing their stretching exercises. Since restaurants were still closed, I walked non-stop, passing through the entrance to Kiltepan Peak which had been closed to tourists even before the pandemic started. It used to be the most popular place for sunrise viewing. They wouldn’t allow me to go to Marlboro Hills without a guide, either, which was sad since I’d been there alone quite a number of times and I had some of my most unforgettable experiences there.

The sun and wind in Marlboro Hills (Photos by Medel Sablaya)

Instead I continued walking along the road, which I was glad I did, since I discovered a new spot to watch the sunrise for free complete with breakfast. I didn’t realize I had been walking for more than an hour. The place is aptly called Isangwow Café by the Clouds. The view was breathtaking and coffee was great, too. I missed the exact sunrise since it was already past 7 when I got there, but it was still worth it. I promised myself to return much earlier the following day, which I did, and I eventually witnessed the sunrise and the sea of clouds again. I didn’t need to walk back again on these two mornings since some kindhearted people gave me a ride back to town.

Old Sagada town on market day (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Scenic Gaia Cafe serves organic kamote fries drizzled with lemon and sprinkled with raw sugar, enjoyed by the author (in photo). (Photos by Medel Sablaya)

Before lunch I walked south of town to a charming little place called Gaia Café. It’s a treehouse-inspired café with a stunning view of Kapay-Aw rice terraces. Its quaint interior makes a good setting for its locally sourced organic ingredients and vegetarian dishes. It’s a gem of a place and must be my favorite spot for brunch, afternoon snacks, and just chilling.

All-time favorite banana strawberry yoghurt at Yoghurt House (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

You haven’t been to Sagada if you haven’t tried dining at Yoghurt House, one of the pioneering restaurants there. Their banana granola yoghurt is still the best for me, sticking to the old formula of yoghurt making when it comes to thickness and sourness. And I would always go back for their roasted eggplant in basil pasta.

When it comes to value for money for its generous serving and taste, the old reliable Log Cabin restaurant is still up there. They offer a fusion of European and Filipino dishes and they have the best smoked meats in town. For now, they are open only for dinner.

Upon the recommendation of fellow travelers, I tried a new place called Sagada Coffee House. It was unnoticeable from the outside, but quite surprising when you’re inside. It feels great having your breakfast with a picturesque view. They had the best tasting homemade sausage meals paired with hot coffee.

Refreshing dip in Bokong waterfalls (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Hiking in the Echo Valley (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

The thrill of caving (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

First-timers should explore Sumaguing Cave. (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Two-hour hike takes you to blue soil. (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Of course, it would be best to try caving, enjoy the waterfalls, and do some hiking when you visit Sagada. After all, you don’t endure a grueling 12-hour bus ride just to dine and have coffee. But you can always try different things in between hiking and touring and get surprised by your discoveries. Sagada has a lot to offer for the different desires of different travelers. There’s always a Sagada for each traveler.

The famous hanging coffins  (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Fidelisan village (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Traditional Sagada weaving (Photo by Medel Sablaya)

Tourist requirements for Sagada

Book your accommodation online at https://lodging.sagada.gov.ph

Your accommodation shall provide you the access code for your registration at https://umali-kayo.sagada.gov.ph

Yoghurt House, FB: Yoghurt House

Log Cabin, FB: Log Cabin

Gaia Café, FB: Gaia Café

Café by the Clouds, FB: Isangwow Café by the Clouds

 

READ MORE:

My Binondo walking tour

I bike, I see my Manila in lockdown

About author

Articles

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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