Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves

Tripoto
26th Dec 2013
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue-Sagada | Exploring Rice Terraces and Caves by Kim Buenafe

I used to see the iconic image of the Banaue Rice Terraces at the back of a Philippine peso bill and, in time, came to see it at different websites and photos appearing on my Facebook feed. Sagada, on the other hand, is a lesser known destination until the day I’ve read about it in a blog. At that instant, I knew I need to go and see it myself.

So I went, together with my partner, a few friends, and some strangers, and boarded a bus bound to Banaue one chilly December night. We took the Manila-Banaue-Bontoc-Sagada route. A chilly climate and misty surroundings greeted us as we alighted the bus. How dare I wear shorts during that trip! After a good breakfast at Hidden Valley Restaurant, we went to see the picturesque Banaue Rice Terraces. To our dismay, there was no picturesque scene. The fog was so thick that only the first few meters were visible. But the heavens heard us and did us a favor. The fog gradually backed away and slowly revealed a magnificent sight that made us drop everything and just stare in awe. There I was, standing on the edge of a piece of land, marveling at the beauty of this man-made natural wonder. The mistiness didn’t cut back Its magnificence. No, not a single bit.

After satisfying our senses with the beauty of Banaue Rice Terraces, we decided to head over to Sagada via jeep. The more adventurous souls go for the top load, and since the experience is one-of-a-kind, its what we did. Fresh, cool breeze swept fast past our faces, but we didn’t mind. The feeling was too amazing to think of anything else but enjoy. Our bliss was cut short when we were informed we need to go down due to the weather. It was getting really misty and foggy I think we nearly had zero visibility while traversing the infamous Halsema Highway.  

We arrived at the quaint, placid town of Sagada late in the morning and chose to stay at Traveller’s Inn. They offer basic accommodation that comes with free Wi-Fi for a budget-friendly price. Come lunch time, we headed to Masferre Country Inn and Restaurant for some home-cooked meals. The scenic view seen from the big, open windows made It a tranquil dining moment.

The moment everyone’s been waiting for came that afternoon. It was a short ride to the jump off point of Sumaguing Cave. I have to admit, for transparency’s sake, that I felt some jitters mixed with excitement. It was my first time to try spelunking and at that time there’s little I know about it. The cave was huge. Towering limestone formations and cavern-like expanses fill the big dome. The whole spelunking experience was a challenging yet astonishing process of trekking up and down slippery limestones, crawling through small spaces, figuring out where to step for support, and praying for safety while enjoying every bit of it. It was already dark when we came out of the cave, with toes and hands covered with mud, clothes wet, and faces plastered with big smiles. 

That day was one for the books. We didn’t get to take Instagram-worthy photos, but who cares? The moment was too precious to even think of spoiling it with continuous snaps. We had to endure a cold, numbing shower that night. Come morning, we waited for hours just to witness the sunrise at Kiltepan but eventually failed. But then again, what happened before those unfavorable events was far too great to bring my happy heart down. What mattered to me was that we survived the arduous process of spelunking. We survived Sagada.

Ask any Filipino what and where Banaue Rice Terraces is and they'll surely know the answer. Many Filipinos consider this the 8th Natural Wonder of the World. Who wouldn't? The scenic view makes a great respite from the bustling city life. What makes it even more extraordinary is that the rice terraces were built by hand.
Photo of Banaue Rice Terraces, Nueva Vizcaya - Ifugao - Mountain Province Road, Banaue, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue Rice Terraces, Nueva Vizcaya - Ifugao - Mountain Province Road, Banaue, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue Rice Terraces, Nueva Vizcaya - Ifugao - Mountain Province Road, Banaue, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue Rice Terraces, Nueva Vizcaya - Ifugao - Mountain Province Road, Banaue, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue Rice Terraces, Nueva Vizcaya - Ifugao - Mountain Province Road, Banaue, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Banaue Rice Terraces, Nueva Vizcaya - Ifugao - Mountain Province Road, Banaue, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
There's not much accommodation to choose from in Sagada. Traveller's Inn makes an ideal stay for its price. It offers basic accommodation but has common rooms and dining and kitchen areas. There's also free Wi-Fi within the inn.
Photo of Traveller's Inn, South Road, Sagada, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Traveller's Inn, South Road, Sagada, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
This place serves good home-cooked food at a fair price and in big portions. People usually flock here for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What I loved is the artistic decor and photos displayed on the walls, plus the calming view of Sagada hills when seated beside the windows.
Photo of Masferre Country Inn and Restaurant, South Road, Sagada, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Spelunking is the primary tourist activity in Sagada, and Sumaguing Cave makes the ideal spot to take the challenge of this strenuous activity. Sumaguing Cave has the largest chambers of all caves in Sagada, thus people have come to call it "The Big Cave." It has magnificent limestone formations and cavern-like expanse that never fail to amaze visitors. It could get pitch dark in the deeper parts of the cave and necessary safety precautions is advised.
Photo of Sumaguing Cave by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Sumaguing Cave by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Sumaguing Cave by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Sumaguing Cave by Kim Buenafe
The Echo Valley is accessible via a marked foot path that starts from St. Mary's Church going to the town cemetery. We had a refreshing, early morning trek in the Echo Valley as we passed by hill edges and scenic views.
Photo of Echo Valley by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Echo Valley by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Echo Valley by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Echo Valley by Kim Buenafe
This cozy restaurant has been a landmark of Sagada. Visitors come to dine in Yoghurt House for some satisfying, comfort food. The resto is famous for its pancakes and yogurt based breakfast meals, but isn't also lagging when it comes to sumptuous lunch and dinner dishes.
Photo of Yoghurt House, South Road, Sagada, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Yoghurt House, South Road, Sagada, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
Photo of Yoghurt House, South Road, Sagada, Philippines by Kim Buenafe
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