Mesmerized by Sagada

To the town that I fell in love with, you are still mesmerizing the second time around. Unlike my travel buddy Jo, it was my second time in Sagada.

Sagada was the place that captivated my heart; it lies in the mountainous region in Cordillera, where you will be physically and mentally challenged. However, a place that will rejuvenates your soul and spirit a place that will make you appreciate life more.

Day 1: Hike to Malboro Country

With its beautiful and scenic terrain, a relaxing hike to Malboro country was the first thing we did early the next day with G-nette and Che.

Despite of muscle pains from surviving Batad, there we were, again, treating unfairly our restless feet yet feeding our adventurous soul through those woods, where wild flowers, wild berries, pre historic fern, pine trees and the likes are what we encountered along the way. Our guide Kuya Ben enthusiastically introduced to us those unfamiliar living creatures that we passed by.

Wild Strawberry

Wild Strawberries

Malboro country is a series of rolling hills and was known to be home of wild horses. Unfortunately we did not see the wild horses during the span of our stay. However, with a bright sky that complemented its green and brown surroundings (ahhm..uhhm well simply the place was spectacular) the place was a good spot for jump shots, wacky poses and again to be a model here and there.

Malboro Country

Malboro Country

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Once done with our “muni-muni” (musings) and photo shoots at Malboro Country we then headed to Rock Inn Café to taste their food and supposed to experience orange picking. We did taste their delicious food, too bad there was nothing left with oranges due to influx of visitors just to experience the orange picking.

After our visit to Rock Inn, we parted our ways with Che and G-nette as they needed to go back to Manila already. Jo and I suggested to kuya Ben that we could do the Bomod-ok falls hike, unfortunately he was not available at that afternoon; therefore we decided to rest. After we took a good rest at Alibama Inn, we then wandered around Sagada town up to St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Calvary Hills and Echo Valley.

Day 2

At the top of Mt. Ampakaw

5:00 AM and we’re ready and good to go, we were fetched at Alibama Inn by our guide Kuya Ben together with his friend Kevin who drove us to Mt Ampakaw Entry point.

The hike was easy; the place was so peaceful as the sun slowly rises while the darkness of the dawn was struggling to stay. However, the sun prevailed as its ray’s took its way into the clouds, into the mountains of Cordilla and into the group of pine trees then finally kissed our face and touched Mt. Ampakaw ground.

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“The Mighty Sun” by Jonna Lams

Upon arriving at the top, the sea of clouds greeted us together with the king sun seated in his throne. And the green grasses showed its respect to their king while the dews sparkled knowing that they will soon evaporate into thin air. And at that moment, everything that surrounded us, everything that happened, it was like that the universe bequeathed us vigor as we ran like kids and jumped like there’s no tomorrow.

Jumping Jo

Jumping Jo

Epic Jump Shot

Epic Jump Shot – thanks kuya ben

The World Underneath

Experiencing God’s goodness above earth was already a blessing and going beneath earth’s surface is a bonus.

After a short but a sunny walk from the entry point, a stack of coffin at the Lumiang cave entrance greeted us. Kuya Ben then gave us a brief history of the place and the burial tradition; he also briefed us with the rules upon entering the cave. I did not miss to take some photographs of a coffin where a gecko was etched on its cover, as I was not able to do it the last time I visited this place.

Stack of Coffins

Stack of Coffins

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As we bid farewell to the last daylight we then make friends with the kerosene lamp brought by Kuya Ben. We started out slow, creating connections with the rocks getting familiar with the atmosphere, feeling the isolation as the salty sweat begun to drop. We maneuvered our body to those narrow passages, rappelled our way down, walked backwards and sideward, crawled, and all awkward positions available.

Jo's Stunt

Jo’s Stunt

We did not also miss dipping into freezing pool of water at Lumiang Cave, letting the cold sipped into our body as I was testing my willpower to dive into the deepest part of the pool. I consulted kuya Ben, unfortunately he did not agree with the idea as safety comes first. I did not protested as i am not a good swimmer, it should be SAFETY FIRST.

We continued our journey towards Sumaging Cave, kuya Ben generously shared his knowledge about the caves, and he showed to us those rock formations, the stalagmites and stalactites.

Rice Granary formation at Lumiang Cave

Rice Granary formation at Lumiang Cave

Sumaging Cave

Sumaging Cave

Who would expect for a beauty underneath earth? In all forms, God shows his power and goodness, whether at the top of the mountain or at the deepest part of the caves.

Going beneath Earth’s surface was still intoxicating the second time around.

And the whole experience made me humble, made me appreciate life even more, even in chaos or in simplest form.

And Sagada?

sagada town

With its:

Beautiful terrain…

Relaxing atmosphere…

Great food….

Friendly locals…

And then, Sagada never failed to amaze me the second time around. See you again!

 

We Survived Batad!

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“Batad Village” Photo from Jonna Lams

Batad is one of the most craved places to visit among travelers and backpackers because of its amphitheater like rice terraces. It belongs to the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras that was recorded on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. We considered ourselves blessed, as we were able to visit this place, be teleported back in time and had the best exhausting hike in our (my) life so far.

Beforehand, Jo and I availed a Batad tour package from Ramon Homestay and Restaurant, so when we arrived in Banaue bus terminal, our guide named Leemas picked us up. Leemas brought us first to have breakfast in a certain resto in Banaue and he introduced us to two other travelers namely G-nette and Che.

After having breakfast, we rode a chartered van that brought us to Batad Saddle. The road was bit tricky and dusty; there were parts that were unpaved, however the view of Cordillera Mountains is prominent.

Welcome to Saddle

For about one (1) hour travel from Banaue, we finally arrived in Batad Saddle. There were souvenirs stores where you could buy some Batad memorabilia, something to eat, drink and all that jazz, a view deck to have a 360-degree panorama on the place and a paid comfort room. We rented a walking stick at the saddle that proved helpful to us during our whole stay in Batad Village. Jo and I decided to get a porter for our extra baggage that contains our camping materials since obviously it will become a burden to us.

On our Way to Batad Village

After a quick rest and some photo ops at the saddle, the four of us started our trek down to Batad Village through their “shortcut” road which at first phase consists of 412 steps stairs down unto the unpaved, rocky and sometimes steep narrow road.

Along the way, we encountered different kinds of individuals or group ascending to the saddle. There were these foreigners half naked and exhausted, there were these locals who carried heavy loads yet they just took the walk easy just like nothing had happened and there were these tourists who took one step at a time exhausted yet enjoying their journey. There were also cottages were trekkers could take a quick rest and take some pictures just like what we did. We stopped by also at Payay’s souvenir shop, where he sells wooden rice god statuette and other figures which he carved himself.

"Payay" Photo by Jonna Lams

“Payay” Photo by Jonna Lams

After a few more minutes and a few more meters of walk descending to the village, we arrived at the registration post where every visitor should register. A few steps from the registration post, there was this view deck where your eyes could feast the grandeur of the hand carved rice terraces on the mountain slopes. And upon contemplating for a moment, images flashes on the back of my mind were that Bahag (loincloth) wearer’s labor not as a slave but a free man just to carve this masterwork using their bare hands.

Photo by Jonna Lams

Photo by Jonna Lams

Ramon’s Homestay & Restaurants

We then headed to Ramon’s Homestay and Restaurant after taking pictures at the viewing deck. We were welcomed by Mang Ramon’s (the owner) beautiful smile and accommodating aura as if we had known each other for a long time. As soon as we put our things, Mang Ramon showed us the century old Phaluy Hut (Ifugao’s Native Hut) that he inherited from his ancestors. Aside from the rice terraces, the Phaluy hut are also a living and tangible proof that manifest the talent and creativity of the Igorots in relation to architecture and engineering. With no single nail or metal being used to fasten its parts, the phaluy hut is not only unique but also substantial and functional.

"Century Old Phaluy Hut"

“Century Old Phaluy Hut”

According to Mang Ramon, there are three functional levels of a Phaluy hut. The first level is the space under the hut which is called “daulon”, it is used for entertaining visitors, serves as social and cultural space such as ritual celebration and accomplishing other household chores. The second level is the living room and at the same time serves as the kitchen and the bedroom. And the third level is called “palah” or the attic that is utilize for storing rice.

There were also animal’s skull that were hanged on the wall, which is believed to drive bad spirits away, and on the interior, there was a wooden statue particularly a rice god, other carved or handmade objects, jars and a fireplace. The lighted candle adds drama to the hut interior during Mang Ramon’s history lesson.

Once done with the story telling, Mang Ramon showed us the Phaluy hut (recently made) that we were going to occupy. There, we took a quick rest while waiting for our lunch and for the next activity of the day. The cool and relaxing atmosphere of the place sent us to a peaceful nap. If not just for a protesting stomach, we could just sleep indefinitely. Therefore, we just prepared ourselves and headed to the dining area for our lunch. We had chicken tinola and chicken asado for the reason that we would like to fly upon going back to the saddle 😀 with Batad rice that fed our hungry tummies.

Despite being exhausted, being full and the desire to sleep, we did not entertain the temptation; we resumed to our next activity, the Trek to Tappiya Falls.

Trek to Tappiya Falls

"Mighty yet Tranquil Tappiya Falls" by Jonna Lams

“Mighty yet Tranquil Tappiya Falls” by Jonna Lams

A challenging trek but a rewarding one once you’ll get to see the hidden beauty of Tappiya. We passed through villages and walk through narrow ledges of rice paddies, almost vertical slope and tricky path before reaching the falls. Along the way there were cottages where someone could take a rest and buy some refreshments. The refreshments are bit pricey but still reasonable because of the location. I opted for an energy drink that costs P70.00 and water for Jo that costs P40.00. Upon reaching the falls all exhaustions will wane specially if you will be able to dip into the freezing water and the four of us did not missed the rare opportunity. At first, it was cold but once you submerged your whole body, the cool waters gave a soothing potion to your worn-out muscles and cleanse your whole being. It was so tranquil that I was reminded of how blessed I am and how God loves me endlessly. Everything was priceless at that very moment.

Going Back to Ramon’s Homestay

According to the bible, “for you were made from dust, and to dust you will return”. Yes! Enough for my daydreams, it was time to face the truth and conquer those obstacle along the way so I could rest and plunge into a dreamless sleep on the cool relaxing “Phaluy Hut”. I didn’t have a choice; I need to retrace those steep steps up even with shaking knees and fading morale. I was just lucky to have those very supportive buddies who encouraged me along the way.

When we arrived at Ramon’s, Jo teased me. “Ang hina mo pala”, she said and laughs. I was not able to hear her at first because of her hoarse to no voice at all. Lucky for me at least she was not able to laugh out loud and let the whole world know. I admit, I thought I was going to have a heart attack it feels like my heart is going to puff and put me in shameful and in drastic situation; luckily I was able to survive.

While waiting for dinner we had a massage except for Che after the local masseur lower their price to 150 for a foot massage. It was relaxing that I could sleep with an empty gurgling stomach. It was around 8:30 that our dinner was served; we had Batad pizza and rice cake, partnered with sugary 3in1 coffee and milo. After dinner, Mang Ramon invited us to join in the bonfire and storytelling; unfortunately we were too tired from the previous activity that we opted to go to sleep.

Trek to Batad Rice Terraces View Deck

It was daybreak when I caught myself struggling to wake up just to attend the urgent nature’s call. I was given no choice no matter how sleepy I was. Known that we were staying at a Phaluy hut, it was expected that going down the hut be not easy, combined with muscles pain from yesterday’s activity. Plus going up and getting back into my bed was really a superhuman performance. J

I attempted to go back to sleep, but when I checked the time it was already 5:00 in morning, it means that we need to prepare for the early morning activity. How I wish at that time to extend the night and if only we could stay longer in Batad I would surely postponed the scheduled activity and would sleep endlessly. However, I dragged myself and again performed some superhuman act, prepare my self and get down the Phaluy hut.

We waited for our guide to fetch us up at our hut so we could head to our morning trek to the highest view point of Batad Rice Terraces. A Batad trip is never complete if you could not walk on rice terraces ledges up to the highest view point. At the top we were able to see the whole Batad village, watched the rising sun and simply appreciated the life that we have.

Upon returning to Mang Ramon’s Homestay we then had our breakfast and after that we were also given the chance to wear the Igorot’s traditional clothes. Photo Ops here and there, pose, smile, smile and smile ( Ang hirap maging model! I quit! :D).

Going Back to Saddle

To make the long story short, it was not easy! I ended up giving my 15kg backpack to our guide and just carry a tripod and a sling bag. Salute to my friend Jo who definitely carry his 15 kg pack up to the saddle. It was not easy, promise, especially when you are not an experienced hiker like me. However to make the hike worthwhile, just focus on the goodness, focus on beauty and just appreciate every shaky step, every salty drop of sweat and every deep or shallow breath you take.

All in all it is just that We Survived Batad!.

Cordillera Adventure Photo Series

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from South to North, just to be teleported back in time…

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and travel is merrier when you met strangers in the road turned into friends as the journey continues…

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and we discovered this hidden splendor that nestled on vast mountains…

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and when the stairway to heaven became our ramp…

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and please don’t tell our parents that we top load in a jeepney on a zigzag road!

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and this mystical town of the north stayed mesmerizing the second time around…

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and a wacky pose is cool in four…

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and jump shots are awesome when shared with a friend…

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and cave connection was still intoxicating the second time around… and photo bumming is more fun below ground.

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and two brave souls conquered the playground of gods…

and from the bottom of our heart we are grateful. thank you!!!

 

Thanks to all the people who made our trip wonderful.
To the strangers we met on the road, thank you for the days, the hours, the minutes and the seconds of genuine smiles and friendship.

To our family, friends and relatives who generously supported us.

Above all, Thank you LORD for the opportunity of letting us experience Your wonderful creation and Your goodness.

Thank you!

-Jo&Naives

A Journey to the Heart of North and Discoveries

Approximately three months of planning and daydreaming, no illnesses neither office activities nor delayed flights can stop us. Armed with courage, backpacks and trekking shoes, we let the venom of the travel bug sips into our bloodstreams. The long wait was over, the theories have ended, and here comes the real thing, the real adventure.

This is how we began:

I fetch Jo at the airport and I learned that she didn’t have a voice. I was quite sad, yet it was a blessing in disguise, you will find out why.

We headed directly to Oyahami Bus Terminal via Taxicab and marvel through the busy street of Roxas Boulevard and some street somewhere, got lost when we’re almost there, however we did found our way, luckily the cab driver was kind and we were happy.

We arrived at Oyahami bus terminal, confirmed our reserved ticket and ate our dinner that I bought from Behind the Cockpit Resto whose cook is named Kuya Tony.

We’re  a bit early so we sat down in the corner, watched people, listened to the news which gave a little anxiety since an accident happened somewhere in Mountain Province.

At around 10:00 PM we then boarded the bus and made ourselves ready for a tedious long land travel.

Nothing really happened, it did not really feel tedious, and we just slept the whole time, and barely disembark the bus during stop over. We just hibernated and save our energy for an anticipated day of hard blows.

We were somewhere in Banaue when the morning light crept into the bus curtain that made me thrilled and fully awake. I looked outside the window, grateful, happy and alive.

As we got off from the bus, we fully embraced our excitement, threw away our anticipation, indulged into the present moment and we then headed to our first destination.

 

Our Journey’s route:

 >We Survived Batad!

>>Mesmerized By Sagada

>>>Frosted at Mt. Pulag

Awesome Sagada Adventure that I fell in Love with

Day Dreaming

For five and twenty years in existence, I always live within my comfort zone. I follow the norms; from school to dorm, from office to home and some mall visits.

It has been my dream to travel around the world, to experience different culture and to emerge into the beauty of nature. To bum around and be lazy are few of my favorites yet I am scared to let loose.

I always read travel blogs and fancied traveling. I daydream yet do nothing to it until such an instance brought me to decide. Off I went without prior detailed planning.

Earlier in June, I asked my cousins and friends if we could have a break and spend it somewhere else. They were of no avail except Emmy. I requested her to do some research for a budget friendly place yet breath-taking, cozy and relax. However, I ended up doing it myself.

My heart was pounding so fast, my feet itched when I saw the Travel Factor’s website. They offer a lot of packages to different places in and outside the country. I scanned those packages yet innate force conveys me to Sagada. Then, I signed up for it.

 That’s it! And, daydream again to the day I will finally meet Sagada.

 

And, the waiting was over.

Day 0 (July 18, 2013)

We met with Joven our travel factor coordinator at the Ohayami Bus Terminal, Sampaloc Manila. And head to Banaue at around 10 PM. We just slept in the bus, woke up, slept again, and then woke up.

Day 1 (July 19, 2013)

We arrived in Banaue at around 8AM and had our breakfast at Hidden Valley Restaurant at our own expense. Well, I opted for tea (I was expecting for a local tea but it was just lipton tea you know) and a Filipino style Breakfast with Longanisa and I forgot.

Hidden Valley Restaurant in Banaue

Hidden Valley Restaurant in Banaue

We proceeded to Sagada (our final destination) via a chartered jeepney at around 9 AM. We took a stopover at the Banaue Rice Terraces Main View Point where we had a glimpse of the famous Rice Terraces and took some pictures without forgetting Emmy with her selfie.

Banaue Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces

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We continued our journey in a long winding road for approximately 3 hours with spectacular view.

We finally arrived in Sagada. Yes!

We finally arrived in Sagada specifically at Alibama Inn/ Pinipikan House where we would spend most of our rest moments. We were welcomed by tita (may ari nang Inn na hindi ko nakuha ang pangalan) with her beautiful smile and a delicious meal which I really don’t know what was it, I just ate it anyways. And at last, nag uusap na din kaming mga participant. I thought we were mute, hindi pala.

We rested for a while and prepared for a supposed trek to Bomod-ok Falls.

Supposed to be trek to Bomod-ok Falls

Unfortunately the Igorot Communities of north of downtown Sagada (which is between Aguid, Pide and Fedelisan) where the Bomod-ok Falls is located were celebrating a Barangay holidays at that time. The tourism in charge of that place did not let us pass since they would be doing a traditional celebration.  No tourist or foreigners were allowed to enter as it is sacred and part of their culture.

However, Sagada is full of wonder offering a lot of option. Kuya Jori our guide suggested another falls that we could visit and appreciate.

Pongas Falls, the successful trek

There you go, we meet with our guide to Pongas Falls at Angkeling entry point. We did not waste our time and started the trek. We pass by the Ankeling Elementary School which was said to be built by Americans (I forgot the date). As we go along, our guide shared some stories and information about their culture, place, plants, and etcetera.

As we were approaching to the falls, I felt some unexplainable happiness, I was just simply happy that I did not listen to the guide’s instructions. There was supposed to be other way in reaching the falls for the participants, yet I followed the guide without thinking whether the way was safe or not, well I managed it anyways.  It felt good when I climbed the rocks. It was intoxicating. It was great. It was awesome!

Pongas Falls

Pongas Falls

Look at how small we are. The world is really BIG!

Look at how small we are. The world is really BIG!

Going down is quite a Challenge!

Going down is quite a Challenge!

I did not have plans to dip into the water, since it was obviously chilly. Yet, I was not able to resist it. It was super cold yet it felt good.

Haaaaaay… it saddened me that we need to leave the place.

Well Going down the trail was easy and no sweat at all!

 

Top Loading was Fun and it was not illegal in Sagada!

parang nag pa picture lang sa top load.. :)

parang nag pa picture lang sa top load.. 🙂

We tried top loading from Angkeling to Alibama Inn. It was cool. It was like a riding a roller coaster yet not that extreme.

 

Sunset at Lake Danum

We were not able to witness the sunset since it was cloudy so we just took some jump shots and headed to the lake.

JumpShots and etc. Photo grab from Tita Pinky

JumpShots and etc. Photo grab from Tita Pinky

The Tranquility of Lake Danum

The Tranquility of Lake Danum

 

The Dinner

We had our dinner at the yogurt house; I ordered breaded pork with mash potatoes for 240php and a strawberry and banana yogurt for 85php. It was bit expensive for me, yet their serving was so generous and the yogurt was good.

@ Yogurt House Waiting with our order

@ Yogurt House Waiting with our order

The yogurt.

The yogurt.

Day 2 (July 20, 2013)

 

Sunrise at Kiltepan Peak

We woke up early to witness a magnificent sight. I was speechless. My heart was filled with gladness and Gratitude. God is so AWESOME!

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And some Photo Ops at Kiltepan peak

Marina and Jamie

Marina and Jaime

With em em... hayahay

With em em… hayahay

Ang mga mahilig sa Photo Ops

Cave Connection / Spelunking

I had no idea what to expect. I was quite nervous as we were on our way for our next activity knowing that we were going underground. It scares me a bit since I am little claustrophobic. However I did not mind what I feel and followed my hunger for adventure.

The spelunking activity started at Lumiang Cave. We were welcomed by stack of coffins at the entrance. James, one of our guides for the spelunking, shared some information/stories about it. According to him, the coffins were made from hollowed logs and were shorter than ordinary coffin. The corps was fitted in it in a fetal position. A gecko that was carved in some coffins symbolizes as a guardian and a lot more history. Well, it could be better if you would hear it for yourself.

on our way to Lumian Cave

on our way to Lumian Cave

the coffins

the coffins

Anyways, we started trailing down after the introductions to the rest of our guides and some safety precautions.

(Our guides was from Saggass namely Kuya Jori, James, Kirky and Denver)

And there you go, my heart beats fast, I decided to be first on the line, following the guide as to not prolong the agony inside me. At the first stage, we already experienced some squeezing in order to fit ourselves into a small hole, then the guides let us stepped on their legs in order for us to go downward of approximately 18 meters drop ( if I was not mistaken from what I heard).

After a few minutes being underground I already felt at ease. My fears were gone and were replaced by ecstasy. I felt some connection with the rocks as I held them with my bare hands, with mud and water as I sensed it under my skin. The smell of the cave was like, ooohhh.. Intoxicating!

We split, we crawl, we climb, we slide, we swim and we do it all.

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CAVE1

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We were also able to witness the magnificent creation underground. And then again I felt Grateful! Such an Awesome God!

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Ladies and gentlemen, my new found friends

After the awesomeness of the spelunking, we agreed that we would witness the traditional way of cooking/killing a chicken which is called “pinikpikan” and would have some socialization with the group. We had karaoke and a drinking session. The group shared the delicious “pinikpikan” cooked by our awesome guides. Then we drank, sang, shared stories and rants and the rest that I did not understand.

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Well, what happened in Sagada stays in Sagada.

Day 3 (July 21, 2013)

Walking Tour at St. Mary’s Episcopal Parish Church, Echo Valley and Sagada Town Proper

Despite the muscles pain from yesterday’s spelunking, we still wore a smile as Kuya Jori and Kirky picked us up at Alibama Inn for our last activity in Sagada. The stunning heat of the sun accompanies us as we walk along Sagada.

We took pictures along the way and at Saggas Office.

Climb

Like, Try, Adapt, Create, Walk, Climb, Trust…

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When we arrived at St. Mary’s Church, Kirk requested us to sit down on a stone slabs which was called “dap-ay”. As I was not able to grasps all the information shared by Kirk, kindly refer to this site for details of Dap-ay (http://catholicsagada.blogspot.com/2009/08/dap-ay.html).

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Kirk shared a lot of information about the place as we continue the tour.

We passed by through Calvary hills and then to the Echo Valley, where we can see their famous Hanging Coffins. We took some pictures and we shout out loud.

Calvary Hills

Calvary Hills

Hanging Coffin at the distant

Hanging Coffin at the distant

and a group picture of course at echo valley

and a group picture of course at echo valley

And I shouted out loud my love for Sagada!

And it was heart breaking that in every encounter you need to bid farewell. It feels like I finally found my first love and then we broke up.

I think I fell In love with Sagada and I can’t get over with it!