There is still magic in Sagada despite of the thousand lowlanders who escaped from the city this Christmas 1997. Even if you were denied several times in various forms.
We missed the Lizardo Bus at the Dangwa station in Baguio for the direct trip to the town. As early as 6 in the morning of Sunday 28 December, all the 6 buses were filled up and dispatched early.
Or denied lodging in the Plaza. Some patient travelers had to contend with the hospital bed of the community hospital.
And rejected several times the Log Cabin, St. Joseph, Shamrock for food and drinks.
Still there is magic in Sagada. The Celestine Prophecy called it the energy of the pure mountain.
Mitch, a PAL MC colleague, Arney Nocum, a freelance photographer, Tec Mañalac, a youth leader working at the Office of the Manila Mayor and I were directed to a bus headed for Bontoc. We got off at junction and hitched at ride in an open van. We were treated to an open-air view of the Sagada Mountain together with about twenty others.
Upon arrival, we saw Dax and Beatrice, our friends from PSI who invited us in the St.Mary's orphanage (now rented by an NGO IAT). That free accommodation freed a lot of time all for ourselves. That was a big relief to first timers Arney and Tec.
How can one not be enchanted at Sagada? . We were billeted in an old, big school house made of wood, now a rare feature in this town. We experienced a 12° C on our first morning, the coldest ever for the year I was told. It seemed like it was Baguio 50 years ago. Beatrice and Dax put up a bonfire for us to welcome us on our first night
We viewed the morning sun amidst streaks of light and mist at the Keltepan tower at the East Side of Sagada at six in the morning. Saw the same sun go down from the top of Lake Danum Mountain at the west side. We stayed until clouds claimed the view and the temperature dropped. Pictures do a better job of describing our feelings.
We celebrated with the newly weds in the Cañao wedding which kept the town alive the whole night of Monday even with the 9 PM curfew imposed. This gave drinkers like Mitch and I a chance to enjoy beer at the Shamrock.
We walked and trekked. Dived at the waterfalls, entered the cave, bought some handicrafts, ate a lot of red rice, drank a lot of Sagada tea, met some old friends like Ronald and Mavic Arcilla, and new friends, and avoided the Cañao mating dance.
Sagada at this time of the year was different. What with all these lowlanders, I thought the place has lost its charm. But in the company of Mitch, Arney and Tec and the energy all around us, nature still worked on us.
We sneaked out of Sagada in a passenger jeep at 5:30 am on the 30th Tuesday to Bontoc to take the 7 am bus ride to Baguio via Dangwa Transit. At past noon, we are perhaps the first backpackers to be back in Baguio from the enchanted place.
Then with the fun group of Jerry Balignasa and Russel Aguinaldo, we met up with the PAL MC Group headed by Mayan, Wing, Art, Minerva, Ivy, Rhoda, Darwin, Ruel. We got a preview of the adventures of federation climbers as Jun Cipriano, Jun Martin, Gerry Girl N., Butch Ballesteros, Resil, Rudgir, Loyd and Ann, Joy and Dulce that trekked up to Pulag that same weekend. We drunk and narrated our stories until the bus said it's time to go.
Traveling back to Manila on the 31st, I kept on hearing the song of the late John Denver who is very popular in the Helsima Highway asking to be brought home to country road where he belongs. Perhaps with all these fine memories and experiences, backpackers like us really belong to places that are rocky mountain high.
Happy New Year!
Written by Chito Razon
Photos by Arney Nocum