Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SAGADA: St. Mary's Church, Cemetery, Echo Valley, Hanging Coffins

Sagada and Its Treasures Within Reach
By Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.

Ivan, Ralph, Sheryl, Liz, Heinz, Angel and April

Still in the chartered van, we looked for George Guest House as soon as we reached Sagada. Our BP Lead Ivan was able to reserve its two (2) penthouse rooms weeks prior our travel; so the only thing that we needed to do was to re-confirm the rates and to know if we could stay in just one room on day two and onwards because it's big enough for 6-7 persons anyway. For our first night in there, couples (Ivan and Angel; and Ralph and Sheryl) took one room while Liz, April, and I occupied the other.
The four-story George Guest House

George Guest House

George Guest House is located at Dao-angan, Sagada. Take a five-minute leisure walk and you will find yourself already in the town proper. 

I actually liked this house where we stayed not only because it has hot shower in every room (who can survive a bath in Sagada without hot water, anyway?), but because of the picture perfect view of the community that we got to see as soon as we stepped out of the room! The view itself constantly reminded us that we were far away from the stressful life in the metro. 

Because our new friend, Lee, preferred a room for a solo traveler, we bade goodbye to her certainly with hopes to see her around this wonderful haven in the Mountain Province.

One nice thing about Sagada is that it has a good number of tourist inns and guesthouses. Finding a decent solo room for only PhP 200 per night is not a problem at all. In our case, each of us paid PhP 350; a bit higher because we took penthouse rooms. But generally, accommodation rates in Sagada are fair enough for both local and foreign tourists and backpackers. All that is needed to do is to search; and we recommend booking ahead of time. 

Photos of George Guest House


All of us were looking forward throughout our first day in Sagada. Who would not? 

Undoubtedly, Sagada is one of the places many people would love to visit - a dream destination they call it.

Ivan, having been there once before, was our source of information as to which places and activities were included in our first day's itinerary. After organizing our stuff in our respective rooms, and after freshening up a little bit, we all left the guesthouse to look for a place where we could eat lunch.

Finding a place to dine in this famous mountain community is easy. Restaurants are everywhere offering both local and international cuisines. More affordable price per meal, in my observation, starts at PhP 200.  

We decided to fill our tanks the practical way that lunchtime - we looked for an eatery where meals could be even lower than the benchmark, and luckily found one. Luckily because, as i have mentioned, i noticed that what's affordable for a meal in most of the restaurants in Sagada starts at PhP 200, most probably because of the fact that they have to maintain this certain standard to meet both local and foreign tourists' expectations.

It was a nice lunch we had in that simple yet decent "carinderia" (eatery). We feasted with pork sinigang, menudo, and couple other Filipino viands. For less than a hundred per meal, we got to enjoy how locals cook those all-time Pinoy favorites!

Our journey towards unveiling the treasures that are just within reach from Dao-angan, Sagada started right after that simple but satisfying lunch session.

St. Mary Episcopal Church

Built in the 1900's, St. Mary's Church is surely a site to visit especially for those who have an eye for fine architecture. The century-old bell displayed by its entrance, and the giant rusted "calesa" (carriage) wheels that serve as beautiful accent pieces in the "patio" (front yard), are very symbolic to a great foundation of Sagada people's faith.

Accents around St. Mary's Chrurch

Mary's Church was our first stop. I think we just walked 15 to 20 minutes from the town center and we were there already. Right before the church did we saw a playground that has these huge rocks meant to be seats and positioned in a way that they would form a circle around a spot for a bonfire. 

We enjoyed taking pictures around the church - beside the ancient bell and rusted gigantic wheels, and in its garden and "patio" -  while throwing glances to a heat-capturing view of the community.

Sagada Cemetery

We continued our afternoon walk heading towards where St. Mary's Church is almost facing. We passed by rows of pine trees that served as our canopy and felt that the air in that part is actually cooler.  In our right was some kind of a soccer field... well at least for me... while we could not stop ourselves from turning our heads back to see the picturesque aged church. 

Then, our mini-trek to Echo Valley started. However, before reaching that fascinating nature offering was an experience of an equally interesting place. Interesting because many people take photos of it as a souvenir from Sagada despite of the fact that it is always associated with ghosts, mummies, and zombies. It is a cemetery.


Sagada Cemetery is approximately 15 to 20-minute trek from St. Mary's Church.

The Sagada Cemetery

The Echo Valley

Spell f-r-e-s-h  a-i-r. The Echo Valley will absolutely fill your lungs with it and it will treat you with an excellent embracive view of the valley and of the communities that look like groups of white match boxes scattered on the mountainsides.   

Perhaps, one of the features that makes me wanting to come back to places like Mountain Province, Ifugao and Benguet is the quality of air that they provide. It is cooler and the scent of their pine trees is addictive.

It was just a five-minute steps further from the cemetery. And, what else should we do while in Echo Valley but to try how our voices would bounce back? Just like what everyone does when they are able to step a foot on this part of the beautiful Sagada, we shouted random words and they did come back... of course... hahaha!

The enchanting Echo Valley

Hanging Coffins

Something that should not be missed when exploring Sagada is to actually see the famous Hanging Coffins. Historically speaking, hanging coffins is an ancient funeral custom that was practiced in Asian countries like The Philippines, China and Indonesia. People who lived long time ago and who observed the said custom believed that it is symbolic to eternity, and to prevent ground wild animals to take them at the same time.

Our group, especially BP Liz, made sure to see them and captured them for souvenir and for us to be able to share what we saw in that part of the amazing Sagada.

Coffins hanging on rock walls

After being able to witness these treasures that are literally just within reach from Dao-angan, Sagada, I actually felt I had enough and I was already happy. But hold your horses because our adventure on Day One in Sagada did not end at the Echo Valley.

Story on Spelunking: Lumiang - Sumaguing Cave Connection and sharing how we sealed our first day with a new found friend, Lee, is coming right up!

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