Watch the first ever destination mini-documentary of our family adventure with the four 4 boys during All Saints’ Day in Sagada.
It’s a behind-the-scenes look at how we travel and feature a destination on the OAP blog. It also documents our Sagada misadventures, culinary discoveries, and unforgettable moments during our Sagada 2016 Trip with Team Our Awesome Planet.
The film was made by Mofilm Director Gian Mawo in collaboration with Ford Philippines.
This Sagada travel guide was 2 years in the making since we had to visit Sagada during two peak seasons: Holy Week 2014 and Halloween 2016.
The guide documents our lessons, travel tips, and recommendations on the Best of Sagada.
Sagada Food & Travel Guide (2017) Index:
How to get to Sagada?
When is the best time to go?
Where are the Best Places to Stay?
What are the Must Eat Places in Sagada?
What are the Must Try Experiences in Sagada?
What are the Unique Pasalubong to Buy?
Sagada is one of the most romantic towns in the Mountain Province because of its natural beauty, quaint restaurants, and warm Kankanaey people. It’s a remote town and a cultural destination that is hard to get to, which adds to the appeal of the destination.
We also need to be responsible tourists when visiting Sagada and make sure to follow these guidelines:
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR VISITORS OF SAGADA
by Steve Rogers and Tracey Santiago
1. Please respect the culture. Keep a distance from rituals or any sites you are told are sacred. Do not touch or disturb coffins or burial sites. Do not attempt to join or film any ritual without direct permission from the presiding elders. Do not disturb mass in the church or shoot videos/photos in or around the church during mass.
2. Please respect the people. Sagadans are not exhibits in a museum or zoo. Ask permission before taking pictures or video of people, especially elders. Please don’t ask us “where are the Igorots”. We are the Igorots. We do dress in traditional clothing for special occasions, but please don’t expect any of us to pose in traditional clothing for pictures, because we don’t do that.
3. Please secure necessary permits. If you need to do field research, interviews in the community, conduct pictorials or film anyone and any place in Sagada, please go to the Office of the Mayor and make sure you secure a permit and pay any necessary fees. This permit will determine if your activity is allowed or not in the community. Guides are not allowed to secure any permit for such activities.
4. Please manage your expectations. Sagada is a community, not a museum. If you want to see the way we lived a century ago, there’s an excellent museum in Bontoc; please visit it. Don’t think, or say, that we have “lost our culture” because we no longer live in traditional houses or dress daily in wanes and tapis. We are indigenous people and we are deeply attached to our traditions and culture. We are also modern, well educated people who are comfortable in any living or professional environment the world offers.
5. Please walk whenever possible. Walking is an essential part of the Sagada experience. The air here is cool and clean; you won’t get all sweaty. The views are spectacular, and you’ll enjoy them more on foot than crammed into a metal box. Sagada is a small town and places are close together. If you are going out to browse the shops, walk. If you are going from a hotel to a restaurant, walk. If your hotel is outside the town, drive to the edge of town and walk. If you’re strong enough to walk through the caves, you’re strong enough to walk to the caves. Walk. It’s good for you, you’ll see and enjoy more, and you’ll help reduce our traffic problem.
6. Please conserve water. Sagada suffers from water shortages, especially during dry season and periods of peak tourist flow. This can lead to diversion of water from our farms and rice terraces, where it is desperately needed, to support tourism. If you are going hiking or caving, bathe after, not before. Please bathe quickly and with as little water as you can.
7. Please manage your garbage. Littering and tossing garbage outdoors are unacceptable and disgraceful: just don’t do it. Sagada has no municipal waste disposal system; every household and business has to manage its own waste output. Try to minimize the garbage you generate. As much as possible, what comes here with you should leave with you.
8. Please be kind to the people in our kitchens. Our restaurants are small kitchens that can only handle a few meals. When we say, we don’t have food anymore, it means the stock we bought during the market day have already run out. We don’t serve food frozen from weeks or months ago. To get better service, order your food at least 3 or 4 hours before your meal. That way, we have more time to prepare your food and serve it as soon as you arrive in the restaurant.
9. Please use your vehicle responsibly. Our streets are narrow, and on-street parking creates a serious traffic problem. Parking on the street is prohibited by local ordinance. Please follow the law, even when others don’t or if someone tells you it’s ok to park on the street. If you’re asked to back up or pull to the side of the road to allow passage of a bus or other oncoming vehicles, please cooperate. If you are parked in a way that obstructs traffic, move. Do not load/unload in the middle of a road. Pull to the side so that other vehicles can pass.
10. Please help us keep you safe. Sagada is a mountain town filled with caves, cliffs, canyons, streams and forests. They are beautiful but people can and do get hurt or lost. We do our best to keep you safe, but we need your help. Guides are required in the caves for your safety, not for our profit. Please hire accredited guides and respect the prescribed guide to guest ratio. We do not allow children to guide, for their safety and yours, so please do not hire children as guides. We strongly recommend guides for hiking or exploring. If you choose to hike without a guide, please be responsible and tell your guest house where you plan to go and what time you plan to be back. Bring a mobile phone and make note of emergency phone numbers. If you go missing we will look for you, at any time of the day or night and in any weather. Knowing where to start is a huge help. If you plan to sleep somewhere other than your guest house, get in touch and let them know, because they will report you missing and we will go out looking for you.
11. Please be modest. This is a small, conservative town, and we like it that way. Please save the revealing clothing for the beach, and save the displays of affection for your private space. We are not known for nightlife: business in Sagada closes at 10PM. If you like to party all night that’s fine, but you’ll have to do it somewhere else. There is no commercial sex here, so please don’t waste your time looking for it.
12. Please give your share to help us preserve our environment. All visitors (tourists, non-Sagada residents) must register at the Municipal Tourist Information Center and pay Php35.00 for the Environmental Fee. Your receipt will be checked upon entering caves and other tourist areas.
For more info, visit the original post of Tracey Santiago here.
There are three routes to Sagada from Manila. If you’re driving there, we find that the best way to do it is in a comfortable SUV.
VIA TABUK ROAD (KALINGA ROUTE)
The Tabuk Route is the most scenic route but also the most dangerous because of undeveloped narrow roads with a lot of landslides.
One of the things to look forward to on this trip is the view of Mt. Sleeping Beauty in Kalinga on a clear, sunny day (without the fog).
This is the longest route and only used when the other two routes are unpassable because of landslides.
VIA BAGUIO (BENGUET ROUTE)
The most popular route because you can stop by Baguio and travel the next day comfortably with many other stopovers along the way.
Don’t forget to stop and appreciate the highest point of the Philippine Highway System.
This is the shortest route to Sagada but can get congested.
VIA BANAUE RICE TERRACES (BANAUE ROUTE)
This is the route that passes through the famed Banaue Rice Terraces.
You can stop over to eat and meet the local Ifugao people, but most of the viewpoints are very touristic.
This route is usually used as a return trip back to Manila or if you want to skip the visit to Baguio.
You can also travel via Bus through Codalines. You can book your trip with www.biyaheroes.com.
Related blog post: BIYAHEROES: The Best Online Bus Booking Platform in Manila! Try it!
The best time to go is during the cold season of November around the time of the Sagada Orange harvest, and summer for those who want to escape the heat of Manila.
OAP recommends Log Cabin. Originally belonging to the nephew of the owner, this lone private accommodation is considered one of the better abodes in Sagada.
Walk-in bookings are P1,800 per night, and pre-booked reservations are P1,500 per night.
Also check out Martha’s Hearth, the new bed & breakfast project from the people behind Log Cabin.
You can also stay at Inns with basic rooms and amenities, like Bilza Sagada, which is near the Sumaguing Caves and surrounded by lots of pine trees.
YOGURT HOUSE has been voted the #1 restaurant in Sagada that every local or foreign tourist must visit as part of their Sagada experience. It’s famous for its yogurt, which is even better than the ones here in Manila.
It’s been very consistent in terms of quality over the years, but its price keeps increasing. It also has very strict rules, which adds to its snobbish appeal.
YOGURT HOUSE SAGADA
South Road, Sagada, Mountain Province
GAIA CAFE is a community-based Kankanaey cafe by Gawani in Ambasing, Sagada. Its tree-house-inspired cafe made from scraps is located on a cliff with a 270-degree view of the valley on the way to Sumaguing Cave.
The name means “Mother Earth” in Greek, and they only serve organic, community-sourced ingredients from around Sagada. The menu is mostly vegetarian, but not limited to it.
GAIA CAFE AND CRAFTS
Ambasing, Sagada, Philippines
Mobile: +63 949 137 6777 (Smart) +63 915 727 6831 (Globe)
Operating Hours: Mondays to Saturdays 11.00am to 7pm
Facebook: Gaia Cafe and Crafts
CELLAR DOOR by Andrew Chinaplan Jr. and Binggirl Clements is Sagada’s first and only private dining, wine cellar, and craft brewery place.
Bing prepares her signature Igorot and Ilonggo Buffet (at least 3 hours prior reservation required) at Agadulay’s Kitchen. They can also serve a French Buffet by Sagada-based French Chef Aklay, but you have to reserve 3 days in advance.
Andrew curates their wine cellar and brews the Sagada craft beers, proudly made from local products like Sagada Arabica Coffee, Heirloom Rice, Sunflower Honey, and Sagada Oranges.
SAGADA CELLAR DOOR
(Strictly by Reservation)
Lallalai, Poblacion, Sagada, Mountain Province, Sagada
Mobile: +63918 942 8506, +63917 554 1354
Facebook: Sagada Cellar Door
Log Cabin has made a name for itself as a favorite among both locals and tourists in Sagada. This rustic home was transformed into a bar, restaurant, and then lodge in the 90’s by Dave and Janice Gulian.
In its early stages, Log Cabin was a bar exclusively for foreign dignitaries. Food was incorporated into the menu after Dave and Janice returned from Switzerland and experimented with the European palate. A fusion of European and Filipino elements eventually made up the 5-set menu we know today.
Log Cabin is most recognized for its Saturday buffets prepared by French Chef, Philippe Heyer, who has had more than two decades of culinary experience all over the world. Alas, Chef Aklay (his Igorot name) is no longer part of the Log Cabin Family, but the buffet still carries on every week.
For a good home-cooked Sagada meal, visit Sagada Homestay’s Diner for their affordable buffet.
SAGADA CAVE CONNECTION
Aside from its coveted weather and otherworldly landscapes, Sagada is blessed with stunning limestone caves filled with millennia worth of history. The most popular locations for caving activities are in the Sumaguing, Lumiang, and Balangagan Caves. Here, adventurers can test their limits while exploring ancient burial grounds and magnificent rock formations.
Most tourists opt for the 2-hour course at Sumaguing; this is the quickest and most scenic route that’s ideal for visitors short on time. We chose the 4 to 5-hour Cave Connection course, which starts at Lumiang and ends at Sumaguing, to have ample time to explore the inner beauty of Sagada.
NOTE: For kids, they can visit Sumaguing Caves, but they don’t provide helmet or hiking sticks. Explore at your own risk with your kids.
MARLBORO COUNTRY SUNRISE
Whenever I think of Sagada, visions of cloud-filled vistas and verdant landscapes with a mystical allure come to mind. There is something just so transcendental about Mountain Provinces–it’s probably because they’re so close to the sky!
On our visit to the chilly Mountain Province, the team embarked on adventures that tested us in every sense of the word. From the frigid weather, perilous roads, slippery trekking paths, and the eerie cave passages, visitors will leave Sagada having conquered at least one thing.
Kamanbaneng Peak, often referred to as Marlboro Country by locals, was one of our first conquests. Its unique 360 view of Sagada, Bontoc, and Sabangan at Mt. Lamagan makes it a better alternative to the sunrise viewpoint at Kiltepan.
TIP: We don’t recommend the Mt. Kiltepan Sunrise viewpoint because the site is already destroyed with uncontrolled tourists.
HANGING COFFINS & PANAG-APOY
Sagada’s Mysterious Hanging Coffins at Echo Valley attest to the 2,000-year-old Igorot burial traditions that have fascinated the world. Pinewood coffins suspended with primitive wires and ropes along limestone cliffs act as vessels to heaven. The departed assume a fetal position, as it is believed that souls should leave the earth the same way they entered it. Little written records exist to document this bizarre practice; rather, knowledge is passed down through word of mouth by Applai elders.
Aside from their animist beliefs, the Applai hung coffins on cliffs for pragmatic reasons—high places meant the coffins were protected from wild animals and humans. Similar rituals are found in parts of Indonesia, but historians believe they may have their roots in China. Chinese tribes, such as the Bo and Guyue, also had a practice of burying their dead along cliffs. It is possible the tribes made contact along the way.
The rise of Christianity has prompted Igorots to opt for western-style cemeteries where they honor the dead on Panag–Apoy, a Sagadian All Saints Day celebrated every November 1st.
SAGADA ORANGE PICKING
Orange Picking in Sagada has always been on the bucket list for our kids ever since they tried and enjoyed the Strawberry picking experience in Benguet.
Some people think it’s corny and a tourist trap, but for children, tactile experiences like this can be unforgettable. Learning first hand where Sagada oranges come from also gives them a better appreciation of these fruits.
TIP: Hear Sunday Mass at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin when you visit over the weekend.
Daily Services: 6:30am – Mass
Sundays: 6:30am – Mass | 8:30am – Sung Mass | 8:30am – Sunday School
These are the best pasalubongs that are unique to Sagada and that your loved ones would appreciate.
The Best Lemon Pie from Sagada Coop Canteen. Visit them near the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and order in advance.
Gaia Cafe sells the best artisan inabel (weaves), Sagada apparel, and bags. We bought our weaved camera strap and backpack from here.
Buy Etag meat to bring home a taste of Sagada.
Buy as many Sagada oranges as you can during the harvest time of the “BER” season.
Make sure to visit the Sagada Bakery for traditional Filipino bread and this mamon for the kids.
Thank you for reading this Sagada Food and Travel Guide! Let me know if you have additional suggestions on awesome experiences in Sagada.
Please email me at [email protected] or message me on Facebook @antondiaz or via text +63 917 568-3627 for questions, tips, and suggestions.
SAGADA TRAVEL GUIDE 2017 Series:
• SAGADA Itinerary DIY: The Road to Sagada (2017) @FordPhilippines
• YOGURT HOUSE SAGADA: Best Breakfast Place in Sagada! (2016 Review)
• GAIA Sagada Cafe: That Famed Cafe in “That Thing Called Tadhana” (Review)
• SAGADA CELLAR DOOR: Agadulay’s Kitchen Igorot Dinner and Sagada Craft Beer Experience! (A Review)
• LOG CABIN: A Cozy Retreat in Sagada (A 2016 Review)
• LUMIANG TO SUMAGUING CAVE: Conquering Sagada’s Cave Connection!
• SAGADA DEATH RITUALS: On Hanging Coffins, Panag-Apoy and Echoes of Old Igorot Traditions
• SAGADA’S MARLBORO: Basking in a Sea of Clouds at Kamanbaneng Sunrise Peak! (Photo Essay)
• SAGADA ORANGE PICKING Guide at Rock Farm Inn (Photo Essay)
• BIYAHEROES: The Best Online Bus Booking Platform in Manila! Try it!
Live an Awesome Life,
Disclosure: This post was in collaboration with Ford Philippines. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.