There is this quote by Albert Camus—“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time”—that sums up succinctly how I feel about Sagada.
I feel that it is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. The moment I set foot on that enclave up in the mountains, I am already making plans for my next visit. It’s a place I long to come back to over and over again, not only for its stunning rice terraces, lush forests, beautiful caves and cool climate, but also because being there, being “at two with nature” as Woody Allen put it, grounds me. A visit to Sagada, more than anything, is a lesson on living in the moment—a lesson that’s not entirely easy peasy, because whatever reward you intend to get out of the place, you bust your balls to achieve.
For one, it isn’t exactly the most accessible place in the world. To get to this mountain destination, you have to take a four- to six-hour bus ride from Manila to Baguio (best to leave by midnight!) before hopping on to another (older and more rickety) bus that’ll take you to Sagada in six impossibly long hours. While there is rough, dusty road ahead—although I was thrilled to discover they’ve cut this down to a whopping 30 minutes—the view going up will offer you a glimpse of the beauty that is to come.
Once you get to the place, whatever “beauty” you want to catch a glimpse of, you have to put in more effort than you’re used to. Whether it’s making the uphill walk to Calvary Hill and Echo Valley, trekking amidst lush rice paddies to get to the freezing waters of scenic Bomod-ok Falls, or navigating your way from Lumiang to Sumaguing Cave to see its gorgeous limestone formations and underwater pools, Sagada guarantees that every experience is an overwhelming assault to the senses.
Here are some of my favorite snaps from last weekend’s action-packed trip (in somewhat chronological order):
Finally, a video of the rice terraces, because the photos simply do not do them justice: