Sagada establioshes school of living traditions

SAGADA, Mt. Province – Thirty pupils and students here recently took turns beating gongs, stepping into the movements of ethnic dances, chanting and singing songs of old at the end of their 36-day immersion into their own culture.

Their recital at the Sagada Central School last March 21 marked the initial phase of a continuing effort to pass on the cultural practices and traditions of this remote, yet internationally famous cultural haven, under the guidance of the School of Living Traditions established last September.

Maria Crisedna Magsumbol of the National Commission on Culture and Arts which is supporting the program, said the second phase of the training will begin this month, to focus deeper on indigenous music and dances, indigenous knowledge, crafts and arts and traditional environmental and agricultural practices.

Initiated by Culture for Peace and Progress Network (CupNet), a non-government organization led by Alberto Salbino and program coordinator Manny Gayao, the program is supported by the Sagada Central School and the Sagada National High School and the Barangay Council of Patay, Poblacion under village chief Dennis Lopez.

Mt. Province Gov. Maximo Dalog and Evelyn Taclobao, member of the executive committee on cultural and traditional arts of the NCCA, earlier endorsed the school similar to that earlier established in neighboring Ifugao Province.

Gayao said that while Sagada’s cultural practices such as the “begnas” and other rituals are still intact and being observed, they are expected to diminish gradually due to migration, commercialization of the economy and other influences.

“As part of the learning process, the kids were asked to research and learn from their parents and grandparents chants and songs such as the ‘day-eng’, “liwliwa’, oggayam’ and ‘daing”, Gayao said.

“We’re just glad that the elders of Sagada, who are the cultural keepers and masters, were enthusiastic enough to help the two schools teach the children,”

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What to Pack for Sagada

Let us start with our basic premises: In Sagada one does a lot of walking and exploring above — and below
— ground! Most likely you will be arriving by bus and even if you’re getting there by private transport, your vehicle can only take you so far while sightseeing. So you will want to bring with you only the absolutely essential stuff.
In general, bring only the essential stuff. Think nature. Think rural. Don’t even think “Wi-Fi” at this point unless you’ve subscrbed to your own mobile internet service, ok?

Since Sagada is all about exploration, the most important thing would be sensible walking shoes like comfortable rubber shoes or sturdy sandals. We will match these with walking shorts, a light shirt and a light jacket.

Footwear — Rubber shoes, hiking shoes, sandals or slippers If you have water shoes like Aqua Socks, it’ll be good to bring them along, too, especially for the wet & slippery parts of Sumaging Cave..

Light clothing — There are lots of places to explore and although you can dictate your own pace, sightseeing on foot alone can be physically very strenuous for urbanites especially, so one does not want to be weighed down by heavy bulky clothing.

Light Jacket — But it can get chilly, you say, ergo the light jacket that should keep you relatively warm during the day and can protect you from the harshness of the bright sunlight. It is also easy to take off and wrap around the waste without affecting your ability to move freely.

Small Backpack – A small knapsack for supplies, spare clothing and personal belongings will be good to carry around while exploring Sagada. For example, a trek to the Big Falls will take a few hours and you will probably get thirsty or a bit hungry along the way. It would be good to pack therein a water bottle, spare shorts and a shirt every time for a change of clothing, if necessary. Make sure it is not laden with supplies so it does not weigh you down.

Your back pack will also be a good place to keep your cellphone in a water proof container — make sure you have a little plastic bag to store it in, at least — so that it does not get wet by accident when exploring Sumaging Cave or going the falls. It’s better to move around with a backpack than a shoulder bag so your limbs can have free movement for any climb or descent.

Swimwear — Since there are underground rivers and pools, big and small falls, you may want to pack swimwear, of course.

Sun protection stuff — Lots of sunlight when touring and hiking (not down in the caves, of course) so bring sunglasses, a cap or a hat, sun block.

Personal stuff — A towel, toiletry items, medicines, etc. Depending on your choice of lodging, Sagada hotels & inns do not always provide guests with towels, so play safe and bring one. Plus you may need to towel off anyway when you go swimming in the caves or at the falls.

Toiletry items available in stores are pretty ordinary stuff, like toothpaste, soap and shampoo, with only the most common and ordinary brands and products.

Sagada is a small remote town and not at all sophisticated (except when it comes to food) so if you require a special brand or product that may be available in Philippine cities, be sure to bring them on your vacation as, again, it will most likely not be available for sale in stores.

Bring your own medicines, although there is a pharmacy in town, and make sure someone in your group will be carrying a handy first aid kit because, although the guides are professional and will not put you in harm’s way at any point, there’s a lot of physical exertion involved in the enjoyment of the great outdoors.

These are my Sagada essentials. The clothes and footwear fit into one small carry on luggage, the personal stuff and camera in the back pack. I did remember to bring a towel.

Sagada countryside

Walking around the countryside in Sagada is a pleasant way to spend the day. If you use common sense and walk on the trails and the thicker paddy dikes there will be no problem because the people that live in this area are used to tourists passing through.

The terrain is not very rugged like around Banaue and Tinglayan so it can be an easy walk and you can cover a lot of territory.
Most of the rice planting is done in February around Sagada. There are many cabbage and bean fields and you find potatoes and tomatoes now and then.

There are some some citrus trees introduced from Spain years ago but coconut trees are rare in Sagada because of the elevation. The few you do see are not good producers. Pine trees and coffee trees also grow in the hills.
The cabbage farmers were spraying the fields with pesticides because there are scores of white butterflies laying eggs on their crops. They tell me if they don’t there will be nothing to bring to market.

I am told a relatively new type of diamond back moth or butterfly has invaded the Sagada area that is particularly vicious. The larvae bore into the center of the cabbage heads and completely destroy the plant. Some of them even hint that they think the chemical companies have introduced these bugs so they can sell more pesticide.
It doesn’t seem likely but who knows. In the 1980′s a new type of snail was introduced through some program that was supposed to provide a new food source but instead these snails attacked the rice seedlings and have displaced the indigenous snails.

In the old days farmers would have a mesh bag where they would collect snails from the fields as they worked and bring them home for dinner for the kids. One guy told me that that was the highlight of the day when his father would return home from the fields with a bag full of them.
The brightly colored snail eggs show up all through the fields but are not yet found in the Tinglayan fields or in Malagkong. The mountain people there are proud that there are no pesticides used in the fields of Tinglayan yet.

There are so many ceremonies and traditions in Sagada that it would take years to study them and get a understanding of why they do things the way they do. Everything has a time and a purpose and the old animist religions are still strong in this area.

Sagada, Mountain Province

The Philippine version of Shangri-la, Sagada may not be Utopian but it is definitely remote and exotic. Located 275-km north of Manila (100-km from Baguio) near the provincial capital of Bontoc it’s a long day’s bus ride starting from the Dangwa bus station in Baguio over the narrow mountain tracks traversing the Cordilleras.

Popular as a destination of foreign adventurers, Sagada features caves that can be explored (even by non-experts) with the aid of local guides, an interesting hike along an underground river, a waterfall and pool to cool off in after a day of exploring, and a quiet serenity only found off the beaten path. The forebears of the current residents practiced an unusual burial practice by hanging and stacking coffins, hewed from tree trunks, in the limestone karst cliffs and caves near town.

A nice place to stay is the St. Joseph’s Guest House run by the nuns of an Episcopalian convent. They provide comfortable rooms, some meals, and help locate guides. From Sagada it is a short ride to Bontoc where you can catch a jeepney to Banaue and its famous rice terraces. At the Bontoc bus stop, visit the gift shop and pick up a few photos of the mountain tribes taken by E. Masferé. Once you reach Banaue, you might want to try hiking to yet another Shangri-la, with fantastic rice terraces, called Batad. More information about the northern provinces can be found in the travel section of Tribung Pinoy (link on home page).

Here’s a large map. Thanks Kelly: Sagadamap.jpg (300k)

Trek to Bomod-Ok Falls in Sagada, Mountain Province


Another popular activity that one shouldn’t miss when visiting Sagada is the trek to two of Sagada’s most visited and sought after attractions – the Bokong Falls (Small Falls) and Bomod-Ok Falls (Big Falls.)

Our group was supposed to visit these two falls on our third day in Sagada but since we didn’t have much time, we decided not to push through with our trek to Bokong Falls and just headed on to the 200-feet tall, Bomod-Ok Falls.

From the town proper, we rented a jeepney that took us to Banga-an, the entry point to the Big Falls. The trek begins near a basketball court in Banga-an, then passing through the villages of Modongo, Banga-an, and Fidelisan. The downhill trek has already been made easier because of the concrete walkways that were built across the maze-like trails of the rice terraces. The whole trek was really long and exhausting, with the sun scorching at times. This, however, was worth all the effort because the views and sceneries of the picturesque rice terraces on your way down were truly stunning and breathtaking.
Upon arrival, we eagerly dipped into the swimming area and enjoyed the icy cold water of Bomod-Ok Falls. We had to be extra careful though since there were some deeper parts of the water.

Why is it a perfect sanctuary for writers?

Writers, most often need a time for themselves to recharge their minds with awe-inspiring thoughts and ideas again. And for that, traveling could perhaps be considered a perfect pill. When a writer left his/her comfort zone and head on to an unfamiliar place and went back home filled with heartfelt inspiration to write about the place he/she had been, then perhaps, that writer gladly found a silent sanctuary in that unfamiliar place.
As for this writer, her silent sanctuary was found in the little town of Sagada, Mountain Province, where life is simple, blissful, and the people know how to care for the environment.

The Magic of Sagada

For those who love adventures and likes vigorous activities such as spelunking, trekking, and mountain climbing, Sagada is the perfect place for you. Nature-lovers, however, would also love walking down the trail with wonderful natural sights to behold.
Upon arriving in the town proper of Sagada, tourists are asked to register their names in the tourism office located few steps away from the bus drop-off point. This way, the local officials would know who the visitors of that day are so it won’t be hard to identify them should there be any problem or accident that may occur. At the tourism office, every tourist will be asked to pay a registration fee of P10.00, a small amount that could help maintain the cleanliness of Sagada. An instruction/special guide on how to go along the town safe and sound will be provided, as well as a map the places of interests.

Since time immemorial, Sagada is popularly known for its subterranean caves used as burial grounds by the natives, eminent limestone cliffs and nearby scenic falls. Some caves like Sumaging, the deepest and the biggest, requires strong endurance and enthusiasm.
Other stunning destinations are Bomod-ok and Bokong Falls, Danom Lake and Weaving Shops. Trekking the nearby mountains is an ultimate experience although it must be done with local guides. There are simple trails for short hikes which are leading to some picturesque summits, and can be easily done in one day, or longer for those who may want to camp out. Those who came with motorbikes and mountainbikes, all trails inside Sagada are excellent courses for hi-adrenalin trips. Sagada may not have the luxury of hi-tech society but it has the abundance not even a well traveled man have ever experienced anywhere in the Philippines.
Other places and spots that should not be missed when in Sagada are the Echo Valley—where you can actually hear your name being called back by the mountains three times; the Underground River—a tough challenge in itself since the trail is very steep and slippery and is covered with vegetation; Sagada Rice Terraces—the town’s version of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces; St. Mary’s Episcopal Church; the creepy cemetery; and the Calvary.
Aside from these marvelous sights, travelers also flock in Sagada to try the famo us restaurants there such as the Elena’s Lemon Pie House, The Shamrock Restaurant, Alfredo’s, Masfere’s Inn, Bana’s Café—which serves the best buttered chicken in town, and the prominent Yoghurt House which is known for its homemade yoghurts covered with granola and a choice of fresh strawberries, bananas, and mangoes.

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