Conquer Sagada with Travel Factor
When in Manila, you’ll find yourself constantly making excuses to get a break off your hectic schedule just to explore the various attractions and countless destinations the Philippines has to offer. From breathtaking beaches, unparalleled party scenes, and photographic landscapes, the country provides only the finest form of entertainment fit for every stereotype.
If for a certain moment, what you seek is thrill and adventure, something you won’t see on a normal day, and if you are hungry for snippets of unstained Philippine culture, then pack your bags, man up, and conquer Sagada. And what better way to do that than with Travel Factor.
Last Feb 16-18, I participated in one of Travel Factor’s featured destinations. Visiting Sagada was really nothing I expected. I’ve heard only a few things about province and I felt I needed a change from my usual beach outings. As most people would know, Sagada is a peaceful area situated in the higher regions of the archipelago, home to abundant crops and humble indigenous Philippine people. What the lucky few know is that it conceals natural wonders that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Travel Factor was born in 2006 when a group of individuals decided to take a different approach to travel and wanted to share their passion with others. Years later they’ve managed to make the best-kept secrets of any destination accessible to everyone at reasonable fees. In cooperation with Victory Liner’s Biyaheng Victory, any of their featured destinations (both local and international) will immerse you in a carefully thought out list of activities that will make your stay worthwhile and hassle free yet pocket friendly.
It’s one thing to travel with close friends and loved ones, but it’s a totally different experience to explore a new place with a set of new faces. Travel Factor‘s trips can accommodate more or less 40 people and will give you the opportunity to meet new individuals.
The moment we reached the road towards Sagada, I was welcomed by a stunning view of rice terraces and fresh green mountains. The morning sun woke me, lighting up the cheeks of my companion, and displayed the perfect moment, one that I’d hardly witness in Manila.
We settled in a cozy little inn that gave the comforts of home at a rather conservative cost (which is, of course, already included in the travel package). After devouring our hefty lunch, we then prepared ourselves for the start of the weekend of adventure and the unknown.
The journey began with a trek down to the famous Bomod-ok falls. It was long and treacherous, not for your ordinary couch potato. If not physically fit, you’d have to come equipped with the guts and hungry for thrill of the continuous battle of keeping your strides confined between the tiny steps towards the foot of the mountain. There’s but a thin line between coming home with a great story and falling head first on the sharp rocks no matter how pretty the view or dramatically you would’ve ended your life (just kidding).
The reward after going through what seemed like ten thousand miles is the enchanting view of the waterfalls. Taking a dip in the ice-cold lagoon, said to posses healing powers, would make you feel instantly recovered and prep you for the climb back up.
A tiring day would only end perfectly with a good night’s sleep and an equally beautiful wake up call (a trip to the Kiltepan viewpoint). We welcomed the next day with dozens of other vacationers enveloped in blankets of mist and a sea of clouds atop a peaceful mountain. After a few minutes of enduring 15 degrees is the relieving warmth of the sun complete with the picture perfect view.
You’d never leave Sagada without plunging into one its tourist friendly and pretty caves (pretty deadly if you ask me). One of their key attractions is the activity known as Spelunking. I know, it was also the first time I’ve ever encountered the term in my life. In simple words, it is basically the act of cave exploration, though it wasn’t that basic at all.
Sumaging is the more popular one, done by the majority, as it is less tedious and has plenty of graphic rock formations. The cave connection activity though, would start off in Lumiang, which is ideal for those who seek to push themselves and take them back to their chilhood where adventure was only defined by playing in the neighbors’ backyard. Now this is the real deal.
From the beginning to the end, you’ll find yourself constantly twisting, turning, rolling, and getting absolutely dirty all over so don’t expect to tackle it in your glamorous clothes or the cave will eat you alive. I didn’t think I was fit to do any of that but the good thing about being in a tour group of random people is that you’ll feel a sense of confidence and a natural stimulant to get it done because you wouldn’t wanna be called a ‘wuss’. It was really interesting going on that trip with an elderly couple who I felt had more spunk than me, again one of the perks of traveling with Travel Factor.
You’ll instantly develop new relationships because you’ll find yourselves pushing each other to the end. You’ll learn to trust that the guides know what they are doing and throw away all your worries and put your heart and soul into every move. The caves are wonderful and will keep you on your toes and your adrenaline pumping like crazy.
If thrill and adventure is not your thing and you’d rather vie for rich cultural experience, the package also comes with a walking tour that would take you to explore breathtaking views with historical assets that can give you the relaxation and enlightenment you might be looking for.
Sagada is known for being one of the three participating regions that practice the virtue of keeping their loved ones in hanging coffins at the time of death. Burial is one of their distinct traditions and they are very careful when it comes to placing their family members in their final resting places, depending on the cause of death.
Aside from the traditional cemetery in the Calvary Hills, a short walk down to Echo Valley would give you a view of the Hanging Coffins and entertain you with the magic that happens within. From the name itself, any noise you make would be reiterated back, which is not only entertaining but truly magical.
Now like what I said, Sagada is full of glorious secrets: Including food. How can a place bountiful of fresh produce serve food that tastes awful? It doesn’t make sense. Aside from the food served by our inn, Alibama, well known for their Pinikpikan, we frequented a few of the go to places such as Yogurt house and Lemon Pie House, both known for their desserts, Yogurt and Lemon pie (obviously).
So when you’re done with your pasalubong shopping and whenever you have free time, explore the native cuisine because i’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed. Gaia is a vegan cafe located along the road near the caves that had my attention splitting over their scrumptious dishes and the spectacular view overlooking rice terraces. Since you’re already in an environment that forces you to sweat out and detoxify, why not go all out and feed your soul guilt-free food as well?
All in all my experience with Travel Factor can be summed up into one word: Exceptional. For a minimal amount of 4950 php, I can say that it was money well spent. The organisers were very accommodating and created the atmosphere of one huge family. They also made sure that our (possibly) one and only trip to Sagada was a memorable one.
Travel Factor Participants
CONQUER SAGADA: Feb 16-18
Address: 5F Bloomingdale Plaza 200 Shaw Blvd., Brgy. Kapitolyo Pasig City 1603
Office Hours: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM (Mon – Fri)
Contact Numbers: 7465119 (Telephone & Fax) / 09178475341 to 42 (Mobile)
Email: [email protected]travelfactor.org