TRAVEL: Achievement Unlocked – Driving the Manila-Sagada-Manila Loop

Some people enjoy taking long jogs alone, other enjoy going to rave parties with their crew. Some enjoy gastronomic feasts with their barkada while others prefer a quiet me-time at the salon. I, oddly, enjoy long drives.

We all have different ways to relax and unwind, to recharge, and to open our minds and get into thinking. Long drives are like my refresh button. I get to explore a lot of places at my own pace and bond with my closest peeps. The long road ahead is like a path towards a goal and reaching your destination is like reaching a finish line but more often with the reward of a scenic view.

The longest road trip I took before was a drive from Manila to Baler to Isabela and back to Manila. It was a slow and steady drive, taking a few days of discovery both in Baler and Isabela. After driving on the buwis-buhay highway in Quirino from Baler to Isabela, I felt I can take on any road.


(Note: My most memorable drive was on this dirt road. The highway in Quirino from Baler to Isabela was still under construction at that time. The right side shows part of the mountain, and the left side show trees but that’s actually a cliff. Imagine driving on a Yaris with manual transmission for 2-3 hours on a road like this.)

I felt I was already prepared to take on a bigger adventure, a longer drive that is. So, with a few of my friends, we embarked on a trip to Sagada.

Also, I learned my lesson from my previous long drive so this time, I brought a Toyota FJ Cruiser.

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Driving to Sagada

We left Manila at around 11PM on a Friday. A little before 3AM, we were already on our way going up to Baguio. SCTEX has really cut the travel time from Manila to Baguio. However, since it was dark out, we had to drive a little slower. Also, a lot of people are going to Baguio that time so it felt like we were just driving in one of the highways in Manila.

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It was still dark when we reached Baguio but knowing that the road going to Sagada is dangerous because it is full of twist and turns on a cliff, we decided to wait it out until the sun was out. We spent some time on a gas station in Baguio. We rested for a bit and when it was the morning, we drove to Sagada.

According to Google Maps (GMaps), Baguio to Sagada was still a 5-hour drive but because we were really *good* navigators, we got lost. So, the 5-hour trip turned out to be 8 hours. LOL!

GMaps had a bit of a glitch that time and our GPS became wonky. So, when both became okay, we realized we were going farther from the destination than nearer. Had we not asked, we might have reached Cagayan.

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Pagod na pero fresh pa bes.

But that’s okay, the view was amazing.

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There were lots of nature to see while driving and the cool breeze was refreshing that we even decided to drive with windows open.

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So near yet so far…

We got back on track and reached Mountain Province soon enough. We were so hungry and so close to Sagada at this point.

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We reached Sagada a little after 2PM. We checked in at Misty Lodge and Cafe. The place was cozy and the dining area had a fireplace. After a quick check in, we had our first meal in Sagada at the lodge itself.

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A cozy nook at Misty Lodge and Cafe

We settled on our rooms and took a rest for an hour. Then, we decided to go out and go around Sagada.

Our first stop is the famous Lemon Pie House. There is not much to choose from the menu, so we ordered a slice of lemon pie each. After that, we decided to have our dinner at Happy House.

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Lemon pies

Conquered Halsema Highway! Woot woot!

The Morning After

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We started our day early the next day. We got up around 3AM and hit the road going to Mt. Kiltepan.

Now, driving on Sagada roads is really an adventure. Driving at wee hours in the morning in the darkness and fog, that is some another level of scary. Yet, the FJ Cruiser is really reliable. We reached Mt. Kiltepan viewpoint without any problem.

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We waited for the sun to rise at Mt. Kiltepan and see the famous sea of clouds. There were lots of people already, despite That Thing Called Tadhana being over a year old. We were lucky to have a fine weather during our visit. We were awed by the amazing view of the sea of clouds. We took pictures and marveled at the scenery.

We decided to leave Mt. Kiltepan around 8AM. Other people began to leave to. Going down the mountain was a little tough, good thing our ride is a 4×4.

After that, we decided to have our brunch at Salt and Pepper. We all ordered hot chocolate and our healthy brunch meal. Their hot chocolate was really good.

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After breakfast, we went back to Misty Lodge and took a nap.

We decided to have a late lunch at Gaia Cafe which became famous because of the movie That Thing Called Tadhana. We didn’t know that it was a vegetarian restaurant. LOL!

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The view from the restaurant was really amazing though!

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We went back at our lodge when it got dark.

Going Home

The next day, we already had to go home. It was a short but sweet getaway to Sagada.

We woke up early and had to drive down from Sagada. We decided to take a different route this time and pass by Banaue.

The way from Sagada to Manila was a little scary since it was foggy and there were a few landslide-prone areas that we have to pass through. A tip given by a seasoned local driver was to drive “double time” in areas that deem to be affected by landslide.

After a few hours of driving, we were able to have a view of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces. We took a stop on one of the viewing decks to take photos. It is really a marvelous creation.

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Our pictures don’t give justice on how amazing the view was. You have to really see it!

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When we passed by Nueva Vizcaya, we had a stopover for brunch at G&B.

Then, we continued heading home. We reached Manila around 6PM.

It was a fun drive. Would I do it again? I definitely will.

***Special shoutout to Toyota Motors Philippines! The FJ Cruiser was really rough and tough!

Where should we drive next?