Sagada is lush and hilly, picturesque and calm, and the weather is mildly cool, which offers a much-needed respite from the searing summer humidity of the lowlands. And when you add to that list a smattering of caves, a bunch of hanging coffins, and a good deal of treks to be undertaken, its easy to understand the lure of Sagada.
We were there for a few days during Holy week (turns out Holy Week is the busiest time of the year for Sagada, d’oh) and it quickly filled up with loud and excited Filipinos on vacation. I was amazed at the size of each family, and even more so at how many people they managed to cram in each room.
However–much to our bewilderment and dismay–at 5:30 am every morning our entire building shook as doors slammed, and people yammered loudly as they thumped up and down the stairs for their turn in the shared bathrooms. I coulda sworn they were doing it on purpose! Xiker and I usually fell back asleep around 7, when everyone left for breakfast. (However, after spending more than two weeks in the Philippines, we now know it is perfectly normal for Filipinos to get up this early.)
Even when the sun wasn’t shining, the landscape was a gorgeous sight to drink in. Since I am extremely resentful of crowds (especially when everyone feels the need to stop and pose in front of just about anything) we didn’t bother with tours or treks, and just ambled around the countryside.
At first, it seems like the town of Sagada is nothing more than a cluster of homestays, restaurants and tourist shops selling “my [relative] went to Sagada and all I got was this shirt”, but the villages down in the rice terraces are alive with smiling folk who don’t make a living off the hordes of tourists.
The local peeps are of Applai ancestry, and their local language is Kankanay, though many also speak Ilocano and English (and who knows what else).
Some folks were surprised to see us foreigners wandering around, and called us over to ask a few questions. Not all the children were thrilled to see us, but they were definitely curious, and we managed to bag a few adorable photos. I wish we could carry around a portable printer and hand out pictures we take, just to give something back.