Ganduyan: Laylaydek Sik-a

Posted: September 25, 2012 in Blog, Travel
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Ganduyan: Laylaydek Sik-a
ITLog No.1

Sagada, formerly called Ganduyan, is a quaint and quiet town of Mountain Province tucked away in the stunning mountains of Northern Luzon – 12 hours drive north of Manila, 5-6 hours north of Baguio City and about 2 hours further from the provincial capital, Bontoc. Sagada was what Baguio City was 50-100 years ago, and unlike the latter, has a more laidback, quieter, and slower pace of lifestyle with the culture, which is steeped in metaphor relatively intact among its Kankanaey populace. The thrilling (and to some, very intimidating) drive to Sagada, which can be accessed either via Banawe in Ifugao or Baguio in Benguet is characterized by precision driving through a narrow highway that snakes through the mountains of the region with drops to at least two kilometers deep down into the ravines, rice terraces and lush pine jungles of the Cordilleras.

Sagada was a foreign backpackers’ secret, until fairly recently when more and more Filipinos started taking notice of this beautiful mountain town- a thousand times better than what Baguio had to offer. Baguio has become an entire city of tourist traps, with unregulated housing construction-effectively replacing pine trees on its once beautiful mountains into a jungle of drab looking houses and a choking air pollution that rivals that of Manila. Sagada has none of that. The air was crisp and clean, and the construction was manageable – only Sagada locals are allowed to purchase land in Sagada. Sagada is known mostly for its natural attractions- and for a little town, there is plenty to do for the intrepid adventurer.

Since my childhood days, living in the City of Baguio, I have never been to Sagada, only in its near-by places like Bontoc and Banaue. With some free time in my hands and some recovery period, we decided to visit Sagada. We were thinking of visiting Sagada on our own but decided to go there with a tour group to lessen the hassle we might incur, meet new friend and decided to join the group, Vagabond Pinas, first, talking to the group was ok, but as the date for the trip came nearer, they were asking for additional money on top of the quoted amount, then what pissed us off was, we were transferred to another group without even informing us that we were not already in the group Vagabond Pinas, but with another group for the trip. We decided to push thru with the trip with the group Anywhere Phil, and hoping this would be a better group, and I think is a better group but also a fun group to be with.

We were picked up by Ivy, Ian, JJ and the rest of the group at Jollibee Cubao and started our trip to Baguio where we would pick-up another couple (Marc and April), arriving in Baguio around 0400hrs, with stop over at NLEX and La Union. Leaving Baguio around 0430hrs, passing thru Bugias and Mt. Data, and arriving in Sagada at around 0900hrs. The group first registered at the Tourist Center then we checked in our bags at The Traveler’s Inn. We went around since it was a Saturday and a market day in Sagada, eating some karioka and others street foods. Then saw some cured meat, which they call “ETAG” or INASIN.

Igorots are known to be meat-eaters. During festive occasions, they prepare their favorite dishes, often pork-based, making Etag a regular ingredient. Every part of the pork carcass is used in preparing the various local dishes. Etag dishes are consumed with much delight along with rice wine and other locally brewed alcoholic beverages.

Etag is very much a part of the Igorots’ culture and age-old traditions. For instance, when a child is born, Etag is processed and preserved. It will only be taken out of storage and cooked when the child gets married and served as one of the dishes during the wedding celebration.

The fastest way of preparing Etag is by rubbing the meat, bones, fat and all, thoroughly with a generous amount of salt. For the curing process, the pieces of meat are hung to dry, either to air-dry or sun-dry. If the preferred wood is available, some cure the Etag by smoking. This is considered the best way to cure Etag. The meat is smoked for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours per day, for at least two weeks. However, the meat should not be reached by the flames and should not be exposed to excessive heat. After smoking, Etag is ready for storage for future use.

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Lunch was at the Masferre’s Country Inn and Restaurant , then rested a while and got some souvenirs for friends. At 1400hrs, we headed to the big falls or Bomod-ok falls, with our guide with us, we started our trek to the falls passing thru a small village, some rice granaries and rice paddies.

Bomod-ok Falls or simply the Big Falls — is one of Sagada’s most visited and sought-after attractions. Despite being one of the few sites of interest that is a few minutes’ hike from the town center, countless visitors still brave the long trek to admire the 200-feet tall column of water as it splashes down on the cold pools below.
To get to the Big Falls, one must hire a guide from the Tourism Desk at the Town Hall care of the Sagada Environmental Guides Association (SEGA) or the office of the newly established Sagada Genuine Guides Association (SAGGAS). For the former, the charge for a group of 10 people or less is a pretty affordable rate of 600 pesos (~15 USD). Use this to your advantage! Look for other small groups who would be willing to split the fee with you. Who knows, you might even make friends in the process.
The trail to the Big Falls would take you on a long and exhausting trek along the sides of countless rice terraces! You literally walk between rice paddies and scale the elevated portions to the lower levels through the use of the sturdy stone-walls of the terraces. The ingenuity of these people would totally impress you. The rocks were once in the riverbed but thanks to the great minds and muscles of the ancestors of the present day Sagadans, this great construction project is in existence for all of us to see and appreciate.

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We started back late in the afternoon, and was dark already when we got to the van, headed for Log Cabin for dinner but decided to eat at Strawberry House instead, we ate pancit, baked chicken with veggies and mountain tea. After dinner and was so exhausted on the trek, we turned in for the night at 2200hrs.

Woke up at around 0600hrs and took a cold shower (I did not notice the switch for the heater), we ate cinnamon bread and pancit for breakfast then went to St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church where we heard a sung mass at 0830hrs. I got to talk to Mary Gang-aoen (teacher of Sunday school), who knows the parents of my childhood friends in Baguio.

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We then headed for Ganduyan Museum and met Christina Aben (born on Christmas Day), curator of the museum, she explained to us the different items in her collection and then showed us here drawings and pottery work including her bead work.

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We ate lunch at Kusina Igorota – dinuguan, nilagang pata with rice and mountain tea. Meeting up with the group and then headed for Lumiang/Sumaging Caves for the cave connection (here is where I hyper-extended my knee, repelling down).

Sagada boasts more than a cool mountain climate, forests full of pines and tree ferns, and exotic burial rituals. Our principle reason for coming here was to bone up on our spelunking skills by doing the famous Cave Connection, a four-hour cave crawling tour linking the Lumiang and Sumaging cave systems. This tour requires its participants to repel down vertical shafts, crawl, squirm, dangle off of ledges, slip, slide, wade waist-deep through underground streams, and clamber over wedding cake cave formations – in other words, it’s serious food for your inner child.

After an exhausting caving, we went back to traveler’s inn and cleaned up all those guano and took a shower then rested for the night.

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We woke up at 0530hrs and headed for Kiltepan, but it was so foggy that we were not able to see the sunrise. So we headed back and ate breakfast at Ganduyan Inn – ham and cheese omelet and yogurt. We bought some Sagada oranges and other souvenirs and by 0830hrs, we meet up with the group at St. Mary the Virgin and started walking to Echo Valley.

Passing thru the cemetery where I noticed the burnt wood near all the tombstones, this is where I learned about the panag-apoy.

Panag-apoy or to produce fire is a practice of Sagada folks as “pananglagip sin minatey” (a way of remembering our dead kin) kankanaeys use saeng (pine pitch) instead of the conventional candles that are available in stores.

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After Echo Valley, we went back to traveler’s inn and packed our things and checked out, by 1100hrs, we headed for Lemon House but were not serving lunch yet so we ate at Shanghai House nearby, we ate shanghai with ham and eggs and pancit. Then went back to Lemon house and tasted their Lemon Pie.

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Started travelling and headed for Baguio stopping at the Highest Hi-way Point in the Philippines and then reaching Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad at dusk. We passed by our parents house then on the way we stopped got take-outs for dinner. By 2000hrs we were on our way to Manila and by 0130hrs was headed back home and dropping all our bags and taking a good night sleep.

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Sagada is one of the laid-back places you could go to for some peace and quiet time all alone or with someone. Good food, good weather and most specially, friendly people not to mention good place to get high. Thank you Anywhere Phil for the wonderful trip we had with you guys… we would like to take a trip with you guys again.

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Till our next travel
HAPPY TRAILS!!!

All photos are owned and copyrighted by Joey Rico (also known under these names: alien_scream).
All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use, copy, editing, reproduction, publication, duplication and distribution of the digital photos, without his explicit permission, is punishable by law

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.

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