16 April 2012

Sagada, Mountain Province

En route to Sagada


After almost 15 years, I finally came back (this is my 4th time to visit it). Last weekend, our office held its annual team building in the faraway highlands of Sagada, Mountain Province around 350kms or 11 hours of driving north from Clark. It was worth the long trip!

Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin

Busy weekend market

of the famous photographer Masferre

The morning of Saturday, we were scheduled to see Sumaging cave and the nearby falls but I declined and told them I would run instead. I have seen some of the best tourist spots here and more. The joke now is I did a "one-man building" and not "team building". Anyway, I started my run from Rock Inn (500 meters or so from the town) where we were billeted, passing through the town (where there was a weekend town market), down the way leading to Sumaging but took the right instead going up to Smart Tower. I am not sure but I could have summitted Mt. Ampacao which is not that high. Perhaps, those who have been there could tell whether it is Ampacao based from the pictures below. (Thanks to Andrew of PUR for the guide)

Can you see the bird?
Ingenious but ineffective wooden gate

One of the fantastic views

Some sort of shelter from the harsh weather?

Looking at the guide map, there seems to be a trail connecting Mt. Ampacao to Lake Danum so tried to trace it and went deeper in the mountain using old trail paths but in vain. It was only when I came back down and asked a local guide that I realized it was the wrong path. 

So I found myself back again in town this time planning to trace the connecting trail via the road leading to Besao. For what seemed like an endless climb, there was no lake in sight. All around me were pine trees and mountain ranges. Sagada or Mountain Province in general is literally a region of mountains. One beautiful, majestic mountain after another. Breathtaking.  

After being on my feet for almost 4 hours, I found this off the beaten path to my left from the road. My curiosity diverted me to it and lo and behold, what a surprise! The views from this height were astounding! They were like the ones in UTMB or perhaps even better. The only thing missing is the snow-capped, towering Mont Blanc in the center of the region. Finding this trail path is by far the best part of my run. There was even a nearby mini falls! I shot a short video but the problem is I have to figure out how to upload it here.

So I left the place and continued with my quest to see Lake Danum. As soon as I exited the trail, a Toyota pick up stopped and the man behind the wheel asked:

Driver: "Ano meron diyan" (What can you see there?)
Me:  "Just a fantastic view!!!"
Driver: "Do you know where Lake Danum is?"
Me:  "No. I am also looking for it and got lost too. Perhaps down this road."

The driver just left. Oh well.

My run continued until I reached this junction. My feet took the uphill road on my right but close to 20 minutes of running, the Lake was nowhere in sight. It was now past 1PM since my start at 7:30AM. I decided go back and ended my run for 5 1/2 hours. The blueberries I paid for at the town market before my run, I picked them up on the way to the Rock Inn where I had a sumptuous "pinikpikan with etag" with boiled potatoes and the berries as dessert. The ultimate reward was a dinner buffet later that day at the classy French resto - Log Cabin  with my office mates. It was a perfect way to end the day despite being sunburned to perfection. Ouch and ouch here and there even as of this writing. It was hot for the past few days. I hope the weather will improve during TNF.    


As usual, the trip from Baguio City to Sagada was simply beautiful. Mountains after mountains! As I have said, this is literally a region of mountains. I could not help but think of trail running here to one's heart's content. Even 250 kilometers or more of trail or mountain running is very much possible. The weather is just perfect.

15 years ago, most of the road was not paved but now 90% is. So the travel is now faster. But I prefer the old way to travel before where folks had to take the old buses and stopped along the road to drink or wash from the spring water. I still remember how precarious the travel was then since the road passed and still passes through some of the mountain sides and cliffs.

But what I easily noticed is how populated Sagada town is now. I am not saying it is wrong. Houses are everywhere which somehow marred the images I had of Sagada of the days of yore. Rustic, serene and mysterious. Now it is too commercialized. They are many inns (not called hotels) to accommodate visitors both local and foreigners. At least the curfew of 9pm is generally still being followed to this day.

So I was glad I visited Sagada 15 years ago which memories are now forever etched in my mind. 

I wonder if there is a way to connect Sagada to Kayapa? That will be one heck of a run! Perhaps, I should maintain separate small huts both in Sagada and Kayapa for that perfect training ground :)


The night before our departure, I was looking for "pasalubong" for my kids mostly indigenous anklets and bracelets.  I thought of giving Don an anklet to give him faster legs for TNF100 this Saturday :) I got several ones for myself. They are of different colors depending on my mood and distance and difficulty of the race. I though it is only fitting to wear something from Sagada for the upcoming TNF100 and all other trail/mountain races.

So while I was checking several stores, there was this book inconspicuously displayed. The moment I saw it I knew I had to buy it. It was quietly screaming " buy me, buy me!" and why should I not? For only Php150 pesos, the decision was easy. 

I highly recommend this book if you want to find about our brothers and sisters in the highlands. Ironically, it is written by an American, the much-loved writer, scholar, historian, musician and writer - William Henry Scott who died in 1993 and was buried in Sagada, Mountain Province. 

Did you know that for 350 years, Igorots, the brave warriors that they are, resisted and fought the Spaniards for their independence? Now that is something that was never taught in our schools! Ironic is it not?

All I can say is my faith in the true potential of the Mountain Province as the perfect venue for ultrarunning is now further strengthened. This is a fitting celebration for the courage, strength and persistence of our highlanders.

(NOTE: Considering the sensitivity of the topic, the last part was of this post was written without regard to politics. This content of this post is entirely the personal observation of the blogger.  If the reader feels that some of the entries need to be corrected, please let me know.)

Cheers despite sunburned skins,
Jon (ready for TNF100 this Saturday)


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