Mountain Province | Sagada Cemetery and Significance of Death in Igorot Life

Sagada Cemetery in the afternoon light
Sagada Cemetery in the afternoon light

Death and dying is an inevitable subject in conversations when All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day approaches. Like an evening conversation over a warm fire one cold and rainy night in Maligcong, from the talks of somewhat paranormal encounters in the rice fields we ended up talking about Igorot culture and the commonality of their beliefs within tribes in Cordilleras. It was interesting to talk to a native i-Maligcong and hear from them their traditions in wakes and still observed but slightly modified in the modern times for practicality. My thoughts immediately shifted to their neighboring town of Sagada only an hour away. The town has seen tremendous visits year long for its unique burial tradition of Hanging Coffins. Much so during All Saints day for its fiery spectacle during the Festival of Lights. But these popular display is just a small part of their traditions.

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Impromptu Sagada Underground River Detour from the Hanging Coffins

Crossing the stream to Matangkib Cave
Crossing the stream to Matangkib Cave

“Where are you girls going?” we asked curiously as three girls young girls, ages ranging from 10–12 were going down a trail almost unnoticeable from the dense vegetation just below the famed. “Down to check on our goats by the cave?” one said. A cave? I thought for a moment and probably she was referring to the Sagada Underground River Cave found deep into the valley. “Let’s follow them!” My newfound towering Russian companion excitedly suggested our group. In the many times I have visited Sagada, I don’t remember having visited the cave before so we just followed the young girl’s footsteps.

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Sagada Stay | Kanip-Aw Pines Lodge: In Town with a Quiet Mountain View

The Kanip-aw Pines Lodge in Sagada
The Kanip-aw Pines Lodge in Sagada

When in Sagada, I usually try to stay at lodgings just at the outskirts of town. I stayed several times within town before and while I like the convenience, it can be a little noisy at times. That’s why I enjoy places like Rock Inn or Ybami because of the pleasant natural ambiance and closer to nature environment. My last visit to Sagada though found me staying in town again but I was glad to find Kanip-aw Pines Lodge this time. It’s one of the lodgings that has that secluded feel even just a short walk from the main south road.

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Nikon Shot | Up High Staring at the Sun

At one of the peaks of Marlboro Mountain in Sagada
At one of the peaks of Marlboro Mountain in Sagada

“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary”

~ Friedrich Neitszche

This week’s Nikon Shot is from my new favorite place in Sagada, the Kamanbaneng Peak or popularly known as the Marlboro Mountain. I like this mountain so much I returned here again for the 2nd time last week after my first visit just a couple of months ago. This time we found an awesome vantage point overlooking the valley and with the Alab-Sagada border peak showing its height. I call this Nikon Shot “Up High Staring at the Sun” with our friend Mike looking straight into the sun.

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Sagada | The Begnas Festival Celebration

March of the Indians
March of the Indians

I’ve seldom talked about how Sagada has changed throughout the years. Yes, the roads have been paved for better access, more tourist are coming in, internet connectivity is just about everywhere and more structures being built to accommodate them. Despite the developments, Sagada’s is still rooted to their traditional cultural practices. One of this significant rituals is the Begnas, a rice thanksgiving ritual that usually happens three times a year. We were lucky to be there to witness their pre-planting ritual. It was a three-day event and the 2nd day was the time when the “Indians March”.

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Sagada | Traverse to the Blue Soil Hills, Kaipitan and Balangagan Cave

The Blue Soil Hills of Sagada
The Blue Soil Hills of Sagada

“Wow! How does one get there?” I asked my companion Norbs while pointing down on a parallel electric line post way down below. It seemed so far and unreachable from where we were at Kamanbaneng Peak or popularly named Marlboro Mountain. After enjoying a wonderful play of billowing clouds after the sunrise, we were set for a long trek southwards of Sagada. It was a beautiful day for a trek but the rains the day before had dampened the ground making it more sticky and on some parts muddy. But after a few hours, we found ourselves below the electric line I was pointing to earlier but standing on the curious hues of the Blue Soil Hills of Sagada.

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Sagada | Kamanbaneng Peak: Chilly Sunrise at the Marlboro Mountain

Kamanbaneng Peak in Sagada
Kamanbaneng Peak. At the border between Sagada and Alab

I never get tired of Sagada. Even if go back to the same places I visited there again and again, even if there were hassles or inconveniences encountered going there, the allure never fades. On my recent trip to Sagada, I wanted to venture further and explore the “new” sites recently opened for exploration. My friends and I visited SAGGAS (Sagada Genuine Guides Association) office and was greeted by the jovial, Yaki. We were inquiring about a particular tour but curiosity led us to change plans seeing the map on their wall. We decided to head east then traverse southeast of Sagada going along the border of Alab down south. Our first stop is Kamanbaneng Peak, one of the alternative sunrise destination in Sagada.

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