Sagada revisited 01: A new cave and a fall

Sagada Echo Valley

Echo Valley, Sagada, Mountain Province

I never get tired of this place. It’s my third time coming here and there always seems to be something new to discover. This time, aside from visiting the sites I missed before, I got a little brush with their culture and appreciated more of our history, probably because I have a couple of companions who are into Philippine Heritage Conservation. This trip made me realize the importance of our past and connections of various events in different parts of the our archipelago. I may blame it to our schools as not being as interesting in teaching history as you experience in a place.

Bone remains of Emiliana

An open coffin remains.

One of the amusing discoveries we found is another small burial cave inside the Echo Valley region not listed on their map. I literally, fell on my way there. I didn’t know what happened but I slipped on a side cliff. I tried to hang on to my life with a tripod on one hand as I didn’t know how high I would fall. My grip failed me and I just let myself fall, and for some strange reason I didn’t feel any fear whatsoever. I found myself only 6 or 7 feet high fall with bamboo tree roots cushioning my fall. Thanks to my mini backpack, I only suffered a few scratches and bruises on both arms. Thank God for that! Hahaha. That was a first for me, and my companion told me that it scared him and was ready to deny knowing me if anything happened! Hahaha.

Going back to that small cave, we weren’t actually looking for it, but we were informed of the burial cave discovery and our other companions who have a different IT with us that day were looking for it, missed it by a turn. Out of curiousity and desire to take a photo of a group of hanging coffins on the west side of the valley, we treaded an unbeaten path and found this small cave, obstructed by thorny plants on the end of the path. My companion investigated it while I took a photo and was startled to find more coffins inside. So this is what they were looking for. One coffin was open with the skull clearly visible. The skull seemed smaller than the usual, like a child, but the coffin was quite long. I didn’t want to dirturb it really but I want to take a good picture and had to reposition the skull. Believe me I had wierd dreams that night of a woman speaking to me in a really strange language. That corpse’s name is Emilaiana by the way.

A festival of lights

Sagada's Festival of Lights

A unique light show in Sagada’s Cemetary

No, this is not a scene from “Constantine” movie’s hell dimension. This is what the people of Sagada calls the “Festival of lights“. It’s so refreshing to see a different cultural practice being observed up here in the Cordilleras. A fellow traveler akin the practice to those of Mexico’s. So why is it like this? Not candles?

Actually some graves have candles for those who no longer practice the pine wood burning, but majority still follow the tradition. This tradition started when long ago there were no candles available at the province so they have to improvise with pine wood. Before that they have this early afternoon mass which they do a “Roll call” of all the names of the dead since the beginning of recorded history until to the most recent ones who have died. (So imagine the list growing every year and the ceremony grows longer) Then the priest blesses the pine woods which they will be using to burn as pyre at their loved one’s grave. By sundown all of them lights up their pine woods, thus the festival of lights start. From afar it would seem that the forest is on fire.

Sagada is a perfect place to go to during the holloweens, not only from it’s natural hanging coffins and human remains scattered on its vicinity but also in experiencing this “Festival of Lights”. Happy holloween!

KK Adventure Final: Succumb to the spice

Bak Kuh Teh

Bak Kuh Teh. I was so hungry that it took half of my meal before I could take a picture. hehehe

It’s one thing to experience adventures of a particular locale, but like icing to a cake, tasting native food is another adventure of the palate kind.

So how does your Bak Kuh Teh taste like? Honestly, it’s a wierd sounding name, but it’s one of those authentic Malaysian foods you may come across on many of their food or restaurants here. It’s highly customizable to your taste buds, you can choose a combination of spices, with either beef, chicken, or lamb on a bowl of herbal soup and there you go. Instant Bak Kuh Teh. Later I learned (from googling of course) that Bak Kuh Teh is really Chinese in origin. Its recipe was brought here and became really popular due to it’s therapeutic qualities as well.

Satay

Satay! The dark one’s the lamb and the light one is the chicken. I prefer the lamb!

And what better to add on its side is Satay. It’s actually a barbecue but with a choice of either a lamb, chicken or pork. And add to it is the kinda sweet and spicy Satay Sauce! It’s delicious and cheap. (more…)

KK Adventure 06: City strolling

Kota Kinabalu City at night

City municipal at night

Just something to keep people occupied while I do a major re-design. This would be the 2nd to the last entry for the KK adventure entries. Will try to finish the last part soon.

Kota Kinabalu is a small city. It seems more like other major provinces here in the Philippines. You could actually tour the city in half a day. For us, we managed to go around the city at night, walking, exploring what is there to explore in the city. Night life is a bit “complicated” says one waiter from a resto we were eating. Karaoke bars usually have “Trouble”. Safest place is at the Waterfront, it’s similar to Baywalk without the lollipop lights and resto structures are aligned.

Corner block

Corner block

There’s really no major attractions around the city. Mostly, there’s hotels (from the budget to deluxe), malls lined up and stores on city blocks, and lots of restos and eatiries. It is evident that this is to cater for us tourist. There are souvenier shops around the malls, but the best place for souveniers here is at the Filipino Market where you can bargain to as good as half the original price! In terms of souveniers though, not much on the food pasalubongs since they have no specialty here worth taking home. (Will delve more on the food on the final entry ) (more…)

KK Adventure 05: Sidetrips

Manukan Island

Manukan island. Who you pointing that finger, huh?

Kota Kinabalu also holds other attractions other than the Kinabalu Mountain itself. If you are into water sports or am longing for some underwater scene after that long long trek up the mountains and forest, there’s this Tunku Abdul Rahman Park which comprises 5 islands. We were only able to visit 1 island (yeah due to budget constraints) which is Manukan and spent most of the day there. It’s only 15-20 min by speed boat and cost us like 15 RM per pax and 10 RM entrance fee. Manukan Island is the largest island in the park. It has very nice guest rooms and restos and quite a number of fish if you are into snorkeling. It has powdery beach but not as fine as Boracay. But I love the ambience here, it is simple and elegant and not commercialized as Boracay. (more…)

KK Adventure 04: Down on wobbly legs

Time to go down

Time to go down!

It’s interesting going down as this time you could see the view, whereas when you climb all was in darkness. Though for some, the darkness was good to cover out the scene, because now you could actually see where you could fall. Going down from the summit is kinda hard on the knees and toes as your body have to balance itself from the pull down. Then navigating through the ropes requires a bit of rapeling skills. Which I found to be fun actually.

Highest Phone booth

The highest phone booth?

Just of the Sayat-Sayat checkpoint is the highest Phone Booth I’ve seen. Yes, it’s working! They may have put these up in case of emergencies or communications from the other stations or if climbers would like to call their friends, loved ones or relatives and tell them they’ve conquered the peak! (more…)

KK Adventure 03: 2.7 km to the Summit

Morning assault to the summit

The trail after the Sayat-sayat check point.

We barely have a couple of hours of sleep. We had to wake up around 2:30am for our summit assault. Or better yet, we were awaken by the constant sound of footsteps from other climbers on the hallway, getting ready as well. Navigatng through a ton of scattered drenched clothes above our room heater and after having something for breakfast at the canteen we set off to climb the last 2.7km toward the summit.

There was a bit of a drizzle. I went ahead of the group as we started our assault 3:30 in the morning. The first 200 meters was easy, as there were lamp post to guide us towards the Summit Gate. After the gate it was all stairs up and total darkness within the forest. It might be the rains but the trail have flowing water. The hike seems much easier or must be the excitement. I just climbed the stairs one step at the time. Whenever I get tired I would count down from each breath from 5 to 1 and say “Go” to force my self in burst mode to continue on my way up. It seems I got hungry often here and had to munch on my raisins and peanuts on the trail. As I go higher I looked back to see the city lights. The amazing view was somehow fullfilling reward to each ascent. I could see some headlights like 10 to 20 meters behind, must be the rest of the guys I thought. I looked up. It was the moon shimmering bright along the clear skies. I was glad, it was a sign of a good weather.

700 meters up I finally reached the rope trail. I decided to wait for my companions, there were two other groups of foreigners who passed me by until they arrived. I went on with the ropes and navigated beside the rocks. It was fun, I thought. Then we reached a stop where I could see the peaks ahead illuminted by the moonlight and at my back the whole city of Kota Kinabalu at night. It was just amazing and thought this trip was really worth it. Shortly we reached the “Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint” where you have to show your IDs. That was already 7.5 km on the trail from the jump off at Timpohon Gate. And shortly from this point it was a vertical assult.

Break of light

The break of light!

It looks easy but it’s tiring. Walking on these stone surface gradually elevated seems much tiring than going up those stairs. It must be the thin air or the altitude sickness starting to kick in. A friend of mine told me that altitude sickness starts at 10500 feet up, and we’re already like 13000+ feet up. Shortly I could see warm light seeping in. It was the break of light on the horizon. It was just breath taking! I just have to stop and see the sun penetrate the sea of clouds slowly dispersing as the sun shone brighter. (more…)