The bohemian mountain retreat of Sagada is a firm favourite on the tourist trail these days after being discovered by hippies in the 1970s. A collection of bamboozled artists and poets still hang around the town smoking marijuana and drinking potent tapuy rice wine, but most visitors these days come for trekking and to see the gruesome ‘hanging coffins’ perched on limestone cliffs overlooking the town.
But just soaking up the atmosphere of this trendy village – which is akin to a sleepier version of Bali’s Ubud – is enough for most people and there are a decent variety of cafes and coffee shops to slouch around in for a few days. More information about the town and various activities in the surrounds can be found at the Tourist Information Office in the Town Hall.
Hanging Coffins of Sagada
There are hundreds of coffins hanging against cliffs surrounding the town and local people still observe this ancient burial practice. The elderly carve their own coffins before they die and then their corpses lie exposed throughout a five-day funeral feast.
Bones are sometimes snapped to allow the body to fit in its resting place. It is understood that people wished to be nearer the heavens when they die and the mountains were highly revered. Ropes and timber scaffolds are used to keep the coffins in place. It is also still a common practice in the town for bodies to be placed outside houses after death in special chairs to allow the soul a chance to ‘escape’. The best place to view hanging coffins is in Echo Valley, but the numerous unmarked paths mean that a guide is necessary; so enquire at Sagada Environmental Guides in the Town Hall.
Caving by Sagada
A two hour caving excursion can be arranged at the Tourist Information Office in the Town Hall for around Php250 per person, with discounts for larger parties. Groups enter Burial Cave and comes out through Sumaging cave, the later an eerie burial chamber. Guides are essential and these trips cannot be attempted alone (several tourists have died attempting). Expect to get very wet and so ziplock all your valuables.
This souvenir store and textile factory sells indigenous hand woven products and is currently one of Sagada’s biggest employers. It is fascinating to learn about this traditional craft from the Cordilleras and also to buy some snazzy garments in tribal designs, with prices much better than the big cities.
Hiking-Bumud-ok (Big Falls)
This large waterfall is easy to reach by taking any jeepney towards Bangaan from the Town Hall square. The path is clear and there’s great opportunities jump into the crisp water from the ledge.
Rock climbing in Sagada
This is relatively cheap around town at only Php400 per person. The price includes all equipment and guides for a full day. Enquire at the Town Hall for further details.
Eduardo Masferré Studio
This free museum is still maintained by the acclaimed photographer’s widow and contains a fascinating
selection of photos depicting tribal life when the first European anthropologists came to the area at the start of the 20th century. Prints cost Php200.