Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sagada: A fiery sunrise, a newly-explored falls and a misguided guide

Sagada - Tap-ew Falls II
Twin falls of Tap-ew
My first few times in Sagada, I filled my days with activities.  One particular trip, I was up Mt. Ampacao and down to the belly of Sumaguing Cave in a span of a few hours.  Over time, I've come to embrace the merits of slowing down and immersing myself in the moment.  Maybe, photography has something to do with it -- waiting for the ideal light to come.  And well, after our blitz of preparations for a series of events early this month (imagine compressing half-a-year's worth of prep into under two months), the last thing on my mind is to crowd the itinerary and rush.

Sagada - Fiery Sunrise
Sun-painted sky over the poblacion
While my fingers were itching to shoot, at times, it's liberating to just enjoy the break and just shoot whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Like waking up ahead of the sun and finding a magnificently-painted sky just outside our room in George Guest House in the poblacion then going back to sleep with that magnificent sunrise in my head.

Exploring a new falls.  One particular site we wanted to devote a day to was the big falls, Bomod-ok.  Inquiring at the guest information center, we were proffered the idea of going to another, relatively-unexplored falls, Tap-ew.  Not all the guides know the falls enough to guide us, we were told.  A van with driver was arranged, a guide picked up along the way to the jump-off.  The price of P800 was quoted for the van and P1,200 for the guide.  Steep, if you'd ask me, since we were just two but we took the offer in the hope that the experience of exploring the newer attraction would be worth it.
Sagada - Pongas Triple Cascade
Triple cascades of Pongas under a grey sky
We got to the jump-off in Balugan in around 15-20 minutes.  From there, it's a hike across fields and up the mountainous terrain before descending to the other side.  After over two hours of hiking, we got to several vantage points that offer different views of some of the seven cascades.  Under grey skies that threatened precipitation, we descended to the triple cascades of Pongas.  Even sans lunch, the view of the triple cascades invigorated us.  We went home following another trail through the falls and onto Angkileng.

The company of a misguided guide.  For most of the way to Tap-ew, our guide trekked far out of sight and hearing.  On one particularly slippery descent near Pongas where the earth is crumbly and handholds are few, we yelled ourselves hoarse to no avail.  While a strong hiker, our guide obviously missed the point of being a "guide."  To add insult to injury, our van driver charged us P900 on the way back from Suyo.  It's frustrating for repeat visitors like us to get this kind of treatment.  This experience also serves as a caveat for other visitors, especially to the newly-explored areas as there are no real standard rates yet.  For the benefit of readers who may want to visit the most-frequented sites, I am posting the standard rates below.
Sagada - Tap-ew Beautiful Rivulets
One of the cascades of Pongas
Tour guide rates:   • Sumaguing Cave: (1-4 pax, P500), (5 pax, P600), (6-9 pax, P1,000, 2 guides), (10 pax, P1,200, 2 guides), (11-14 pax, P1,500, 3 guides), (15 pax, P1,800, 3 guides), (16-20 pax, P2,400, 4 guides), (over 21 pax, P125/pax) • Cave Connection: (1-2 pax, P800), (3 pax, P1,200), (over 4 pax, P400 per pax) • Trekking Bomod-ok or Mt. Ampacao: (1-10 pax, P600), (11-15 pax, P800), (16-20 pax, P1,200)  • Balangagan Cave: (over 2 pax, P400 per pax)  • Sight-seeing Tours (Any three of the ff.: Lake Danum, Echo Valley, Lumiang Cave, Underground River Entrance, Bokong Falls, Kiltepan Peak, Pottery): (1-10 pax, P400), (11-15 pax, P600), (16-20 pax, P800, 2 guides), (21-30 pax, P1,200, 2 guides) Escort tour (choose 1 spot from the list above): (1-15 pax, P200), (16-30 pax, P400, 2 guides), (31-45 pax, P600, 3 guides)  • 1-day tour package: P1,200

Vehicle hire rates:    • Sumaguing Cave - one way, P250; waiting, P350; cave connection, P400  • Bomod-ok (Aguid drop-off) - one way, P400; waiting, P650  Bokong Falls - one way, P150; waiting, P250  Lumiang - waiting, P250  Echo Valley - waiting, P150  Mount Ampacao (base) - one way, P350  Lake Danum - waiting, P500  Kiltepan Junction - P300/Kiltepan View Point - P450  Bontoc - P1,500  Banaue - P4,500  Baguio - P7,000  1-day tour - P1,800
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