Friday, May 11, 2012

Backpacker Holidays: Sagada, Banaue and Ilocos

Sagada - View of the Town on the Road to Besao II
View of the town proper of Sagada
For this post, I am reprinting a feature article based on an interview done by Monica de Leon, the managing editor of Bakasyon, care of InFlight Magazine, which appeared in the April-May 2012  issue.   I decided to reprint it since it may help some people researching the Internet for templates for a backpacker holiday.  I added some more bits of information which were not included in the original article due to space limitation as well as links to past posts that may be of help to the reader.

Note: Prices quoted are based on payments made during recent trips and are subject to change, especially after rounds of oil price and fare hikes.  The same goes for inn rates so you may want to check the websites of the respective establishments.  I guess that in some cases, the sum totals can be lower but as an advocate of fair travel, I personally believe in paying the locals fairly especially when it comes to fees that benefit the communities as well as help support the local economy.

See Sagada, Banaue or Ilocos from P6,000, says travel blogger Oggie Ramos of lagalog.com.

Sagada - Tap-ew Beautiful Rivulets
Sagada's Tap-ew Falls
Budget: P6,000 for two
Sagada

Sample Itinerary:
Day 1: Leave Manila at about 8:30pm and arrive in Sagada at about 9:30am (via Bontoc); see Lake Danum, grab dinner at Log Cabin
Day 2: Witness Kiltepan's sunrise; go to Bomod-ok or Big Falls; have lunch at Yoghurt House; go caving at Sumaguing
Day 3: Have a leisurely breakfast at St. Joseph's Inn, explore Echo Valley before noon, and leave for Manila or Baguio after lunch

Bunk in.  Budget inns/hostels average P200-300 (about US$5-7) per day per person.  Sagada Homestay and Traveler's Inn charge about P250-350 per person for a room with private toilet and bath.  Try one night in an affordable inn, and another at the pricier but really nice Rock Inn (from P12,00 per room/night) or St. Joseph's Inn (from P1,000 per room/night).  Rock Inn has an orange orchard and if you happen to be staying during harvest season, you're free to pick oranges on site.

Filling stations.  Meals will cost you P300-P500 per day.  Go to Log Cabin for pasta, Yoghurt House for homemade yogurt and yummy vegetarian dishes, Lemon Pie House for lemon pie and nothing else, Masfere Restaurant for delicious dinner fare and Kimchi House for good pork stew.

Transportation.  Most likely, you'll spend about P1,400-P,600 for transportation.  To save money, you can hike most of the way to the sites but a guide is needed for your own safety.
Batad - Amphitheater Red Roof Green Fields Blue Sky
Verdant Batad amphitheater
Batad - Tappia Falls Lines
Tappia Falls in Batad
Budget: P8,000 for two
BANAUE with side trips to Sagada or Batad
The itinerary:  The rice terraces change colors with the season.  Around May to June, the terraces are green and during the harvest season, turn golden.  Banaue is home to the magnificent Banaue Rice Terraces - mountains that have been carved by hand by the indigenous tribe of Ifugao thousands of years ago.

Batad's highlight is the rice terraces amphitheater.  See Batad at first light-of-day or walk in the middle of the amphitheater on the way to town or Tappia falls.

Bunk in.  Simon's View Inn & Restaurant in Batad offers only basic rooms, with shared toilet and bath, and no hot water (Note: pails of hot water can be ordered)  In the town proper of Banaue, cheap rooms cost P150-P250 per person per night.  Uyami's Greenview Lodge is a family-run lodge in the main poblacion offering comfortable, clean rooms and decent meals.  It makes for a good base camp for exploring Ifugao villages.  Tel:+6374/386402, +63920/5404225; www.ugreenview.com

Filling stations: The food in Batad is okay (Note: price is the context) but the drinks are more expensive since everything has to be transported by foot from the junction.

Transportation.  From Manila, it's about P1,400 to P1,600 plus jeepney fare from Banaue's poblacion.  (Wait for other passengers so you can split the total cost of the jeepney fare to Batad's jump-off point).
Paoay Into the Void
Surfing the sands of Paoay
Claveria - Mabnang Falls Shrubs & Cascades
Claveria's Mabnang Falls
Budget: P10,000 for two
ILOCOS with sidetrip to Claveria
The itinerary:  Most visitors choose to go to Vigan for the "cultural experience", mostly a chance to explore well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture and the heritage street of Crisologo.  Paoay offers 4x4 rides and sand dune surfing.  Go all the way to Burgos where you'll find windmills and then spend the night in Maira-ira past Saud Beach in Pagudpud.

Cap the trip with a sidetrip to Claveria.  The seafood is fresh and cheap at the Taggat Lagoon since it's located within a fishing town.  Check out the falls in Claveria.

Filling stations:  Food is a strong draw -- the empanada (puffed pastry filled with minced fried pork and egg served with vinegar) in Batac is even better than that in Vigan; eat tinubong (sweet, native treat of sticky rice, butter, coconut milk and sugar stuffed and cooked inside a bamboo tube) in Magsingal; try the sinanglaw  (boiled beef innards in a soup) and bagnet (deep-fried pork) in Vigan; and don't miss the biscocho (baked bread topped with sugar and butter) in Pasuquin.

Bunk in. In Burgos/Bangui, there are budget accommodations near the windmills (We stayed in Villa Fernando Resort which is just a few minutes drive away located along Arellano St., in the poblacion; around P1,200/room/night; tel. nos. (+6377) 7643079; (+6377) 7923170; mobile number: 09216877405)Casa Grand Inn in Claveria has rooms for P800-P1000 a day, each one good for 3-4 people.

Transportation: This is the biggest single expense at about P700-P800 per person, one way for a bus ride from Manila to Laoag, plus fare for the van plying the route Laoag to Pagudpud to Sanchez Mira.  (Note: worthwhile to splurge on and try even just once is riding the Florida sleeper bus that ply the Manila - Laoag route; P1,000/person/one way)

Speaking of backpack holidays, Backpack Photography conducts photo tours to places like Banaue in trips that combine practical photography lessons on the field, cultural immersion and the promotion of the backpacking lifestyle.  For details, visit www.backpackphotography.net or email backpackphoto@gmail.com.

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