Today we took the long scenic drive along the amazing, photogenic road through a Philippine National Park to Sagada. Sagada is a small town nestled in the middle of a valley at the upper end of Malitep tributary of the Chico river about 1,500 meters above sea level. Its lofty little town, dirt-free air, with the smell of towering pine trees. The journey is one of the prettiest drives in Luzon, and takes about 9 hours due to sharp bends & bumpy roads through the Cordillera Mountains. We pass some of the highest points in the Philippine highway system and stop to photograph some amazing terraces along the way.
We stopped to photograph a friendly local roadside vendor who sells vegetables and hand made brooms. Our visit lasted more than a half hour as things quickly turned into a portrait session.
The road passes several small villages, who’s access is via cable suspension bridges. France and I couldn’t help but test the structure and wander to the other side to see where it led. On the other side, a small footpath led into the jungle. If we had a few hours to spend, it would have been interesting to see what was at the end of the trail. Perhaps next year.
On our first morning in Sagada, we rose early to photograph sunrise over the cordillera mountains from a magnificent viewpoint over-looking Kiltipan rice terraces.
Kiltipan rice terraces, shortly after sunrise.
After breakfast we headed into town to visit Sagada’s famous Hanging Coffins. Along the way we passed a church and were allowed access to photograph the interior. Protestant missionaries came to Sagada years ago and established schools, hospitals and this church.
The municipality of Sagada has become the only Philippine town that is predominantly Protestant with almost 95% baptized into the Episcopal Church. A known landmark at the center of town is the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a vibrant Episcopal parish.
Hanging coffins are an ancient funeral custom only found in parts of China, Indonesia and the Philippines. In Sagada, coffins of various shapes can be seen hanging either on beams projecting outward from vertical faces of the mountain, are placed in caves in the face of cliffs, or sit on natural rock projections.
Hundreds of coffins are also placed at the mouth of a large cave. A short, steep hike leads to the cave opening. There’s a small sign that says “please don’t open and remove anything from the coffins”.
In the afternoon we photograph more rice terraces in Echo Valley. We encountered some rain showers, but nothing deterred us from capturing the beauty of the place. In fact, the soft light and fleeting clouds were ideal for our photographs.
On our last morning in Sagada we visited the town’s Saturday market, before heading down the road to Baguio.