A Piece of Bliss That is Sagada

The Philippines is home to many summer spots that is worth checking out. From Baguio City, the summer capital of the country, Sagada is another 6 hours of zigzag nauseous ride in the mountains of Cordillera Administrative Region in northern Philippines. A quiet town of about 12000, not including dogs,  coming to Sagada is finding a piece of bliss from all the noise of life. Sagada is quiet sleepy town that should have been perfect choice to shoot the movie “Blast From the Past”. Literally.

After the 5-minute rush hour in the morning around 7AM where kids run off to school and where shop owners start to flip their signboards to “Open”, there is stillness and for some reason, the time moves at its slowest. At around 6PM, the same thing happen. Kids come home from school, teachers and parents dashing after them, heading home, shop owners cleaning up for the night. Then total stillness. Your feet are your means of commute here, there are no tricycles or jeepneys that can bring you around the town of leg breaking steepest streets I know of. visit sagada

In Sagada, where there are more dogs than humans on the street during daytime, all shops and dining places are mostly owned and run by the locals. There is economic boom here, I recently learned about the town being featured in a local film, evidenced by numerous constructions of homestays and inns in preparation for the coming tourist peak season in October to January and then again in the summer months of March thru May.

I came late September where the morning cool breeze and the light evening air feels like I’m rubbing ice cubes on my nose and on my cheeks, but the high noon sun can feel like you’re back in Manila in minutes. I love waking up to the chirping of the birds, the roosters crowing at dawn and the sweet, somewhat grassy, smell of pine trees that brings back childhood memories of pancakes and cinnamon.

How Sagada got its name

Sagada’s old name was Ganduyan. From a few old folks that I talked to while I hang around small cafes and helping myself to their lemony lemon pie, the town’s name became Sagada because of a misunderstanding or lost in translation kind of thing.

The story goes like this. There was a Japanese tourist that came to Ganduyan, how Sagada is known in the olden times, for the first time. He fell in love with the town’s laid back and bountiful natural wonders. While strolling the streets, he came across an elder Igorot,  carrying his plow and was obviously heading to his rice fields to do his farming. The tourist asked the elder what the name of the town was. The elder, not knowing what the tourist was saying, said, “Pasagad.” Meaning he was heading to the rice fields. He thought the tourist was asking him where he was rushing off to. “Ah, pasagad-ah.” The tourist said in its Japanese accent. The Sagada name got stuck and there you have it folks. A short coffee story while enjoying your Sagada Brew and Lemon Pie. And who might this Igorot that gave the town of Ganduyan a new name, without him realizing it? His name is Lakay Pecdasen. Considered one of the great elders of Sagada and lived to be over a hundred years old. His coffin, fourth one from the first row from the right, is one of those “buried” in the famous tourist spot in Sagada, the hanging coffins of Echo Valley. destination sagada

There is no problem in Sagada

“No problem.” The lady cheerfully said to me at a laundry shop when I asked if I could get my laundry that same afternoon. “No problem.” The waiter said to me at the local restaurant when I spilled my beer and made a mess at my table. “No problem.” The landlord of the homestay where I was staying said to me when I asked if I can cut short my stay. Yup, here in Sagada, there seems to be no problem that can ruin your stay. The locals are generally warm, shy and speak with a soft tone. The Igorot’s face is lined with resiliency, hard work and preserved traditions that originates back from thousand of years ago.  They speak good English too. Much better than most Joes and Janes that hire them as their tourist guides into the mountains. destination sagada

Shangri-la of the Philippines

Dubbed as the “Shangri la of the Philippines”, the town of Sagada is blessed with so many natural wonders.  Conquering all the adrenaline-packed adventures maybe quite a feat. Spelunking the famous Sumaging Cave and waking up at the crazy hour of 4AM to catch the sunrise from Kiltepan Peak seems to be the favorite action around here. Tucked in the mountains of Sagada is the Sumaging cave, that is almost always included in every tour packaged shoved in your face once you registered in the Sagada Tourism Office. The 4-hour cave connection obstacle course between Lumiang Cave and Sumaging Cave brings out the hardcore in you, test your endurance, and unbelievably shrink you to inches to crawl thru the tiniest gaps in between giant boulders that must have been the playground of giant cavemen years ago. destination sagada Points of Interests for Tourists and Backpackers

  • Sumaging and Lumiang Caves. The Sumaging cave is believed to be submerged under the ocean million years ago, hence the abundance rich limestone deposits inside the cave.
  • Bomod-ok and Bokong Falls
  • Kiltepan Peak
  • Marlboro Mountain
  • Balangagan Cave
  • Mount Ampucao
  • Lake Danum, which is a perfect site for sunset viewing
  • Hanging Coffins of Echo Valley
  • Pongas Falls
  • Mount Polis

Sinful Desserts

After all that spelunking, trekking and swimming in the frigid waters of the falls, go ahead indulge yourself to another bliss: the sinful desserts of Sagada. One more reason to make you fall in love with the laid back town is because its got a number of cafes and dessert houses. One of the popular desserts that have been written about a thousand times is its yoghurt and the now iconic lemon pie. When you’re on a holiday travel, the calories don’t count. So go ahead, dig in to that creamy yoghurt. I had 2 servings on my last morning of stay, I imprinted the experience and the taste somewhere at the back of my brain, the sweet and sour marriage of banana and strawberry, the crunchiness of the granola, to remember it forever, even if I get Alzheimers’ in my sunset days.

The locally produced fruit jams is another story. And there is an art of digging into the jar of it. Pour the locally made strawberry jam over hot pancakes and you are bought back to the country kitchen of your grandmother where everything smells nice. The cooked strawberries swimming in its own syrup completes your breakfast experience in this tiny town of million dessert houses.


Stay  and feast on the endless displays of lemon pie in every cafe, conquer the numerous caves, wake up and watch the sunrise that seems to heal every type of broken hearts and relationships, stay longer for more lemon pie to complete your healing process. There are many reasons why Sagada should be your next destination if you’re rounding up adrenaline-packed activities around the Philippines. Related Post: Baguio-Sagada-Banaue Travel Guide Liked this post? Share it using the sharing buttons below! Sharing is caring!

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Christina - last year Reply

Is Sagada called the ShangriLa of the Philippines because of its scenery or because it is up high? It looks like an interesting spot to explore. I can’t say I like the sound of the six-hour zigzag ride though.

Jennifer - last year Reply

Looks like an interesting spot in the Philippines. We’re actually headed to the Philippines in about 11 days for a 3-week long trip to several spots. Sadly, not Sagada though.

Brianna - last year Reply

I love off the radar gems like this, what a cue little town!

Julie - last year Reply

I love the idea of a place where everything is no problem and we top off every day with a sinful dessert (with Minnie Mouse spoon!). There’s something so refreshing about that outlook on life. Would love to experience it myself!

Sue - last year Reply

Sagada sounds lovely! I’d love to try all the lemon pies. Your photographs are simply stunning.

    Carla Abanes - last year Reply

    Thank you! Yes, you cannot afford to miss all those different varieties of lemon pies.

Rosemary - last year Reply

We are in the Philippines at the moment and as I read this post, I am pretty disappointed that Sagrada is not on our list at this time. It’s good to know about this laid piece of paradise. Next time we will go there and enjoy the delightful desserts as well.

Helena - last year Reply

I’ve never heard of this place but it definitely seems like a a spot to remember. I love how Sagada got it’s name by getting lost in translation. It’s a nice story. And I love these “No problem” towns. I wish it could be like that everywhere.

Meg Jerrard - last year Reply

Can’t wait to get to the Philippines next week – I’m sadly only hitting up Manila and Boracay, but I’ll have to plan for another trip sometime soon to also take in Sagrada 🙂

    Carla Abanes - last year Reply

    Yes, come visit again soon. It would be lovely to hit Sagada in the cooler months of December-January too!

Indrani - last year Reply

Interesting story about how Sagada got its name. And yes making a note to have lemon pie if I ever get there. Not just the food the pictures of exotic locations too are luring me.

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