at past 7 in the pm last friday, while i was shopping for a few things at the robinson's pioneer, i was mulling the impending long weekend, a second successive possibility for a quick holiday. but i had no plans, and i was caught without any ideas what to do. then i decided, and since i've done it before (more than once, in fact), to pack a small bag and hie off for sagada. being alone isn't a hindrance for me. i think of it as opportunity. and this blog isn't subtitled a lonely traveler's notes for no reason. i am not at all averse to the idea of traveling alone. i've done it many times before: to as far north as batanes as far south as camiguin. it opens completely new doors for me.
i had no itinerary, no companion, no clear idea of what i wanted to do, except that i knew i wanted to sleep. along with that thrilling prospect, i tucked two books into my bag, and an appetite for surprises. so i arrived at the victory liner station at 10pm, and booked a ticket for the 10.45 departure. it was a quick trip, and i was in baguio before 5am the following day. in the biting cold of that morning, i walked from victory's nice station all the way to dangwa tranco, where the g. lizardo buses bound for sagada are parked. the first trip was scheduled for 6.30am.
shortly thereafter, we were approaching the still unfinished halsema highway, with its rough roads, fantastic views, and gigantic landslides. the first time i went to sagada in 2002, only about 40% of the halsema highway was paved. now, it's up by as much as 60%. i slept through most of the trip since no matter how breathtaking the scenery is, i've seen it before, at least 10 times.
when i reached sagada just a shade before 1pm, i proceeded to green house, where i've been staying consistently since my first visit. i dropped off my bag, then walked to yoghurt house for a late lunch. and there began the defining element of the visit to this mountain town. i did nothing in sagada but eat, sleep, read, drink, in order of frequency.
wasn't too crazy about this: the beef wasn't tender | a standard pancake breakfast
my first plate at log cabin | bar none, the best brownies i've tasted
the baked chicken on a bed of potato fritters was not bad | hiker's delight: yoghurt and a banana inside a pancake
other than yoghurt house, i also managed to sneak myself into log cabin for the buffet even without a reservation (it really does pay to be alone), had a simple breakfast at masferré, and also a very late dinner at alfredo's. it was also during this weekend visit that i managed to finish saramago's "history of the siege of lisbon" and started on "the autumn of the patriarch".
on monday morning, i checked out of green house and left for baguio city, which i reached just before 3pm. i had previously gotten in touch with barry, a sagada local who is now studying in baguio, and we agreed to go for a few drinks. but since my mom asked me to buy her a broom, i also dropped by the baguio city market where i very unexpectedly bumped into jonathan. surprise surprise!
then i killed time at the SM baguio city and then met barry outside his cousin's bar: a very basic place that served beer, had karaoke, and 2 dart boards. a city ordinance required all bars to be sound proofed, so egg trays were in the process of being pasted onto the walls: a very lousy-looking affair. but it was packed at night by students and kids from the mountain province. we also walked around session road, and although i've been to baguio countless of times, the last time that i really made an effort to go around it was in 2006, during the panagbenga. it was almost tragic to realize that there are so many things in baguio i have not seen. we went up to oh my gulay where the view of the sunset was amazing. there was a ship's hull up there, and the menu was completely vegetarian. niel would love this place, and the food was not at all bad. and i completely misunderstood the name of the artsy venue. i really did. vegetarianism was not the first thing that came to mind. haha.
inside the ship's hull at oh my gulay | sagada boys
after that we also sneaked a peek at ayuyang, a bar that featured local singing talents. there i met barry's other friends from sagada: iñigo, a masferré, and aaron, who's now based in manila. i surprisingly did not get drunk, but these kids have guts made of steel, i swear.
at midnight, i took my a victory de luxe trip back to manila, and we passed through the tarlac-clark segment of the SCTex -- i have to rave about it again. i can't think of any other road surface that's smoother.
while i have not yet grown tired of sagada, despite having visited the place at least 8 times, i cannot but help lament the unchecked progress that's swallowing it. i have no quarrel with the economic advancement of the igorots in sagada, but the pattern it's pursuing isn't sustainable, and i must say, really ugly. i'm really looking at this from a cultural and heritage point of view. our brothers and sisters in the north have a right to pursue wealth, but at what cost? to lose their identities and become generic and without identity like the rest of us? i'm afraid that a day might come that the quiet we seek in sagada might no longer be there, and people like me begin to look elsewhere, some place farther away. does such a place still exist? or am i allowing my imagination to run far too wild?