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Tabula Rasa | Sightly Sagada: Art and culture above the clouds

The exciting six hour winding bus ride to Sagada from Baguio City will treat you to wonderful vistas of ‘islands’ of mountains in a sea of clouds with Small towns and terraced vegetable gardens along the way.

The Municipality of Sagada in the province of Mountain Province is popular for its hanging coffins. But there are more things that Sagada can offer and one can enjoy. To experience the many sites around Sagada one has to be physically prepared in order to make it to more places that can be reached by trekking through mountainous and unpaved paths.

This is my second time in Sagada and in this trip, we only had a day to experience the place. We arrived at noon time. Upon arrival, we registered at the tourism office and payed the tourist fee of P50 per person. At the same office, we were greeted by certified tour guides and transport operators. There, we chose our tour itinerary for our only day in this cool tourist site. First stop is the Marlboro Hills sunrise with a view of the sea of clouds and then the Blue Soil along the way and second, the tour in Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins.

After the visit at the tourism office, we met with our host- the Daoas family who brought us to the Sagada Dogo Siwang Art Hub where we will stay the night. Upon arrival at the Art Hub, we were greeted by Mrs Sonia Daoas. Sonia was my wife Ging’s classmate at the Baguio City High School. The Daoas family with The Cordillera News Agency in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts created the art hub with the objective of championing indigenous knowledge for the continuing exchange of art, culture and heritage. The Art Hub houses a display of traditional Mountain Province tribal clothings and crafts that will give viewers an idea of Cordillera design and intricate work on textile weave. In 2021, an art festival will be held at the Sagada Dogo Siwang Art Hub.

The next day at 3a.m., we left for the Marlboro Hills. Armed with flashlights, walking sticks and thick jackets, we braved the cold through forests of Benguet pine trees and trekked to the site for two hours. Upon reaching the place we positioned ourselves to have a better view of the sunrise hoping that the weather will cooperate and that it will not be cloudy so we will have a good view of the sunrise. At around 5:30 a.m., the sun rose and slowly flooded the horizon with warm to cool light giving us a view of the expanse of Marlboro Hills.

We were on a high ground and below us we noticed a stream of clouds roll along a wide ‘crevice’ from our left towards the right side of the mountain range like water flowing through a river. Finally, when the light has fully revealed the whole place, we saw hundreds of tourists, like us, scattered around the rolling mounds of what was called Marlboro hills. From there we took a two-hour down slope trek. Along the way we passed by a series of unique rock formations. Upon reaching the Blue Soil area our tour guide redirected us to a path and found ourselves in a plot of Blue Soil all for ourselves.

There were seven of us who were in that trip, me, my sister-in-law Helen Navarro, nieces Marielle and Chesca Navarro and Ailene Miguel, my son Vian and his girlfriend Klarenz Lanzaderas. Little did Klarenz know that Vian planned something special for her that morning. While planning for this Baguio trip in November 2019, Klarenz mentioned that it will be her third time in Baguio and hopefully this time she would be able to visit Sagada and most especially visit the Blue Soil. In that beautiful morning at the Blue Soil, Vian presented a gold ring with yellow opal stones and uttered the words, “Klarenz, will you marry me?” And she happily said yes to Vian. As Vian’s father, that was my greatest highlight in this trip and I thank the Lord for this wonderful blessing.

Upon reaching the end of the trek our driver fetched us and brought us to town for lunch. We still had a few hours before leaving for Baguio. That was enough time to take our last tour which was Echo Valley where we had a view of the Episcopalian Church, the cemetery, the Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins.

One day is not enough to fully enjoy Sagada and feel the kind and warm hospitality of its residents. For artists like me, Sagada is a place where one can be immersed in Cordilleran art, culture and heritage and get so much inspiration to create new artistic ideas aside from enjoying the sites the place can offer. Thanks to our able and knowledgeable tour guides at the Marlboro Hills tour and the Echo Valley Tour. Thanks to Mrs Sonia Daoas and family for the unforgettable hospitality and giving us a quick ‘Cordilleran art’ experience during our stay at the Sagada Dogo Siwang Art Hub. We had an art enriching experience during our stay at the Art Hub. We look forward for more experiences in Sagada and most especially learn the indigenous knowledge of Mountain Province art, culture and heritage. Hopefully, we can also create something like this for the indigenous people of Mindanao to preserve their art, culture and heritage as well. See you again Sagada! By Daryl Descallar
Sagada Dogo Siwang Art Hub – The Daoas family with The Cordillera News Agency in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts created the art hub with the objective of championing indigenous knowledge for the continuing exchange of art, culture and heritage. Dogo Siwang is a Kankana-ey term meaning ‘a far off rice field’, describing the location of the private farm which is a few meters away from the center of town.

Photos from far left: The Sagada Dogo Siwang Art Hub. Mrs Sonia Daoas with Mr. Egai Talusan Fernandez. Photo above: A view of the sea of clouds at Marlboro hills.

Photos below from left: Our group at the Blue Soil with other tourists. The Blue Soil area where we rested after an hour of trekking. A view of the Hanging Coffins at Echo valley, Tomb of one of the fallen SAF- 44, PO3 Noel O. Golocan. Salute to a Cordilleran warrior. The Episcopalian Church.

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