Writing in Sagada: The 9 hour trip

The last time I was in Sagada was more than 5 years and 30 pounds ago with my mountaineering group (which I miss dearly, by the way).  The first was with my friend, Blast, whose bf had died swimming in Cagayan, thereby cutting our trip short.  I tried to persuade him to just cry at Echo Valley and stay another day but his grief was too deep.  I return a third time; alone, heavier, and for a less adventurous reason—- to answer my PhD compre exam.  You see, our compre exam at my uninersity was patterned after that of a US university where you give 5 questions out of which the exam administrator chooses 3 you answer for 14 days.  As it’s the school break and I have lots of VLs left, might as well head to Sagada for some fresh air, greenery, and me time.  I had originally had my heart set on lovely Ubud but Mt. Agung’s rumblings had me changing my mind.  So here I am, seated at the first floor common area of Kanip-aw Lodge, biding my time as I wait for my room to be ready.  They offered me an available one but it had no terrace, that highly-valued piece of lodging acoutrement where I can have a view of Echo Valley while writing about the practice of ethnomusicology in a changing world, so I nicely turned it down.  Anyway, I’m cool at the nice wood paneled area.  The noisy group of checking-out guests have gone off to breakfast so it’s quiet and the wifi is strong.  

It’s cool and a little wet in Sagada now.

 Departing at Nov 1 after  the teeming masses had gone off for the undas meant no traffic at NLEX nor at the provincial roads.  I took Coda Lines, my first time to do so, which is the only bus line that goes to Sagada.  The deluxe class (Php 980) was modern and comfortable.  The bus was only half full and I had an empty seat beside mine which was good because if it had been full, there would have been a problem as I had the same seat number as a girl who was part of a group of 5.  

I arrived at 6am, a mere 9 hours from Manila via Banaue.  Having gotten used to the 10 hour trip from Manila to Banaue onboard Ohayami, the short length of time it took to get to Sagada was a pleasant surprise. I woke up at around 2:30 to the bus conductor announcing we had arrived in Lagawe!  Ha?!  Too early I thought.   I guess the rest of the passengers were surprised too.  I don’t think the Korean guy expected to be let off at Banaue at 3:30 am.  The roads were good though we did pass by a road that had about 20 meters of rocks as it was being repaired.  The bus went carefully among the curves, occassionally passing by oncoming traffic. After about an hour and a half, as the bus rounded a curve, the lights of Bontoc town came into view from a distance.  It was beatiful and to the weaey traveler, a mark of how near we were to Sagada.
On arrival at the town center, asking for directions to Kanip-aw, I was led to a van driven by the owner’s brother who brought me to the lodge, saving me a 5minute walk.  Dropped my bags and headed to Bana’s Cafe, which was one of the few places open before 7am.  Chowed down a clubhouse with potato fries (quite good) and brewed coffee (too weak).  

Managed to get some me time amidst a noisy family also having breakfast. Walked a bit around the town then back to Kanip-aw just in time before it rained a bit.

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