The Changing Face of Sagada

As tourism continues to make inroads to Sagada, new structures are constantly springing-up.  The main drag is increasingly being lined by cafes, restaurants, and accommodations.  On my last trip there in the first week of November, noticing all the construction going on, I decided to take pictures of the local houses with their distinct features.  Maybe, it won’t be long before these will be replaced by commercial establishments.  I hope not.

Some houses have been repurposed to become lodging places such as Grandma’s Yellow House.

The American-era St. Theodore Hospital is iconic of the American country style architecture that one finds in the Cordilleras where the Americans set foot such as Camp John Hay and in Sagada.

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Sagada: Where To Eat

Sagada Brew

Not only was it convenient for dinner as it was just a few meters down from Kanip-aw Lodge where I was staying but the food was consistently good and servings were hefty.  Serving Western dishes, the orders often came quickly as I guessed the sauces and meats have been pre-pared.  The pastas are good for hungry eaters as the servings are quite huge.  Recommended is the Sagada Brew Pasta which is has a sweetish tomato-based sauce with etag bits.  

For lighter dinners, I had the Sausage and Bacon Sandwhich which I really loved as the filling was quite generous and the saltiness of the bacon and sausage was a perfect counterpoint to the sweetish dressing. I liked it so much that I had it thrice. 

For breakfast, I tried the Sausages, Beans, and Egg served with 3 pieces of toast and a side salad.

The breakfast sausages had a delicious smokey taste while the beans were, I guess, Hunt’s Pork and Beans.  I enjoyed the sweetish vinaigrette of the crisp side salad.  

It’s good to come here just as they open at 7 so you can grab this sweet spot and savor the quiet before vehicles come rumbling down the road.

They have cakes  but at Php 150 each, I found them quite steep.  The Salted Caramel Banana cake was good though but it didn’t really taste like a cake.  It was more like a dense pancake or loaf.

The bonus is the citrus-infused table water.  What’s funny is that in the menu for the lunch and dinner sets, it says that they come with bottomless citrus -infused water.  Perhaps, it used to be part of the meal sets and not available to everyone? 

The inside is a little cramped though as tables are connected to each other.  I preferred staying at the benches outside.  Quieter and more atmospheric.  

 Sagada Brew does everything right from the homey atmosphere to the generous and tasty food to the quick and friendly service.  I really loved Sagada Brew.  On my last night in Sagada, I had dinner there again I felt quite sad leaving the place.  The owner chatted me up and she’s a really nice lady who feels for her newly-adopted community (she’s from Pampanga).  

Food: 🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊

Service: 🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊

Place: 🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊

Sagada Lemon Pie House
With its limited menu (only 5 items and all chicken dishes) you come here either for cheap heavy breakfast sets (Php 100, 2 choices) or lemon pie (Php 30) or tea and coffee which is a pity as the place is nice and the toilets are clean (there’s a bidet).  

If you like your lemon pie with the tartness of lemon, you would find their version bland.  

If you have knee problems, the low seats might be a challenge.  Made me feel cute and slim while seated, though.

You can also sit on pillows on the floor.

To each his own taste of lemon pie but I feel it could up the tartness level of the pie.  With such a large space (there’s a lower level with proper tables and chairs) they could have gone full service with meals to maximize the place’s potential.

Food: 🍊🍊🍊

Service: 🍊🍊🍊

Place: 🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊

Salt &Pepper

Read so much about this place in blogs that I made it a point to come here.  Ordered the dinakiw which was grilled pork.  It came in hefty servings with rice and vegetables.  It could have been salted better but at least the meat was quite tender.  

The walnet peanut butter cake did deliver on taste but it was too dense.  Inspite of it being in the refrigerator rather than a cake chiller, it wasn’t dry.

The place was quite full with groups but contrary to what I had been reading, it didn’t seem to have taken 30 minutes to serve the food judging from the group that came in a few minutes after me.  My dinakiw arrived less than 10 minutes.  Salt & Pepper has a varied menu– pasta, pizza, wraps, local food.  

I had lunch again at Salt & Pepper and this time, the teeming masses had gone as it was a work week.  I was the only one at the resto! 

I ordered the sinarabasab which is pork marinated in vinegar.  It was soooo tasty as the sweetish vinegar was balanced by the sauteed onions and ginger. I tried writing down the recipe based on its taste.  Partnered, with steaming hot rice, it was perfect!

The pork etag sisig was just as good as the smokey salty taste of this Sagada delicacy was just perfect.  Serving size was smaller though.  I guess it’s because etag is quite expensive.

The chalkboard on the counter announced more Western-oriented dishes.  Service was friendly and efficient though a bit slow when taking your orders.  The best thing is they accept credit and debit cards!  I used my AUB ATM card just to see if it would work and it did!  So if you’re running low on cash or the ATM at the tourist center is off-line, you know where to swipe.


Service: 🍊🍊🍊

Place: 🍊🍊🍊🍊

Yogurt House

I’ve only ever had yogurt here even in past visits and it never fails.  It was thick and nicely textured and just had the right amount of sourness.  A plain bowl is Php 100 while having it with granola and bananas adds an additional to Php 10.  The mains are little bit more expensive than the other restos (Php 190 and above).  The aroma coming from the kitchen is good, though.  Grab a seat on the terrace for yogurt with a view.

Yogurt: 🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊

Service: 🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊

Place: 🍊🍊🍊🍊

7Js Diner 2

One of the cheaper places to eat for no-frills Pinoy food.  There are cooked mains such as pork binagoongan, nilaga, adobo, and pinakbet. I didn’t enjoy the binagoongan much as it lacked the saltiness of .bagoong.  The meat wasn’t very tender too.  The sisig was good and only costs Php 120 just like the mains.   Servings are filling and come with mountain rice.  They also have short orders of pancit.  Service was good and efficient.  The place is just across Masferre.

Food: 🍊🍊🍊

Service: 🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊

Place: 🍊🍊🍊

Slab House

Tried this place across Sagada Igorot House as it had nice wooden tables and benches at a veranda overlooking the road.

Unfortunately, the lechon kawali (Php 120) had a malansa taste as it was not very well fried hence it had the bpiled pork taste.

There are other unassuming eateries at the town center for those on a budget. At the basement of the complex just beside the tourism office are cheap eateries where locals eat.  You can also head to the canteen at St. Theodore’s.  Cheapest of course would be to head to the public market to buy stuff and cook them at your lodging place if they have a kitchen for guests to use.  I eventually did this for breakfast and dinner and only went out for lunch.  I saved tons of money this way.  

Eating Tips

1. Don’t expect professional service.  Many of the dining places are converted houses with the family members or hired locals running the place.  True to the slow pace of life in Sagada, service follows the same rhythm.  Food is also usually cooked from scratch.  The trick is to go at off times such as 11 am for lunch instead of 12nn.  Don’t wait until you’re hungry when you decide to head out for lunch or dinner.   Think of a 20-minute wait.

2.  Manage your noise.  This is a personal thing.  Places are usually small.  Keep the nice Sagada ambience by not sounding like you’re in one big brash tour group (even if you’re really in one).  

3.  Meals are in the range of Php 150 – Php 250.  Some places like Masferre go up to Php 400. That being said, portions are generally generous.  Also remember that for Western-oriented dishes, many ingredients are brought in from miles away like Baguio.  Yup, that parmesan cheese on your pasta is not available in any store in Sagada.

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Writing in Sagada: The Way Home

My reservation was at 3pm but inquiring at the Coda Bus Lines office beside Sagada Guesthouse, I was told there would be a morning bus.  Gave my number to Tracy, the helpful girl manning the desk so she could text me later in the evening what time the bus would leave.  At past 9pm, she texted me that the bus back to Cubao would be departing at 7am.

The next morning, I hauled myself and my stuff uphill to downtown to eait for the bus.  The Saturday market was just getting started.  The Super De Luxe bus finally arrived a few minutes past 7:30.  Just as Tracy had said, the bus conductor came to pick me up at the bus office.  Passengers had just disembarked and this is what I saw:

People have Php 980 to buy a bus ticket to Sagada but don’t have the manners to take care of their trash.

The best part of the trip was being the one and only passenger at least until Kiangan where 4 people boarded.  I got the best views as I could transfer from either side of the bus.

A couple of people boarded at Nueva Vizcaya.  I think we were just 8 people total with only 3 of us getting off at Cubao.  Lunch stop was at Aritao where I had an overpriced menudo with rice (Php 120).

The Sagada-Banaue leg was really scenic with rice terraces all looking fresh and green.

Due to the lane closures at EDSA for the ASEAN Summit, it was horribly traffic, taking about 3 hours from the Balintawak toll gate to Timog where I just got off to take a cab and pass through the back route to my house.  I figured it would take another hour from Timog just to get to the bus station.  Fortunately, the bus had its own toilet otherwise, I would have gone crazy holding my pee.  The entire trip took 14 hours!

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Writing in Sagada: On the Road to Nowhere

My neighbors, the nice young couple who don’t know yet when they’re leaving Sagada, moved to the main floor this morning as someone was going to occupy their room.  They actually got a more spacious room.  The only inconvenience would being away from our “workspace,” the common area where we station our laptops.

Went for a walk towards Sumaguing Cave but didn’t actually go all the  way to the cave.  I just wanted to see some change of scenery.  

I hardly recognized the way as there were so many structures hugging the road.  I almost missed the limestone karsts at Sugong which had a few hanging coffins visible from the roadside.

There was a cemented wall being built.  I just hope it doesn’t obscure the view of the karsts.  

At the entrance to the path of the Lumiang Cave were a few stores now.

The view from the road past Lumiang was picturesque with towering pine trees on one side and tiny hamlets and rice fields on the other.

Unfortunately, Gaia Cafe was closed when I passed by.  I turned back a few hundred meters past the cafe as I was afraid I would meet a dog.  Hahaha!  

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Writing in Sagada: Beautiful St. Mary the Virgin Church

This Episcopalian church founded in 1910 (originally of wood; the current structure came later) is a gentle reminder of the era when American missionaries went all over the Cordilleras trying to convert locals.  Aha!  I had to let that converting-the-natives spiel.  Now, whether that eas good or bad, it’s all up the Sagada residents.  What we know is that today, the school and hospital the Episcopalians  built, aside from the church, still serves the community today.  

Oh, and many elderly i-Sagada speak perfect English.

See the date on this bell?  1921.

These American-era building just below the entrance to the church compound is now an opthalmology clinic.  

The church is small and its stonework and design perfectly fits into the surroundings.

Step inside for some quiet contemplation; that is until the chainsaw by the registration tent at the entrance of Echo Valley starts again.

The altar up close.  The rose window is reminiscent of those European Gothic churches.

Wouldn’t you want to sing Thompson’s “Alleluia” in such a choir loft?

These pews look like they’re from the American era.

The hand-carved Stations of the Cross look so charming. 

These pews look like they’re circa American period.

Beautiful windows.

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Writing in Sagada: Another Day, Another Room

I really didn’t like my new room.  I suddenly missed the spaciousness and the view from my old room downstairs.  After making breakfast, I asked Kuya Oscar if I could move back in my old room to which he agreed.  I also discovered that taking the stairs from the next  building to the second level was a shorter route.  On my way down to bring my stuff back to my old room, I passed the back room at the 2nd level which had just been vacated.  It still wasn’t as nice as my old room but what did it was were the corner windows with a view and the table!  

The room is actually outside the main building which is good because it’s away from the noise of the common area.  

Kuya Oscar, being the nice guy that he is, accomodated my request to stay there instead.  He even cleaned it up and changed the beddings immediately.

Headed up the road for sisig at 7Js Diner.  Not bad for Php 120.  It came sizzling on a hot iron plate and a fresh egg on top.  Good with mountain rice on a drizzly day.

Spent the rest of the afternoon doing a few minor revisions to my essays.  After a sunny morning, light showers were falling again.  

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Writing in Sagada: 3 Things

It’s my fifth day here and three things happened to day.

ThingΒ #1.Β  I finally used the kitchen!

Yup!Β  I finally mustered the will to make breakfast. On my way to the center of town to try out the cafes there, I realized I’ve gotten tired of spending Php 100-150 eating food I could very well make myself.Β  It would have been different if it was mohinga and roti at Yangon or onion cakes and dimsum in Taipei.Β  But hotdog and omellete? Nah!Β  So turned back and went to a couple of stores until I had a pack of hotdogs, a pack of pandesal, and two eggs all for a grand total of Php 84!Β  Β Went to the kitchen and whipped up my breakky.

For lunch I had the delicious sinarabsab (vinegared pork) at Salt & Pepper.


Thing #2.Β  It’s finished!

63, 804 words, 22 pages, and 98 references later, I had finished all 4 essays for my compre exam! I probably should have celebrated with a grandiose dinner but I was too lazy to go out so the rest of the hotdogs and 2 pieces of pandesal went to the pan. Will let my papets stew for a while.Β  It isn’t due until the 19th so I can still do some revisions if I wanted to.

Thing #3.Β  I transferred rooms.

So last night I finally got the peace and quiet I so longed for after everyone had left I was the only one left in the building and in that area of the lodge “complex.”Β  It was spooky!Β  No, not ghost type of spooky but spooky because there was dead silence and the thought of me being all alone and separated from everyone else the lodge made it seem… well.. creepy. So I hardly got any sleep.Β  It wasn’t a problem during the day as the view across Echo Valley was really beautiful and there was daylight.Β  But at night . . .have you ever seen pine trees in the dark?Β  So anyway, I decided to move to the main house.Β  Unfortunately, the only available double room was one that had no window at the 2nd level.Β  Choosing between a good night’s sleep and a restless one, I chose the former.Β  It was quite unfortunate to leave my original room as it had a terrace, a view, and it was spacious.Β  Only three rooms are occupied at the entire lodge now.Β  The young couple I met yesterday and who are in the room next to mine used to be in the lower level at the building next to mine.Β  It was kinda creepy, they said.Β  I’ve only got 4 nights left under this one, so the smaller room would do.

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Writing in Sagada: Quiet Time

Just as Kuya Oscar had said, everyone had left in the morning.Β  The only other guests were a young couple I met at the main house as they were cooking noodles for breakfast.Β  They had planned to go caving but the weather was not quite so suitable for it.Β  Headed to Sagada Brew for some sausages and beans (Php 150) and relished being alone.

I could have stayed in this spot forever.

Struck a conversation with one of the friendly servers who upon finding out my last visit was years ago said Sagada had remarkably changed.Β  Β That it was more beautiful, referring to the booming tourist infrastructure.Β  I’m not quite sure if I agree with him about all theΒ  buildings going up and all the commercialization but a few nice restos, cafes, and lodging places do indeed contribute to the place’s charm.Β Β 
Started working on my third essay which turned out to be a little more challenging than I thought as I hadn’t quite prepared for the topic compared to the two previous ones.Β  By noon, I had only written less than 700 words.Β  Decided to take a break and grab some lunch at Sagada Hub just across Sagada Lemon Pie House.Β  The light rain still had not let up and it was sooooo cold.Β  For a change from all the meat I had been having, I ordered fried milk fish (Php 150).

How else could you go wrong with it?Β  There’s nothing like oily fried milkfish on a rainy day!Β  Was tempted to order extra rice but held myself back.Β  Needed to watch the carbs.

Back to work until dinner time.Β  It’s probably the wettest day since arriving here.Β  More of showers really but without let-up.Β  Very very quiet on my part of the lodge today.Β  Perhaps being a Sunday, there was no construction going on and nobody else checked-in today.

Proof that it was all quiet at Sagada again was that there was only one other table occupied at Sagada Brew when I went there for a sausage and bacon dinner.Β  A noisy group came in for some cake just as I was finishing up.Β  I really can’t get why people are unable to respect the silence of a place?

Back toΒ  my essay until past 8pm.Β  It was really really quiet.Β  The only other sound being the tapping on my laptop.Β  I began to get spooked with the deafening silence.Β  Hahaha!

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Writing in Sagada: A Gloomy Day To Write

I woke up at past 6 in the morning to sleet grey skies.  I was hoping for some sunshine but it seems it’s gonna be a rainy day today. Unlike yesterday, it was quiet when I woke up.   Worked on my Z Step warm-up then headed to Sagada Lemon Pie House at 7 only to find out that the cook hadn’t reported for work today.  Headed up the road towards Yogurt House but turned back as the drizzle intensified.  Went to Happy House close to my lodge which I have been seeing empty the past days except for  last night when a group was there.  Ordered their breakfast set (Php 100) of hotdog, longganisa, fried egg and rice.  It did its job of filling me but the rice was of the white variety and served cold.  They didn’t have drinking water too as it hadn’t been delivered. 

Back to my room to work on Question #2.  Still quiet.  Perhaps my neighbors are sleeping-in today?  Stopped writing at 1,100 words at 12:30 and headed up the road to Salt &Pepper for some dinakiw (grilled pork).  My food came in less than 10 minutes after.   Serving was generous and it came with a salad (Php 170).  The dinakiw could have been salted better.

 Their Walnut Peanut Butter cake (Php 70) was quite good, taste wise.  The cake was a little too dense.  Paid with my AUB ATM card just to see if it would work on their card terminal which was just behind me and it did!  

Back to writing.  It seems my neighbors had gone out as only the radio from the construction workers finishing the top floor of the next building could be heard.  I could live with that.  Light rain has been falling all throughout today making everything vibrantly green.  Finished writing at past 5 pm and headed to the main house at Kanip-aw.  My neighbors have returned and I need respite from their screams. The owner, Kuya Oscar, said they were leaving at 3 am already.  

Dinner was at the old standby, Sagada Brew where I had my carbonara cravings satisfied.  (The penne was overcooked again but the sauce was just fine).  The place was quite packed including my favorite spot outside so I settled in at a corner table close to the pastry counter. 

Later in the evening, my neighbors had considerably toned -down their noise.  I heard one of them remark, “Kaya napag-sasabihan kayong maingay, eh.”  To which they closed the glass doors to the common area.  Perhaps, Kuya Oscar gave notice?  

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Writing in Sagada: It Begins

I woke-up at around 4.30 in the morning to all the noise the family staying at the rooms at the next building was making.  Why can’t people be more considerate?  Managed to get back to sleep and woke-up at a little past 6.  Still too early for breakfast so I decided to do some squats but then realized the time would be much better spent choreographing a warm-up for my Zumba Step (Yep!  My other life is at Zumba).  Jotted it down on my S Note before heading to Sagada Lemon Pie House for a breakfast set of onion and cheese omelette, fried rice, and longganisa (Php 100) plus a slice of lemon pie (Php 30) and a cup of coffee (Php 30).  The breakfast set was good though the longganisa could have been bigger.  The lemon pie was so-so.  Not lemony nor tarty at all.  In my taste buds, I had the lemon bars of Purple Oven as benchmark for all things lemony.

Savored the silence and the rustic feel of the place before a young couple with an over-active child and a hippie couple came bustling.  I could have stayed at my own corner of the world forever especially as after the others had left, I was alone again.

Checked my email when I got back at the lodge and saw Dr. KB’s email with my 3 questions!  Since the sun was shining, I decided to do 2 pieces of laundry before hunkering down to work with the most tedious question, one that asked for a brief thesis proposal.  1, 230 words, I decided to have some lunch.  The rain had stopped by then and I was hungry.  The safe choice was Sagada Brew where I ordered the Chicken Roulade (Php 200).  It came with a salad, a cup of local rice, and a brownie.  All good!  

Back to work finishing 2,500 plus words at close to 7.  By this time, a group of noisy girls and gays had moved in the room occupied by the noisy family previously (perhaps it’s where noisy guests are placed).  Just to have a respite from the girls’ yakking (the gays had gone out ), I decided to head out for dinner instead of staying-in with my stash of bananas and oranges.  Headed to Sagada Hub but it’s Pinoy menu didn’t appeal to me.  Back to Sagada Brew where I had a yummy and hefty sausage and bacon sandwhich on home made wheat bread (Php 150).  Sorry, forgot to take a picture.  Three times of eating here and I have yet to be disappointed.  

Back to my room and the noisy girls are still at it.  Oh well.

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