If it weren’t for the familiar Ilocano conversations I overhear as we travel from one town to another, I would easily think that I have already left the Philippine Islands. This place is very far from the image of the country which I often see in Metro Manila: every where you look, everything is clean, quiet, and highly appreciative and protective of nature. In Sagada, people are stewards of the Earth: animals enjoy their natural habitat without dangers from poachers, violent motorists, neighbors and strangers. Everyone respects other people’s property and privacy, but this liberty is not without responsibility: they keep their own properties clean, and for some reason, all of the animals I’ve seen roaming free have no physically-determinable diseases, meaning, even if they’re allowed to roam free, they are still fed, cleaned and taken cared of. While there are stories of clan wars in some areas, and the occasional fear of accidentally hitting someone’s pet while driving out in the streets, generally, life in Sagada is peaceful and quaint. This is the kind of place I would want to retire to.
Also, the local government officials here are very down-to-earth and warm. It’s a far cry from the rich-and-famous image of local officials in Metro Manila, where they have tens of body guards, heavily-tinted, fancy vehicles, and tightly-secured homes. The Mayor of Sagada welcomed us to his home the very second we introduced ourselves. First time I saw him, he was at the Sagada Municipal Hall wearing a pink barong, and Ms. Carol from the Regional Office introduced me to him. He held out his hand to all of us and welcomed us to the beautiful town of Sagada. He encouraged us to see the entire place, especially the caves. We explained that our stay in the Province is limited to work, and that we have no time to look around, he told us that we must visit again sometime soon, and have a real vacation.
He invited us for breakfast the next day, where we had coffee, eggs, spam, hotdogs, meatloaf and tinapa (dried fish) for us to feast on. We talked about government projects in Sagada, and listened to him as he explained how the improvements changed the place. Sagada has been gaining an increasing level of popularity among local and foreign tourists alike, thus, road works, water supply systems and eco-tourism projects are a must. The peaceful conditions of the towns must also be preserved, as the local tribes and groups sometimes run into conflicts whose beginnings are deeply rooted to the history of the Province.
If you are thinking of going on a relaxing vacation where it is quiet, peaceful, and more connected with Mother Earth, I highly recommend going to Sagada. The cottage where we stayed is absolutely beautiful. I took photos of the house here, and will try to get the contact information of the landlady/lord. From the looks of the place, I assume its expensive. Even so, I think its worth it!
We are getting ready to leave Sagada today. My colleagues are already putting their bags together to start visiting several projects from nearby municipalities. I will be leaving this place with a heavy longing to return.