I’ve finally embarked on my first major climb, a traverse of Mt. Pulag, the highest peak of Luzon Island and the Philippines’ third highest mountain. The summit climb in itself was already a major physical “beating” but I just couldn’t pass off seeing more of the Cordillera countryside. I spent the next couple of days in Sagada, Mountain Province to indulge in its beautiful highland vistas, captivating culture, and refreshing chilly climate. The (physical) effort was so worth it! I definitely loved the verdant landscapes of the Cordilleras.

Baguio Panagbenga 2011

The weekend before the trip to Mt. Pulag, I was already in Baguio for a pre-nuptial photoshoot with my sister and (now) brother-in-law. Knowing how chaotic things can get during a major Philippine festival, I warned them to reschedule to avoid visiting Baguio during the Panagbenga Festival. My advice fell on deaf ears but I was, of course, ecstatic that I got to experience Baguio’s Panagbenga Festival. Baguio gets really full during this time of year. We were lucky to even have snagged a room without prior reservations.

Street Dance Performers during the Panagbenga Festival 2011

Lunch at Oh My Gulay! and first meet-up with new blogger friends PinayTravelJunkie and Joel

Mt. Pulag Summit Ascent (Akiki – Ambangeg Trail)

A week later, I was back for a summit trek of Mt. Pulag in Benguet Province. I was actually very nervous when I was still preparing for the trip fearing that I might have been overambitious. My (mountain climbing) experience was limited to light treks along muddy terrain at best and there I was, considering to conquer the highest peak in Luzon and third highest mountain in the Philippines … Mt. Pulag is actually just a mere 34 meter shy of leveling with Mt. Apo. I guess the fact that I didn’t have a clear idea of my limitations as a climber worried me the most. I didn’t want to embarrass myself (and shatter my self-concept) if I ended up not being able to muster the will to reach the summit.

Jeepney ride from Baguio City to the Mt. Pulag Ranger Station at Badabak, Benguet

I joined a group of young travelers, my newest friends, for the three-day traverse of Mt. Pulag. A big thank you to Lyn for the invite! They wanted to take the more difficult Akiki trail for the ascent to the summit and the Ambangeg trail on the way down. The Akiki trail was really hard especially for a first-timer like me. During the 1st and 2nd day, the weather and sceneries were sublime, which were very effective distractions from my aching leg muscles. Then, it suddenly rained right when were closing in on Mt. Pulag’s summit. The bad weather continued on until our last day. It was a bit frustrating to climb for three days and not be able to see the great view at the top but I felt very fulfilled, nonetheless, that I had successfully finished my first mountain climbing expedition (and a challenging one at that).

Registration procedures and short briefing at the Mt. Pulag Ranger Station (Day 1)

Gorgeous view of verdant pine forests along the Akiki Trail

Loving the dark vertical lines of the pine trunks amongst the sea of greens

First view of Eddet River

Crossing the hanging bridge across Eddet River

Going past Eddet River where the trail start to become exhausting

Great distractions

Steep incline of the Akiki Trail

Overnight at “Marlboro Hills” campsite

Continuing our trek through the mossy forest (Day 2)

Sharing the frame with a rainbow at a small meadow just before the heavy rains started to come

Saddle campsite, just 15 minutes away from Mt. Pulag Summit

Misty grassland views at the Saddle Campsite. No breathtaking sunset and sunrise photos because of the thick rain.

Mt. Pulag’s Summit! No WOW factor, huh? (Day 3)

Bushy area at Mt. Pulag Summit

Ubiquitous photo-ops at the Summit

Starting our descent through the Ambangeg trail

Colorful flora at the montane forest along the Ambangeg Trail

Stop-over at Ambuklao Dam in Bokod, Benguet on our way back to Baguio City

The jeepney ride back to Baguio City

Dinner at Sizzling Grill Steakhouse with Cebu-based bloggers: SoloFlightEd, Doi, Carla, James, and Tofi. Got helpful tips since they just came back from Sagada.

Arrival in Sagada, Mountain Province

Why Sagada? More than its tourist attractions, I was actually drawn to Sagada because I wanted to get a feel of the idyllic life in the Cordillera countryside. I loved chilling at the town proper (pun intended … Sagada is considerably colder than Baguio) and make my own exploration of Echo Valley, where the famed hanging coffins can be found. Sagada is a place I can imagine myself living in … it can sometimes be a pain to live in the lowlands, where it’s so unbearably hot! A Visit to Sumaging Caves is a must when in Sagada. I joined a group for the Cave Connection tour to save on costs. I also went on a DIY trip to Bomod-ok falls and did a side-trip to Bontoc, the capital town of Mountain Province.

Winding roads and scenic views of the Halsema Highway en route to Sagada 

George Guest House (Extension), my home in Sagada

Veggie and Etag with (organic red) rice at Pinikpikan Eatery

Sagada Cave Connection

Sagada Coffins at the mouth of Lumiang Cave

Tight squeeze during the Cave Connection from Lumiang to Sumaging Cave

Photo-ops at the “nipa hut roof” rock formation, signifying the boundary between Lumiang and Sumaging Caves.

Spacious underground caverns and river system of Sumaging Cave so called because of its many banana-like rock-formations

Echo Valley Trek and the Hanging Coffins

St. Mary’s Church in Sagada

Trek to Echo Valley

Refreshing views along the trail to the hanging coffins

Loved the jagged limestone rock formations

Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley

DIY trip to Bomod-ok Falls

Descent to Sitio Pidlisan from the jeepney drop-off in Brgy. Banga-an

Rice terraces of Banga-an

Stone walled rice terraces of Brgy. Aguid

Bomod-ok Big Falls. It was supposed to be a “ritual day” but we were lucky it was postponed for the day

Long walk back to Sagada town proper

Sidetrip to Bontoc, Mountain Province

Jeepney along the dirt road from Sagada to the main highway

Entering the Bontoc Museum

Overlooking Bontoc Town Proper

Couldn’t resist top-loading the jeep. The views between Sagada and Bontoc are stunning!

Suspension Bridge over the Chicco River

My last sunset in Sagada, Mountain Province