Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The road to nowhere. A wonderful nowhere.

I say “wonderful”, “beautiful”, “nice” and “wow” almost always. That is so because of two things: One, I am generally easy to please and I get touched over the simplest gestures. Two, I think I need to brush up on my English vocabulary. Business memos, the kind of writing people in the corporate usually do, are allergic to adjectives. I love adjectives, so I am allergic to business memos.

Thus, my current state of unemployment.
Thus, the urgent need to get out of the city which has set too high a standard for university graduates.
Thus, my gratitude to that youthful stubbornness two months ago when two of my friends and former colleagues said “Amen” to my invitation, “Tara! Sagada tayo?”

Thus, amidst news reports about a typhoon in the Northern Luzon in the last (and long) weekend of August, we hopped on the bus together with six other willing and adventurous souls and braced ourselves for an experience of a lifetime which I hope to share not through the sites I have feasted my eyes with, not through the food I ate, not through the places I have set my foot in, but through the people and lives I have been given the privilege to become a part of. Kahit ilang araw lang.

(Tour coordinator, Travel Factor represent!)
I asked her how I can identify if she’s the one I’m texting. Her reply, “I’m wearing black freedom shirt with eyeglasses near Ilocos waiting area”. Texted with a smiley at the end of the SMS of course. I turned around and I saw the luckiest girl in the world who has the most exciting job and who, without any hint of force and pretense can actually say, “I love my job and the people I work with”. She’s 23 and does not have to waste her time and resources in soul searching. She’s our young and bubbly tour coordinator from TRAVEL FACTOR. Our trip from Manila to Banawe was scheduled at 10:45 PM but I came in around three hours earlier. She was there already. The three-hour wait did not matter as we shared stories about work, vision boards, “The Secret” and about travelling. Didn’t I tell you that she is just 23? Oh boy.

(Tour guide extraordinaire, Sagada represent!)
If this were a movie script, he’d be the main actor. He’s our all around go-to-person in Sagada. Tour guide, driver, chef, potter, product demonstrator, coordinator, historian, interpreter, alarm clock and stop watch. He answers our Sagada questions, poker- faced (I think I rarely saw him smile, weird) and with a sexy mix of Ilocano-Kankana-ey and Texan accent. Pa’no yun?

Me : Kuya Erwin, taga- Sagada po ba kayo through and through?
Kuya Erwin : Yezz Meym, bowrn and rreysd(duh) hewr in Segadah.
Translation : Yes Ma’am, born and raised here in Sagada.
Gets? Mahirap kasing i-describe. Hehe.
He speaks really good English, I think everyone in Sagada does.

Maybe it’s his way of marketing himself or maybe he seeks to impress city kids of his ways but nonetheless, every time he does things for us, sometimes, I feel that it is beyond his call of duty. He has that typical Pinoy trait of making visitors feel that they are important and that guests should right away feel at home. Kuya Erwin’s only flaw however is that he does not know how tell ghost stories. On our second night, he brought us to Lake Danum for our bonfire session and he made us sit comfortably and warm while he and his assistant prepare our pinikpikan boodle fight. After dinner and two rounds of vodka, everyone but me was into ghost stories. The others coaxed him to share Sagada’s version of scare-fest and being the eager-beaver that he is, he told us of stories about head hunters, tribal wars and spirits, history 101-professor style complete with facts and explanations. Wahahaha!! Kumbaga sa joke, walang punch line. Though you could sense his enthusiasm through his wordiness, maybe he sensed our goose bumps have retracted, and ended the story, poker –faced.

(By the bonfire and the marshmallows)
He made us sticks to roast our marshmallows with through the branches of plants around us. Instead of the usual banana leaves used for boodle fight, he got ferns and wove them together to improvise a table. He told corny jokes and was as excited as us that instead of our beds, we had the grass to carry our bodies, instead of lamp shades we had the bonfire and instead of warm milk, oh yes, we are drinking vodka. We call him the other James because the original James is part of our traveling group. The other James does not mind.
(Sila ang mga tunay na ROCK stars!)
They jump, slide, climb up a rope in one-hand, lamp in the other hand. They take nice pictures also and were patient enough with my makulit reminder, “Kuya, di po waterproof camera ko ha.” They made us step on their legs, carry our weight on their shoulders and made sure we were all safe and were enjoying our 5-hour cave connection adventure in Lumiang and Sumaguing Caves. They’re effortless in the jumping and in the sliding part and in keeping their balance, because they told us, they have been doing these things since they were kids. The caves are their natural Gold’s Gym and Fitness First.

She has the warmest the gentlest smile. Her only role is to cook our food and she does it in style. The picture above is Alibama Inn which she supervised and looked after in the duration of our stay in Sagada. I regret not having taken her picture because on our last day she has gone home and we never got the chance to say thank you.

Sagada has branded its children with adorable rosy cheeks and eyes that always seem to ask. Sabi ni Di, there’s something which make them stand out and different from the city kids. They remind me of Lilo in Disney’s Lilo and Stitch.

(the Saga-dog)
Kuya Erwin has the weirdest adjective for the Alaba Inn’s tambay dog (guard dog dapat pero feeling ko mas tambay siya dun =p): delicious. Sorry PETA friends, but we were told that in Kuya Erwin’s tribe, dogs are bred not as pets but as food. They prefer ‘”Aspins” over the imported breed though. Tuloy, everytime our photographer friends take pictures of dogs, one of us will quip: “O, bakit niyo pini-picture-an yung mga ulam?”. RJ, one of our TF classmates (from here on, I will call the TF participants, classmates), after hearing Kuya Erwin’s story named that dog which sleeps innocently in Alibama’s second floor landing as “foodie”. Btw, that is not foodie in the picture, I just downloaded it from the net as I failed to take his. Sad. 

(not their real photos though, will wait for my TF classmates to upload then I will update =p)

Piolo the Potter.

Muscled man with rosy cheeks, how’s that for a combination? You’ll know at first glance that he is cute but he got even cuter when Di pointed out that he looks like Piolo Pascual. And he sure does. We met him at the pottery house busy monitoring the oven’s temperature, they were cooking the raw materials needed for their artworks or whatever. Kuya Erwin told us that he is a good potter and we believe him. His brown eyes are enough proof. (Ng alin? Haha!). Move over Harry, meron na kaming bagong Potter.

Then, there’s Ronan Keating.

My blond and blue-eyed love. In my dreams. (maarte lang!)
We were with him on the same bus in our trip from Manila to Banawe. He is the usual foreigner backpacker who in full trust of the Lonely Planet’s guide book to the Philippines hopped on some plane from halfway round the world and found himself in the exact same place where a beautiful Filipina (that’s me okay), in the exact same time, decided to spend her long weekend in. The Filipina (which I insist is me - again) did not fail how his upswept do revealed a beautiful and friendly face, and his adventurous spirit made him even more beautiful. The Filipina (me again!) told her classmates that it will complete her vacation if she sees her blond and blue eyed love again on their bus ride home – and she did! Though no words were exchanged, the thought that the Filipina and her blond and blue eyed love were on the same place at the same time is enough to make this Filipina feel like she’s the 9th wonder of the world. Ngeh. Haha!=D


I will always remember their names: RJ (Mr. Nice Guy), Ray (Mr. Professor), James (The Other Sagada Pogi Boy), Gilroy (Elaine’s Loverboy), Elaine (Gilroy’s Girl), Di (roomie!) and Allan (Mr. Sony!). Except for Allan and Di which I have known since my FLI days, the rest are complete strangers to me until our Sagada adventure. We were all there for different reasons: some to indulge in a much needed R&R, to see a different place and experience a different culture, to check off an item in their bucket list, to have a good use of a newly-bought DSLR, to bond with friends, to bond with more-than-friends friend, to meet new friends, to do soul searching, maghanap ng sakit ng katawan, to eat non-city food, to have a good excuse to wear our water-proof jackets, to buy souvenirs, to have a new crowd which one can share his knock-knock jokes with, to have something to write about in our blog, para lang masabing may ginawa kang makabuluhan nung long weekend, to satisfy our curiosity about this group called Travel Factor, to heal a broken heart, to find someone to break our heart, para makakita ng kuweba, umakyat ng bundok, bumaba ng bundok, mag-topload sa jeep, matulog ng nakakumot kahit walang electric fan o aircon, and just be somewhere far from the usual place we find ourselves in everyday. Whatever our reasons are, I am just ever thankful that our reasons brought us together in this wonderful place called Sagada where in three days, being strangers meant sharing stories as if each of us has known one another for the longest time, being strangers meant waiting for one another before we start on a meal, where being strangers has completely taken over the concept of friendship.

It was just three days.

It was not a completely different culture.
It was not a trip to India or Tibet where I can claim I did an intense soul searching.
Maybe my being a first-timer to an experience such as this made even the tiniest detail profound.

But it was beautiful. Wonderful. Nice. Wow talaga.

In our last day in Sagada before leaving Echo Valley, our last stop for the day, I told Kuya Erwin, “Ang ganda ng Sagada noh?”. With his poker face dramatically tracing the site where the hanging caves are and in his sexy Ilocano-Kankana-ey-Texan drawl he replied “We awr juzt blezzd meym”.
Translation: We are just blessed Ma’am.

They sure are.

*I will share the link of the photos taken by my photographer classmates soon.
*Check out for more trips.                                                                                              *You may get in touch with Kuya Erwin at 0928 690 0062 or He is part of SAGGAS or Sagada Genuine Guides Association.


  1. Theodore ang pangalan ng isa pang cave guide.

  2. This is the best and funniest Sagada feature i ever read.... :D

    major major like...