A decade ago, during my more carefree days, my friend Joy and I decided to take an impulse trip to Sagada.We took the late night bus to Baguio, traveled for 6 hours and arrived just before dawn. Back then, we didn’t have Wi-Fi or smart phones, so we did everything based on our hunches. It was connecting the dots the old fashioned way. Sagada was a hidden gem, I’m proud to say I came before the herds of tourists.
To get to Sagada, we rode the Lizardo Transit “chicken bus” for 8 hours. In the olden days Lizardo Lines had small buses which were used mostly by farmers or the natives. At certain stops I would be seated next to a local carrying a chicken or a basket of vegetables. Yes, just like in the movies!!! Today there are modern tourist buses and better roads. It was an amazing experience to be in the mountains, zigzagging the endless scenery of rice and vegetable terraces.
We stayed in an old convent called Saint Joseph’s Rest House. During the long journey our bus mates became our friends. The ten of us just clicked and so we did the activities together. This included spelunking Lumiang and Sumaging caves, the hanging coffins of Sugong; and treks to the Old Spanish Trail, Echo Valley, and Bomod-ok Falls.
One evening we tried the native delicacy called pinikpikan manok. It’s brutally pounding a live free-range chicken with a stick until it is “myoglobin” black and blue (that’s what I perceive to call it). Then the chicken is slit at the throat and hanged until the blood drains out. Next it is thrown into boiling water or fire to remove the feathers. The chicken is cut up and boiled with a piece of salted pork (etag), ginger and peppercorns. Green papaya, sili leaves, or at times malunggay leaves may also be added. Wicked!
Our guide’s name was Edwin. I told him I wanted to experience an Ifugao tribal ceremony. He mentioned that his cousin was getting married the next day. I boldly asked if we could come and crash the wedding. He left to ask permission, he returned after dinner to inform us that we just get ourselves invited. Yippee!!
The next day we took an early trek down the valley to a small village. I was so excited! Almost everyone in the tribe was a guest. To pay our respects to the bride and groom we offered money as a gift. This tradition is done to help with the expenses. In return they gave us a plastic bag of raw meat called boki or watwat for salted pork. We didn’t know what to do with our meat so we gave them all to Edwin.
The couple fed over 200 villagers. The feasting lasted for several days, hence two cows and three pigs were slaughtered. I was curious to see how food preparation was done with no industrial equipment. At the back, a giant kawa (wok) was used fueled by firewood. Pancit (rice noodles) were cooked in big batches and transferred into native baskets lined with banana leaves. Chocolate colored pork blood stew called dinuguan was cooked in giant vats. Amazing!
After the wedding ceremony was tribal dancing. The tribesmen were no longer in g-strings or bahag, but both men and women wore clothing made from traditional weaving. We joined in the dance that formed a circle, and followed the beating rhythm of the gongs.
Note: Pictures were taken pre-digital age, I had to scan them. How to go to Sagada