Ultimate Guide for Budget Traveler and Adventure Seeker

The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), hosted the Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) 2019, the country’s...

Foreign Tour Operators Visit La Union and Sagada

The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), hosted the Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX) 2019, the country’s largest annual travel trade event, and invited foreign tour operators and buyers to experience of what the country can offer as a tourism destination through post tours.

I'm very fortunate to  be part of the PHITEX 2019's post tour featuring La Union and Sagada. Foreign participants who joined the tour were from Japan and Bahrain. We're accompanied by representatives from Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) and Shroff Travel. 

Along the way to Sagada, we stopped over in one of Banaue's viewing deck to witness the amazing rice terraces. The place offers a panoramic view of the the famous rice terraces. This beautiful cultural landscape wowed the Japanese tourists. We dressed them up in full Ifugao attire. These guys are really cool and fun.

It took us almost 10 hours to reach Sagada. The travel time is a bit tiring but worth it! We stayed in Rock Inn and Cafe, one of the best accommodations in the Mountain Province, surrounded with a verdant pine forest and orange trees. We're welcomed by the hotel's humble owner and she gave us very delicious brewed coffee and lemon pie. Honestly, the Rock Inn's lemon pie is more delicious compared to Sagada Lemon Pie House. 

Rock Inn
A great dance performance in Rock Inn
On the second day, we started the Sagada tour. Our first stop was in Sumaguing Cave also known as the Big Cave. It's filled with beautiful rock formations and natural pools. There's a concrete staircase leading to the entrance of the cave. Please make sure to bring flashlight or headlamp because it's really dark inside. Before the cave tour, our local guides introduced first the Sumaguing Cave and they gave us some brief information about the cave. Listen carefully because they will also tell you the do's and don't while inside the cave.  

Inside the Sumaguing Cave
I recommend to wear shoes instead of slippers. The trail going inside is wet and slippery. You need to be careful every step of the way inside. We saw a lot of amazing stalactites and stalagmites. There are also some unique limestone that are carved on walls, floors, and breakdown boulders. One of our guides showed us rocks that look like a mother elephant and baby elephant. Other rocks formed like a rice terraces and wall curtains. 

Along the way to Lumiang Cave
Lumiang Cave

After Sumaguing Cave, we headed to Lumiang Cave, a sacred place for Sagadanians in which they have buried their ancestors. It is one the most visited burial sites in Sagada primarily because it is usually bundled with the Sumaguing Cave Tour. At the entrance of the cave are stacks of wooden coffins that has been there for years. The oldest coffin is believed to be about 500 years old. Our guide showed the image of a lizard that's carved on the coffin which symbolizes of long life and fertility. Also, the coffins of the dead are placed in the entrance of a cave. This symbolizes protection for the souls of the dead.

Hanging Coffins
The hanging coffins is the famous tourist attraction in Sagada. It's located in the Echo Valley featuring hanging coffins scattered through the entire area. Seeing these hanging coffins in person truly speaks the importance of culture and reflects the rich heritage of the locals. We noticed that all coffins look shorter. According to our guide, the corpse are placed in a fetal-position signifying that the way we should exit this world must be the same way we enter it.

Gaia Cafe and Crafts
If you are looking for a place to eat, I recommend Yoghurt House, Sagada Brew, The Sagada Lemon Pie House, Log Cabin, Sagada Cellar Door,  Rock Inn and Gaia Cafe & Crafts. One of faves is Gaia Cafe & Crafts. It offers a fantastic view of mountains and ricefields. Their menu was great. We tried the vegetable salad, tofu dishes and "Pinikpikan, a famous dish from Sagada and other places in the mountains of the Cordillera region.

Sagada Cellar Door

Other tourist spots in Sagada include Bomod-Ok (Big) Falls, Kiltepan, Marlboro Hill, Lake Danum, Pongas Falls, The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Bokong Falls, Masfarre Photograps, Sagada Pottery and Blue Soil HIlls.

Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union
On our third day, we visited La Union. The province is famous for the beach town of San Juan, the surfing capital on the side of North Luzon. It is a great place to travel for non-surfers and surfers alike. We stayed in Kahuna Beach Resort, one of the  premier resorts in the area. The resort has boutique Balinese-inspired cottages,'Ocean Villas' and 'Rest Houses’ and a swimming pool with open sea view. 

Thunderbird Resort 

During our stay in Elyu, we visited two of the most beautiful resorts in La Union. The Thunderbird Resorts is the only resort in the north with 5-star hotel amenities. It features luxurious rooms and villas, a myriad of dining options, recreational and wellness facilities, world-class casino, state of the art event center and function rooms and 9-hole all weather golf course. Another resort we visited was the Aureo Hotels and Resorts. Located in San Fernando City, the resort provides a tranquil environment which is your ideal vacation spot.

Halo Halo de Iloko
 Places to visit in La Union include Urbiztondo Beach, Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel, Ma-cho Temple in San Fernando, Pugad in Pugo, Tapuakan River in Pugo, Gapuz Grapes Farm and Pebble Beach of Luna.

Flotsam and Jetsam
If you are looking for places to eat, I recommend to eat in Above Sea Level La Union, Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel, Surf Shack, Gefseis Greek Grill, El Union Coffee and Elyu Hideout. One of my faves is Halo Halo de Iloko. It serves one of the best halo-halo in the city. 

This tour was truly memorable. It's a business trip that turned to a happy trip.Thank you Nobuyuki, Takatsugu, Diego, Steven, Diego, JP, Jane ,Shin and Jojo. You are awesome! Thank you also Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) for this wonderful experience. Looking forward for the PHITEX 2020.