I haven’t forgotten you! I just got really, REALLY sick. Which is strange, and yet kind of typical for me in mid Australian summer. I’m not sure why my body decides to do this to me when it’s hot, but it does. Three weeks later, I’m finally starting to feel human again. So here’s the last part of our Northern Philippines tour!
After leaving Batad and Banaue, we were taken by our guide to Sagada, which is about a four hour drive through some truly amazing hill country. Everything is so beautiful and green, and then out of nowhere, you look down the hill and this is the view. I’m not sure what this village is called, but we just rounded a corner and there it was. Nestled into a valley, right up against the cliff side. Like brightly coloured lego blocks just scattered over the carpet.
Sagada itself was a beautiful township. The main street runs up and down one hilly street, and is mostly just full of tourist shops – which isn’t exactly a bad thing. But what it’s really famous for, are the Hanging Coffins. When we were planning our trip here, I had two things that were definite musts for me. To visit the hill country and see the hanging coffins, and to chill out on a beach. Although I was still not 100% better during this part of the trip, I am so grateful that we were able to do these things. I’ve never seen anything like Sagada in my life, and just like Batad, it was incredibly difficult to leave.
The Hanging Coffins are a pretty short walk from the township and so worth it. We hired a local guide to take us here, and then also caving. The two smallest coffins are the oldest ones, and he told us that they’re small like this, because before the country was colonised, they would bury their dead in the fetal position. It was the Christian missionaries who taught them to bury their dead laying flat. So the smaller coffins are pre-Christian era, and the chairs you can see were used to display the deceased person so that family and friends could come and pay their respects, before they were interred into the coffins and hung on the cliff faces – sometimes – as you can see, with the chairs they rested on.
They also interred their dead in caves.
It’s a little morbid perhaps, but I’ve always been fascinated by graveyards. My mum would take me to them and we’d walk around them together for hours, reading the names and imagining the stories of their lives, and it always gives me a sense of peace. It’s extremely interesting to me to see how other cultures bury their dead. Some of the coffins were so old they were broken apart, and the bones inside were visible. In the cave, they were all stacked in tightly together against the walls, held in place with rocks and some where decorated with lizards carved into the wood. There was one which had a thigh bone resting on the coffin lid. Most of these are very old, but the latest hanging coffin was placed there only about 5 or 10 years ago.
We walked for another hour or so to the opposite end of this cave, where Ollie went spelunking with the guide, but – due to my still not great health, I stayed behind at the one cafe where I sat upstairs and watched the locals come down the paths with brightly coloured packages held on their heads, tourists come for the caving, and read my book.
Probably my most favourite thing about the hill country – aside from the amazing views – was the coffee. It was rich and thick and so delicious. They also have their own tea, and so obviously I had both. The tea was delicious, very mild and not bitter at all. I would have loved to have brought some home with us, but I wasn’t sure it would get through customs. I did however bring home the coffee. Of which, I no longer have any, which is a travesty! I miss this coffee more than I can express!
There were a lot of things that made this part of the trip incredibly memorable, and also very hard going. We had heard so much about watching the sunrise over Kilpetan, that at the time it really seemed worth the 4.30am wake up call. It was so cold, and beautiful, and thank god for the coffee!! This was as good as we got though, because the entire place just filled up with tourists, and it was all too much. So we went back to our homestay and slept a couple more hours before we left to head back to Banaue, and the 10 hour bus ride back to Manila.
Never again, I told myself. Everyone who knows me, knows I am not a morning person at all. Also, of course..the night before the rest of the tourists at our homestay partied until early in the morning, and Kelly on anything less than 6 hours of sleep is generally not a Kelly you want to spent time with. Poor Ollie.
Still though, it was incredibly beautiful, and a lovely way to end our stay in the Northern Philippines.