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Banaue - Bontoc - Sagada

View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.


The mist hanging over the valley at 6am this morning makes for a pretty picture.


Breakfast at the Banaue Hotel is a sad affair, with a cold omelette and stale bread.

Today we are heading even higher into the mountains, driving up and up into the clouds. We reach 1800 metres above sea level at the highest. The winding roads make me think we are on a stairway to heaven. Cue Led Zeppelin!

With such deep valleys, a pulley system has been set up to haul the rice from the fields at the bottom to waiting vehicles at the top.


Drone crash

We stop on the main road to fly the drone, and I am cautious of the overhead wires so I fly the drone just up a few feet before moving it out over the valley.


While the drone is set up to avoid obstacles by flying around them, it is not able to detect grass and straws, resulting in it crashing into the undergrowth just beyond the road.


The view from the drone itself

Both Rey and Richie climb over the barrier to try and retrieve the drone, with the latter telling his colleague: “You’re too heavy, leave it to me!”


Richie takes his shoes off to be able to feel what is under his feet so as not to fall into the abyss. It’s a steep-sided valley, I would hate for him to tumble down the side, but equally, those straws must hurt his feet! Using my walking stick to hook the straw before grabbing the drone, he manages to rescue it without too much hassle.


He’s my hero!


The drone appears to still be in one piece after its tumble adventure, with just some tangled grasses to remove from its propellers.


They say to get straight back on a horse after a fall, so despite feeling rather nervous, I fly the drone again over the rice fields at the bottom of the valley, this time without hitting the overhead wires, or the grasses.



We stop just outside Bontoc to take some photos of the town and some ploughing going on in the fields below.


Bontoc Museum

This fascinating little museum is found within the school grounds, and unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside. The museum is run by a nun, who comes out to tell us about some of the exhibits, in excellent English.

The two-storey museum features a collection of authentic artifacts, crafts, traditional clothing, hunting tools, and a number of powerful black and white photographs, some of which are suspended in a glass frame and lit from behind. What impresses me most is that each implement and receptacle, has a proper name, an example being a musical instrument which is called a ‘Bangibang’.

I also like the ladies’ small pillar-box hats, held in place by string, which can double up as handbags; as well as a headdress made from snake bone. The museum mainly focuses on the culture of the Ifugao indigenous tribe.

After leaving the museum in Bontoc, we climb back up again to Sagada, which is in fact at a higher altitude than Banaue, where we have spent the last three nights. The road has only recently re-opened (ten days ago) after a landslide.

Misty Lodge and Café

This, apparently, is one of Rey's favourite cafés, and he is excited to take us here. I can certainly see why. With tables set in a courtyard, surrounded by forest and shaded by large pink parasols that colour everything underneath them in a strange hue, the food is delicious.


We order pink lemonade (at least that is one food item that does not look odd under the cover), and Rey suggests that the burgers here are really worth having.

Delicious Pink Lemonade

A selection of burgers

Mushroom melt burger

Bacon lover burger

Just as we are finishing off the burgers, a large (pink) Margherita Pizza arrives.


The speciality of the house, however, is their homemade yogurt, and Rey tells me he has brought friends here from Manila just for the yogurt.

Blueberry, chocolate, strawberry, and caramel

I choose the blueberry, and David has the chocolate



Hanging Coffins of Sagada


In a similar vein to the cliff-side burial places we saw in Sulawesi, the people of Sagada place their dead in coffins hollowed out from logs (often having to break the bones of the deceased to be able to fit them in). The coffins are then hung on the side of a cliff, with the belief that the higher the dead are placed, the greater the chance of their spirits reaching a higher nature in the afterlife.


There are many such ‘cemeteries’ around the area, and we visit one where I can photograph it from afar without having to do any trekking. This particular burial site is only for ladies who have died in childbirth. The coffins we see here are around 100 years old, the practice was stopped in the 1940s.


The Church of St Mary the Virgin

Built in 1904 by American missionaries, the stone chapel is the main episcopal church in Sagada.


The wheel used for this centennial marker was brought from the US to Segada as part of a sawmill project. It was discarded when the sawmill stopped operating and had been lying on the ground for almost a century. The wheel was salvaged for this marker to symbolise the faith and commitment of the early missionaries.


Echo Valley

This area is known as Echo Valley because when there was a burial here, the village elders would shout and the noise would echo around the valley. It is thought to be a way of communicating with the dead.


There are hanging graves on the cliff face here, as well as a cave burial chamber.


The last funeral held here was in 2010.

Masferré Country Inn

We go to check in to the hotel on the main street of the small town of Segada. The hotel is more like a restaurant with rooms, although it could do with a little TLC. The room is small, with two narrow double beds, and no other furniture apart from a desk. The bathroom is a couple of steps up, but there is no soap or toilet paper, and the tap is not attached properly. Several of the small window panes are broken, the wallpaper is coming off the wall, and the paint is flaking. When I try to use the wifi, it seems the hotel has not paid their bill and they have been cut off.


Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this incredible Grand Tour of South East Asia for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 09:25 Archived in Philippines Tagged rice_fields museum philippines bontoc pizza rice_terraces burgers banaue sagada drone undiscovered_destinations drone_photography dronography drone_crash home_made_yogurt misty_lodge hanging_coffins church_of_st)mary_the_virgin echo_valley masferré_country_inn

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What a day! I hope to see the coffins one day as well ... was it worth the trip?

by Ils1976

It sure was, Ils, it's all really fascinating. ♥

by Grete Howard

Sagada is definitely on my list if we get to visit the Philippines! It sounds fascinating, as does that little museum. And I'm glad you got the drone up again as the photos of the rice terraces are amazing!

by ToonSarah

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