I arrived at Sagada at three in the afternoon. The sun was shining brightly but the air still felt cool to my skin. St. Joseph’s Resthouse was just a stone throws away from the bus station so it was just a quick climb up its stairs and I’m onto my lodging.
While negotiating my boarding fees with the desk clerk, I overheard one of the guests talking about a hike later that afternoon. I politely asked where the trek was and if I could maybe join them. They did let me join as long as I pay my share of the tour guide fee. So started my first adventure in Sagada.
A quick hot bath, a bowl of steaming noodles via Strawberry Café, and a bagful of camera gear later and I’m all set for the walk to the Echo Valley.
Echo Valley, getting its name from its soundboard echo that it produces, is one of the most accessible tourist spot in Sagada. Being just a few minutes hike from the town road, it usually is the first tour destination for those visiting this place.
From the town’s basketball court, we followed a path leading to Sagada’s massive Episcopal stone church. The path continued forth for another five minutes ‘til we encountered a stone stairway reminiscent of Baguio’s Wright Park. We headed on up and turned left to a winding pathway. Hugh pine trees lined the track with the occasional man-sized stone markings. What the markings were for, I was unable to figure out.
After a few minutes, we arrived at the Calvary Hill cemetery. It was an easy trail from the town up to this point but after this was where it gets hairy. The trail continues off at the right side of the burial ground. With a foot width of a pathway, a sheer drop to the right and no handrails, people with fear of heights started panicking left and right.
The narrow steep trails went on for about ten minutes with occasionally stops to let people going back pass by. That’s how narrow the path was.
As the trail wore on, we were greeted with surging craggy limestone cliffs and lush greeneries. The view was amplified with the setting sun making everything have a dramatic orange tint.
Off the face of the cliffs, we glimpsed the hanging coffins that Sagada is so famous for. Our guide told us that only those that reached old age and died peaceful deaths are given the privilege of being buried there.
A closer look at the coffins can be arranged by going down the base of the cliffs. It is reached through a down trail but unfortunately there was no one within the group who really wanted to try it out.
The place was a bit packed, it being the peak of tourist season in Sagada. I imagine the place could be a really nice spot on off-peak seasons for contemplation though. The high vantage point does push your mind into reflection mode; combined with the cool Sagada air, the natural tranquility of the valley, and the drama of the setting sun; Echo Valley can very well much echo the deepest part of your soul.