Feeling broken? Here’s what to do for a solo trip to Sagada.
On a Friday evening, pack your bags and leave. Don’t tell your lover where you’re going. Write him a letter and bury it in one of your books. Tell him about it later, via an emotionless text message. Tell him you need a break. Tell him you’ve been thinking where your relationship is going, if it’s going anywhere at all. Tell him you need to find yourself. Promise to be back by Sunday night.
Head to a station of the Baguio-bound bus lines in Quezon City. Be relieved that though you didn’t think to reserve ahead, there are still seats for the 9:30 p.m. trip to Baguio. Kill two-and-a-half hours in the nearby mall. Eat dinner. Buy snacks for the road. Have an acute acid reflux attack. Wonder if your body is telling you something. Doubt for a moment your decision to go, but go anyway.
Take the six-hour trip to Baguio. Upon arriving at the “Summer Capital of the Philippines,” marvel at the glimmering lights from the houses perched on the hillsides and at the stars shining against the pitch-black night sky. Recall how long it’s been since you last saw a starry night like this. Tell yourself: “Too long.”
Wait at the convenience store beside the bus station for two hours. While eating crackers, browse your Instagram feed and see your lover’s post, with the caption: “I think this is going to be the longest and probably hardest weekend of my life.” Feel your heart break into a thousand pieces, feel your eyes well up with tears. Resist the urge to cry. It is not good to be seen bawling in such a public place while “Gwiyomi” plays gleefully in the background.
Instead, gather your stuff and begin to walk to the station with buses bound for Sagada, at a place they call Dangwa Terminal. Walk all the way there even though it’s freezing cold at 5 a.m. Let the sweat forming on your forehead meld with the tears that have started to fall from the corner of your eyes. No one will notice the difference.
Buy your P220 ticket to Sagada and board the bus that’s not air-conditioned. Get your much-needed sleep on the long and winding roads on the way to Mountain Province for another six hours. Look out the window from time to time and think, “He would’ve loved this view.” Feel a pang of regret, but carry on.
Arrive in Sagada at about noon. Walk along the downhill slope on the way to your inn. Leave for the Lemon Pie House and buy lunch. Taste the famous P30 lemon pie, with its sweet, tangy filling and the crunchy outer crust. For the first time in your life, feel lonely about eating alone. Wonder how your lover would’ve liked the pie and the rest of your lunch.
Head to the municipal hall to register. Ask where the Danum lake is. Be relieved that it’s just an hour’s walk from the town center. Remember how you’ve walked for far longer before, at a much greater distance to boot.
Follow the directions of the information officer. Conveniently forget that Sagada is a mountain town. Walk for more than an hour on an uphill slope that never seems to end. Ask yourself how it’s possible for there to be a lake at the height you’ve just covered. Feel forlorn at having to walk alone. Tell yourself, “This lake better be worth it!”
And decide upon getting there: The lake is not worth it. Follow a narrow downward pathway to your right to check what else there is to see in the area. Meet a dead end by way of a fence blocking your path. Head back immediately, making the upward climb once again. Feel a leg begin to have cramps, followed by a sharp, piercing pain in the other. Stand still for five minutes as you try to manage the blinding pain from both of your legs. After a while, lie on the concrete to give your legs a break. Look up at the sun. Decide whether the tears coming from your eyes are from the pain in your legs or the pain in your heart. Recall how your lover tended to you every time you had cramps at night in bed, or the time he dressed your wounds when you met a motorbike accident in Bantayan, Cebu. Regret everything. Regret looking for the lake that was not worth it. Regret walking. Regret ever coming to Sagada. Wish a thousand times that your lover was with you throughout this ordeal.
Once your legs are feeling okay, head back down to town immediately. Ignore the sunset over the lake and the peace and quiet you were hoping to have by the waters. Realize that though you now regret coming to Sagada, it was a necessary step toward the ultimate realization that you can’t deal with your problems, and with life, all by yourself.
The next day, wake up at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. and meet the driver you hired at the municipal hall. Head over to one of the highest peaks in town, called Kiltepan Viewpoint, to wait for the sunrise. Arrive in pitch-black darkness, only seeing the stars that shine bright like diamonds above your head. Descend through a narrow pathway toward a grassy, rocky cliff that can only accommodate 10 people. Make out some clumps of white objects hanging beyond the edge of the cliff as your eyes adjust to the darkness. Wait. And wait some more.
After about an hour, see a speck of light breaking through the vast darkness in the distance. Realize that the clumps of white objects below are actually clouds—a sea of clouds, in fact, that Sagada is famous for. Let your jaw fall as you witness the majestic scene unfolding before you: the sun rising over the tall mountains in the distance, the sea of clouds moving at a glacial pace below, and a peek at the rice terraces on the ground whenever the clouds would part from time to time. Be awed, amazed, overwhelmed. And then, feel a hint of sadness and regret for having no one with whom to share this moment, the most spectacular sunrise you’ve ever witnessed in your life.
After the sun has completely risen, decide to cut your trip short and immediately take the 8 a.m. bus for Baguio. Think of all the things the place has taught you in the less than 12 hours that you stayed. How being alone and independent can at times be lonely. How wanting to be apart from your lover had made you want to be with him even more. And how finding yourself—in Sagada, of all places—meant losing yourself in the first place.
Think how just 48 hours ago you were almost ready to throw five years of love away, just like that. Thank the heavens and all the bathala in Sagada who persuaded you to go the other way. Thank the place for an enchanting and life-changing weekend. And promise to be back. Soon. A renewed person, broken but made whole again.
JM Tuazon, 26, a PR professional working at the country’s largest telecom firm, has had “a bad case of the travel bug for a while now.”
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