The sunrise in Marlboro Hills, Sagada is an experience first-timers in this chilly, pine-filled town in Mt. Province will love – it usually comes with the view of the iconic sea of clouds! While Kiltepan Viewpoint is the one in Sagada immediately associated with the sea-of-clouds view, the site has closed temporarily, especially after its popularity soared after the movie “That Thing Called Tadhana” and tourists flooded the site.
Marlboro Hills’ own misty sunrise is an alternative offered by Sagada’s guides to visitors. With rice terraces below and a lush mountain backdrop, the view can be breathtaking. Locally known as kaman baneng, its meaning generally translates to “like a ridge,” or “like a rice paddy.”
A few months ago before the COVID lockdown, I went to Sagada for a quick project. It was my first time visiting Sagada again after over a decade. Now there was a direct bus to Sagada from Cubao via Coda Lines, leaving nighttime. The bus took the Manila to Banaue route, and we had a picturesque view of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces along the way around the sunrise.
After fieldwork, I stayed behind an extra day to explore a bit of Sagada. Good thing I met Grel Bolido, a tour guide from one of Sagada’s local associations, and she suggested a tour I could join on my last day.
At around 4 am, I waited outside Misty Lodge, where I stayed on my last night. A jeep, carrying five passengers aside from our guide Grel, came to pick me up. The jeep dropped us off at a point around ten minutes away, and then we started the early morning trek. Grel provided us with head lamps to guide us in the trail, which had some relatively steep ascents. I found myself out of breath at times, and would recommend ideally jogging or running in preparation, even though it is a short trek. I believe we took around 30 minutes, until we reached a wide flat expanse which had food stalls and a toilet. Some of us had a porridge breakfast like lugaw and champorado before trekking a little more to the viewpoint. There, we waited.
As night gave way to dawn, I could make out some light mist in the distance, which made the mountains look like a watercolor painting. No, it was not the iconic sea of clouds, but with the pines, the sweeping mountain range, and the even more expansive sky, it was beautiful nonetheless.
And, as the sun slowly peeked over the horizon, I could see the rice terraces below. The black outlines of pines began to show their greens as the sun shone over the ridge.
Soon, the ridge took on a golden glow.
Walking around, I also saw some interesting plants and flowers. One flower abundant in Marlboro Hills which caught my attention was a rhododendron native to Sagada.
As the entire landscape was bathed in golden light, we savored our surroundings before slowly making our way back to the jump-off point. I was actually considering going to the Blue Soil Hills, but the guide told me that the trek would take another two to three hours, and I still needed to prepare, pack up and catch the bus back to Metro Manila early afternoon. I also realized that I needed more physical preparation for the Blue Soil Hills, whose terrain could be slippery. The hills are in fact blue because of elements like copper sulfate.
The Blue Soil Hills is also accessible via another private vehicle from town, with a shorter trek compared with Marlboro Hills as the starting point, but I decided to save the place for another trip, when I was not in so much of a hurry.
Going back the way we came in sunlight instead of darkness showed us some lovely sights like more interesting plants and flowers, and of course, clusters and clusters of pine trees.
Heading back again to Misty Lodge via jeepney, I still had enough time to rest and take a nap before checking out and having lunch.
The sunrise in Marlboro Hills, Sagada, was perfect for the last day of my trip.
How to get there:
For a direct trip, take the Coda Lines bus from Cubao, Metro Manila. You can find them at the HM Terminal in Cubao. Bus fare starts at P760. There are buses every night, around 9 pm. For specific bus schedules and fares, check out Coda Lines’ website. Trip usually takes around 12 hours or more.
You can also take a bus to Baguio (usually six hours or more), then take a bus to Sagada (also six hours). This is ideal, especially if you are planning to stop by or stay for a night or two in Baguio. (Check out a North Luzon adventure here, which includes Baguio).
Tour tips and expenses:
Go with a registered tour guide part of Sagada’s local associations. You can look for a guide once you get to Sagada, or you can arrange a tour in advance with my guide, Grel Bolido, via Tour Around Sagada.
Here is what I paid for for the experience of the sunrise in Marlboro Hills in Sagada:
- P50 tourism fee/environmental fee
- P250 guide and transportation fee (computed from P1500 divided by six people)
Generally, guide fee is P600 for one person up to a group of 10, and round-trip transportation for a group is at least P650.
If you add Blue Soil to the trek, guide fee is higher at P1,600 for a group of up to five people.
Where to stay:
There are many accommodation options in Sagada, though these are pension houses, inns, and homestays. There are no hotels. I got a room in Misty Lodge for P400. The lodge is located outside town and is perfect for people wanting some quiet. There are also pine trees outside.
I heard some rooms with shared bathrooms can go as low as P250 at that time of my visit.
Sagada is currently closed to tourists because of the COVID pandemic. Should the rates here change upon Sagada’s opening, I will be updating them.
For updates , you may also check Sagada’s official website.