Sagada Travel Stories: Mt. Kiltepan: Sea of Clouds, Pongas Falls and Hanging Coffins

Sagada Day 2: Have No Fear, Cliff’s Too Near

The sun is out and the storm is long forgotten. The day is ours to conquer Sagada, but can we take it?

Mt. Kiltepan: Sea of Clouds

We got up pretty early at around 4:30 am the next day because we wanted to catch the sunrise at Mount Kiltepan. There wasn’t much hiking involved in going there. We just rode a jeep and it brought us directly to the viewpoint. I was surprised when I saw that there were a lot of people there that morning. Like where did this people come from to go out on a weekend with a typhoon? I guess we weren’t the only ones who took the risk.

I was kind of scared that because of the heavy rain the night before, there would be a heavy fog and we wouldn’t be able to see anything at all. And that was what greeted us, the vast view of the sky covered entirely with white fog. We were already so hopeless and we thought that that was all we were seeing. I even gave up on the own time-lapse I’ve set up to capture the sunrise.

kiltepan sagada foggy sea of clouds

But then it happened. The sun slowly peaked out of the clouds and all the fog disappeared. The clouds settled at the bottom forming the sea of clouds. It was insane and the most beautiful thing I ever witnessed. I was up there on a ledge watching it by myself and the girls were down taking pictures. It was really insane how beautiful it was like an opening curtain to a brand new day. If only this was the view I saw everyday right? It was all too much, too much beauty. I was caught between taking pictures and savoring the moment. I still couldn’t hold on to a right feeling. It was wonderful.

kiltepan sagada sea of clouds

Since we didn’t have breakfast, we ate the Champorado they served made from their very own crunchy black rice while longingly staring at the magnificent view of the sea of clouds before we had leave it.

Mt kiltepan sagada champorado

When you’re leaving Mt. Kiltepan, you just have to do it in style.

sagada jeepney

The jeep we rode getting there? Well, we all climbed up to the roof. It’s the only way to do it. We were all crumpled up together with our butts squeezed on the top deck, hands holding the railing. It was so much fun. We rode down from the top of the mountain where the roads were rocky. We were bouncing up and down and I swear if I didn’t hold tight enough, the jeep would bounce me up the sky and land face first down the cliff.

It was definitely a whole other experience, fueling just enough of my adrenaline, definitely worth the try. We can see the majestic views of the mountains, clouds and rice terraces with the cold breeze slapping on our faces. We were shouting and laughing and freaking out. A friend of mine was singing funny songs and taking videos of everyone. It was just everything I tell you.

You’re surrounded by friends and making fun of each other under the open sky close, just enough to touch. A perfect moment to capture.

Pongas Falls

I thought trekking just involved walking long distances like I do most mornings, walking to the bus stop going to work. We had to trek because the jeepney can only bring us so far. If we wanted to reach our destination, we have to go through small villages, through forests and up an entire mountain to arrive at Pongas falls. There wasn’t a clear laid out path and we only had the tour guides to lead us to where we’re going. The sun was hot and even when we seemed to have walked thousands of steps already, we were still not there.

sagada trekking

When we reached a high point of the mountain, we began to follow a narrow cemented path inside. The path is set at the edge of the mountain facing the cliff. It is so narrow that it can only fit one foot at time. If you lose your balance or have one misstep, it would send you straight down to the bottom of the cliff.

I really didn’t know why I sensed no fear there, given that I am afraid of heights and considerably the clumsiest person ever. Maybe it was because I felt like I just needed to continue walking and then I’ll get to my destination alive? I’ve already gone so far, I can’t exactly stop and turn back now right?I just focused on steadily putting one foot after the other and being more amazed than frightened of the views I was seeing.

pongas falls sagada

Unlike the Bomod-ok falls, Pongas falls wasn’t one big waterfall. The water came from different points from the top of the mountain going down and forming a series of waterfalls of different sizes. It was really unbelievable when we got there like you can hear the strong push of the current as it flowed all the way down. The water was cold, but clean and refreshing.

pongas falls sagada

We played around in the water for a while. The way the water falls hard on your back was just so relaxing like a few welcome punches, a massage just right. I laid on the shallow part of the falls near a small waterfall and just let the water flow on top of my body and from the absence of the noise and aggressive push of the current, you’ll really feel like you’re one with nature. If I had a choice, I would let the current take my body and bring it wherever it pleased.

pongas falls sagada

We even climbed to the highest fall there was, hopping on rocks and holding on to a long twig to bring us up. We were like little kids again and nothing could stop us. We were game for everything.

pongas falls sagada

By the time we had to go back, we walked the same distance we walked going there. There weren’t any shortcuts. It was the exact same path. My friend and I also got left behind because we were so slow while the other just kept on ahead.

Sagada City Tour

Even when we were pretty much exhausted by that point, the day still hasn’t ended. We had the city tour to do that afternoon. Sagada has a very small town and the people there were also pretty simple. Kuya Alladen, one of our tour guides showed us the historical spots and told us stories about the ancient people of Sagada.

Sagada was originally named “Ganduyan”, and it was just another misinterpretation of the Spaniards that lead to it being known as Sagada to this day. They got “Sagada” from a man they met at Lake Danum who thought they were asking him about the basket he was carrying. The people in Sagada are Anglican by faith which is a combination of two religions: Christianity and the Pagan teachings of their ancestors.

lake danum sagada

Hanging Coffins: The Real Story

They also told us the story about the Hanging Coffins. Ancient Sagada people were hanged there not to “get closer to the heavens”, but simply for sanitary purposes. The coffins containing dead bodies were hanged up on the cliff so the animals won’t reach it and feast on the human remains.

hanging coffins sagada

There are 2 declarations of death in Sagada. One is when the hospital declares it, and then the other is when they are put actually put inside the coffin. If you are sent home first from the hospital, you are still considered alive. The coffin is made first and hanged without the body. From the house, the body is carried by a line-up of people. It is rolled by one person to the next until it reaches all the way to the cliff. It is believed that if a bit of blood drips on you, the wisdom of the person is passed onto you. Afterwards, the body is the put into the chair and then crumpled up, breaking the bones to form a fetal position to fit the coffin.

church sagada

But since the introduction of Christianity, the bodies can lay on their back to avoid a double death. Their Christian and Igorot names are spelled on the front. The spirits of these ancestors resting within these hanging coffins spirits are free to roam around nature, easier than buried in the ground. In today’s time, only elders of Sagada who know all the traditions can choose to have this type of burial if they desire. There’s a celebration or fiesta whenever this happens and then the site is closed for 6 months to keep away from the smell of the deteriorating body.

Back in the Transient!

To cap off the day, we had a little late night session with our driver and a few of the other joiners in our trip. It was fun getting to know our driver, the places he’s been to and the different bunch of people he met along the way. We stayed until 1 am, telling stories. I got carried away and kind of ingested too much bad stuff in my system. I mean you can only imagine what the trouble I’ll get myself into the next day right?

Read about what happened during our last day in Sagada by reading Sagada Travel Stories: Marlboro Hills: Sea of Clouds and Blue Soil

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Sagada Travel Stories: Mt. Kiltepan: Sea of Clouds, Pongas Falls and Hanging Coffins


Karla Niña Mallannao
Never been here. I want kaso the sched and time doesn’t permit. I wanna go to Mt. Kiltepan because the movie of Angelica and JM haha

Danica Airelle C. Marasigan
Love the stunning photos.
I heard that it is cheaper to go there by group than solo or couple? Been wanting to go here. Maybe soon!

Raul Barque
SAGADA is one of the pLaces in my list. I wish I could go there before the year end.

Blair Villanueva
All I can say is Sagada is truly a beautiful place. If could compare to other highlands overseas, with magnificent views, and fresh air. Lovely.

Prado Arturo Navarro Bognot
The hanging coffins seem to be an interesting historical location to visit in Sagada. What do you think is the reason why the elders believed that a drip of blood from the dead will pass down some of their wisdom? 🙂

Angelica Cortez Jose
Never been to Sagada but your pics of the sea of clouds made me want to go there to experience it. Although, I’d probably crumple to the ground because of my fear of heights

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0 thoughts on “Sagada Travel Stories: Mt. Kiltepan: Sea of Clouds, Pongas Falls and Hanging Coffins”

  1. Pingback: Sagada Travel Stories: Bananue Rice Terraces, A-Seven House and Sumaguing Cave – Christian Foremost, Your Gay Best Friend | Philippines

  2. TeamRyCe Road3ps

    this must have been a different Sagada adventure cause I didn’t saw Apo Wang-Ud in your post which most Sagada travel shows. Nice to see new places as well in Sagada.

  3. It looks like you really ha an interesting and exhausting day! Hahaha! I haven’t been there and reading your post makes me wanna invite my friends to go there too!

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