The Walking Town of Sagada

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Did I say ‘walking town’ of Sagada? Yes I did. But I wish it can be a safer experience than it is now. Sagada is already a walking town but not exclusively. People who love to walk still share the road with vehicles that go in and out of this town bringing people and goods to and from nearby provinces. So let me proceed to describe Sagada as a walking town “in progress”. There is no other way to enjoy this jewel of a town located high up in Mountain Province but to walk in, through and around it. There is no better way to enjoy the sweet scent of the pine trees that grow in either side of the roads; no better way to savor the cold, crisp mornings , blushing sunsets and unforgettable starry night strolls than on foot.

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This is the main road that I walk everyday to and from the town center of Sagada.

The problem is there are no sidewalks and the roads, though concreted, are narrow and have sharp curves on some areas making strolls and walks a risky undertaking. Currently, you walk on the main road to and from your hotel and this can be very dangerous because the vehicles can go really fast. Thankfully, in the peace and quiet of the place, you can hear in advance the sound of a fast approaching car or bus around a bend and can ran for your dear life to the safe side of the street.

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Narrow roads needing a sidewalk to make walking and strolling a safe and pleasurable activity in Sagada.

But this isn’t even an assurance. One afternoon, hearing the sound of an approaching vehicle from the back, I ran for safety to the left side of the street knowing if the vehicle is heading to town, it will be on the right side of the road. But I was very surprised when it sped right at the center of the narrow road and missed me by a few inches, I even felt the rush of air hit me as it passed by me. I was shaken for a few minutes by what happened but continued to enjoy my afternoon walk to the town determined to do something by writing about this incident. Perhaps suggest a few ideas to improve the situation.

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This is one of my favorite views to look at when taking a stroll going to town. It is a group of wooden houses built on limestone foundation, some wrapped in corrugated or flat tin to protect the walls from rain.

Learning from my past travels in Italy where I had the opportunity to visit a few walking towns located in the mountains, vehicles/buses are allowed only up to a certain point of the town where they can park. Tourists are then led by their tour guides on foot to enter the town they are visiting. It has its advantages. First, for practicality because the streets are very narrow. Secondly, to best appreciate the town by exploring it on foot where you can investigate and examine interesting cafes, shops, churches and views which you normally miss when you are riding your bus.

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The Municipal Hall of Sagada where the narrow road forks in two. The one to the left will lead you to the many cafes and restaurants. The right fork will lead you uphill in Besao area giving you scenic and misty photographs of Sagada.
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This is the narrow main road that snakes through the belly of the town center where tiny cafes, shops and restaurants are located. When you are walking here and a vehicle passes by, you better run for safety into one of the shops because there is no sidewalk.
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A house located high above the road with an interesting “rip-rap” walling to prevent any erosion down the main road. The stairs go down immediately to the main road.

After visiting the Lumiang caves, I noticed that there was a road widening project in the Ambasing area. Backhoes and dump trucks were all over and the sides of the mountain were carved to make way for the road widening. I am wondering if a sidewalk is part of the road widening project they are currently constructing. I hope so. Part of any success is anticipation, foresight, and inclusive planning because progress is coming and actually have come fast and heavy in beautiful, misty Sagada.

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Road widening project going on now in Sagada. I wonder if a sidewalk is part of that project so walking and strolling around Sagada can become a safe and stress-free activity.

The following unsolicited ideas are suggested:

1) Allowing vehicles only up to a certain point to park near St. Mary’s Church area could be a great idea.
2) Then the tourists and locals can walk from there to their hotels and homes.
3) Construct sidewalks in the main roads of Sagada.
4) And for those vehicles that deliver goods, they can enter the center of town only on certain designated times of the day. Also there should be vehicles waiting at the other end of the town to bring tourists to the caves in Ambasing area instead of driving through the small and narrow road center.

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A rare sunset stroll in Sagada during a rainy October weekend.

We come to remote and beautiful places like Sagada to relax, balance and reconnect with ourselves and loved-ones by communing with nature. These walks are important in achieving that. So let us make Sagada a safe town to walk around by constructing sidewalks. These are just a few suggestions that can make walking in Sagada a safer and more pleasurable activity to do. If you have other ideas to suggest, feel free to write in the comments section.

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