In the northern most part of the province is the municipality of Sadanga that is renowned of its rich natural resources and traditional beliefs and practices.
Dubbed as “Close Encounter with Nature”, a group of nature lovers from the Bureau of Fire of Tadian, Sagada environment guides association, Sagada municipal tourism office, Bontoc general hospital, Bauko municipal tourism office, provincial tourism office, provincial wellness center, provincial human resource and management and Sadanga local government unit mapped out a potential trekking route from Sacasacan-Belwang-Poblacion, Sadanga.
Passing thru the Bontoc-Tabuk national road are the scenic views of the winding Chico River and the magnificent rice terraces curved in mountain slopes of Anabel and Betwagan barangays.
In barangay Sacsacan is the papattay or papatayan , an area where the elders offer chicken or pig to ask Kabunian (Igorot god) for his continues blessings for abundant agricultural harvests including tamed animals and good health of the villagers. The ritual is observed during the agricultural calendar- from farm preparation until the harvest of palay. After it, te-er or tengao (rest day or holiday) is proclaimed and observed. The people in the community will not go out (with the changing time, they may be go out) and visitors are not allowed to come in. The number of rest days depends on the stages of the agricultural activity. A visitor or visitors who will not abide with this rite will be penalized with a pig and drinks (gin and soft drinks) that the community will partake.
At the papattay, one can overlook parts of the barangays of Belwang, Bekigan, Poblacion and Demang with their centuries old stoned walled rice terraces, houses built contiguous with each other and the sleeping beauty of Tinglayan, Kalinga. The proximity and strategic locations of the houses manifest the closeness of villagers due to the presence of tribal wars.
A less than an hour uphill is the gigantic Dananao (Chananaw) mountain lake where edible giant tilapia and clams abound. The spillover of the pond is used to irrigate the rice fields below the lake. The ground around it is conducive for picnic and camping sites.
Trudging pathways, open and mossy mountains is Masigi, an old village of Belwang that was abandoned due to tribal war and impoverished life. Accounts reveal that this place is believed to be the origin of some prominent families of central Barlig. The other villagers found their way to Talubin, Bayyo, Mainit and Can-eo, Bontoc.
According to Vicente Tikchap, punong barangay of Belwang, a hunter from Masigi went to try his luck. Crossing mountains and rivers, he arrived to a place, which is now the central part of Barlig. He was fascinated to see that the area was abundant with food, fishes (kachew, igat & fanisfis), frogs and crabs. He decided to go back home and bring his family to settle there.
Before he and his family left their much-loved village, he deposited their treasures (akon) such as, necklaces, bracelets, gongs, earrings in an earthen jar, made a hole where he placed the jar and planted a tree on top of it. For the past years, some of the descendants who are now staying in Barlig and Baguio City had been frequenting the place to look for the land mark and their place of origin.
The group camped under a shallow cave, where the late NPA and CPLA leader Conrado Balweg found solace there for years. This was perceived to have been bombed by the military but the rock remained sturdy until this time.
Below Masigi are unexplored caves.
The Tale of Two Caves
One day, the Umato of Balicongcong (a sub-group in the village who maintains one ato) went to gather bats in the Cansel cave (Sogo). The meat of the bats were used as viand when they observed te-er or tengao. Unknowingly, the saleng that was utilized for lighting was used up hence, they were trapped inside the cave. Because they didn’t return home that night, a group of folks from Belwang went to rescue them the following day. In another occasion, some students from Belwang went to gather bats and explore the cave. The others went home early while three were unintentionally left behind. Their saleng were exhausted. Without light, they crawled to find their way out. Unnoticed, they passed by the entrance several times.
Frightened that something might happen to the kids, the parents and elders made their final decision to go and liberate the 3 students. When the rescuers went inside, the children were sobbing and shivering due to the freezing temperature. The three kids were brought home safely.
More than one hour of downward trekking and traversing creeks, rivers and thorny plants and crawling under fallen trees, intertwined vines and shrubs is the Angoten cave.
Long time ago, Angoten went to gather bats in the cave. He didn’t notice that he went further inside until his light (saleng) was used up. For a month, he kept on wandering to find his way out.
One day, he was surprised to hear a pounding sound, a few feet above his head. As he moved up, the resonance became clearer. When he reached the area where he heard the loudest sound, he pushed the ground and a hole was made. He peeped and saw a woman pounding rice.
Scared, she ran away and told his neighbors about what she saw. The folks went to the area and found that the man was very weak due to starvation and dehydration.
As the men came closer, the hunter collapsed. They fed and gave him water until he recovered. One night, the hunter introduced his name as Angoten and related his ordeal. After some weeks, Angoten became strong. The folks of Sagada decided to bring him home. However, they can’t bring him directly to Belwang due to the presence of tribal war. They turned him over to the people of Tetep-an and the latter turned him over to lower Mainit where he was allegedly killed there.
Through mossy forests, zigzagging rice paddies and narrow irrigation canal is the gigantic Fuwa-as falls, with a height of about 75 meters, more or less, and a pond that is approximately 200 sq. meters. The water is crystal clear and cold. The members of the Sagada Environmental Guide Association (SEGA) tried to measure its depth, but the pressure was so strong. The might of the water from above pushed up the bag of stones that was suspended.
Indeed, the 1 and ½ days of trekking, camping and sightseeing were worthwhile amid exhaustion.
In our exit point at Poblacion, the hardened muscles and overtiredness were eased by the therapeutic effect of the Maatong hot spring.
Meanwhile, three policemen from Sadanga municipal station provided security to the hikers while the kagawad of Sacasacan and Belwang including punong barangay Vicente Tikchap served as our guides. Some old folks and youngsters from Belwang cooked the food.
Toward the northernmost part of Sadanga is the village of Saclit. This can be reached via jeepney from Bontoc and vice versa.
Dananao lake and rice terraces, which is a 30-minute downhill walk from the community, are breathtaking sceneries. The lake is full of giant clams that are being frequented by local and foreign tourists. The water from the pond supplies the irrigation of the surrounding rice terraces except those in higher elevation.
About 2 hours of uphill walk through the winding irrigation canal and mossy forest is the Sakrang twin falls. It flows down to a creek and forms part of the irrigation of the villagers of Saclit. It is smaller than the Inodey twin falls.
Angtadan mountain lake is another spectacular attraction. It occupies the space of the size of two soccer fields. It is abundant with giant clams and tilapia. However, the tilapia can’t be caught thru the use of fish hooks but by means of using air rifles. Its environs are surrounded with mossy forest and can be utilized for picnic and camp areas.
Due to strong rain and lack of sleeping tents, the group slept in a small hunters house that supposed to accommodate 10 but it contained 19 individuals. The others catnapped in set up tents.
The following day is a tedious trek. Our goal was to go to Soysoyan, an area where one can view the aesthetically built rice terraces of Saclit, parts of Tinglayan including its famous “sleeping beauty”. We lost our way hence, we went through parts of Tinglayan before we found our way back to Saclit village.
Photos by: Marie Fe K. Camso, Jennifer F. Pangket, Brylle Faragso & FBD