Before this gets misconstrued, I’d like to make it clear that I love Sagada. Despite the long journey I had to endure while suffering from a mild ear infection and an upper respiratory tract infection, it was well worth the struggle. Located literally in a place called Mountain Province, Sagada lies on a valley at around 5,000 feet above sea level. The weather is cooler unlike the rest of the Philippines, and trust me when I say that this is a nature loving freak’s heaven. From lush and terraced rice paddies to beautiful pines in the streets, spectacular waterfalls and phenomenal caves, Sagada makes the perfect getaway from the hectic city life.
Sadly today, it’s becoming a big tourist attraction, and in a few years, who knows if it’ll still keep its virginal charm that most of us like to seek after. I think there was a local movie that came out in the past year that definitely attracted a lot of local travelers to head up in the mountains. Let’s blame that. But fortunately for me, when I went on my birthday this year, there weren’t too many people. I got there on a Sunday so most people would be leaving in the morning. However, my birthday sunrise on our first morning didn’t really pan out as I imagined it would be.
It was all planned out that I’ll be watching the sunrise over the mountains on the morning I turn 28. I’ve seen the pictures and I’ve read the blogs. Kiltepan summit is the spot to be. It was the picture perfect sunrise I was after. With massive fluffy clouds blanketing the atmosphere as the sunlight slowly illuminates from within— how could one not want that. But of course, I considered the fact that there’s no guarantee of a sunrise or even the thick clouds I was mostly after. Either way, I had a good feeling about it and we went anyway.
The next morning, we hopped on a van to take us to the summit. We left at 4:30, and although it wasn’t too far of a drive, it was a good call to leave early because by the time we reached the summit, it was already crowded. Apparently, this is most weekenders’ final stop just right before they head back to the city. I’m really not good with big crowds. I loathe having to come across big groups, because… it’s such a buzz kill. Call me spoiled, but my travels are very meaningful to me and sharing them with mostly inconsiderate others easily ruins the vibe. (READ: How To Survive Tourist Spots 101)
Yes, Kiltepan is a gorgeous spot. It has a beautiful view, and the sunrise is literally all-up-in-your-face breathtaking. Though there were no clouds that morning, it almost surpassed my expectation. I mean, this was my first sunrise over the mountains so it was definitely something else than what I’m used to. But then again, I snapped back to reality just as soon as I left it. It’s not even like I’m being a total snob about it, but let’s please be real. Traveling 12 hours (20 hours in transit) to share a beautiful sunrise with dozens of others just doesn’t cut it. The entire experiences loses its authentic touch. I can even try to be positive about it and say, hey, we all have the same desire to be captivated by the magic of our world, right. But no. It was just a complete buzz kill. On my birthday. (READ: Travelers vs. Tourists: An Honest Comparison)
See, I’d defend other touristy places in a heartbeat, like say, Boracay. I’d come back to the island over and over again and have no shame about it. I don’t mind the people because that’s how I know Boracay. Others see it differently, and quite the opposite actually, because they’re looking for paradise. (READ: The Ultimate Boracay Hack) And that’s exactly why I was disappointed in Kiltepan. Because I was expecting more than just a sunrise. I expected an ultimate experience.
Sunrises are actually meaningful to me. I’m not a morning person. My entire life, I can probably count the sunrises I’ve witnessed with two hands. And some of those very rare occasions, I was on a plane or a bus. Any occasion that I voluntarily get out of bed that early in the morning, I treasure it. So forgive me when I claim that sharing a glorious sunrise while others are pushing and raising their cameras to block your view was just not the kind of birthday bliss I was craving. Top that off with loud murmurs, annoying ringtones, and overall tourist central activities, and well, it was just not worth waking up at 4am for. (READ: How To Be An Annoying Traveler)
Have I known it would have been that chaotic, I would have skipped it. And with hindsight, meaning, knowing what I know now, I would advice you to skip it too, if it’s a hectic weekend (or a Monday), or a peak season in general. But you know what, the day after that, I found a much better alternative to Kiltepan. I mean come on, it’s Sagada. It’s a hikers central, so there’s gotta be a bunch of secret corners overlooking the sunrise. See, Kiltepan summit is easily accessible by a ride. It doesn’t require any physical effort, which is why it attracts more tourists. The next morning, we went on a hike to Marlboro Country, and there we witnessed the sublime sunrise I dreamed of. Yes, complete with abundant blankets of clouds I imagined as well. Best of all, it was quiet and secluded. I’ll write about that another time.
When all is said and done, I may have just went on a wrong day, which is a rookie mistake. I’ve read the wrong blogs who failed to mention that behind the beautiful pictures, there’s an excessive amount of people clicking away and blocking other people’s view. And that is why I felt the need to let you know now that, no, the reality of Kiltepan sunrise isn’t like what you’ve seen in the pictures. But if you don’t mind the people and all you really want is a picture, then by all means, join the others. After all, going where everybody else does is how you really make the most of traveling, right? Rrrrrriiiight.
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