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An Expected Journey to Sagada’s Marlboro Country
Popular advertisements of Marlboro cigarette always show a cowboy, his horse and a mountain in the background. This must gave the idea for people of Sagada to call a span of the Cordillera Mountain Ranges that lies on the boundary with its neighboring town Bontoc (specifically Alab) “Marlboro Country”.

In fact when you reach the area, you will for sure agree that the whole scenery before your eyes gives a realistic view of what is seen in posters and on TV ads of the cigarette brand.

As a native of Sagada, I have heard of “Marlboro Country” for the nth time. My brother Bal-aken once said it homes wild cows and horses. One day this Christmas season while on holiday in Sagada, I demanded my youngest sibling to bring me there.

At 9 in the morning, we were already set to conquer the famous spot in Sagada. With us were a load of junkies, four liters of drinking water and tons and tons of excitement to see the place.

We were accompanied by Lemya, a cousin of mine who did not give me a second thought when I asked her if she likes to come with us for an adventure to the Marlboro Country. Our ever innocent and sweet niece Dunnay also joined us.

When we started climbing the mountain from town, we enjoyed the cool air and the greens surrounding us. The mountain was vegetated with the natural beauty of shrubs, mosses and pine trees.

We followed the road, took a snack for a few minutes, and then continued with the stroll. My brother brought a bolo with him so he was able to fix us wood sticks to assist us in walking the muddy road.

Upon reaching the end of the road, we saw empty bottles of Red Horse. Obviously, there was a group that had some good time in that area the night before.

As we approached the inner part of the mountain range, it was noticeable that there were no longer pine trees along the way. The shrubs and wild flowers were four feet high and the mosses covering the ground were thicker.

It was a good day and the sun was shining bright. I kept on talking to entertain the group while asking too many questions. That time was in fact a great time to keep up with my dearest family members who not live in separate areas.

It was becoming warmer since we were already losing the sight of the woods. On our first stop, we saw a village in the far left- maybe a mile away. My brother said the village is part of Bontoc; we were kilometers away from Sagada.

A certain type of wild flower was almost everywhere. My cousin told the group there were orchids in the place. I could not agree more because of the thick moss covering the ground. 

Then, I saw pitcher plants. We took some rest and moved forward to see what the trail could further offer us.

We stopped again and we saw the Staunton Road from afar. The road climbs down the hill to other parts of Mountain Province like Bontoc and Sabangan.

We found ourselves losing the sight of the shrubs. We were already on the Marlboro Country ground! Three hills were in front of us and only tiger grass grows on the ground on top of the hills. 

We could feel the strong winds circling around the hills. Upon approaching the first hill, my heart was captivated by the view. We were like on an island surrounded by mountain ranges. Layers of ranges disappearing in the horizon as the earth meets the sky was fantastic no man can ever invent even if he is given two lives to spend.

We sat on the ground and checked out the time. It was exactly two in the afternoon. We opened plastics of junkies and filled our stomach while enjoying the view. My head was turning 360 degrees to witness all the beauty around. It was really unimaginable for me that I have reached the Marlboro Country. Rumors were right then.

We then proceeded to the second hill which appeared to be a grazing land for animals there. Stories have it that there is a white horse living in those mountains. We picked wild berries along the way to give ourselves a treat of mountain blessings.

When we reached the third mountain, we tried to look for the right path. There were many paths used by both man and animals. In short, we were lost.

When we went down the mountain, we felt we were following the wrong path so we climbed the slope again. Fortunately, we saw a group of ladies proceeding to the edge of the third mountain.

Upon approaching them, they asked us about the name of the place. We identified that we are on the boundaries of Sagada and Alab, Bontoc.  It was me who even confirmed that the village that we could see in the distance is part of Sagada. In short, they were also lost.

The group of ladies were looking for their way back to Alab. We told them that we are looking for the way to the Blue Soil. In fact, they just came from Blue Soil. So together, we went down the mountain to see the Blue Soil.

We reached the foot of the third mountain and saw a meadow with carabaos. There was a small,muddy lake where the carabaos get water while keeping their skin moist.

When we took pictures with the ladies, we joked to upload the picture to Facebook. Thus, they asked about my name on Facebook. Upon giving them my complete name, they asked us if we knew Francis Lizardo. Francis is my cousin. They then told us that they are siblings of his wife Jhona. What a small world!

Down we went to see the Blue Soil.

The Blue Soil is a wonderful spot in Marbloro Country. Its soil appears like snow in pictures. After taking pictures, my cousin Khujie said it was like hill in Canada.

After taking pictures, the ladies took their way back to Alab while we followed the trail down to foot of another mountain to reach the road connecting that mountain to the nearest villages of Southern Sagada. It took us almost an hour to reach the road.

There were pitcher plants growing everywhere and we picked unopened pitcher leaves to quench our thirst. I had the chance to collect huge pitcher plants to book-press to create book markers.

At 5:45 in the evening, we reached the road. For five minutes, we took some rest. I was glad we made it to find the way.

When daylight ceased the earth, we were still walking on the road. I attempted to tell my family to fetch us but it seems no one bothered to give us a hand. They were aware of the danger of walking on that road because it is far away from civilization. As the eldest in the group, I was worried we would meet bad guys.

We followed the road even if we were not seeing anything. It was dark. It was terrifying. The sound of birds and wild creatures can be heard and myths have it that ghosts may lead people in the mountains at night to nowhere. Ghosts in the mountains can even hide lost people, stories say.

I asked my brother if he brought something to build fire. My brother smokes so he gladly brought out his lighter. We gathered dried pine needles on the ground and made a small fire. Then I said a little chant for ghosts to use the light to get out of our way.

My niece Dunnay kept on complaining that she is tired so I carried her at my back. I asked my brother to light a cigarette if he has got one. Glad, he brought two sticks. According to stories, any fire keeps bad spirits away on the road.

We kept on walking following the road up the mountain. Good thing there were dried pine branches that we lit to light our way.

After two hours, we reached the cemented road. It was a sign we already reached Sagada. We took a small snack in a little store along the way and made our way up to our village which is just half an hour away.

When we reached home, dinner was already served on the table and the only thing we had to do was to clean our hands for a good meal. At past eight, we were already at home safe and resting- after 11 hours of hiking.

Christian is a Marketing Communications practitioner in Quezon City. He is an Igorot from Sagada, Mountain Province. To get in touch with him, please shoot an email to christianaligonow@gmail.com.


  1. aside from the Marlboro cigarette, where did the name "Marlboro Country" originated from ?

  2. No further info about it :) but let me research more on that---


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