Sadanga: Land of Kadangyans

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By Augustus Ulat Saboy

Baguio Midland Courier, 20 February 1966

SHOULD the supbprovince of Bontoc become a separate province, the municipality which will stand up to be its financial angel would expectedly be Sadanga – often referred to as the “Land of the Kadangyans.” The word kadangyan means “rich man,” an individual in Bontoc primitive society belonging to the opulent class.

A foresight view of the wealth that Sadanga unassumingly owns may yield the reason behind its being called a region populated by affluent individuals. For while today her kadangyans own flights of rice terraces, rows of roofed granaries, illimitable supply of basi (sugar cane wine) and herds of cattle, Sadanga’s wealth of tomorrow are its great storage of mineral ores in its bowels, timber from its virgin borderland forests and its potential tourist wealth.

Much could be appreciated in the simple lives of the Sadanga folks. Conservative and hardworking people as they are, they seasonally dish out one of the most expensive native celebrations in the Mountain Province – the chono which features prominently the mass slaughtering of carabaos. The basi which they brew from their sugar cane patches is considered “the best” in the province. It tops in the number of olog(s), a primitive dormitoary of unmarried girls. The menfolk stake periodically one of the ancient games in the province – a mock battle fought between young men with staves and shields and their version of the famous Bontoc “Fagfagto.”

In rice terraces construction, they are rated among the ablest. This is evidenced by the fact that in the hinterlands of Abra and elsewhere, their stonewall artists are favorites of people yearly hiring men to do excavation work.

In war, Sadanga’s menfolk are among the bravest and fiercest. And Mountain Province tribesmen today have yet to duplicate the feat of Sadanga’s tribesmen fearlessly “invading” a lowland urban community in seeking revenge for the alleged killing of one of the tribesmen a decade ago.

For those hit by the sightseeing bug however, here are some of the outstanding sights that Sadanga offers.

Rice Terraces

For a change in rice terraces sights such as those which are offered by Banaue in Ifugao, the Sacasacan, Belwang, Bikigan and Betwagan rice terraces are open to the visitor’s vicarious delights.

The Sacasacan and Belwang rice terraces can be reached on foot from the municipal town of Sadanga with some two to three hours of hiking and climb up the rice terraces stairways. For the Betwagan terraces, a distant view can be had from the national highway north of Bontoc. A good two-hour hike to the barrio leads to the place where a panoramic view is caught from a hillside overlooking the village.

For a wider vista of the Belwang, Sacasacan and Bikigan rice terraces, a climb up to the barrio of Sacasacan will be rewarding. From this Sadanga barrio one catches a climpse of one of the massive sights of stone-walled rice terraces in the Mt. Province extending from the rest of the mountains down to the craggy banks of the Sadanga river below. During planting seasons, a gratifying scene greets the eye with irrigation aqueducts glittering in the sunlight down the terraced mountainside. The irrigation system of these rice terraces would send present-day civil engineers wondering over how these high stonewalled rice paddies are able to withstand erosion and cave-ins without the construction aids of slide rules and laboratories.

The Sadanga rice terraces are extensions of the terraces that are found in the barrios of Mainit, Guinaang and Malegkong on the northwestern highlands of Bontoc. Malegkong is only two-hour hike from Sacasacan, a village atop the municipal town of Sadanga.

Hot Springs

The Sadanga natives have found the medicinal and refreshing effects of hot springs that abound in the region. And so, they have with their own resources impounded one of the biggest springs in the municipality just a stone’s throw away from their municipal hall. A weary traveler can take a dip in one of these pools in the evenings. The hot spring pool is full of Sadanga villagers in the evenings bathing after a whole day of strenuous work in their farms.

More of these hot springs can be found along the banks of the Sadanga river – all catering to hot water needs of the villagers.

Lumawig’s Footprints

On a brushland between the barrio of Malegkong and Sacasacan is a huge rock sitting prominently on a hilltop like a sentinel guarding the fast receding tree lines of the undulating mountain range. Here in this uninhabited placed called Sidio are found huge human footprints left on the rocks.

Villages will readily tell that these are Lumawig’s – the legendary superbeing of the Bontocs who is said to have once ruled the regions long ago. Near these footprints are also hoofprints which appear to be those of a wild deer and another which is like that of a dog’s. Some small holes found in the rocks are said to be made by the point of Lumawig’s spear.

Whether these are footprints of a human being who lived once upon a time in the region cannot be established. But these are surely valuable tips for archaeologists who would like to refute earlier historical findings that point to the Himalayan valleys as the “cradle of the human race.”

Natural Lakes

Sadanga is one of the regions in the Mountain Province blessed with natural lakes. Among these which can be reached on foot are the Agaedon Lake found some kilometers above the barrio of Belwang towards the Mt. Province – Abra border, and the two lakes at Sacasacan. Fresh water fishes are found in these lakes where wild board and deer once frequent to wallow when they are driven by the noontime heat.

The Angoten Cave

This unknown natural cave made newspaper headlines a year ago when a group of school pupils, accompanied by their teachers and a US Peace Corp Volunteer, went for science class excursion to the place.

Only less than a kilometer up the hills of Belwang, the Angoten Cave got its name after its first discoverer, a certain Angoten who, according to a story, was a bat hunter. It was said that Angoten strayed into the caverns of the cave while hunting bats and after which his torch went out.

For days, Angoten wandered around the cavernous portions of the cave until he decided to follow the subterranean river below. Angoten was given up for dead by his fellow tribesmen until one day, word was received by the villagers that he appeared in the town of Sagada.

Another version of the story tells of Angoten coming out from one of the limestone caves of Sagada, to be welcomed as a “god” by the barrio folk. After Angoten related his story, he was borne on the shoulders of his hosts back to his home barrio in Belwang.

Whether the story is true or not, Angoten’s exploits gave him the distinction of being the first human being to discover that one of the rivers coming out of Sagada’s limestone caves has its source in Belwang and that a long subterranean river is found inside the mountains of Bontoc.

While we wait for explorers to duplicate Angoten’s accidental feat, the cave bearing his name is one of the potential tourist spots in the Mountain Province. A waterfall lazily drops from eaves of the cave above down to the mouth of the cave. For science students, the Angoten cave is an ideal hunting ground for exhibits and souvenirs.

This is Sadanga – today’s land of the kadangyans and a great source of provincial income for tomorrow’s “Province of Bontoc.”

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