Apr 9, 2012 by

We left Banaue at exactly 7.45 AM in the cold morning chill. We hired a van that would take us directly to Sagada from Batad. That would be a 3 and a half hours drive through a maze of ascending roads that sometimes narrow down to a single lane. Scary much. Hiring a van cost us 5 thousand pesos. Comfort can be quite costly, yes? When we arrived in Sagada, the welcoming air was cooler than in Banaue and the people in the town did not come to us as aggressively as the ones in Banaue did. The Sagada locales were more relaxed and calmly told us to register at their tourism desk first before going to the hotel. There were many tourists, mostly Caucasians. Afterwards, our pre-arranged guide Kehvin met up with us. We had lunch right away at the famous Yoghurt House. This place boasts of home-made yoghurt. Their dishes are delicious and are served generously. It’s a bit pricey than the other restos around, but it’s worth it.

Our first meal in Sagada was served here at the Yoghurt House.

Walking the main avenue of Sagada with our guide, Kehvin Luna.

Some of the structures seen along the way to Sumaging Cave.

We were billeted at Sagada Homestay, overlooking most of the town of Sagada. It’s a cozy place with wooden interiors that created a homey feel. It’s almost like a perfect log house, except for the absence of a fireplace. After checking in and settling down, we took off for our first activity: the connecting cave spelunking. Again, the activity sounded simple and I had confidence our Sagada stop would not be as torturous as Banaue. Or so I thought. The Sumaging Cave is known for its beautiful rock formations as seen in several travel blogs written by seasoned travellers. None of them, as far as I’m concerned truly whined about the challenges that the connecting spelunking posed. I would like to assume they had so much fun going through the maze of going up, dropping down, sticking to rock edges like a lizard, twisting one’s body to fit into small holes and all other acrobats fitting to describe what is meant by spelunking. Here is the sequence of events pre-Sumaging Spelunking and Post-Sumaging Spelunking:

Register and sign up at the Sagada Genuine Guide Association (SAGGA). One must get Kehvin Luna for a wonderful Sagada experience.

A short walk to the Sumaging Cave entrance (about 15 minutes) will give you the chance to see some of the hanging coffins already. But more to come later when you reach another area called the Echo Valley.

Then some sign tells you you're almost there. You might notice the bright sun shining above us. Don't worry. Sagada is cold and for lowland people like us who find joy in mall airconditioning, Sagada is absolutely a treat.

Then just before entering the cave, we were pointed out to yet another set of coffins stacked by the mouth of a separate cave. Kehvin tells us that these are coffins of mothers who died at childbirth. It is interesting to note that these mothers were placed separately from the other coffins because it is believed that deaths cause by childbirth is a curse and can only be stopped if their remains are isolated. A fact, however, tells us that the reason why there are many deaths due to childbirth was due to the inaccessibility of health care facilities considering the location of Sagada.

And this is how HUUUUUUGE and DEEEEEP the cave entrance is. Right away, I felt my large intestines vanish in fear of falling.

Right by the mouth of the cave, ancient coffins are stacked up like disarrayed lego blocks. The really old ones are made of a tree trunk, hollowed from inside to place the deceased in fetal position. We were told by Kehvin that the souls of the dead must be set free by not burying them down into the ground.

Ancient coffins also have lizard/gecko carvings on its detachable covering. They symbolize life through a lizard/gecko whose tails are cut off because -- like life -- the tails regenerate itself. And with death, the cycle continues, though in another plane.

After a few life-threatening descents, some near-death encounters with extremely steep cliffs, hanging on to nothing but a little dent on a rock's edge, we found peace in the cold hollows of the cave. We spoke and mist came out of our mouths imitating a winter morning conversation.

We gripped and slid.

Kevin slipped and dipped in ice cold waters. I laughed.

We pulled ourselves up, hanged on to a piece of rope with knots to prevent our hands from slipping through.

And all the struggle paid off. We marveled at the unspeakable beauty and grandeur of the world below where sunlight never had the chance to touch.

The shirt says it all.

After 3 hours of utter emotional mix up, we have finished the ultimate Sagada adventure dubbed as connecting spelunking. We were dutifully congratulated by our guide Kehvin and I didn’t know exactly how I felt about it. I felt victorious but in disbelief. Did I just do it?! It was hard, yes. It was something I probably would not do AGAIN anytime very soon. It tested my endurance, my willpower, my intrinsic lack of aggression towards nature’s mysteries. I always feared the forest and the oceans because there seems to be something always lurking in there. It must be my conditioned mind — thanks to NatGeo. But after Sagada’s spelunking adventure, I appreciated myself. I didn’t know we can defeat our own thoughts by intentionally ignoring and not listening to what it wants. By just taking one step at a time, keeping your sight on eye-level and moving forward, the end is never too far. Amidst the ice cold waters, the slippery lime stones, the bat dung I had to romance with while climbing the exit, the unbearable blinding darkness of the depths, I partially conquered the length. And it begins there in Sagada. We got out of the cave at around 6 PM and decided to go back to the hotel for an early dinner and an early bedtime. We were scheduled to watch the Sagada sunrise by 4.30 AM the following day, so the day’s caving activity was quite a lot. My senses are still vivid with the caving experience. So vivid I can retell the story for the next few months.    


  1. Bopeep

    Great! It was nice to see Kevin laughing at himself. ^_^

    • admin

      Maam Bopeep, he fell victim to the tricks of our guide because we were asked to turn off our headlamps. Then our guide instructed Kevin to hang on by the side of the rock because the edge of the water is very deep. Only when he slipped he realized it was ankle-deep. Hahaha!

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