Sagada, a quaint town set atop the Grand Cordillera mountains, has become a mecca for adventure and thrill seekers. It has also transformed into a perfect retreat for the tired and weary millenials who are escaping the tediousness of urban living. From spelunking to chasing waterfalls to serene walks on rice terraces, Sagada has quite a lot to offer to all people from all walks of life.
For first timers, please make sure that you register first at the Tourism office located at the municipal hall. There you will also have to pay environmental fees. Those born with Sagada blood, like yours truly, are not required to pay the environmental fees. After registering, you may now roam Sagada with the assistance of the tour guides.
Here are some of the things one can expect in Sagada.
The Physically Punishing: Caving and Spelunking
Over the years, tourism in Sagada has thrived mainly on to the caves that are abound in the town. The most famous of all is the Sumaguing Cave which most refer to as the Mother Cave. Another famed cave is the Lumiang Cave which is a traditional burial cave. Then lastly, there is the Balangagan Cave which was just recently opened to the visiting public.
a) Sumaguing Cave.
One of the first things that come to mind when one is asked about Sagada is caving, and probably the most popular caving spot is Sumaguing Cave, with its mouth like a giant monster that is about to consume you in its darkness. But lo and behold, such downtrodden description does Sumaguing so much injustice. The true beauty of this place lies within, where numerous majestic stalactite and stalagmite formations thrive, making it a perfect spot to snap those DSLRs.
Among the famous spots in the cave include the Mother’s Womb which seems to be a replica of a pregnant woman on her last trimester. Another one is the King’s Curtains which are formations shaped like majestic curtains of a royal palace. There are also small water holes that are so brilliantly spaced it seems as if they were imprinted by giant dinosaurs, ergo the nickname Dinosaur’s Footsteps.
Aside from these formations, there are also other formations which were given names by the tourist guides and the locals alike. Please note though that most of these names are purely product of playful minds, at times hilariously green. The tour guides will indulge you with imaginative stories about each formation.
Whereas Sumaguing is a giant wonder, one has to prepare oneself for a physically challenging adventure as you will be traversing some steep and slippery limestone formations. At times, you will have to dangle as you pull yourself up via a solitary rope. You will also have to fit yourself on small holes and passages. Moreover, the ice-cold water makes this traverse way more challenging, as you have to dip on them at times. But all of these only add thrill to the adventure, one that I am more that willing to do over and over again.
To get to Sumaguing Cave, one can just walk from the town center for about 30 to 60 minutes.
b) Lumiang Cave.
This cave used to be a burial site of the earlier generations of Sagadians. Remnants of the old coffins and bones of the bravely departed still welcome you at the very mouth of the cave. This place is considered a sacred site and all visitors are asked to be very respectful of this place.
But, incognito from the naked eye, is a small entrance to an ethereal world which connects the Lumiang Cave to Sumaguing Cave, or what most colloquially refer to as the Cave Connection. Well, not really ethereal but veering on a more-physically-challenging-caving-experience-than-Sumaguing-Cave world. The cave connection is not for the traditional sight-seeking tourist. It is more for the adrenaline junkies and the thrill seekers. The climb down to the bottom the cave is in itself a total adventure, one not for the fainthearted and the claustrophobic.
During the rainy seasons, it is very difficult to work yourselves through the slippery rocks and limestone formations. One will constantly need the assistance of the tour guides, or one can just do the “upo-upo” moves, which is basically sliding on the slippery rocks on your butts. Though fraught with difficulties, the over four-hours traverse is one physically-tiring-yet-worthwhile experience.
c) Balangagan Cave.
(Photo: The heart of Balangagan Cave.) Amidst the jungle foliage is another cave. One of the newer tourist spots in Sagada, Balangagan Cave was opened to the public in late 2014.
Previously called Imelda Cave, it is a shorter traverse, less physically imposing than the first two caves. It takes at least two hours to complete the entire cave course. Inside are stalactite and stalagmite formations. This cave was also once a traditional burial cave. During the tour, one can see remnants of these burial coffins. To reiterate, please respect these burial coffins.
Aside from the three caves we have explored during our Sagada adventure, there are still other unexplored caves which even the locals are unaware of. Maybe in the future, we could get to explore them as well. On a side note, spelunking and caving are very physically taxing activities so always be prepared and be cautious. The world underground is filled with wonder and it would be a waste if we don’t ever get the chance to appreciate them at least once in our lifetime.
You can check the below links for the rest of our Sagada excursion.
Part I Sagada, Where My Heart Lives
Part II Surviving Spelunking Sagada
Part III Sagada: That Sea of Clouds
Part IV Sagada: Chasing Waterfalls and Terraces
Part V (SSS) Soul Searching Sagada
Part VI That Sagada Splendor