No travel to Sagada, Philippines is ever complete without conquering Lumiang cave and the iconic Sumaging cave. This adrenalin-packed cave connection adventure is highly recommended to be done on your very first day or arrival as a way of welcoming yourself to this idyllic town of lemony desserts. I tackled the cave connection adventure that same afternoon I arrived at Sagada Tourism Office. Doing so will give you that feeling of undergoing an initiation rite, much similar to what freshmen under go on the first day of the rest of their high school days, it will give you an exciting insight to what the mountains of Sagada has in-store for you.
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After the exploration, to be honest, I felt like Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator, shouting at the top of his voice,
“Are you not entertained?”
But to me, it was more like a “Bring it on, Sagada!”
Trust me, do the cave connection adventure and you will feel that you can move mountains, literally.
Entry point : Lumiang Cave
The entry point will be the Lumiang Burial Cave, about 30-45 minute trek from Sagada Tourism Office towards the town of Ambasing. Upon approaching the entrance to the cave, the noticeably short coffins stacked on top of one another, making an entire wall of wooden handmade coffins, of the long gone elders of Sagada will greet you. The ambience is eerie and bit morbid, but kind of interesting after hearing the tour guide’s stories of how the burial rituals in Sagada and the rest of the Mountain Province are still preserved up to this day. You can still make a request to your family and to the municipal if you want to be buried the traditional way.
To be honest, I felt a little wobbly when I saw our tour guide preparing the gas lamp and some rope for our use to explore the caves. At the back of my mind, I was silently wondering, “Can I do this?”
Hearing the tour guide explain what will we doing to exit our way thru Lumiang cave to Sumaging cave makes me want to run back to the entrance. But there was no turning point. We were into deep. The great thing is that the tour guide was well aware of the fears that usually envelopes first timers. So Mang Benjamin was really the perfect companion in a situation like this. He’s a great photographer too and a sort of photo shoot director that’s why I had some memorable photos taken with the amazing rock formations as the backdrop.
For 3-4 hours, depending on how large your tour group is, you will rappel, climb, carry your own weight to get to the other boulder, hang on for dear life, slide, walk like a duck, drag your butt across slippery limestones, fit thru small openings as wide as your shoulders, trek, wade thru icy cold waters, pose for some photos and head your way to the steep climb to exit Sumaging cave in another town.
Exit point : Sumaging Cave
Exploring Sumaging Cave is no picnic. Even hardcore cave enthusiasts will find the rugged terrains and the amazing rock formations a big challenge. The slippery rocks, the muddy floors, the gaping mouth formed by the stalagmites and the stalactites, the seemingly endless chasm, the lure of being another Lara Croft in the making, rappel and leap from one boulder to another will satisfy your curiosity if you’re doing cave exploration for the first time. It was my first time too and to be frank, I am claustrophobic and my first time in a cave but I emerged triumphant at the end.
- It is important to hire a tour guide. Never go into the caves without the help of any local tour guide.
- Never attempt to go in alone.
- Prepare yourself physically. It will be 4 hours of trekking, spelunking, climbing, sliding and gripping to make it to the exit of Sumaging cave. And another 30-45 minutes of trek back to the city center. There is no turning back once you start this hard-core adventure.
- Prepare to get wet. There are some parts inside the cave where the water could rise waist deep.
- Bring a head lamp. A flashlight is no good because you need your both hands free.
- Prepare to bring only a few cash and your phone. Don’t bring in too much stuff with you. You can bring in a small backpack or a light body bag.
- Wear flip-flops and light clothing. I wore a running singlet and light trekking shorts that dries easily.
The adventure cave connection offered by the Sagada Tourism Office is one of the highlights of my backpacking trip to the mountains of Cordillera region. The mountains were never really my friend, am a certified beach bum and would rather toast under the sun than climb the slippery slopes of a muddy mountain with its unpredictable weather, but for the first time in all of my travels, I felt triumphant when I emerged alive and unscathed, save for some minor slipping accidents but immediately recovering and redeeming my pride in an instant, at the exit of Sumaging cave. It felt more than winning the Best Picture in the Oscar Awards, without the glamour and the jewels of course, but in a soaking wet, muddy, bat poop pungent clothing.
So don’t let the 4 hours inside the deep dark abyss intimidate you. It may be far from what your normally call a sightseeing tour and totally physically demanding activity too. Conquer it, experience it and live it. Welcome to Sagada!
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