My heart beats hard against my chest. The guide calls for my niece to cling on to the rope and descend into a dark abyss. I steal a peek over the edge and my eyes bulge at how easy it is to slip and break all arms and feet. My niece makes it all the way down; I draw a breath.
My sister is about to go next. As I see her dangling on the rope, all I can think of is, ‘What have I gotten ourselves into?!’
I’ve pined on and on for years about wanting to go spelunking in Sagada, and finally, we’re there. Out of all the idiotic things I’ve done for an adrenaline rush, I put this among the most nerve-wracking, as I’ve dragged my niece and my dear sister along and I had to watch as they negotiated every crevice, every drop, every slippery rock.
I gave my sister a good scare, too. On our way out, we had to be boosted up a big ledge, hold on to the edge and clamber our way up. Everyone already made it over the ledge, and I was the last to go. As soon as I got my boost, I clung on the edge of the ledge, looking for a good hold to grab. For a millisecond, I lost my footing and disappeared from sight, but regained my stance and made it over the ledge. My sister couldn’t stop her tears from bursting out after that.
But aside from the cold sweats, the caves did not fail to awe. It was a mammoth of an underground world. Some passages were so tiny, you’d be surprised at the degree of which you can contort your body to fit through them. Some passages were so vast, enough to accommodate the whole cast of the underground rave party scene from The Matrix.
If you were a geology buff, you’d probably get a kick out of the different rock formations. For us mere mortals, on the other hand, we entertained ourselves enough by guessing what animals or things they resembled, and by appreciating which rock surfaces cling well to our feet. We forgave those that did not.
If you’re more of a water baby than a caving fan, then there’s a treat for you deep down within Sumaguing Cave. You’ll be free to tread in a big underground pool, or maneuver your way through a subterranean tube wading in chest-deep water. Of course, ever-willing, I took a dip and discovered for myself how a bottle of beer must feel like plunged into a bucket of ice-cold water.
Spoiler alert: we made it out of the caves alive. Most of the credit belongs to our ninja-esque guide, for whom the whole gig was literally just a walk in the park, with a lantern on one hand and our camera on the other. I’d tell you his name, but his friends introduced him to us with a variety of monickers, that we ended up confused whether his name was really Jason or Bobot. Nevertheless, the guides from Sagada Genuine Guides Association (SaGGAs) were among the most good-natured I’ve met.
We made our way back to the town center. After grabbing chow at what became our go-to resto, Yoghurt House, we took a well-deserved bath and dozed off at our digs, Traveller’s Inn, faster than you can say ‘beaten-black-and-blue’.
Nighttime rolled by. We were fortunate to come during the Bonfire fete hosted by the SaGGAs guides, so we trooped off for the festivities. We hitched a ride to Mt. Langtiw (just 2 km away from the town center) and witnessed some good-old merrymaking around the campfire. I’ve been to campfires during my school-days, but you never really get to appreciate the gift of heat and light until you’re in bone-tingling weather up in the mountains. It also helped that there was free-flow wine all through the night. I’m no connoisseur, but the wines made from cassava and bugnay (a local berry) offered interesting flavors. Locals draped in traditional Igorot garb led the dancing around the campfire, where they were joined by very-willing and blithesome visitors.
Tired from our full day’s itinerary, we made our way back to our inn, but the festivities were far from over. Almost just across our lodging, locals were also celebrating a wedding that very day, which meant more dancing, music and wine. We were lulled to sleep by the sounds of highland gongs and bongos.
Photos galore: 2012-12 Sagada Picasa Album
- Bus from Victory Liner Cubao to Baguio – P 445 (P715 for a sleeper deluxe bus)
- Bus from Dangwa Station in Baguio to Sagada – P 220
- Room for 4 at Traveller’s Inn in Sagada Town – P 1000/night
- SaGGAs Guide fee for 3 people for the Lumaing-Sumaguing cave connection – P 400/pax
- Ticket to the SaGGAs annual bonfire: P 250
— GL Trans/Lizardo Bus deploy 7 buses starting at 6 am, be sure to be there early
— Contact numbers: +63919-5171833, +63910-3658070, +63916-5028313
There’s a wealth of info from the VisitSagada.com FAQ page; it’s a really good resource for recommendations on routes, sights, lodging — virtually everything about Sagada.