Surviving Sagada’s Cave Connection
Over two years ago, a friend and I started plotting down our travel plans. Although we’re not sure if we really can make it happen, the writing activity sparks that curiosity and motivation at the same time.
Things happened after that. She got a new job and so did I. And we totally forget about our travel plans.
In mid-2013, I was browsing those travel plans in my journal and the Sagada plan caught my attention. I thought to myself when can I make this happen? If not now, when?
Sensing that I haven’t traveled for quite some time, I decided to do this on December. I am working as a school nurse so we are lucky to have holiday off days too.
It was freaking cold when I woke up. I have underestimated Sagada’s temperature in December and felt unprepared for it.
With nothing else in my mind but a warm meal and the caving adventure, I managed to get off my bed and went around the village for my first breakfast in Sagada.
It was already 6 am but most restaurants in the village were still closed. With no other choice, I bought unusual food items from a mini-grocery store: a loaf of bread, large marshmallows, and 1 liter of water.
I made a quick breakfast from bread and marshmallows and head directly to SAGGAS’ office to book for a cave connection tour. You’ll know that it’s their office as it’s usually the most crowded place in the village even at 8 am.
When I got there, I told the staff that I don’t have a guide yet. She then called one of their tour guides outside the office. His name is Oliver.
According to Oliver, it takes an average of 4 hours to do the cave connection and it depends on how fast you walk. It can be done between 7 am and 4 pm and starts at the opening of the Lumiang Cave (burial site where wooden coffins can still be found at the point of entry) and ends at the Sumaging Cave.
It takes about 30-40 minutes trek from the town center to the opening of the Lumiang Cave though you can take a vehicle to take you there. I opted to walk as the weather is really good and it’s nice to see the rest of the village on foot.
While at the opening of the Lumiang Cave, Oliver pointed out at the coffins and explained to me that those were handmade from pine trees, done by those who were already in it.
Sensing my curiosity on the presence of gecko carvings on top of the coffins, he told me that those symbolize eternity and good luck. This explains why most of the establishments in Sagada have gecko art of sort on the walls or doors.
Looking back to the trail with piles of huge rocks, I was doubting myself if I can really make it. The last time I explored a cave, I almost tripped.
The trail down the cave and even inside it isn’t a walk in the park. While you don’t need to be a hardcore caving enthusiast to make it, I’d say you need to be at least in good shape.
The trail is wet most of the time. There are parts when you need to step on your guide’s shoulder or lap (they’re like human steps). I was hesitant at first but Oliver told me to do it since there’s no way I can go down.
I was wearing rubber sandals that time but need to take them off as the trail becomes slippery. Walking barefoot is not a problem as you’ll not be stepping into any sharp object inside. It’s actually better to walk barefoot as you can have better grip on the rocks.
Several stops can be made inside the cave as you can pass by impressive rock formations. Taking solo photos can be quite challenging especially when there are people who are also trying to take photos of themselves on the same spot. Traffic inside the cave is real.
After a little over 2 hours, we reached the Sumaging Cave. There was a sense of relief and pride for reaching this point. It was like finishing a race though this one is I bet more challenging than the latter. I suffered from cuts (from getting inside several ‘cave holes’) and bruises but they’re all worth it.
Here’s what you need to remember if you want to try the cave connection in Sagada:
- Prepare yourself physically. There are parts of the cave where you have to crawl, climb, and even slide. Ropes are provided in some parts to help you climb or go down.
- No matter what happens, you should always follow the guide’s instructions. When he says use your right arm or left leg, do it.
- Wear lightweight clothes. For your footwear, it would be best to wear rubber sandals or aqua shoes. Trekking shoes can be a bit heavy especially that you’ll be passing through knee-length waters.
- You can bring your camera and ask your guide to take photos of you 😉
- Don’t forget to bring the environmental fee receipt (the one you paid at their tourism office).
- Just bring the essentials – water and camera will do. You don’t need to bring a headlamp or a flashlight as the guide already has a lamp and you can just follow him.
For 2 persons or less: P800
For 3 persons or more: P400
Optional transport (back and forth): P400
*They have standard rates for all activities in Sagada.