|On the way to Sagada
Upon arrival, visit the Tourist Information Center to select which itinerary you prefer. The receptionist would assign a local guide and a time to meet up with him. Check this site out for the rates. www.visitsagada.com
|Sagada Tourist Information Center
Upon settling down, we decided to start our Sagada experience with a trek to Echo Valley and the well-known hanging coffins.We passed by a Protestant Episcopalian Church, the church of St. Mary the Virgin. Majority of the people in Sagada are christian protestants. The church was closed but people can take a peek inside.
|St. Mary the Virgin Church / Sagada Church
|Inside the Church
We also passed by a cemetery, it was kind of creepy since no one one was around except for the two cows feasting on the grass.
As we head on, the breeze picked up and it got colder. The view around is breathtaking, Ive never seen so much 'green' before. As I stood at the edge of a cliff and shouted : "WOW....", the trembling sound of my voice echoed back the valley. I just stood still for a couple of minutes taking in what I was seeing and feeling.
|The View around Echo valley
From echo valley, you can already see the hanging coffins from afar. Luckily for us, we met two local young boys along the way. They asked us if we wanted to go to the actual grounds of the hanging coffins. We happily said yes and the trek down started.
Along the trek down, the boys pointed out a small cave with coffins and bones in it.
|Coffins in a small Cave
|An Opened Coffin with bones
The boys told us that we were taking the same burial procession path. The locals would carry the heavy coffins by hand and they would descend through the slippery foliage. It was relatively an easy trek but carrying something of that size would be extremely hard.
|Sagada's Hanging Coffin
As we approached the grounds, we all fell silent to show respect to the dead bodies hanging from above. The coffins were a good 10 to 20 feet above ground. We asked the boys why and how the Igorots (locals in Sagada are called Igorot) do this. One of them proceeded to explain that being buried up there wouldn't cost anything because there's no need to purchase a patch of land. Also, the Igorots believe that being buried up there would make one's soul reach heaven faster.
|Coffins 10 to 20 feet above ground
There were steel pipes drilled in the rocks and wires hold the coffins in place. The boys continued to explain that they use ladders and pulleys to haul the coffins up.
|Coffins held by Steel Pipes and Wires
We were about to ask if the locals still practice the burial tradition when one of them pointed to one of the coffins and said a week ago they couldn't go near the same area because the place still reeks of a dead body.
The next day we were to scheduled to do something that I underestimated to be easy. The morning started with a short jeepney ride to the drop off point that heads to Bomod-ok Falls, popularly known as the Big Falls of Sagada. We had to trek for more than an hour to reach the falls.
|On our way to Bomod-ok Falls
We had to pass by rice terraces, cliffs and even a small village. Again, the view was beautiful and amazing!
|Palay (unhusked rice grain) with Rice Terraces behind
|Passing thru a Small Village
|Walking along a Cliff
|Walking between two Bouldrers
As we were getting nearer, the thunderous sound of the falls grew louder. The refreshing mist of water that came from the falls started to touch our skin.
|Sagada's Big Falls
Bomod-ok falls was HUGE! Luckily for us, the water current during that time was really strong, it made the falls look more majestic and intimidating.
|Sagada Bomod-ok Falls
The water was biting cold but after hiking for that long, it was nice to take a refreshing dip.
|The Majestic Bomod-ok Waterfall
After our visit to Bomod-ok falls, we had a heavy lunch to power us for the spelunking adventure scheduled in the afternoon. It was my first time to try spelunking so I didn't know what to expect. It was a choice between a two hour course in Sumaguing Cave or a four hour cave connection course from Lumiang Cave to Sumaguing Cave. Since we felt indestructible, we opted for the latter.
Travel Tip: Bring thick hand gloves to prevent rope burn.
|Heading towards the Caves
While heading towards the entrance of Lumiang cave, our guide asked us again and again if we we're 100% sure about the cave connection course. He told us that it wasn't easy as we expect it to be, with a smile on our faces we said we were definitely sure.
As we were about to go down the cave, our guide asked us for the last time, once we were inside there was no way of turning back. With this, our thirst for excitement grew even stronger.
What a way to greet the spelunkers, coffins lay on the mouth of Lumiang cave.
|Coffins at the entrance of the Cave
It started off easy, as we climbed and passed by rocks and limestones. As we walked deeper through the caves, it grew darker and the only light source we had was from a gas lamp that one of our guides was carrying.
|Our One and Only Light Source
|Our Guide with a Gas Lamp
What I underestimated easy became one adrenalin pumping extreme adventure. We had to crawl on all fours, crawl on our behind, pull ourselves up, rappel both up and down and hang on for our dear lives.
Making our way through an uneven surface walls
Literally squeaking in a small hole, I had to lay down and put my arms up in the air to fit in.
|The Small Hole that we had to Fit Ourselves in
|Look how Small the Hole Is...
|Hanging On for dear life
One of the most difficult obstacles we had to go through was what i called the Pull-up. There was a rope dangling from above and we had to step on the shoulders of one of our guides, he would stand up and we had to reach for the rope and pull ourselves up. While our guide was explaining the process... to show how far the drop is, he took a stone and threw it on the side, it took a good three to four seconds before we heard the stone hit something below.
When we got hold of the rope, our guide kept on shouting: "Huwag kang bibitaw, huwag kang bibitaw huwag kang bibitaw!!!!" ("Don't ever let go, don't ever let go, don't ever let go!!!)
|Guide shouting: "Huwag kang bibitaw!!" ("Don't ever let go!!!")
While waiting for my turn, I tried to take a picture of what lies beneath.
|What lies beneath...
Halfway through the course, it started to rain hard. The water outside started to rush inside the caves. The rocks became extra slippery and the gush of wind would grazed our soaked clothes.
|Rain started to pour in the Caves
I took photos with the flash on and when I looked at the camera's screen, this appeared. It just shows how powerful the wind was inside the caves.
|The Powerful Gush of Wind
We had to go through waist deep water inside.
When we reached Sumaguing Cave, there were interesting limestone formations.
|This looks like Theater Curtains
The last part of the spelunking adventure was climbing up a plight of rocks with bat drippings. It smelled bad but still we had to use our hands and crawl on our behind. The moist gooey feeling of bat poop in my hand and clothes was unpleasant. At this point, it was just a few steps away to freedom. When we reached outside, the whole place was pitch dark. We entered the caves at around 3:30pm and reached the end point at 7:30pm.
|Climbing up a Plight of Stones with Bat Drippings
Being outside was a great and fulfilling feeling, I remembered the shirts that the souvenir store's were selling. The shirts have print saying..."I survived Sagada!!!" And yes, I indeed survived it.
|"I survived Sagada!"
When you do something dangerous like this, the connection between the people involved gets stronger. We invited our guides for dinner and drinks to unwind and celebrate our victorious conquest of the caves. One of the guides asked me if I am willing to do the cave connection again. I contemplated and thought about it, I love adventure and I can say that I'm pretty fit but this spelunking experience took a lot out of me. I was dead tired, hungry, thirsty, I was filthy and covered in mud and bat poop. With this thought, I replied.."Maybe next year or the year after or make that 3 years from now."
The next day, we were so tired that we decided not to see the sunrise at Kiltepan Point and go to Marloboro country to look at wild horses. It was also too late to go pick oranges at Rock's Inn. We decided to stroll around the peaceful and calm province and enjoy Sagada as it is. Simple, Beautiful and Amazing!
|"I'll be back!!!"
The people of Sagada were so warm and friendly. I would like to introduce two adorable local kids I instantly fell in love with...6 year old Bisled and 3 year old Pink-eh.
|with Bisled and Pink-eh