spelunking: spe·lunk·ing (noun): the sport or practice of exploring or studying caves
Sagada, located in Mountain Province in Northern Philippines, is a nature lover’s paradise and an adventurous spirit’s heaven. That on our visit in May, 2013, together with my family, nature and adventure were part of the itinerary (for us not-sokids-anymore, at least).
It is mandatory for visitors to Sagada to register at Sagada Tourism Center upon arrival. Here, we booked a tour guide for a Sumaguing Cave spelunking adventure.
The tour package is inclusive of transportation to Sumaguing Cave, a brief stop at a Hanging Coffins viewpoint and a trek down a mountain to see the Hanging Coffins in a cave. The trek to see the Hanging Coffins was a very strenuous activity (at least for me and my sister) that I think we used up almost all our energy there, especially on our way back up.
The view of green rice terraces on the way to Sumaguing cave though was very beautiful. The air was crisp and fresh. We were rejuvenated at least when we reached the cave. By the entrance to the cave, there are caving rules, reminding everybody to respect the sacredness of the cave.
Our guide is a young boy (or at least he looks like one) whose name escapes me now. He carries with him a gas lamp and a backpack where we stored our belongings. We gave him our camera so he also doubled as our photographer.
The cave greets you with total darkness as soon as you get in. The lamps carried by our tour guides are the only source of light. But as soon as the light envelopes the cave, you start to appreciate its raw and rugged beauty.
Going down the cave rocks is an ultimate challenge. Our guide has been very helpful, giving us advice on how to safely descend/ascend. Along the way, we managed to pose for photos to document our success or failure in tackling this cave.
Spelunking is a very engaged sport. You use both hands, both feet, the butt, do awkward ascending/descending positions to get through each step. Sometimes you need help from a buddy, sometimes you have to give help. You need focus and determination. You need to conquer fear.
But each hurdle that we overcame shows to have been worth the difficulty. The cave is beautiful.
Erosion and other geological factors have carved the cave rocks to resemble some formations, earning them their nicknames such as rice terraces, chocolate cake, king’s curtain, elephant, etc.
Use your imagination and give names to the below formations we saw.
The most challenging part of the spelunking for me was the final part – tackling the rice terraces. From where we stood right after the chocolate cake, we had to descend in an almost vertical rock. The crew started to think twice. Are we going down and finish the last challenge or are we contented just to see what was there and watch the people who were brave enough to do it? I convinced the boys. And then I convinced my sister, too. She initially just wanted to wait for us where we were. Talk about sales talk and convincing power. Hehe…
So we descended. We conquered our doubt in our capabilities. And we were rewarded with this view. Don’t you think it’s worth taking the extra step?
The way down was easy. The way up is a different thing. We had to ascend with the use of a rope, carrying our “weightful” weight and defy gravity. Hahaha… This wasn’t easy. But we took our time, and one by one, we were back up where we were.
Safety, caution and focus have to be exercised throughout the activity. While our tour guide was experienced enough, he got into an accident climbing back up the chocolate cake with a rope. He smashed his body in the rock and our dear camera broke. Uh-oh. It’s a good thing he wasn’t badly hurt and our camera wasn’t 100% dead. That’s why we still have these photos of the adventure with us.
Above is our photo after our first spelunking experience. Yup, we got out all in one piece, no broken bones (just a broken camera), no scratches or whatever. Notice the expression of exhaustion, relief and pride in our faces.
Looking back, I never thought I’d have enough strength and endurance to carry out such adventure. But I know that being a go-getter and a determined person will lead me somewhere in my spelunking experience. We had our bodies sore the night after we went caving. But at 33, I’m just thankful to have done this and checked it off my list. If I waited, I may never be able to do it in this lifetime.
Do try this when you visit Sagada. If you are in for more adventure, I heard the Cave Connection is more daring and challenging.
Now, Kelly Clarkson’s song plays into my brains “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…
Indeed this adventure in Sagada, did.