Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TRAVEL STORY | Sagada - Banawe - Hungduan Part 3

Sagada - Banawe - Hungduan
VOLUME 1.0.3 - Lumiang Burial Cave and Spelunking in Sumaging Cave 


It was around 3:00 PM (I think) when we started our next adventure for the day. We were dressed in “caving” or “spelunking” get-ups but our 1st destination is the Burial Caves. Our second guide, Sir Aklay (not so sure about how his name is spelled) joined us as we walked from our lodgings, Canaway (pronounced as "ka-na-wai") Guest House. We followed the road south from our lodging house (please refer to the map I included in "The Trip") for about 15 to 20 minutes until the "entrance" or the jump off to the Lumiang Burial Cave. 

me, Jen, April and Sir Aklay
The trek to the Lumiang Burial Caves is slightly similar to the one to the Hanging Coffins but this time we had to pass a downhill concrete trail and some very steep cemented stairs before reaching a rocky and inclined path to the mouth of the cave. 

down, down we go

The cave was dark and we can only access it’s opening where ancient coffins line one side of the cave wall. Ivan, was our guide to the Lumiang Cave while Sir Aklay stayed at the jump off. Ivan explained that the coffins there are around 300 or even 400 years old. The coffins (carved from pine wood) are very small because the bodies are placed inside them in a fetal position, according to Ivan. He also informed us that some of the coffins slid from wall and landed at the bottom of the cave during an earthquake in the past and that burials are no longer allowed in that site. 

the columns of erstwhile coffins
the coffins (300 - 400 years old)
the deep dark cave
The place was really giving a very distinct feeling of antiquity which made me very uneasy, so I didn't stay very long while our photos were taken. One of our group tried to touch one of the coffins (I forgot who this was) and I, of course, shouted a reprimand. Vandalism and theft of the bones in the coffins have been rampant with the many visitors in Sagada. I think that respect should always be given to any resting place of the departed and that it is enough that we are allowed to visit and view the local "attractions". 

I am not in this photo because the proximity to the coffins made me uneasy
Ivan, Dane, Cha and April
Cha (you can see the coffins much clearly in this photo)
Anyway, after much picture taking, we climbed the rocky trail, the stairs and walked the concrete path to the jump off and then on the road towards our next destination.

Ice and April
the uphill trail was hard even for my companions
Cha and Daniel while we took a brief stop
Can't you wait until I have some dignity to show in a picture?
I took this photo and even I have no idea about the white
smoke coming out of Daniel's mouth
We also passed several rice terraces on our way to our spelunking expedition. Our guides gave us enough time to take pictures. Sir Aklay said that they give as much time to their visitors to take pictures because it is the best souvenir their is. In retrospect, the pictures and the stories that they unveil posted by us, the visitors of Sagada, are also the most important advertising tool to promote and encourage others to visit Philippine's Shangri-La of the North.

Sagada's Rice Terraces


*What to wear / recommended attire for Spelunking in Sagada: 
- t-shirt (preferably in dark colors) 
- long sleeved shirt (must be made of light or quick-dry fabric and preferably in dark colors) 
- leggings (quick-dry and prevents accidental scrapes / wounds) 
- shorts (can be worn on top of the leggings / preferably in light or quick-dry fabric) 
- t-shirt (preferably in dark colors) 
- shorts (eg. board shorts, preferably in light or quick-dry fabric) 
- regular slippers are the best footwear while caving (there will be a point inside the cave where you will be instructed to remove them and continue on foot) 
- river crossing sandals 

*What NOT to wear for Cave Spelunking in Sagada: 
- jogging pants (unless made of a very light fabric, jogging pants will be very heavy once wet) 
- jackets (it will be still be cold in the cave but you will be sweating in no time as you navigate your way down the cave and jackets will also be a nuisance as it will also be heavy once wet) 
- rubber shoes (uhmm... wet cave… enough said!) 

*What to bring for Cave Spelunking in Sagada: 
- a bottle of water (about 250ml will do and try to eat something before spelunking because the activity can take several hours but that will depend on how fast you can navigate the cave) 
- headlight (optional | the guides will bring a kerosene lamp) 
- money (you have to pay the guides | please refer to guide rates below) 
- camera (to record your adventure, of course! | ideally, it should be light weight and bring something to use for waterproofing it just in case) 
- a small lightweight back pack or / belt bag for your important belongings (eg. room keys) and some of the things listed above (make sure it will be out of your way as you climb, rappel (spoiler!) and pilot your way in and out of the cave 

*What NOT to bring for Cave Spelunking in Sagada: 
- handheld flashlights (you need both hands to balance, hold on to things and you might have to "crawl" at certain parts <no joke!> in the cave) 
- extra clothing (you got nowhere to change) 
- your house (kidding!) or anything else that you wont need 

Sagada Genuine Guides Association Guide Rates can be viewed here.
Note: I am not certain but I think that the rates follow a standard and are the same among all guides in Sagada.

screen shot of the Sagada Genuine Guides Association's
Guide Rate for Spelunking in Sumaging Cave

Note: There are actually 2 caving options in Sagada, the Sumaging Cave and the Lumiang Cave Connection. It takes 2-4 hours (depending on how fast a spelunker you are) to enter and exit Sumaging Cave. It is "easier" compared to the Cave Connection, which starts from Lumiang Cave (the 1st cave we visited) and exits at the Sumaging Cave. The Cave Connection takes approximately 4-6 hours and is said to be a lot harder and not recommended for the faint hearted (or weak kneed, if you ask me) and big folks like me. Information about both attractions are available on the Sagada Genuine Guides Association's blog. 

Now, back to regular programming...

The Big Cave of Sagada

Let me just say that the Sumaging Cave has been photographed numerous times but the beauty of it is incomparable in person. The difficulties that you have to face in piloting your way in and out is definitely worth it

I was initially unsure if caving was for me because I am claustrophobic. To be honest, I panicked, broke into cold sweats and had difficulty breathing at one time while gazing at some photos of the Sumaging Cave online. I was muttering "happy place… happy place…" to myself on our way down the steps but my worries disappeared when I saw that the cave's high ceiling and that there were many people already inside. 

We had to go down some concrete steps before we reached the mouth of the cave. Sir Aklay and Ivan prepared their kerosene lamps and gathered us at the cave opening. I was asked to lead our group since I would be the “weakest / slowest" among us. There were many groups ahead of us and there are still some on our tail (this was around 3:30 pm). 

I had to concentrated on every step I took as we went down. It was really dark as we went deeper into the cave. I actually hard some trouble breathing because of the acrid smell coming from the kerosene lamps. Though the lamps were bright enough, it was really hard going down because there will be times when you can barely see where you are going because of all the shadows from the rocks or from the person in front of you. Ivan, was at the head of our group and it was just is so easy for him while I had to stretch or test my footing or hold on to something (even if there were bat droppings or "guano" everywhere) before I can take each step. I know that I made our trip so much slower but I was actually having the time of my life as it was my first time caving! 

When we were about a third or maybe halfway inside, we can to a spot where the rough, bat dropping covered rocks were replaced my beautiful rock formations. There were also small water formations that has clear and very cold water in them. I was at awe at the beauty (though we weren't at the best spot inside the cave yet) and I wondered at how long did it take for mother nature to cast such glorious rock shapes. The guys started taking photos while I just stood and looked around (I just had a small wallet with me | I wanted to bring water but changed my mind before we went out). The yellowish glow of our lamps made the sight more beautiful so I just stared at them, the trouble of our climb down forgotten. 

We came to a spot where we had to continue on foot as we were asked to leave all of our footwear beside a shallow pool of water and it actually made going down so much easier because skin to rock contact affords you a better footing (no one stole them, thankfully, and mine were cheap slippers anyway but it would be hell climbing back without them). The rock formations around us and those that we have to navigate were as gorgeous as they can be.

this is perhaps the most "controversial" rock formation in Sumaging

As it was my birthday that day, Ivan showed me my cake.

HAPPY 28th TO ME!!!

There was also an area where we had to rappel down. I have read about it and I was skeptical about continuing but I threw my doubts to the wind and was actually the 2nd to climb down in our group. It was not frightening at all and boy was I amazed in my display of upper body strength.

Jen and me rappelling down
April and Ice going down
Daniel showing off while Cha is all smiles
(taken during on our way back / climb up)
After we reached the part of the cave with a rock formation called the king's curtain, we were given enough time to take pictures and explore. There were many other spelunkers like us and it was difficult to "monopolize" an area. 

us striking a pose in front of the "King's Curtain"
(Daniel wss our photographer)
At this point, there were two options for us: my companions can continue spelunking while I stay behind and wait for them (the area that they will be visiting has tunnels that cannot accommodate me) or just stay there, explore and then go back. My companions decided to continue the cave tour while I was left behind in an area where we will later meet.

This was actually a frustrating experience for my part for I had to wait 20-30 minutes in that part of the dark (they had to take the 2 kerosene lamps and I was left armed with only a puny flashlight) and very cold cave. I wasn't scared being alone (though I can hear bats moving around in the dark) but I was cold, hungry and very tired. This tested my patience for the guys really took their time. There was a point where I was shouting for them to get a move on because I can already see them from where I was "impatiently waiting".

definitely not for someone my size

I have no idea what went on here and what required them to take their clothes off...
 When they finally showed up (I was about an inch from being really really pissed), we immediately started our ascent. I tried to keep my cool for I didn't want to blow off and waste my energy when I need it for the climb up. I was, as expected, the last one that got out of the cave. We were also the last group to exit Sumaging that day. We gathered beside the lone structure (I think it was a restaurant) in front of the jump off to the cave and decided to just rent a ride back to our lodge.

cold and wet while waiting for our ride

The guys took about 200 pictures 
during our spelunking adventure and here are some of them.

Nearly all the restos and stores were closed when we got back (around 8:30 - 9:00 pm). Luckily, I brought my camping stove, cookset and had bought some supplies earlier in the day. Though there was a stove and some cooking utensils provided by the lodge, we opted not to use them for they were located outside (it was very cold), on the front balcony we share with the only other room on our floor. I cooked our diner while the guys looked at their photos and got themselves ready for bed.


Up Hill Spiral
by Jen Serapio

VOLUME 1.0.4 - Kiltepan Peak and Bomod-ok Falls

TEREBOL | i ♥ backpacking


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