I must say that I did not expect that Sagada would surprise me. Sagada is just full of charm, wonder, and excitement; a place that not only welcomes soul-searchers and eager wanderers but also entertains extremists and adventurers at the same time. I have always been a fan of adventure. I must say that Sagada definitely contains the perfect mix of nature + adventure + lovely people + gastronomic food encounters. Put all of those together and you get such an amazing trip! The catch is… it will take you a 12 hour journey from Manila to get to this very beautiful piece of happiness!
With a last minute itinerary and an ever enthusiastic travel companion, we took on a 12-hour journey to the breath-taking Sagada. And the 12-hour trip did not seem tedious at all because of the exquisite landscapes and lush rice terraces that accompanied our journey. Seriously, oohs and aaahs will definitely fill your reverie as you journey towards the paradise in the mountains.
Leaving Manila during midnight of the previous day, plus a 12-hour journey to the north, made us reach our destination around 12 noon the next day. Of course, a journey that long would simply make our bodies request for some sustenance. There is no better way to jumpstart the day other than a good serving of brunch– and well, we would not go anywhere but THE YOGHURT HOUSE. Yoghurt House simply puts all the comfort in the word comfort food! It was so good, no joke, that we basically ate most (if not all) of our lovely meals there!
With happy stomachs and bodies refueled with much needed energy, we commenced with our search for adventure! First in our list: Cave Connection!
Cave Connection just basically means traversing through Lumiang Cave and Sumaguing Cave. Spelunking the Lumiang and Sumaguing Cave was one of the highlights of the trip and another item off my bucket list. With burial coffins greeting you at the mouth of the Lumiang Cave, I would say it was definitely a challenge as it was not easy traversing and through century old rock formations in the dark.
Note: To be able to access the caves, all visitors must have a tour guide. An organization, Sagada Genuine Guides (SAGGAS), caters to this and charges a fee for the service of the guides. For the Cave Connection, the rate is P400 per person. It may be helpful to know that each guide can only accommodate at most 3 people. So if you are traveling as a big group, make sure to take more guides with your group. More guides, mas happy? This is just to ensure the safety of all those visiting the caves. 400 will mean nothing compared to your life!
Most people who successfully conquered the Cave Connection would normally attribute it as difficult. I don’t know how professional spelunkers (if there are actually such people) would rate it the same, but for me, I would call it challenging rather than difficult. Some parts of the cave we manageable, but there were really some parts of the cave that required much caution lest you roll over and fall down (the list of consequences may go on). Also, there were lots of ice-cold pools inside the cave thus making those scared of freezing water a little bit hesitant to go through the water. But hey, for the sake of adventure, there’s always the three-letter-word crucial to everybody’s success– TRY! For the brave, “Do one thing that scares you everyday!”
TRY! And yes, we commenced with the Cave Connection, and let me tell you that the whole Lumiang Cave was like a MAJOR OBSTACLE COURSE! This would actually test one’s fitness, flexibility, agility, and strategy! Actually, there is no specific strategy as to how to go about the Cave Connection, but these are just the moves that were very much useful (and safe too!)
First leg: SQUEEZE.
What greeted us at the entrance of the cave was just a small passage (that would make you really pray that you can successfully fit!). And of course, that was not the last! Most of the passages inside the cave were small and would test your critical thinking skills as to how to contort your body in order to fit. But fret not, with the proper strategy, you can pull through (or ask someone to pull you! hehe!) Good thing I am somehow petite, and Pao was blessed with a trying-to-be-Adonis figure which could successfully maneuver past most of the passages. heh! First leg: check!
Second leg: SLIDE
Most of the rock formations would require you to take descents. And yes, sometimes the fastest and easiest way to go down is to just go with the flow AND SLIDE! If Dory from Finding Nemo would say “Just keep swimming”, I would advice you to “Just keep sliding” as you go on with the Cave Connection.
Third leg: RAPPEL
There are some rock formations that would require you to rappel as you ascend and descend some of the rock formations. Descending while holding onto a rope was easier, but going up was really a challenge! Imagine putting all the body weight on a piece of rope to help you climb a boulder of rock to get to its top just to make you go on with the journey around Lumiang Cave. Talk about that cold sweat! But with God’s guidance, I made it and I did it!
Fourth leg: SWIM (then repeat legs 1,2,3)
Once pools of waters are in sight, it means you are almost near the Sumaguing Cave. Our guide said that one of the physical manifestations that the cave is still young is when you see pools of water inside. But with Sagada’s weather, being inherently cold already, plus the ice-cold water that needs to be conquered is already a challenge in itself. Again… TRY! So we tried and swum through the ice-cold pools of water. And we did it!
The Sumaguing Cave was an easier trek compared to Lumiang Cave for the main reason that Sumaguing Cave is actually a bigger cave which lets you stand upright. Lumiang Cave on the other hand was smaller, thus making one stoop down on most occasions (and do all activities mentioned above. hihi).
But Sumaguing Cave, despite being the easier one, is also the prettier one. Well, at least in my perspective. Sumaguing Cave contains lots and lots of humongous stalagmites which you can actually step, sit or stand on! Most people would actually attribute the highlight of their Sagada trip to Sumaguing Cave, and I cannot blame them, because it is actually an astounding masterpiece molded by God’s hands which was constantly shaped through time!
They say the whole Cave Connection would take about 4 hours for a group of 4-6. But because we were just 2 doing the whole cave connection, I think we got it around 2-2.5 hours! Thank you, Mr. Tour Guide, I don’t know where I’ll be (rolling in the cave) without you!
Slowly but surely, you will congratulate yourself for conquering this feat, and a job well done! While doing this, you will find your way towards the end of Sumaguing Cave, the exit, finally. Just when you think the walking is over, it’s not! You still have to take around 50-100+ paved steps on the way to the top. Just keep walking, and you will find yourself doing another set of walking to go back to your guest house. (or perhaps rent a jeepney on the way back to the guest house)
But challenging as it was, it definitely was worth all the sweat, the hard work, and the effort! The exhilaration it gave during the course of the spelunking experience was worth every step, squeeze, slide, rappel, and swim stunt that was done inside the cave! Truly, what a fulfilling obstacle course it was! It was like a mix of 127 hours (the movie) in real life plus the courage of Indiana Jones! I never thought I could channel Spider Woman (but in the words of Pao, he would sing to me Homer Simpson’s rendition of “Spider Pig”)
HOW WE GOT TO THE HEAVENLY SAGADA FROM MANILA:
- Board a passenger bus, Victory Liner (from Pasay or Cubao) heading to Baguio. (Pao and I like to travel in comfort, so we would always get the deluxe bus, for non-stop travel, big leg room, and toilet inside the bus.
- Upon arriving at the Victory Liner Terminal in Baguio, purchase return tickets from Baguio to Manila (lest you run out of seats going home!)
- From the Victory Liner Terminal, hail a taxi and ask to be taken to Dangwa Bus Terminal.
- Purchase tickets from Baguio to Sagada. Take Lizardo Bus going to Sagada.
Trip schedules from Baguio to Sagada: 5AM, 7AM, 8AM, 9AM, 10AM, 12:30PM
- The whole trip from Manila-Baguio-Sagada will be approximately 12 hours: (6 hours: Manila to Baguio) (6 hours: Baguio to Sagada)
- Expect extremely winding roads from Baguio to Sagada. Prepare your barf bags if you have motion sickness. Drink your anti-motion sickness medicine prior the bus ride.
- For spectacular views, stay at the right side of the bus. You won’t even notice the duration of the trip because of the mesmerizing view that awaits you!