Coming from what felt like years of a journey, I was physically not apt to be doing any strenuous activity. After a week of backpacking Cebu with my friends, I am meeting my husband in Manila and heading straight to the bus terminal to begin our journey to the mountains of Sagada, which is another 10-12 hours away. I’ll skip the boring math for you, but basically, I was on buses and a plane for approximately 28 straight hours. Not that it’s a big deal or anything, but I was also suffering from an ear infection, a high temperature that I refuse to call a fever, and an upper respiratory tract infection that I didn’t completely mind because it gifted me a raspy voice for a couple of days. I was feeling like shit, alright, and quite frankly, I was already regretting my plan. But I’m fiiiiiiine. After all, I was turning a year older the next day.
It was going to be a cramped trip. My husband, although fortunate enough to be working at home, actually works very long hours five days a week. It was a Memorial Day weekend so I wasn’t going to pass up on an opportunity to go on an adventure with him. It was a bit of a last minute decision that he was coming. I was planning a trip alone a few weeks back, but when I told him the things I would be doing, like spelunking underground, he was interested that I rescheduled it so he could come along. I didn’t have actual plans on my birthday so it all worked out perfectly.
We reached Sagada at night time which gave me an opportunity to rest and relax. I have planned to make the best of our short trip there and do as much as I can, but my body doesn’t seem to be agreeing with me. Nonetheless, we planned to wake up early the next day to see the sunrise at Kiltepan, which in all honesty, I could have skipped all along (READ: Kiltepan Sunrise: Just Skip It).
It was a long day that included hikes and lots of walking. My husband was pressuring me to go rock climbing with him and although I was feeling a little better, I thought it would be smart to save my energy because I will be going underground to explore different caves later that afternoon. It was advertised to be a 4-6 hour adventure, and since I wasn’t physically prepared for it, I almost thought about skipping out on it and rest while my husband goes. But he kept calling me a baby, and I guess I was overthinking it a little, so what the hell, I went anyway.
If there’s any lesson to be learned in this post, it’s this: Mind over matter. I’m saying it now because there’s no need to build anticipation because in the end, it all turned out fine. I didn’t get worse, and I survived the entire thing. I’m so glad I chose to go through it after all because it turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever done.
Sadly, I can’t provide you with amazing photography because I only took my GoPro with me, and as you may already know, going underground means zero light. The lamp that we had didn’t completely suffice.
The trip started at the mouth of Sumaguing Cave. The entrance itself was eerie enough, with old coffins laying around. Some were in their complete form, while others were just remnants that stood the test of time. It was a Monday, and although it wasn’t quite filled with too many people, it wasn’t particularly empty. Sagada has become quite the tourist spot, thanks to a local flick that popularized what was once a quiet gem.
Going inside the cave gave me an instant rush. I’ve never done this before, and I wasn’t really looking forward to this until now. I was under the mentality that it wasn’t going to be much of an adventure, because I mean… It’s a cave, it’s dark, what could I possibly see there. There were five of us including our guide, and two other foreigners that we met while rocks climbing.
I was expecting the first part of this activity to be somewhat mild, but I was wrong. Five minutes into the cave and we found ourselves crawling and maneuvering our way through tiny holes and enclosed structures. Other blogs claim that it’s pretty extreme, and though I don’t completely agree, I believe that you could easily hurt yourself with one wrong move. It was particularly tolerable for me because our guide was really good at leading and instructing us specifically on what step to take and how to take it. Otherwise, it probably wouldn’t have gone smoothly.
We went through marbled rocks, with barely any room to move in some parts. If you’re claustrophobic, this will be a challenge for you. Some rocks were very slippery that one mistake can be fatal. Though I had watershoes with me, it felt a lot easier to walk around barefoot in some parts of the cave. Others were sharp so if you want to avoid scratches, it’s advisable to wear something long enough to cover your legs. I’ll be writing a short guide on first time spelunkers and I’ll be including appropriate attires so watch out for that.
As we went deeper into the cave, the smell started getting more and more pungent, reminiscent of bat poop aroma. And that’s because it’s exactly what it is. It’s a pretty strong smell, but nothing I couldn’t handle. At this point, I was having way too much fun to let the smell bother me.
Sooner than later, it seems that we have reached the bottom most part of the cave because we started passing by water with levels gradually rising, until next thing you know, we were walking on cold water. I lost track of which cave I’m in, possibly because I was too busy admiring the formations underground, or perhaps I missed it when our guide announced where we were at. Towards the end of the cave, there were somehow a lot more people. I think it’s because more people choose the shorter route over the cave connection, which is less strenuous than this one.
Our guide kept pointing at not only phallic shaped formations, but also vaginal ones too. I mean sure, what else can you find in an underground cave. I can’t really blame them for letting their imagination run wild. We reached a pool where they all jumped and swam. I didn’t, because I was sick. I was told the water was freezing, and I just didn’t feel like walking back in wet clothes after. And definitely wasn’t about to test my immune system either.
It took us almost three hours to explore the caves. Next thing you know, we were struggling to catch our breaths on our way back up. Going up was no doubt a lot harder than going down. There were stairs that paved the way, but it was a very tiring climb. It was the most exhausting part of this entire spelunking experience. Anything that goes up always requires so much energy, and sadly, my stamina was struggling. Just when I thought I reached the mouth of the cave and that climbing is over, I see even more flights of stairs that goes up to the highway. We were nearly there, but not quite. It’s so close, yet so far. Ok no, that’s just me being whiny.
But don’t worry, this is not something you can’t handle. If a sick person like me could go through it, anyone of average physical condition will swoosh right past these three caves with no trouble. While others consider the cave connection an extreme adventure, I would say it’s great for beginners too. As long as you don’t have any heart problems, not claustrophobic, or at least in an average physical state, you’ll absolutely appreciate this adventure.
Overall, the Sumaguing Cave Connection was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done! I was pretty surprised at myself that I finished the entire thing with flying colors. I mean, yes, I love my adventures, but I’m not gonna claim that I’m a pro at it. Spelunking was something different. I went canyoneering a few days before this, and though that was as cool and as fun as this, spelunking just felt a little more…intense. Maybe because it was pitch black down there. I don’t know. All I know is that it was mind blowing. Maneuvering my body through small holes and rappelling through slippery rocks is not something I’m used to, and I felt badass conquering it. So like I said, I’m glad I went through with it, because I would have missed out on an unforgettable experience if I didn’t.
Have you experienced spelunking too? How was it? Do you have any questions regarding spelunking in Sagada, or spelunking in general? I’m writing a short guide so if there’s something you need an answer to, leave it down below so I can include it!
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