It was a few minutes after 7am that I got to St. Joseph after hiking back from Kiltepan. I had breakfast at the restaurant where they also served free coffee.
I changed back to my running shorts. If you’re a first time spelunker, it would really help to wear loose or stretchable shorts. You never know how much leg stretching could be involved.
At 8:30am, I went to the Tourist Information Center to meet my guide for the day – Kuya Larry. I was going to first have the Cave Connection (long caving – P800), then we would have the Sagada Central Eco-Tour (P600) and Kuya Larry talked me into doing a hike to see the sunset at Lake Danum for P800. I found out later that we were actually doing the Langsayan Danum Traverse which cost P1000 on the flyer.
We immediately started the walk towards Lumiang Cave (don’t forget your registration fee receipt). Along the way, Kuya Larry picked up the lamp that he was going to use to light our way through the cave. I also made sure to buy water. I sweat a lot and therefore I require constant water.
At the entrance of Lumiang Cave were dozens of coffins piled up. Kuya Larry said coffins were placed there as late as 2006. He added that this was the only place people could go near the coffins.
I asked if we could open one of the coffins. Kuya Larry said no. I was somewhat serious about this request but I realize this is disrespectful. I just peeked into one coffin instead and found the skeleton.
There were nice rock formations inside and a “mini” pool which according to Kuya Larry was very deep. I still don’t know how to work my camera in the dark so I had to use my phone to take pictures.
After more than an hour, we reached Sumaging Cave. You know it’s Sumaging when it’s flooded with people. Kuya Larry didn’t want me to get stuck in human traffic, waiting for a group of 10 people to slowly descend or climb a rock, so he would ask other guides if they could let me through (this annoyed at least one man) or he would find a way around.
There were plenty of rock formations in Sumaging. The most interesting were the naughty ones that they named the Queen, the King and the Princess. Why they named them such? Just see for yourself.
Here were the other rock formations:
Kuya Larry commented that I was good at caving, albeit with a wry smile. I thought to myself after I did that caving in Siquijor that that would be my last, but I’m guessing used to this now.
The flyer says the Cave Connection usually takes 4-5 hours but I did it in just 2 hours. We got into Lumiang Cave at 9:40am and got out of Sumaging Cave at 11:40am. I think they took into account the number of people inside the cave that can get one stuck there for several minutes.
We were able to hitch a ride back to the town proper so we avoided the 40-minute walk. After taking a short break, we proceeded with the Eco-Tour.
We passed by a nice church which I now realize was St. Mary’s and is part of this tour. We also passed by a modern-day cemetery. Kuya Larry said that during undas (All Saints/All Souls Day), people would actually use charcoal instead of candles since the winds would just easily blow the candles out.
When we reached the Echo Valley, people were gathered at a certain spot so they could shout and hear the echoes. I wasn’t one of those people, I’m too shy to do that.
One can also do rock climbing at Echo Valley. I wasn’t interested.
A few meters more and I got to finally see the world-famous Hanging Coffins. I was very lucky that it was only me and Kuya Larry in that area at that time. No one else took my brief moment away.
Kuya Larry said that coffins were being hanged here as recently as 2010. The most recent one is that brown coffin nearest me (pictured above). He told me that people use scaffolding to be able to hang the coffins. I had to Google to check what a scaffolding is. I really thought it was a ladder.
While making our way to the next destination, Kuya Larry pointed to me the coffins that were inserted onto a wall on the side of the mountain.
He explained that it wasn’t as high as it was before. He explained that some time ago, the ground at the foot of the mountain sank because of the nearby river.
We then made our way to Sagada’s own Underground River. Kuya Larry threw shade at the Underground River in Palawan while we were there. He said that the Underground River in Palawan is not exactly a “river” but a part of the sea. That was his opinion, not mine.
All this time, by the way, a black Labrador named Dwight kept us company.
We then made our way back to the highway. We were supposed to eat lunch at Rock Valley Inn but they were no longer serving food when we got there, so we decided to just delay our lunch and just go to our last destination which Kuya Larry referred to as the small falls. I think it’s officially called the Bokong Natural Swimming Pool.
Kuya Larry was urging me to swim and jump from the top of the falls. I asked him how deep the pool was. He said 10 feet. Nope. I’m not that confident swimming in fresh water that deep without someone swimming with me. So I just posed for a picture instead.