Aside from beautiful rice terraces, majestic waterfalls, and wondrous panorama of mountains, Sagada in Mountain Province also contains a number of caves great for spelunking. We went to the Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, and discovered its ancient beauty and mystery. (UPDATED: July 28, 2018)
For the people of Sagada, caves are important part of their culture especially in their burial traditions. Their ancestors put the coffins of the dead in the orifice of a cave which allows light to illuminate it. This symbolizes protection for the souls of the dead. Since western culture and Episcopalian belief is now more prominent in this region, this tradition is barely done anymore.
After our memorable hike to Bomod-ok falls, we went south of the municipality and visited the deepest cave in the Philippines, Sumaguing Cave.
The Grandfather of Caves
I wasn’t prepared for this adventure, and I thought the Sumaguing cave would have a huge mouth entrance filled with beautiful rock formations and pointy stalactites in the ceiling. My illustration of a cave was cartoon-like since I’ve never been to a cave before. I was a bit nervous but my excitement dominates my anxiety.
Upon arrival in the jump-off area, there’s an info board on the side of a concrete staircase leading to the entrance of the cave. It is said that the Sumaguing Cave is the deepest cave in the Philippines with a depth of more than 500 feet. I was awestruck when I knew this and wondered how nature were able to form such amazing shallow structures like the Sumaguing cave. As we descend through the stairs, my eyes grew wide when I saw the gigantic entrance zone of the cave.
The Entrance Zone of Sumaguing Cave
My first impressions were all wrong as we reached the entrance of the cave. The mouth is populated with random speleothems in the ground and stalactites in the ceiling like a medieval vault.
Plant life is also rich in this area due to the enormous natural light source. I stood in awe as the entryway of the cave towered over us like a giant welcoming us in his lair.
There’s a black pit of endless darkness on the other side of the entrance. One of our guides told us that the black pit was actually a ravine that we have to climb down later on. Some tourists who visited this place turned their backs and cowered because of its sinister atmosphere. Instead of being frightened from their stories, we just shook it off and enjoyed this unique adventure. We paused for a while and observed our guides lighting up our gaseras (lamp).
As our guides finished lighting our lamps, we offered a prayer before moving on to the deeper levels of the cave.
Through The Twilight Zone
Natural light starts to diminish as we enter into the deeper parts of the cave. We heard a lot of bats swarming in the ceiling of the cave near the entrance with manure polluting the floor; making the ground slippery.
My heart was racing fast when we reached the ravine that we have to climb down. The trail was uneasy, steep and slippy. One wrong move or else we’ll fall in the waiting pits. As we descend through the ravine, our breath started to mist and the environment becomes colder and colder.
As we reached the end of the ravine, I looked up and saw the height of the cliff we just braved. It was outrageous! I never thought that I’ll be able to climb down such steep terrain. From the end of the ravine, our guides started introducing some interesting rock formations in the Sumaguing cave.
Due to weathering and various geologic events, these rock formations are created. They are fascinating with yellow to orange color. It’s even more beautiful especially if these rocks are illuminated with our lamps. I’ve read some write ups about this place and researchers found some fossils of marine life in this cave which suggests that Sumaguing cave was once part of a large body of water millions of years ago.
Sinter pools were also present in this cave and the water is really cold yet comforting to our tired feet.
We also have to rappel down in deeper areas of the cave wherein more beautiful rock formations are revealed.
Generally, spelunking in Sumaguing cave is both a test of physical fitness and an unforgettable experience of exploring the unknown.
We climbed back up to the mouth of the cave safely and with great relief. In the end, we again offered a prayer of thanksgiving before heading back to the jump off point.
Sagada Caves Travel Guide
Spelunking in Sumaguing Cave is one of the highlights of our trip. Experience a different form of adventure, learn stories from the locals and encounter amazing rock formations. (Note: All rates posted here are updated as of July 28, 2018)
As travelers, we must respect the culture and values of the places we visit. Every tourist attraction in Sagada is guarded heavily with cultural norms and directives from the elders. As a rule of thumb, just take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.
Prior to your spelunking adventure, visit first the Sagada Municipal Tourist Information Center located in Poblacion, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2619, Philippines.
The tourist information center is open every 0700H in the morning and closes at 1800H in the evening. Pay the environmental fee of ₱40 and select your own tour. (Updated rate as of July 28, 2018)
Spelunking Options and Fees
The fee depends on the number of participants visiting a cave. Treat this fee as a donation to the locals of Sagada. They utilize these funds for preserving the environment which keeps the whole municipality pristine and safe. Here are the different caving options in Sagada.
Short Course Caving
This activity is good for beginners with duration of 1.5 to 2 hours of exploration. The cave that you will visit is the Sumaguing Cave.
|NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS||GUIDE FEE (Updated: July 28, 2018)|
|4 pax or less||₱800 (with 1 guide)|
|5 pax||₱900 (with 1 guide)|
|6-9 pa||₱1600 (with 2 guides)|
|10 pax||₱1800 (with 2 guides)|
|11-12 pax||₱2400 (with 3 guides)|
|13 pax or more||₱200 per person|
A two-way transportation service from the tourist information center to the cave is also available at ₱350.
This is a more physically challenging activity because the trail will start from the Lumiang Burial Cave going to the Sumaguing Cave with a total of 4-5 hours of exploration time.
The guide fee costs ₱1,000 for 2 visitors or less with an additional ₱500 for an extra participant. Two-way transportation is also available for ₱400.
The guides told me that the Crystal Cave is the most technical of all. The price is more expensive with a visitor/guide ratio of 1:1. It is built for professionals and well-experienced spelunkers because of its difficulty. Here, the guides need to build their own ropes and harness for safety of the visitors. This adventure costs ₱2,500 per pax. It is also less advertised since they want to preserve the beauty of this cave.
- For spelunking activities, you must wear loose clothing (shirts, pants or shorts). Wearing of rubber sandals, flip-flops or rubber shoes is recommended.
- It is prohibited to enter the Sumaguing Cave after 1600H for safety purposes.
- No urinating inside the cave. No vandalism.
- Do not leave your trash inside the cave.
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