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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sagada Travel Guide: Spelunking Sumaging Cave and more

It has been more than two years, the memories of my Lakbay Cordillera still wows me. :) If there is anywhere in Philippines that should not be missed, I'd say a trip to Banaue and Sagada. The long ride was tiring but it was still worth all the hassle, at least once in your life.

If you want to go underground without special training and equipment, Sagada is your best bet. The town sits in a limestone valley riddled with over 60 known caves. The Sagada caves feature shimmering underground streams with golden or silvery stalactite and stalagmite formations and cool natural pools inside.

  • Sumaging Cave, the largest, can be explored by anyone with a local guide; the basic tour lasts around three hours but it is possible to spend an entire day inside. If there is anything you should not miss, it's this. I've never seen other cave in the world that clean and nice, the experience was equally great: spelunking barefoot at one point, holding on ropes seemingly wall climbing like spiderman, submerging in ice cold water and who would ever forget the bat dung.

    SPELUNKING FEES (updated as of March 2009):

    1-4 persons - php 500 -1 guide; 5 persons - php 600 - 1 guide; 6-9 persons - php 1000 - 2 guides; 10 persons - php 1200 -2 guides; 11-14 persons - php 1,700 - 3 guides; 15 persons - 1,800; 16 to 20 persons - 2,400 and above is 150 per head.

    SIGHTSEEING FEES: (choice of 3 spots)

    1-10 P400 -1 guide; 11-15 P600 -1 guide; 16-20 P800 -2 guides
    escort to sugong coffins and burial cave @ P200

    * Echo Valley - hanging coffins in limestone cliffs
    * Lumiang Burial Cave - coffins at entrance of cave
    * Sugong Hanging Coffins
    * Walk about the township of Sagada
    * Kiltepan View point - panoramic view of rice terraces
    * Bokong Waterfalls
    * St Mary's Episcopal Church
    * Underground river
    * Taste Yogurt in Yogurt House
    * Taste of pinikpikang manok (order in advance, takes hours to prepare)
    * Weekend buffet at Log Cabin by French Chef Aklay (P250/pax call 09205200463 for reservations)


    * To trek and get wet
    * Tours are managed at the tourist center at fixed rates
    * Very basic accommodations
    * 9pm curfew
    * Rough bumpy ride
    * Cool weather
    * 2 full days would be best, 1 full day would be enough for spelunking and 3 sites to visit

    Saint Joseph Inn and Restaurant contact # 09185595934
    P1,500/room for 3 or 4 (villa, no AC with private CR & hot & cold bath)
    P3,500/room for 8 pax (villa, no AC with private CR & hot & cold bath)
    bed space starts at P200/pax (no AC with common bath)

    backpackers can opt for cheaper accommodation starting from P150/bed space. Others suggest George Guesthouse #09185480406 or 09206070994 or Masferee Inn, complete list of contact info of accommodation found here.

    There are 2 ways of going to/from Sagada - via Banaue and via Baguio. We combined both for maximum experience so we took the Manila - Banaue - Sagada - Baguio - Manila route. You can either:

    1. Hire a van from Manila (10 hrs per way with stops) for P3,000-7,000/day with driver plus gas and board & lodging - this is the most convenient.

    2. Take the public transport.

    Airconditioned Autobus leaves Manila at 10pm daily, and with 2-3 brief stopovers along the way, the bus arrived in Banaue at 7am. Then, a short tricycle ride from the terminal to the town proper to transfer to a jeepney going to Bontoc (2hrs) and transfer to another jeepney bound for Sagada (1hr).

    Leave Sagada at 6am for a 6 hour ride to Baguio via a non-airconditioned Lizardo Transit bus. The fresh air is very soothing to your weary bones. From Baguio, another 7 hour trip in an airconditioned Victory Liner bus to Manila.

    1. Map of Sagada

    2. Quick dry clothes and trekking shoes
    3. Light jacket

    MY DIY POST TRIP ACCOUNTING (December 2006):
    P8,000/pax for group of 6 inclusive of:

    * private van with 2 drivers en route: Manila-Banaue-Sagada (via Bontoc)-Manila (via Baguio)
    * We booked our 8-seater hi-ace through WGC Comml, Rosario Pasig - tel# 6275105 sun cel#09228791716 at P3,000/day, they were kind enough to accommodate our last minute advice, the shocks wasn't so good, if you're willing to shell out more, find a vehicle with good shock absorber since you'll be in for a very bumpy ride.
    * 4D/3N full-board (1N at Banaue Hotel, 2N at St. Joseph Inn - private bath with hot/cold shower)
    * Guided Trek in Batad Rice Terraces, Banaue, Spelunking in Sumaging Cave, Site Seeing in Lumiang Burial Cave, Echo Valley, St. Mary's Church, view of Sugong Hanging Coffins.
    * Our Itinerary:
    * Day1 - 10 hour land trip from Manila to Banaue, overnight in Banaue Hotel - Banaue
    * Day2 - 5 hour trek in Batad Rice Terraces, evening land trip to Sagada (risky!), overnight in St. Joseph Inn - Sagada
    * Day3 - Spelunking in Sumaging Cave and sightseeing, overnight in St. Joseph Inn - Sagada
    * Day4 - land trip from Sagada to Manila via Baguio
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