Non-working holidays are God-sent blessings for the working class. Especially if they land on dates to make long weekends. During APEC week, my friends and I decided to hop on to the opportunity train for a 3D2N stay in paradise.
Day 0 – The call time, November 15, Sunday
We decided on meeting up in Gateway Cubao at 7pm then head to our bus transport via cab at Coda Lines, E. Rodriguez. We opted to choose the straight route to avoid the hassle of transferring from one vehicle to another. Coda Lines’ QC to Sagada fare is priced at P720/head leaving at 9pm daily.
We were easily able to book a reservation since Coda Lines has an active Facebook page so it was convenient for us since we were all working.
During the trip, unfortunately, there was someone who we had to wait for for almost an hour before the bus could leave. Talk about Filipino Time. I wonder if this tradition could be fixed..
I am never good with travelling so I had to try and sleep to prevent myself from vomiting to an embarrassment. It was really difficult for me to sleep while in transport but I managed to tame down my cursing stomach. The first stopover took long and it was already around 3am. I had to go down, pee, stretch my legs and basically everything else to prepare myself for another 6 hours.
At 6am, we reached one of Banaue rice terraces’ view deck. We got down to catch a view and a photo while it was freezing cold outside. My legs were shaking. After a few minutes, we were bound for Sagada once more.
Day 1 – The trek, November 16, Monday
We arrived in Sagada around 9am. The bus terminal is a short walk away from the town proper.
With our bags on our backs and our hands with more baggage, we strolled through the town to find a restaurant to fill our stomachs with our first Sagada meal slash brunch.
We came across Masferre Country Inn and Restaurant.
After eating, we dropped by the tourism office to inquire on how the process works when you want to do activities. The lady from the information booth accommodated us and gave us a piece of paper containing Sagada’s map along with the activities available with the price and a brief info. Convenient it was. We also paid P35/person as a fixed environmental fee and the receipt was the passport for all the activities along with the guide and/or transport fees.
Soon enough we called up the hotel we reserved, Rock Inn, to pick us up so we can check in and relax for a bit. What I like best about that is our contact, Wanda, replies fast and is brief with info including the name of the driver, car model and plate number.
After settling in around 10:30am in our hotel room, we decided to sleep for a bit (in comfort, finally) before doing our first activity.
The beds had 4 sheets of blankets. Yep. 4. So you can easily choose how many layers you want for the weather.
Moving on, it wasn’t long till we were all fast asleep.
We woke up roughly around 12noon. Changed our clothes to ready ourselves for our first activity.. spelunking in Sumaguing Cave. (Yep, no time for better sleep) Honestly, I didn’t want to go. I’m probably the most less fit person you know and the only exercise I get is when I type articles or blog posts like these lol. Plus I didn’t want to be a burden or be baby-sat by my friends who wanted to enjoy the cave. Day 1 and I was already rooting for a week’s body ache if you ask me. But then I also realized that I didn’t go to Sagada to chill in the hotel or stroll the town and come back to the streets of Manila lol. So Sumaguing Cave it was. I had no better excuse for the friends that were convincing me to come.
We came back to the tourism office to finally push through with our plan in their short course activity which included the view deck of the hanging coffins and Lumiang Burial Cave which were both on the way to Sumaguing Cave. Our guide, Humphrey, was kind enough to give us fun facts and stories regarding each location.
Lumiang Burial Cave was a 20-minute trip with numerous stairs. In the cave is the starting point of the Cave Connection activity (which I don’t plan on doing, possibly ever) and the numerous coffins that houses bodies of over 400 years. To be honest it was anything spectacular, but it was great to know the traditional cultures Sagada had. Although I wish I had not gone down because I really got tired there and we weren’t even in Sumaguing Cave yet.
It took us around a 40-minute walk to reach Sumaguing Cave excluding the side trip to Lumiang Burial Cave. But you may also opt to have a shuttle service take you there for P350/group back and forth to town if you don’t wanna walk.
Sumaguing Cave had a booth outside the entry point and a store across it for supplies, comfort rooms, and also a baggage counter for those who want to leave their things.We were advised that it was best to bring less and have our hands free to use inside the cave so I just left my backpack.
After our tour guide prepared the gas lamp we were to use, we headed into the cave.
The first part were cemented stairs so it gave me a relief, but not too long inside the cave, we had to cross rocks and boulders. Muddy (and bat-poop covered) rocks and boulders to be exact. We had to hold unto rocks, crotch down, and side step to get to the inner part while only seeing lesser view coming from the gas lamp. It was great that my friends allowed me to stay behind the tour guide so it was probably easier for me to see my footing, plus he can easily offer his hand whenever my limbs fail to be proper limbs.
Shortly after the muddy part, we reached the first part of the rock formations known as The Elephant. It was our first photoshoot area. haha.
Coursing through again, we were asked to remove our footwear and leave it along with the other slippers of the earlier people. This was to pay respect to the cave as our tour guide said.
Again, we had to hold unto rocks and boulders, maintain our balance and step on rocks or the slippery white ground (trust me they’re really slimy and slippery). After the hard part, came the red rock formations known as the flow stones. It’s a great thing they weren’t slippery or else I have no idea how I’ll come out alive.
We crossed shallow basins of cold water. All along I was actually afraid of crossing water since I’m not really good with anything water-related lol. Good thing Humphrey was around to assist.
He introduced us to the names of the different rock formations along the way. Apparently the cave was of royalty. We had The Queen, The King, The Prince and The Princess and other formations such as The Turtle and Dinosaur’s Foot. Along the way he also points to us the entry and exit points of the Cave Connection which looked like calling for doom.. Chest-level deep waters, dark and steep entryways.. and more of the things unfitting for people like me.
At the later part, we had to rapel down a slope to get deeper into the cave. It wasn’t all scary as I had already experienced it during my scout days- rapelling from the 4th floor outside of a building. Lol.
Moving on, at some point, we were both amused and scared at what our tour guide did. He stood with his one leg on a steep rock, and the other foot leaned on a dried out rock formation on his upper side. Yes, foot- forming a probably 100 degree angle. I was scared for him because he had nowhere (it was a cliff if I can call it that) to land on if he actually falls. What amazed me more is his strength to support us by using his arms as our ropes much like the rapelling earlier. Whoa there.
It took us around 2 hours to get to the last part of the cave allowed for tourists. A pool of water we can swim in which was 15 feet from our view and the farther parts still unexplored. We took a lot of photos from the last formation, The King’s Curtain- my favorite, then started our way back up above ground.
Going back was easier as we took a slightly different route which was a short cut. My head actually bumped unto a rock on the way back and I remember what our tour guide said.
Lol. It took us roughly an hour to get back above. I was actually exhausted going up the cemented stairs part rather than inside with the rocks and boulders. We had a short cleanup in the store across the entry point then walked back to town for another 40-minutes while the surroundings were getting darker and darker.
We decided to have our dinner along the way in the first restaurant we’ll come across reasoning out that it’ll be the farthest to walk to coming from the drop off point in the tourist center. Sagada Lemon Pie House it was.
After having our dinner and taking random photoshoots, we asked our hotel to pick us up again so we can finally rest.
When we arrived, we cleaned ourselves up then decided to swing by the hotel lobby slash dining area to hang out. One of my friends bought a bottle of Bugnay wine (P200) and Rock Inn’s famous Ponkan (P60/kg) while we spent the night talking about travel and life.
Around 10pm, it was lights out for us where I also took paracetamol to aid my aching everything that will surely give me a pain (literally lol) the next day. Ha. Good luck to me.