Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sagada (Day 3)- Conquering the Sumag-ing Cave

The third and last day of our Sagada adventure began as early as 7.30 AM when, after breakfast, we met Mang Jimmy, our guide from the Fidelisan trek. He was our guide for the day in the caves. The Sumag-ing Cave is the easiest cave to explore according to the Tourism Officer. It's what they recommend for first timers in Sagada because it was a cave that could be conquered by city people like us.

He was kidding us! Just when we thought that the Fidelisan and Bomod-ok Falls trekking was an adventure of a lifetime, the Sumag-ing caving experience made us hang on to dear life. Imagine going into a primeval cave with nothing but nervous excitement! The caving in Sumag-ing was an adventure like no other.

Apart from Mang Jimmy, Inug-ay, another guide for the caving tour, assisted us, Team Sagada. By now, we were at home with Mang Jimmy and his uncanny sense of humor. He is no match for Dianne though, who topped his every teasing with a joke or two of her own. Needless to say, it was a fun and fearless caving expedition. I have to say, Team Sagada is made up of go-getters and non-quitters. So, as we all groped in the dark, bending, kneeling, creeping, groping on rocks smudged with bat's dung, we have enough courage and the will to go on and to let go of our fears.

L-R Dianne, me, Lucky Galvez, Ailen Claudio, Jerome Ramirez, Jovel Lopez and Yumi Pitargue. Go, Team Sagada!

Such was the bravery of the "bagets" as they exchange humorous tirades at each other and played word games that kept us all amused despite the darkness that surrounded us. If the Mang Jimmy - Dianne de Las Casas battle of the wits was a show of their own, Lucky and Jerome were in a word war as they descended the cave. They dished out "cave" words at each other. Cavernous. Creepy. It was very entertaining. When we reached the drop off, we all needed to go down a knotted rope. Mang Jimmy deftly showed us how. We followed like dutiful students. The reward, more stalagmites and stalactites; fossils on the cave walls and the cold gushing water!

By this time we were already barefoot. We took off our footwear so we could use our feet better. The soles of our flip flops and sneakers were liable to slips and falls. On the second drop off, we had to step on our guides' knee to go down. Holding Mang Jimmy's hands and stepping on his knee was an embarrassing moment. If only I was twenty lbs. lighter! My insecurity radiated to other members of the team that slipping a few steps was inevitable. To this, Yumi simply said, It's not too bad to die in a bikini .

When we reached the dead end, we were simply thankful for surviving the way down. The way up was another story. But what was there to fear? Going up was not as bad as the trip down. Really.

We had guides who were experts. They know Sumag-ing like the back of their hands. I give credit to Mang Jimmy and Inug-ay for a job well done; for keeping us safe; for showing the way; for holding up the light and placing them on areas that made us see the beauty of the cave; for their patience and sense of humor. To the guides, Mang Jimmy and Inug-ay, thank you! Thank you! Thank you for leading us back to the mouth of the cave alive and enlightened.

On our way back to the poblacion, we dropped by a road where a cliff holds three hanging coffins. We went down a mountain side one more time to see the burial caves. Then we rushed to our lodgings for a quick shower. We had to catch the 1PM bus ride back to Baguio. Most of us needed to be back in Manila the following day.

I have to say that the two nights three days stay in Sagada was an adventure of a lifetime indeed. I got in touch with the Igorot in me. I'm Ibanag, but I've always been in awe of them. My respects for the Igorots and their kin increased a hundred fold. To the Igorots who are very much a part of the Filipino culture and history, I derive inspiration from your ingenuity, inventiveness and resiliency. I live in a beautiful country!

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