Sagada Cave Connection: Discovering What You Can Do When You Don’t Know What You’re Getting Into

Two and a half days in Sagada may not be enough to explore its many breathtaking spots and interact with the people, but it can be enough to provide fodder for many tales.

I went to Sagada a few years back with friends from work and wushu. It was all our first visit there and we didn’t get to prepare much for the trip.

Many travelers would probably try to find as much information as they can about the place they’re planing to visit. I do that too most of the time except for the Sagada trip when we just sort of winged it. There wasn’t much of a plan to begin with. Although I wouldn’t recommend to travel headlong into something without a semblance of a plan, I think that it wouldn’t hurt to experience it once in a while.

Enjoy the perks of doing something for the first time

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” A simple question that’s not always easy to answer. Most times, I honestly don’t think I can quickly reply to that. It’s easy to slide into routines especially if you’re busy earning a living or pursuing a passion that leaves many other peripheral things unnoticed.

Our trip was brimming with firsts. It was all our first visit to one of the most beautiful places in the country. A first for us friends to be together. And the first time my wushu friend met my peers from work.

We arrived there after almost twelve hours of travel from Manila. We were lucky to find a pretty and cozy cottage at the last minute. We didn’t anticipate the influx of tourists since we overlooked the fact that we were heading out on a peak season.

at Sagada
at Sagada
A lovely cottage with a nice view.
One of the serendipitous finds of the trip was this lovely cottage where we stayed.

Because we haven’t prepared an itinerary, we just decided to visit Bomod-Ok Falls and the caves on our second day there. Apparently, many new and seasoned tourists don’t mix those two in one day. In hindsight, we probably wouldn’t have done it as well had we known better. Both require hours worth of long treks with sights begging for a meandering pace.

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Trek to Bomod-ok Falls
Bomod-ok Falls
Bomod-ok Falls

There’s always something to discover

A traveler’s life is one big adventure. Even the most timid souls find the most interesting things in unfamiliar places and situations.

Taking on the Sagada Cave Connection soon after enjoying the trek to Bomod-Ok falls was a tiring but fulfilling decision. We were told the cave connection normally takes roughly around four hours to complete. It depends on a person or group’s pace. It took us almost three hours to get to the other end. I heard from some of the accredited guides that they can finish it in less than an hour. I believe so given what I’ve seen them do flawlessly inside those caves.

So here are some unforgettable lessons I’ve learned while crawling, climbing, descending, and navigating the passages that make the Sagada Cave Connection exciting and memorable.

  • Empty your cup – This is probably the best mindset to have before starting the trek. Forget about past adventures or other experiences that may seem similar to what’s ahead. The less you think you know, the more you trust the wisdom of the guides. I realized just how dangerous spelunking would be a few minutes after we entered Lumiang Cave. The cave serves as the entrance to the circuitous route and is touted to be the more difficult phase. I was among the first one in. I belatedly realized I was standing a few feet from the edge of the cliff-like, rock formation overlooking a very dark and deep chasm. I didn’t have a flashlight so I wasn’t aware of the drop. I normally head straight into things fearlessly, but thankfully, I didn’t do so at that time. I was very grateful that I waited for the others to get in. Right there and then I decided that the only way to accomplish the feat safely is to listen and and put my utmost trust to our guides.
At the entrance of the cave
At the entrance of the cave
The narrow entrance to Lumiang Cave
The narrow entrance to Lumiang Cave
  • “Believe you can and you’re halfway there” (Theodore Roosevelt) – Walking, crawling, and squeezing my way into narrow passages with the added challenge of a gap before reaching yet another side of the cave is an inopportune moment to discover a fear of heights. It was not simply being afraid of the scary drop that surrounds me. I was achingly aware of a whole new level of fear. One that threatened to immobilize me. But I couldn’t voice out such fear to my friends. I remember thinking that the only way to end the feeling is to quickly finish what we were doing or give up. We were still near the entrance and the end seemed so far. But I couldn’t give up on myself and selfishly ruin the experience for my friends. So I summoned whatever lurking courage I could tap into to get through one of the cave connection’s many difficult hurdles.
It's the climb
It’s the climb
My friend's turn to slide down
My friend’s turn to slide down the long mostly vertical drop
  • “It always seems impossible until it’s done” (Nelson Mandela) – In all the times I’ve looked back to those moments inside the caves, I’ve always felt amazed, grateful, and humbled by the will to get through it. I’ve discovered I can do much more than I think could. And that moving forward is the best choice to make when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. It makes the outcome infinitely more rewarding.
Into the dark
Into the dark
Cave Connection was one of the most challenging things I did given my fear of heights. The dusk was setting when we came out.
Cave Connection was one of the most challenging things I did given my fear of heights. Here we are on the last leg on our way out.

The beauty of doing something for the first time is that you don’t even have to think of grand adventures and complex solutions to experience it. You’ll find that you can infuse freshness into your life by doing simple, random things you haven’t tried before.This is why I’m all for being shaken out of a cocoon that stealthily builds around you over time.

In traveling, as in life, you’ll find that many wonderful things happen if you just go with the flow.

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