When we got to The Philippines our intention was to go to my cousin Karen’s family’s farm but because of some health circumstances with my cousin Steve we weren’t able to all make the drive up there. So, we dug into our guidebooks and I got really excited when I saw the words hanging coffins! I was so intrigued by this and when we started asking our drivers and Karen about it and they all said that was a place that they all really wanted to visit, we knew that we were going to the right place.
I wish that I could say that a trip from Manila to Sagada is quick and easy, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. We took a not-night-bus night bus which basically means that we drove all night but didn’t have bunks. We arrived in Banaue just after sunrise, and then we made arrangements to get to Sagada by jeepeny. While we waited for a little over an hour, we sat in this really small cafe and had juice while we looked out the window that the beautiful rice terraces of Banaue.
I cannot wait to go back to Banaue and visit the rice terraces there and stay overlooking them with Matt.
The jeepney ride to Sagada was quite a trip. It was two hours over bumpy dirt roads with a teeny bench seat. I had to hold on tight to keep from falling into the aisle. But guess what? It’s TOTALLY worth it!
GANDUYAN MUSEUM: This museum was made by a local woman who started collecting tools, weapons and other artifacts made by the people of her culture and put them in a museum so that they would always be something that visitors can learn more about. She passed away earlier this year, and her son now runs the museum, following in her footsteps. Visiting this museum is also free- so amazing since it’s a personal collection!
Our first night there we went to the Reggae Bar (it wasn’t our first choice, but it was still a good spot for some noodles and a beer). I loved all of the bottle cap bead curtains all around the bar and enjoyed my San Miguel Pale Pilsen.
THE CHURCH OF SAINT MARY THE VIRGIN: This beautiful church is on top of the hill that looks out over the town of Sagada. This church was actually built on the site of another church. The original church was bombed in 1945 during WWII because Japanese troops were hiding inside.
This alter is beautiful and very natural looking.
It’s seriously beautiful!
Looking from the alter back outside.
The church yard
A public basketball court in Sagada
ECHO VALLEY / THE HANGING COFFINS: The walk from Sagada town to Echo Valley is around a mile, stopping at the local christian cemetery along the way. Our guide told us that people now can choose which kind of burial they want. I asked him if he knew how he wanted to be buried and he said that it depended on his family. He explained that the bodies that are going to be in the hanging coffins are carried down in a chair and are placed in the coffins with their knees agains their chests. These coffins range in age from a few years old to a few hundred years old! You can see them on cliffs all through the area if you look close enough.
THE CAVE CONNECTION (Lumiang Cave to Sumaguing Cave): Our tour of the Cave Connection was led by a 19-year-old boy who had been working as a tour guide since he was thirteen! He gave us more coffin facts since this cave entrance is FULL of coffins!
After spending time at the entrance by the coffins, we started on our almost 5 mile trek from one cave entrance to the next cave over’s entrance.
As I stood at the top of this ledge with no easy-looking way down at the people below us I thought What have I gotten myself into?
Our guide led us through, though. Squeezing between cracks in rocks that seemed to small for a child to get through.
These little formations are like micro rice terraces.
We just came down from that section with the light in the top center ⇡
To get to this ledge, I [by instruction] stood on our guide’s leg to his hand to his shoulders until I could reach that blue rope and pull myself over! Craziness!
Stacey making her way up and over.
Walking through water
Coming down a rope and into the chamber with all of the crazy cool formations
Stacey shimmying down a cave formation
Coming down with the help of our amazing guide
After exploring these cave formations barefoot, climbing up ropes and wading in pools we made our way up and out the entrance of Sumaguing Cave
THE WALK BACK TO SAGADA: We walked back to Sagada because even though we were pooped we weren’t tired enough to pay for the jeepney which was extra-expensive because they know tired people want to pay for it.
We passed beautiful rice terraces and farms.
Along with funky shops and restaurants.
These beautiful formations were created when Sagada was underwater. How cool is that?
Sagada is a beautiful town filled with beautiful people. I loved seeing modest but cozy homes with salmon-colored gates and views that people would pay big money for. Their simple living and love for preserving their natural and cultural heritage is something that everyone could learn from. The Sagada cave connection was challenging, beautiful and one of the funnest things I did on the trip, and I would highly recommend giving spelunking a shot.
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