Philippines: Caves, Coffins and Clouds


I was at the end of my trip of Asia. 10 hours from Manila, 3 hours through Banaue and Bontoc. 13 hours in total. I had little time left in the Philippines so I had one day to do Sagada. I actually remember first hearing about the place when I was in Laos. A couple of travellers from Toronto told me about them, one girl in particular. I remember thinking at the time, that’s worlds away for me, almost unrealistic. That was at the start of my trip. Well here I was it was 8 months on. I arrived at Georges Guesthouse at 11.30am in Sagada. I almost instantly went to go find a tour guide to take me caving. I remember paying around 800 peso to the guide. By this time it was the afternoon, and we had a lot to do before getting heading back.

My guide had been trekking for years. His appearance deceived him. A local of course, short, chubby, maybe in his 40-50’s. We walked down to Samaguing Cave. I realised my Vans were not going to help me despite the tour guide saying they’d be okay. I went barefoot. We climbed down the caves and I have to say, very carefully for me. He had great flexibility and strength for his physique. We got to the bottom of the caves after my cautious effort and the help of my guides rubber limbs. The final venture was the most challenging part, caving under, into the water and back around to begin our exit. This was NOT for the ones with claustrophobia. I was honestly quite freaked out but something kept me going. I trusted him and just kept moving. It reminded me a bit of the Qui Chi tunnels in Vietnam. Try not to think. Keep moving. We had to climb down with ropes, swim through tight cave formations, all with balance and precision. The water was shallow but the rocks were sharp and awkward everywhere. The space was limited. My heart was pumping. It was exciting but I was too worried that an unknown bout of uncontrollable worry might creep in at any second. I was too determined to stop and reflect.

Caving SagadaSagada Cave

On the climb back up, worries became reality I slipped, falling a couple metres below. Luckily I fell into water. I remember the tour guides word of worry. Hearing this, whilst in the middle of my dramatic fall, for a split second I didn’t feel no comfort of survival. I was okay. I climbed up slowly after that, it was challenging but I was so happy to reach the top. It was a nerve racking experience, but when I look back I realised I enjoyed it. After all, that’s one of the reasons what I came for.

After that cave we trekked to the where the known hanging coffins were. The coffins had a mysterious feeling to them. They almost had a spell on them which made your mind flashback to their history and why they were there. It was very odd but something I definitely was glad about seeing. A unique site. Who’d of thought it? Trek all this week, travel up north to see a few coffins. That in itself was unique. I still get an intriguing feeling now when I think of these coffins. One of my more interesting exploits.

Banaue coffin

The next day after my body was battered from the travelling, lack of sleep, caving, trekking and early start, I managed to catch the 5.20am Jeepney back down to Banaue. It was such a delight to get up that morning. I’m not a morning guy, but when I do get up and I’m half awake, I love that peace that being up early in the morning brings. The moment where everything is slightly wet due to the morning residue, the birds are not yet fully in full song, the air is cold but refreshing, and the mind is at ease. I rode on top of the Jeepney again. When riding downhill and out of Sagada, what was before me was mesmerizing. We were that high up, oceans of clouds were smothering the land below us, wrapping around the hills and terraces. The sun had come out proud and was shining bright. My whole previous 18 hours had been fulfilled, bit this was the ending of my trip of Sagada. The view of the clouds topped it off. A sign of accomplishment to me. I achieved what I set out to do. Maybe it was that light at the end of the tunnel. In this case it was the clouds at the end of the caves.

Sagada Cloud


Tommy Walker

Avid Traveller Heart in Thailand Soul in Philippines Love to write Learning to Act History student Art fanatic Huge Soccer fan Sociably Great A fan of the movies From England, Male, 25 - Never stopping

One response to “Philippines: Caves, Coffins and Clouds

  1. I’ve seen a few stories on different cultures with hanging coffins and I find the practice very fascinating. I leave most of my caving adventures to ones with well setup walking trails, since I’m in no shape for the ascent or even the descent part. lol. But I’m usually up to just about anything, within reason.

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