“Malayo ang hospital, mas malapit ang mga coffins.” The hospital is far, the coffins are closer, our guide joked to us as we entered the Lumiang Cave for our “Cave Connection” tour. The sight of these historic coffins paired with the immense cavern whose floor disappeared mysteriously to some vast depth was enough to convince two of our party to turn back. This 4-hour tour is not for the claustrophobic. It required a significant amount of physical athleticism and finesse to traverse. As we crawled multiple kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface, our guide’s initial joke gained validity: this was not a place to get hurt.
If you search online for caving recommendations, most suggestions emphasize sturdy, heavy boots with solid soles. Exploring Sagada taught me that caves vary based on region and environment thus local knowledge is best. And proper foot ware in Sagada Philippines meant – Surprise: Flip Flops!!! Despite my initial skepticism, I was quickly convinced. Wearing flip flops meant suitable basic traction and protection from sharp rocks, but also flexibility to feel the rocks beneath your feet, to weight your body appropriately based on the surface at hand, and most importantly the ability to bend and adapt to small rocky footholds. Luckily, I had packed a pair of flip flops in my backpack. My Danish friends were not so lucky and opted for bare feet versus their large clunky boots.
If you travel to Sagada and are looking for an adventure “Cave Connection” was a highlight experience for me. I would return and do it again in a heartbeat!! Php 400 pesos or about $8.80 USD per person bought an extremely essential local guide. Bring a headlamp (and a spare or at least spare batteries), water, a small pack so your hands are free while you walk, flip flops, and your municipal tourism registration card. Trust your guide, the hospital is far, but these people are experts!