Sagada Danger: Water Fall visit. We went to Pongas waterfalls. You just don’t drive up and walk a bit to see a wonderful waterfall like we did in Kabigan Falls in Ilocos Norte, here in Sagada we drove via a forbidding cliff road that is just 1 car wide… and then walked through the rice terraces where my son fell… then walk / climb the side of a mountain where if you slip you can fall to your doom, and climb up the slippery hard rocks of the various stages / levels of water falls… where again if you slip, you can fall to your doom. All this you have to repeat going down the waterfalls back to your vehicle.
Sagada Danger: Caving. This is caving at its rawest. This is for the nature lover. Nature in all its natural glory. We chose the easiest cave… the Balangigan Cave. We asked for an easier cave with the least danger to slipping from our 3 young children and the guides recommended this cave. Allegedly the Sumaging cave has the more dangerous entrance and exit with slippery bat guano. Other even more thrilling caves is the likes of Crystal Cave where only the most experienced spelunker must dare.
Balangigan cave involves a road trip with a recommended SUV… not a car… must be higher than a car… in our case we used a Toyota Fortuner. Rough road. Single lane. Beside a cliff. If you come head to head with another vehicle, the two of you need to find a spot where the two of you can pass each other without the other one falling off the cliff. We reached the parking spot and it was now time to trek down to the cave entrance.
Trek down to Balangigan cave again involves walking down a treacherous cliff covered by foliage that scratches your arms and legs. You need to be very very careful, do not stray far from your guide as you need to judge where, what and how to step down on. You need all four limbs. There are times you need to sit down with your two arms holding on to dear life while your legs reach down to the next steps. Finally after 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the age of your kids or your grand parents, you get to the mouth of the cave.
Balangigan cave itself. The entrance has this big forbidding rock formation. From a 2D point of view frontally, it seems unimaginable that your guides can walk nimbly up the rocks like mountain goats. We had 3 kids carried up. Then my wife had a guide hold her all the way. I climbed up like spiderman at an angle hugging the rock so my center of gravity was leaning on the rock and my hands were clambering on to dear life just like my feet were.
Note that I have zero caving / spelunking experience. I think my choice of wearing Crocs for shoes was a good idea.
In the cave, you need to stick close to your guide… you should never ever go caving without a guide… that would be suicide. In fact, we hired 5 guides. Almost 1 guide per person. Worth the expense for us city slickers who may find getting injured a far more expensive affair. One of our guides slipped while inside and one of our gas lamps got disassembled in the process. No harm done. Inside more spiderman like walking and cautious climbing.
From the point of view of a Sagadan like these guides, this is all child’s play. This is where they go as a group, maybe 8 to 10 years old where their parents tell them not to go, but they go and play there anyway. These caves and waterfalls is where they take their teenage romances escapades. From the Sagadan native point of view, there is nothing dangerous about these play areas. I even saw a waterfall guide… a girl, aged 8, guide a group up the dangerous Pongas falls. She was so pretty, so cute!
The idea I am toying about for the Sagadan tour organizers is that there are opportunities for making more money and making things safer for the tourists:
1. There should be caving / waterfalling / trekking briefings. You need to explicitly show people photos and videos of what to expect when trekking or caving or water falling. Know that weakling urban people are clumsy and unhealthy or lack exercise and may have problems with balance and may have zero experience, even in child hood or worse… obese and aging.
2. That it might be a good idea to have tourists sign wavers before going on a tour to protect yourselves from any blame or litigation.
3. That there is an opportunity to sell accident insurance, much like airlines today sell insurance while going on flights. This may turn out profitable, at the same time, you can have organized equipment like ambulances, nurses and doctors, first aid stations, stretchers, medicines / herbs… all were absent in all 3 treks we made.
I mean really… nature is all so thrilling… the danger… the actual reality that you can fall and injure yourselves gravely and possibly die is why “I survived Sagada” T-shirts are so popular. But there is profit in the assurance of safety and medical facilities on the spot for urban tourists just in case.
Go to part 03