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Inside the caves
Inside the caves
The town of Sagada
White water rafting


Thursday, March 6, 2003
For this small town in the Philippines, it has a lot to offer the weary traveller … especially adventure.

Sagada is a haven for the weary traveller, and for such a small town — with just 10,000 inhabitants — it has an incredible amount to offer.

It is one of 10 towns of Mountain Province in the Cordillera Region of northern Philippines, with agriculture as its main income. Cabbages, carrots and potatoes are grown in abundance, and rice is planted for local consumption. It also receives considerable income from tourism thanks to its pleasant climate which attracts Filipinos from the hot south, its pine forests, rocky terrain, waterfalls, centuries-old burial caves, hanging coffins, rice terraces and very popular local weaving.

The tranquil mountain-top town has a strict curfew of 9pm imposed by the early-rising locals, there is no nightlife or international hotels and cars are a rare sight. Traditional values, cultural practices and respect for the environment feature strongly in their daily lives.

Architecturally the town is fairly modern with many new limestone and tin houses, but you will still see tribal houses and structures there.

Sagadans are called Igorots and speak the Kankana-ey dialect. Most express themselves better in English than in Filipino, the national language. Another anomaly is that their religion is Anglican in a predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Underneath Sagadan is a honeycomb of limestone caves and subterranean streams. Over many thousands of years, water has eroded entire limestone mountains, thus creating caves. Some caves are dry as the water has seeped further down. To explore Sumaging, the Big Cave, you must have an experienced guide with ropes and lanterns. Spelunkers are always amazed at its size and most caves have been simply named by what they resemble, such as the Rice Granary, Cauliflower and Dancing Hall.

Not all caves are just for adventure. Some have a very spiritual existence. Burial caves are traditional and around five percent of the population still practices placing their deceased in the foetal position in small coffins before positioning them in their final resting place.

You will see another burial tradition on the pine-dotted limestone karst cliffs. There can be up to five coffins carved from local pine piled upon each other and sitting precariously on a ledge.

Rice terraces have been carved out of the mountains and are a sight to behold. They have been called the eighth wonder of the world and have been built with amazing engineering skills, using space to its maximum and created to avoid erosion.

Cloth weaving is another tradition of Sagada. Beautiful fabric is made on giant wooden looms, generally by the older women. Just about everyone who visits can't resist taking a length home, or maybe some ready-made table linen, placemats, bags, hats or traditional attire. Original designs are adhered to and the materials come from Manila's cotton mills.

A pleasant place to stay is St Joseph's Resthouse which has 25 rooms and five cottages and wonderful landscaping. It was once an orphanage run by Anglican nuns.


275km north of Manila in the Philippines.


Tribal Adventure Tours have a five-night package to Sagada, starting at around $2550 per person.
Qantas flies four times a week to Manila starting at $1305 per person ex-Melbourne and Brisbane; $1311 ex-Adelaide; $1322 ex-Sydney; $3730 ex-Darwin and $3819 ex-Perth. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Tribal Adventure Tours
Ph: 0011 632 821 6706
Fax: 0011 632 823 2725

Philippine Department of Tourism
Ph: (02) 9283 0711
Fax: (02) 9283 0755

Qantas: 13 13 13

STOP PRESS. This week’s bomb blast in the Philippines occurred in Davao, about 1000 k’s south of Manila. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) has advised Australians against travel to Davao and large sections of the island of Mindanao.
DFAT Ph: 1300 555 135

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