The last time I was in Sagada, I only got to visit the Masferre Country Inn, the Yoghurt House, and the Lumiang burial cave. I was too sick to go on so I had to cut my stay short. Travelling to and from Sagada took longer than my stay in town.
This year – after years and years of planning – I finally got to revisit Sagada with my girlfriend. Funny enough, we were both pretty ill throughout our stay but that didn’t stop us from exploring Sagada.
Anyway, over the years Sagada’s got really, really, ridiculously famous for these things: its scenery, its eating places, its burial sites, its caves, and that one movie with Judy Ann and Piolo. While the whole caving/spelunking thing isn’t really our cup of tea, we did spend quite a great deal of time hiking, getting slightly lost, finding our way, then hiking some more.
And eating. Definitely, eating.*
But it is really the burial sites that I associate with Sagada. You can partly blame that on my degree in anthropology and partly in that part of me that goes “Oooh! Coffins! Coffins are cool! Let’s go see coffins! Come on, guy! C-O-F-F-I-N-S!!!”
Situated several hundred meters from the town center, the Lumiang cave is probably the most accessible (and probably most famous) tourist spot in Sagada.
For a lot of people, visiting the the burial cave will be the highlight of this short trek. But the for the more adventurous traveler, Lumiang cave is only the beginning of their journey to Sumaguing.
For people like us who don’t really like spelunking, the Lumiang burial cave is a pretty good place to end one’s trek as it’s one eerily beautiful place.
Seeing the stacks of coffins piled on top of one another is at once slightly creepy and awe-inspiring. The place actually feels pretty sacred. Holy, if you will.
Additionally, the burial site also gives us a glimpse of Sagada’s burial tradition from way back. So, not only do you get a pretty nice cardio workout on the way down here, you also get to learn about the local culture. An exercise for the body and the mind! How fun is that?
The next burial site is on the other side of town, in an area called the Echo Valley. This is where you’ll find some of Sagada’s hanging coffins. While nowhere near as old as the ones in Lumiang, the burial site in Echo Valley is proof that some of Sagada’s older tradition remains. Well, for some local groups at least.
The way to Echo Valley is slightly more grueling than the hike to Lumiang cave. It’s not terribly harder, mind you, just… less easy.
Since my girlfriend and I didn’t hire a guide to help us get to the coffins, we had to trust our guts and simply follow paths that might lead us to the burial site. Obviously, we did find one that led us to the coffins but it wasn’t an easy one. There was point where I actually felt like I was Bear Grylls leading my girlfriend to the path we chose to follow. Well, a fatter Bear Grylls with less-than-average survival skills and less propensity to drink one’s own piss. Anyway, a seasoned tour guide actually saw us ascending to the burial site and jokingly asked us “what the hell are you guys doing there?”
Still, it was all worth it as I did get a shot of the coffins from below. The more adventurous part of me had a field day.
Again, these burial sites in Sagada are a tangible part of their culture – past or present. You owe it to yourself to visit them if you ever visit Sagada. They are must-see locations, in my humble opinion, not just for the sights but for what the locals have to say about them.