Me, Spelunking?

Three hours jeepney ride away from Banaue is the quiet and mysterious Sagada. Matagtag(Pilipino naman ang mga nagbabasa nito eh, walang dating ang “Bumpy.” Parang isa sa mga dwarves ni Snowhite.) took on a new meaning for me. Maalikabok din(Dusty? See explanation in previous sentence) but I learned the meaning of that word last month in Mindanao.

Sagada has now become a memorable place for me because of one big cave: Sumaging.

The tour guides asked us to fall into a single file and walk down the cave from the main road where our jeepneys were parked and other officemates who didn’t feel adventurous that day stayed. One long line of people, walking, blindly following orders from several men reminded me of a historical event: The death march. Oh no. This is not the time for me to have an overactive imagination.

I was number 15 in a line of 42 people. Probably the 15th too, among those wondering what made them enter this cold, dark, wet cave. Now, I am not really the adventurous type. Go figure, I don’t even eat the unhatched duck in balut. Going back to the cave, I pulled up my loose jogging pants to my knees and determined, “I’m going to go through this. Too late to back out now.”

It was a grand cave with sharp stones, lime formations, stalactites, and resident bats who, thankfully, were anti-social. The path was treacherous. Every step must be firmly planted lest I slip. If I did slip, I’d lose more than my dignity. I’d probably lose my consciousness too. And so we walked. No, make that stretched, climbed, struggled. Halfway through, I wondered out loud, “Wala bang patag?” I heard laughter. So does that mean no?

Giving me an extra dose of courage is seeing those ahead of me successfully completing each stage of our exploration. There was a portion in which we had only a nylon rope to hold on to, ice cold basin of I-don’t-know-how-deep water behind us. I couldn’t find a protruding rock to land my feet on so, with feet suspended, I had to pull myself, using sheer upper body strength. We waded through almost chest-high deep water while stepping on rocks and soft sand I couldn’t see (I thought of quicksands and the movie Anaconda). We had to cling tenaciously to rocks especially in tight, narrow spaces as if our lives depended on it (It did). Another thought entered my mind: Mahirap palang maging kuhol.

Oh, before I forget, we saw beautiful limestone formations inside: The Elephant, The King’s Curtain. On our way back outside the cave, I thought we’ve had enough of the challenges. That is, until I saw this long blue rope suspended approximately 15-foot against a limestone rock. Rapelling with no harness and safety net? The sight of it almost turned my knees into jelly. This time my logic whispered: Walang ambulansiya sa labas. Kayanin mo ito. So with the remaining willpower left in me, I held on to the rope superglue tight and walked the 45 degree incline. I could hear my officemates and tour guides shouting: “Kahit anong mangyari, huwag kang bibitaw!” Got that loud and clear!

After rapelling, the rest of the way back was relatively easy. No more death-defying stunts for me. After several more minutes, we were standing by the mouth of the cave. I’ve never been so happy to see sunlight in my entire life!

And so I made it. It helped too that my officemate Arnold kindly lent his services as my designated guide and counselor, coaxing me to take the next step. I owe him two hours of my life, that is, our time inside the cave. (I thanked him with a well-deserved Sumaging postcard the next day.)

That’s enough adventure for me, at least for this year. I’ll be walking on paved, leveled roads for now, thank you very much. But it was one great experience I’ll be looking back on–will be talking about it, writing about it, thanking God for it.

So I don’t eat balut. But hey, I have one big, scary cave to brag about*.

*Pagbigyan n’yo na ako. Pinaghirapan ko talaga siya.:p

9 Responses to “Me, Spelunking?”
  1. Nechie says:

    “Life is an awfully great adventure.” – Peter Pan (played by Robin Williams) in the movie Hook.

    Glad to know you also went trekking around muddy caves. Congratulations, you can now consider yourself an adventurer. I hope I can also visit Banaue and Sagada one of these days. =)

  2. Ruben says:

    Congrats! Cave exploring, that’s something. So, and sunod, balut naman? 🙂

  3. Beng says:

    Hi Nechie,
    Glad to hear from you again. Adventurer? Yes, I think so. I’m excited to know where God would take me next–whether it be a cave, mountain or a challenge.

    Yes, go visit Banaue and Sagada. But I think there’s more mystery in Sagada. Banaue, after seeing the terraces, you might get bored with it.

    Hi Ben,
    Yes, cave exploring (spelunking!). Didn’t think I’d make it. Balut? Hmm, I don’t have the heart to eat it. Kakaawa eh. (But I’m not saying those who eat balut are heartless, OK?!)To each his own. . . food(?). haha. I’ll just take the next cave. 🙂

  4. Ruben says:

    Between eating balut and spelunking, eating balut is no contest really. I’d choose cave exploring anytime! It’s not everyday we get the chance to do that. Pero masarap din ang balut! I just close my eyes and think of something else while eating it, para hindi ako maawa. 🙂 There’s something, though, about big, dark caves that remind us of God’s grace to sinners. Or Batman’s bat-cave. 🙂

  5. Nechie says:

    how about eating balut in a cave? that would be quite an experience! just make sure there are no bat droppings that land on your balut. =)

  6. Beng says:

    Ben, Profound ka na sana eh with your “There’s something, though, about big, dark caves that remind us of God’s grace to sinners.” Why did you have to think of Batman’s bat-cave pa?! Hehe. So I’m curious, what do you think of when you’re eating balut? How can you not think of the tiny… helpless…innocent unborn duckling?

    Nechie, eating balut in a cave? Malilito ang puso ko. Saan ako dapat mas kabahan–sa pagrarapel o sa paglunok?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Spelunking? Could you please translate? Also, sabi ni Chris na mahirap ngang maging kuhol dahil di ka man mahulog you may still end up cooked with gata. Don’t know which is worse – being a kuhol or the sisiw in the balut (-:

  8. Nang, your pretty sister says:

    I know you’d figure it out anyway but just to confirm that it was me who posted the anonymous comment. Medyo challenging pala doing it on a blackberry. Oh well..

  9. Beng says:

    Hi Nang, spelunking is the hobby or practice of exploring caves. The first time I posted this entry, cave-exploring nga ang ginamit ko. Then changed it to the more technical term “spelunking.”

    To be a kuhol or a sisiw…that is the question. Parehong mahirap 🙂

    Yes, I figured it was you Nang, my pretty sister (hmmm, magreact kaya sina Rae at Chayen pag nabasa nila ito at sabihin nilang sila ang pretty?haha. Para walang away, ako na lang!)

    How I wish I could see your blackberry. 🙂 Hi-tech. That’s better, I guess, than buying a Pocket PC or PDA.

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