If you are mystified and curious about Dante’s trip to the underworld, then you should really visit Sagada. Sagada Mountain Province in the Philippines is full of mystery and deep-rooted tradition. Aside from the already picturesque rice terraces you’ll see along the way and the cool breeze that’s so untypical of a tropical site, you get to explore two extraordinary places: Sumaguing Cave and Lumiang Cave.
Lumiang Cave: Hanging Coffins
Century-old burial tradition of the people of Sagada (called Kankanaey) is a spectacle in Lumiang Cave. Only those who have been married and had grandchildren are allowed to be buried this way, so it’s sort of exclusive. What’s interesting is that this burial tradition still exists until today. So you can expect the number of hanging coffins growing in number.
Ancestral worship in the Mountain
Province highlights the strong attachment that the Kankanaey people have to their relatives and religion. Their carefulness to comply with what’s spiritually acceptable had been instrumental for them to avoid conforming to modern ways, and thus, helpful in the preservation of their primitive culture and tradition. The Kankanaey believe that their ancestors (anitos) have the power to cause sickness or death to the living who don’t honor them.
Sumaguing Cave: Cave of the Spirits
Sumaguing Cave opens to a gigantic cathedral interior embellished with unique rock formations of centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is named as so mainly because the people of Sagada believes this is where the spirits dwell, and partly because the cave has taken a number of souls during an unexpected flooding inside the cave.
Yes, there is river system inside the cave, which gives rise to multiple cave waterfalls and cool, deep pools where tourists can swim and enjoy. On a fine day, these rivers are clear with moderate currents, so just imagine if it rains and floods. Still, there are guided tours all throughout the year, mostly during the summer months. Tourists must expect to stay a few more days in Sagada because elders prohibit visits to the cave when they sense a bad omen. It is necessary to make traditional animal sacrifices and prayer offerings before entering the cave for protection.