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Mar 16, 2013

Another Burial Tradition in Sagada’s Lumiang Cave

Here are the stacked coffins of the popular Lumiang Burial Cave in Sagada.

A few minutes of rest from the famous Hanging Coffins of the Echo Valley tour have confronted us to take it to the next burial site which is inside a cave. I thought that the only way early people of Sagada is to hang the coffins of their dead loved ones when they pass away, but I was wrong because this simple town has yet so many traditions that up until now is existing. Out of all the caves in the world where the first humans exist as caves were their first homes, I think Sagada has one of the few caves, particularly the Lumiang Cave, which still has proofs that indeed caves were used in the early traditions of the world.


Nothing Beats Plain Nature Adventure: Sagada

On going to Lumiang Cave
It was still afternoon when we finished our Echo Valley tour which features Echo Valley itself and the famous Hanging Coffins so we decided to check out Lumiang Cave. Along the way we met two backpackers, an American citizen and a Filipina. It was a good incident meeting them because they were able to join us on our way to the Lumiang Cave. And would you believe those two backpackers were the ones at the next seat of the bus we rode on going to Sagada? Pretty amazing fact because in that short period we were able to make travel buddies. And for you who are longing to see Sagada, backpacking may work for you because you will be able to meet some backpackers too when you get to tour yourself there. It was such a backpacker-friendly town.
Road sign on going to Lumiang Burial Cave and Sumaguing Cave.

I think getting to Sagada during the Halloween is a must. Kids like them do celebrate Trick or Treat.

Those two backpackers do not know anything about Sagada just like me and all they have is the 2010 edition of the Lonely Planet Philippines. When they knew that my friend is a local of Sagada, they were happy to hitch on us going to Lumiang. Of course my Sagadan friend, Christian knows almost everything in his hometown so he led us to the cave.

It will take around 15-20 minutes of walking from the town hall to the cave. It was far and you don’t have a choice because taxis or trikes were neither available in the village. But walking in Sagada is fun and almost everyone is friendly. We went to Lumiang Cave when it was already getting dawn. Uhm, by the way if you have the bucks to rent ATVs, I think it is more fun to tour Sagada by such. I’ll try it next time haha.
A bit of trail to the burial cave, Lumiang.


Lumiang Cave is a five-minute trail from the road. You’ll have to trek a short trail down to the cave. Lumiang Cave is also the entry way to a more hyper spelunking adventure—the Cave Connection. To do the cave connection you’ll need a guide and you need to go through the darkness of Lumiang Cave and walk out alive via the other cave, Sumaguing. It really sounds adventurous but for beginners like you and me, I recommend you to try first the basic spelunking adventure inside Sumaguing Cave. Then if you like it and you successfully survived, then plan the Cave Connection on your next trip. I swear, spelunking in Sagada is one of the most exciting and adventurous activity ever.

As I have said earlier, the big rocks in Sagada were considered as sacred, and all of the caves were under big rocks thus caves were sacred too. They consider the caves as a godly place where the early people of Sagada used to bury their dead loved ones. This time they do not hang them, they put them inside small wooden coffins, carve a lizard emblem and stack them the way you stack your books at home. It’s really amazing because up until now those stacked coffins still existed. It’s history upfront. The fossils were still there.

Beside me are the wooden coffins inside Lumiang Cave, Sagada.


I asked Christian why Sagada is known for their lizard emblem and he answered it’s because early people of Sagada believe that lizards throw away evil spirits. Now wonder the coffins inside the Lumiang Cave were all carved with lizard on the top. This is to drive away the evil spirits who are lurking to take away the souls of their dead loved ones.

You are not allowed to open the coffin, and if you do, make sure to substitute the one who is inside it. Well if you cannot, do not open it! These are preserved traditions and you cannot just take it away. This cultural heritage is just good for your eyes only. You can actually literally get close to the coffins but I doubt people who have fear with caskets will be afraid of getting nearer to them.

I just have this wild imagination what if all of a sudden all the coffins moved and the dead people inside it become alive? Just like the “Night of the Living Dead”. Whoa sounds scary because Sagada is a town where coffins are like everywhere. And believe it or not, since I was alone in the room I rented in Misty Inn, I badly had a nightmare. Really scary because I dreamt of the dead people I do not even know! And I was alone. And my windows are open. And the color of the curtain was all white. I was paranoid that night haha.

Nevertheless, it is an unforgettable experience to get closer to the traditions older than what you think. Lumiang Cave is a living legend of the early mountain people who have their own culture.
Carved on it was the lizard emblem.
 After the Lumiang Cave, we took a rest when we got back to the road side. It was already dark (like 6PM) so we decided not to proceed with Sumaguing Cave anymore. I do not want to stay inside the caves at night because it was such a nightmarish idea haha. From the Lumiang Cave, we walked a bit and we parted ways with the two backpackers we met a while back. They still need to go back to the town hall where there inn was beside it. I and Christian however have to go to their house to eat for dinner, and it was a canao. My Sagada experience is really fun because I got to experience the culture, the way of life and the natural tourist attractions. I love Sagada.

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