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Caving

Exploring Sumalsag Cave Apr 21, 2013

Exploring Sumalsag Cave

GPS waypoint: N 08 21.294 E124 55.087
Elevation: 642 meters above sea level
Sumalsag Cave entrance: Sitio Kilabong, Brgy. Vista Villa, Sumilao (municipality), Bukidnon
Sumalsag Cave exit: Sito Diamante, Brgy. Darilig, Manolo Fortich (municipality), Bukidnon
Cave Time: no-rest pace would be 1 hour 30 mins, but with a slow big group, maybe 2-3 hours
Cave Length: 1039.5 meters

Submerged Exit
While I was being strapped for the 840-meter zipline at Dahilayan Adventure Park, the staff talked about a unique cave where the exit would require a submerged dive. Whoa! He got my attention. After getting the cave's name - Sumalsag Cave, I then did my research. Sumalsag Cave is one of 5 caves in Mt. Palaopao. It has been known for a long time but only amongst the locals. It is secluded with no road signs (except at the Dalirig junction).

Internet Search
Like most things on the internet, Googling for "Sumalsag Cave" gave me a lot of sites describing it. But none acually talked about how to get there, how much to pay, what to bring, etc. After spending time on the internet weaving the little bits of information together, and asking people around, I finally got enough, but not all, of the information I needed to make the trip to Darilig. With this blog, I attempt to provide all essential information to help any traveler prepare an itinerary - that's what I had been doing with nearly all my blogs, but this time, I'll be more keenly aware if the information is exhaustive enough without the clutter.

Getting There
The 70-minute bus trip to Dalirig was scenic, specially as we gained elevation and could see the valley below. The road is impeccable (unlike 3 months before when major repairs were being done). Upon arrival at Dalirig, I contracted a round trip ride with a habal-habal driver. He also hooked me up with a kid (Edsel) to be my guide. At the jump-off, we walked a bit into a farmland to ask permission from the land owners, the Suratsos family.

Suratsos Farm
The Suratsos are a retired husband and wife doctor who tend to the farming at their Suratsos Farm. I was interviewed as to my motive for being there. After explaining to them that I intend to blog this cave exploration and provide a comprehensive guideline on how to get there, they deemed it best to call George, a more mature guide who has received cave training. I paid off-Edsel P20 for his trouble and had George guide me instead. It took another half a kilometer of trekking until we reached the mouth of the cave.

Inside the Cave
The cave opened up to a majectic hall with cathedral-like ceiling. But as George and I forged ahead, the passages became increasingly narrow and low with the river water as our floor. The expected stalactite / stalagmite formations were all over, in some cases, even connecting. The cave system is essentially an underground river. Just follow the river and you'll find yourself to the exit...maybe. But don't try this without a guide. The technical sections came when the overhead ceiling of protruding stalactites and water level would only leave enough space for a human head. And you have to steer your head along the narrow spaces in between the stalactites while river water is up your chin to navigate around. There was a deep pool that would reach up to my neck. Fortunately, there are some rocks to hang-on to for shorter people. I was tempted to do the water part but there was no way to keep my stuff dry, so I opted for the rocks.

Panic Attack
As I was going through the technical sections with little clearance between the water and the ceiling, just enough really to fit my head in this pitch-black condition, I could not help but think that a lot of the cave visitors here must have suffered from a panic attack - specially beginners. When I asked George, he confirmed that he has guided a good number of people who had a panic attack. I understand that feeling very well. I've had panic attacks on many occasions before. I remember in Matabungkay chasing after a drifting beach ball on my snorkeling gear. I was doing perfectly well, until I looked back and saw the shore too far away. A sudden panic ensued. I had difficulty with my breathing (instead of inhaling through my snorkel, I was sucking air from my mask - which was impossible). My swim became uncoordinated. I was a basket case when I reached the shore. Another panic was while doing the Lumiang-Sumaging Cave connection in Sagada - the guide lit up a cigarette deep inside the cave, about 2 hours into our descent! The slightest sense of the 2nd hand smoke caused a panic attack. While keeping my composure, I asked him to put his cigarette out and headed back fast without any more picture taking or appreciating the surrounding formations. When kept in check though, people you're with may not even notice you're going through a panic attack. It's all inside your head - a mind-fuck in my parlance. But it's best to start bailing out when you have the option - your judgement is already clouded at that point. Bringing essential gear does not only make it safer but also keeps the panic attack at bay.

Ending Thoughts
Sumalsag Cave is quite an adventure, but not for beginners. Beginners would be better off going to Macahambus Cave instead. About 2 kms from Sumalsag Cave is Basag Cave. From what the locals tell me (more accurately, from what I understand from them, as I could not really fully understand their version of Tagalog), Basag Cave requires ropes and quite deadly during the rainy season. George can also guide for Basag Cave. As for the other caves, I've only read about them, but there's not enough information on the internet (nor enough time for me that day) to find out more. Altogether, Bukidnon's mountain terrain offers so much more - Lake Napalit, Natigbasan Falls, Gantungan Falls, Dila Falls, WAIG Crystal Spring Resort, Lake Apo, Lake Pinamaloy, Mt. Kitanglad, Bird Watch Tower, Minlaya Falls, Alalum Falls, Malingon Falls, Badiangon Waterfalls, etc. and Del Monte Golf and Country Club.

Speaking of Del Monte, it would be along my way back. I can finally try their much talked-about pineapple and roast beef! That's my next blog!

--- TheLoneRider

ps - If you want me to objectively cover the features of your city or municipality or barangay for this website (fiesta, waterfall, mountain trail, lake, river, cave, food, islands, beach, etc.), email me.

Essential Gear

  1. head lamp
  2. helmet - guides don't provide it, but it would be nice to have because of low stalactites
  3. outdoor shoes with aggressive sole thread for traction
  4. dry sac that can be worn like a backpack
  5. extra dry clothes
  6. swim clothes (you will get wet)

Getting a Guide to Sumalsag Cave

  1. Do not try this without a guide! Best to make arrangement with a guide first. George is the recommended guide by the land owners. He has received cave training and knows the cave inside-out. Cellphone: 0926.418.8813
  2. George's rate is P150/trip for one person or P450/trip for up to 5 pax. If you are a bigger group, you may want an additional guide. Ask George.
  3. if George is not available, there is a kid (Edsel) who was recommended by a habal-habal driver. Edsel, 0905.117.4530

How to Get to Sumalsag Cave from Cagayan de Oro

  1. go to Agora Market and board any bus going to Valencia and tell the bus conductor to drop you off the Darilig junction for Sumalsag Cave. P95, aircon, 1 hour 10 minutes, ~36 kms.
  2. from the junction, take a single motorcycle (called habal-habal) to the jump-off in Sitio Kilabong. P60 if alone or P35/pax, 15 minutes, 4 kms. Meet your guide at the jump-off.

Caving Blogs by TheLoneRider

  1. Exploring Combento Cave Pool June 29, 2017
  2. Visiting Cabagnow Cave Pool of Anda Jun 28, 2017
  3. Exploring Bukilat Cave, Camotes Islands Feb 28, 2017
  4. Exploring Timubo Cave of Camotes Islands Feb 9, 2017
  5. Exploring Holy Crystal Cave of Camotes Islands Feb 9, 2017
  6. Exploring Bakwitan Cave of Gigantes Island Dec 30, 2016
  7. Visting Pangihan Cave of Malay Dec 14, 2016
  8. Exploring Maanghit Cave in Libertad Dec 9, 2016
  9. Visiting Ati Cave in Libertad Dec 9, 2016
  10. Visiting the Elephant Cave (Goa Gajah) July 9, 2016
  11. Visiting the Nam Lot and the Pha Khong Caves of Phan District May 18, 2016
  12. Visiting Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur Feb 18, 2015
  13. Exploring Silop Cave of Surigao City Jun 22, 2013
  14. Exploring Bakwitan Cave of Tuburan, Surigao del Sur May 25, 2013
  15. Exploring Campamento Cave of Lanuza, Surigao del Sur May 17, 2013
  16. Exploring Dayao Cave of Tandag, Surigao del Sur May 12, 2013
  17. Exploring Sumalsag Cave of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon Apr 21, 2013
  18. The Fabulous People of Roxas City (Igang Cave) Nov 25-27, 2012
  19. Exploring the Cantabon Cave of Siquijor Feb 23, 2012
  20. Marinduque with UPM's Rumble Reggae (Sawa Cave) May 29 - June 1, 2009
  21. Backpacking Cagayan de Oro (Macahambus Cave) Mar 7-9, 2009
  22. Sagada Cave Connection - Lumiang Cave to Sumaging Cave September 12, 2008
  23. Mountaineering with Lakay Kalikasan Mountaineers (Kalinawan Cave) November 25, 2007
  24. Sabang, Palawan (Underground River) November 14-21, 2007
  25. Sagada (Sumaging Cave) October 18, 2005
  26. The Cordillera - Day 5: Sagada (Sumaging Cave) May 3, 2005
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Reader Comments:

Bryan D. Caro
(Apr 6, 2015) Hi good afternoon, Im bryan and I would like to ask if how much would it cost if ever me and my friends would decide to visit Sumalsag Cave? And is it per head or package? I am looking forward for your response thank you.

TheLoneRiderTheLoneRider
"...how much would it cost if ever me and my friends would decide to visit Sumalsag Cave" -- Bryan D. Caro
(Apr 6, 2015) Sorry Bryan, but I don't run caving tours. I was simply a passing tourist who explored Sumalsag Cave. I posted the numbers of the two guides. Kindly get in touch with them instead. Good luck.

JD LaraJD Lara
"Sorry JD, but I won't recommend it. Sumalsag Cave is not for beginnners" -- TheLoneRider
(Oct. 20, 2013) Okay, I thought so. It's my husband who needed dissuading. haha! After reading your post I already knew it, as you explained it quite well. And even though our kids can swim and we'd be taking along 2 other guys with us, it still would be a huge risk. Specially this season when sudden rainstorms can come without warning... okey, hanap na lang kaming ibang cave. We'll see if we can find some info on the Macahambus thing you mentioned in CdO.

TheLoneRiderTheLoneRider
"...would it be okay to bring along kids (aged 9 and 11)" -- JD Lara
(Oct. 19, 2013) Sorry JD, but I won't recommend it. Sumalsag Cave is not for beginnners, let alone kids. When the water is up your neck but you can't raise your head because there is no headroom, it can create panic to those unfamiliar with caving. Best to try beginner caves with spacious caverns that are not too technical. Check out the other caves I've blogged about.

JD LaraJD Lara
(Oct 19, 2013) Hello LoneRider, thank you very much for this very informative post. My family and I have been looking around for a place to explore here in the hills and mountains of Bukidnon and have been intrigued about Sumalsag Cave for a while now. Just wondering, would it be okay to bring along kids (aged 9 and 11)? Looking for things to do with our children kasi this sem-break. Please advise. Thanks.

CharmaineCharmaine
(Oct 15, 2013) A friend talked about this cave two days ago and I thought, why not go there on my birthday (on October 19)? No one seems to be interested to come along, so I figured I'd go there myself. If you made it alone, why not me? :) I think the adventure might be a great birthday treat for myself. :)

KimyahKimyah
(May 3, 2013) I am so jealous of your Sumalsag Cave pics!

Amalia MisaAmalia Misa
(May 2, 2013) I loved the unexpected dives here.... one step and then your head lamp is submerged in water. hahaha super fun... I saw a bird once fly between us and lead us forward... in that tiny space while we are walking like ducks. This cave is special...and the exit is like getting born again.

TheLoneRiderTheLoneRider
"the exit is like getting born again" -- Amalia Misa
(May 2, 2013) the exit....yes, it's almost a baptismal ritual. Apr 21, 2013

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