November 29, 2023

■  Hanna C. Lacsamana 

Following statements regarding safety of cave tours in Sagada, Mountain Province that went viral on social media, the Sagada Tourism Office has stressed on the need for tourists who wish to do outdoor tours like caving, especially during the rainy season.

In its official statement posted on its official social media account, the Sagada Tourism Office advised tourists to choose a legitimate tour agency to arrange their visit within Sagada. They may also ask for assistance from the Municipal Tourist Information Center to verify if a chosen travel agency is legitimate.

The tourism office reiterated that most of the tours in Sagada require agility, endurance, and strength, being an adventure-driven tourist destination.

Before starting their tours, tourists are advised to ask for precautionary advice from their tourist guide or the tourist assistance desk regarding the area they will be visiting and ask for safety gears if necessary.

The tourism office further asked tourists to be responsible in voicing out their concerns especially in the social media.

“Please take a more responsible approach in airing your frustrations. We would love to discuss things with you in the office rather than in social media. We encourage all future visitors to contact us at any time concerning any concern so that we can address them properly. We believe all concerns, suggestions, and issues can be resolved in the appropriate manner by communicating with the Municipal Tourism Office,” the Sagada Tourism Office said.

Earlier, tourist Egberto F. Selerio, Jr., who recently joined a tour at the Balangagan Cave in Sagada claimed in his social media post captioned “Danger in Balangagan Cave, Sagada” on Sept. 11 that the cave is dangerous, that there were no safety gears provided, they were not oriented before the tour, and no life-saving devices were installed in the cave.

He also claimed in the post, which went viral, that the local guides “lured” them into the cave by lying about what was inside it and consistently downplayed the risks and told them they only going swimming.

He advised others to be wary when planning to visit Sagada, adding the Department of Tourism should provide a seminar to the local tourist guides and issue them registration IDs if possible.

He added safety inside the cave, especially its integrity, should be checked.

Sri Lankan Muhammad Saajidh, who was also part of the tour that Selerio joined, said he was with the group throughout the tour and denied the other tourist’s claims.

He said the others in the tour said nothing about the cave being life-threatening and not enjoying the tour.

He also asked Selerio whether he asked about the layout and the condition of the cave or maybe asked to be oriented.

“There are no caves of this nature in the world with paved paths and steps built to climb up and down as far as I know. What you experienced was the real adventure and experience of exploring a historical cave. I am grateful to the two guides who took us there on this unforgettable experience. Although they didn’t use sophisticated equipment or techniques, I could see how much energy and effort they took in taking us all through the whole journey safely,” Saajidh posted in response to Selerio’s claims.

With the nature of most of Sagada’s tourist sites as adventure-driven, other netizens said due caution should be exercised when visiting its caves and doing spelunking.

Another also took offense in the choice of words of the netizen referring to the guides, which they consider inconside-rate and uncalled for.

The Sagada Tourism Office further explained it took the office time to issue its official statement on the issue as it need time to assess the impact of the post to its tourism industry.

The office added they consider the tourists’ testimonies both valid and took them with utmost respect and conside-ration.

Meanwhile, Balangagan cave is still operational. The Sagada Tourism Office strongly advises tourists who want to visit the cave to wear adventure-appropriate clothing for their safety.