Spelunking – the hobby or practice of exploring caves.
Callao Cave is located in the Municipality of Penablanca, a 30-minute drive from Tuguegarao City. The road is paved and very accessible by car. There are two ways of going to the cave. One is by crossing a river by boat [“banca”] and the other by driving directly to the entrance of the cave. We wanted to take the way direct to the entrance. We failed at first. Blame it on the lack of sufficient signs.
While driving for sometime, we saw signs which read “To Callao Cave Resort.” We followed that sign because there were no other signs which indicate otherwise. I was thinking that the resort was somewhere near the cave, thus, the name. Following this sign leads you to “pinaucauan piver” where there are “bancas” waiting to take you to the other side where the cave is located. They charge about P300. We did not negotiate because my companion, John, was sure that there is another way without crossing the river.
So we went back to the main road. We saw two fast approaching vans and a bus loaded with what we presumed to be tourists who are also going to the cave. We followed, until we noticed a sign which reads “To Callao Cave via Quibbal.” That was the right sign, however, it came too late! It was not even conspicuous to motorists.
At the entrance, minimal entrance fee is collected. After that, we’re now ready for spelunking! Going up to see the cave was quitesurprising. I thought we were going down like the cave I have first spelunked in Sagada, which is the Sumaguing Cave, but Callao Cave is different, you go up. Opposite the entrance, is another set of short steps going up a viewdeck. You will notice an old tree to the right of the stairs which probably stands now as a living witness to who the early settlers of the caves were.
Finally, we reached the entrance of the cave after 180-something step of stairs [some say it’s 184, some say its 187 and I lost my count going up]. Below are images of the entrance from outside and inside:
The moment you get in, you’ll suddenly feel an immediate change of temperature. It becomes colder and you’ll notice a different silence and serenity. Add to that the solemnity of the chapel on the first chamber.
(The Chapel: On top of the chapel is a natural light that comes from a sinkhole above the cave. The alcove where the “Virgin Mary” seats is already man-made.)
We were greeted by the caretaker who was sweeping the hardened muddy floor and you can hear an intermittent rhythm of waterdrops from the ceiling of the cave, complemented by some scattered light bulbs which add to the natural rays of sunlight that peeps through several sinkholes at the ceiling of the cave. It is highly suggested that you go early to avoid other tourists who go up in groups for you to have the most authentic “feel” of the cave.
Callao Cave is composed of 7 (seven) chambers. However, some of the chambers need guides. Even without going through the chambers that need guides, the chambers that are easily accessible are enough to experience Callao.
Here are some images taken inside the cave:
Don’t forget to read the “Archeology” of the caves at the entrance because it’s very informative. Example: I was surprised to know that as of 2003, archeologists are still discovering other “chambers” in Callao Cave. Another: Callao Cave is relatively new, having been inhabited sometime from 1960-1980. By the way, Callao Cave is just one of several caves that can be explored in Cagayan Valley. I was informed that the other caves are more challenging, thus you need professional guides.
After about 2-hours inside the cave, it was time to go down. The experience was enlightening. After Callao Cave, it was time to go back to Ilocos. That’s what we thought, again! Before taking the road to Ilocos, we decided to make a side trip to Aparri which I will post next.
POSTSCRIPT [15 July 2009]: Recently, I was invited by a local travel magazine Northbound to write an article on Callao Cave.