Monday, September 11, 2017

Callao Cave: Exploring Cagayan's Gigantic Underground Chambers

Callao Cave is one of the top tourist attractions in the far northern Province of Cagayan. Often featured in calendars, travel magazines, blogs and even a few local movies, it is probably one of the most popular caves in the Philippines. Unlike other caves which require  challenging spelunking skills, exploring Callao Cave is as easy as taking a short hike due to its vastness. This made the cave more accessible even to the casual tourists.

A work assignment in Cauayan, Isabela gave me the opportunity to visit Callao Cave. With nothing to do on a weekend, we traveled far north and explored Cagayan Province's.

How to Get There:

1. Callao (pronounce as "kal-law") Cave is situated in the barangays of Magdalo and Quibal in the town of Peñablanca, about 24 kilometers from the capital city of Tuguegarao.

2. From Manila, Victory Liner and GV Florida buses have daily trips to Tuguegarao. Travel time is about 10-14 hours. Cebu Pacific also have regular flights from Manila to Tuguegarao City which will take only about one hour.

3. Book your stay in Tuguegarao City as I believe there are no hotels or inns in Peñablanca.

4. From the city proper, ride a trike to the terminal of tricycle going to Peñablanca. At the terminal, charter a tricycle for a roundtrip to Callao Cave. This will save you the hassle of looking for another tricycle in going back to Tuguegarao. Depending on your haggling skills, Tuguegarao-Callao Cave roundtrip cost ranges from P400-P700 per tricycle. Travel time is about 40 minutes and expect some rough roads as you approach the cave's vicinity.

In our case, we were in a private vehicle and visited the Our Lady of Piat Basilica first before heading to Tuguegarao City. Since it was already noon time, we had a filling lunch of Pancit Batil Patung (a must try noodle dish when you're in Tuguegarao) first before going to Peñablanca.

A popular tourist spot, operation and maintenance of Callao Cave is undertaken by the local government. Entrance is only P20.00 per person with discounts given to students, senior citizen and children below 12 years old.

Just like other touristy spots in the country, there are several stalls selling souvenir items, food and drinks near the entrance.

After passing through the entrance a young boy approached us, offering to serve as our guide inside the cave. Though it is not necessary, I recommend hiring your own guide as this is one way to help local folks in the community. Guide fee is upon your disrcretion but I guess P150-200 is good enough. Aside from helping you make your way around the cave, the guide can also serve as your photographer for that mandatory Facebook profile photo.

Your Callao Cave adventure starts with some cardio exercise as you need to go up a flight of concrete stairs with 184 steps. If you're not used to physical activities, taking rest stops often is a must.

The cave's huge opening welcomed us at the top. In my limited caving experience so far, Callao Cave is definitely the biggest I've ever been to.

Callao Cave is composed of seven chambers: Aviary, Divine Chamber, Dark Room, Cream Room, Jungle, Danger Zone and the Dead End. Only 5 out of the 7 chambers are open to the public.

Trivia: The Aviary is where the fossil of the Callao Man was discovered. The remains was discovered to at least 67,000 years old, making the Callao Man the earliest human inhabitant in the country and the oldest in Asia.

The Divine Chamber, with its chapel setup is the most photographed chamber of the cave.

Intersting rock formations such the Praying Angel, Mother Mary, Baby Jesus, among others were pointed to us by the guide.

What I love most are the portions where light enters the cave through the collapsed ceiling. Get your cameras ready here as the interplay of light and darkness would give you some dramatically awesome photographs.

After exploring the cave, we went up a short flight of stairs a few steps away from the cave entrance. It was actually a viewing deck which gave an overlooking view of the river down below. The structure, however, was partly damaged by a recent typhoon.

From here, going back down the concrete stairs we passed through earlier was much easier. We took time to rest at the entrance and bought bottled water to quench our thirsts. I also bought a ref magnet to take home as souvenir.

If you are looking for a good way to experience the outdoors of Callao, check and enjoy an ultimate price cut on your total hotel expenses.

Additional Info:

  • The young guide we hired is very knowledgeable on the cave's history as we learned that they are trained by the Department of Tourism. He is still a student and earns extra income by working as tourist guide during weekends.
  • I hope the local government would make good in maintaining the cleanliness of the cave and its surroundings. Visitors should be made aware not to leave any trashes behind.
  • There are comfort rooms a few meters away from the entrance but it totally needs some upgrading as it is very dirty and unkempt. Also the viewing deck outside the cave needs to be repaired.
  • There's another cave in the area (I forgot the name though) which, according to our guide, is suited for experienced spelunkers as it is more challenging to explore.
Related posts about Cagayan Province:

Our Lady of Piat Basilica
Beaches of Summer: Claveria Beach
The Rugged Sentinela Beach
A Far and Away Place Called Claveria

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