Chocolatey Spelunking

My friend, Carla, told us about this so-called Boracay of the North which she happened to watched in Jessica Soho tv show. It has not been mugged by tourists yet, she said. We looked it up in internet and found that it is gorgeous in its own virginity rights. Because of my intense love for exploring new found places, I asked my office peeps to go there before it get ramped by tourists.

For about a month, we did several researches and contact those we found to be trustworthy to ask for van and boat rental. We did have a number of difficulties for Mr. Google is very much stingy on information about this beach. Plus, Ann, a super adventurous mountaineer officemate, wanted to check out the Capital of Caves, Tuguegarao. The plan was really simple…

Spelunking in Tuguegarao…then ride a 4 hour-ride to Sta. Ana to finally explore this virgin island of Anguib.

Then I saw in Philippine map that Palaui Island is just across of Anguib. If you would look it up in Google Map, it will only give a name and no other information. So, we included it in our itinerary. Hehe.

So from this point forward, I will flood everyone’s dashboard about our trip. We were 17 people who dared to explore this unforgiving trip.

Day 1.

Let’s start with our bus ride in Victory Liner, Kamias Cubao. For P604 (Kamias Terminal 920-7396), each of us spent the next 12 hours juggling all position we can give ourselves in our seats. We were struggling…or rather somehow excited, but can’t do anything about it, for we should wait for half a day. There were 2 stopovers: One in Bulacan and another in Santiago. Oh yeah, there was a wifi in the bus but I was saving my battery for Google Map and Kuya Rolly, our van driver. (contact Kuya Rolly at 0905-7418525, he’s very well accommodating driver and knows everything in the city)

We arrived in Tuguegarao around 8 in the morning of June 9. I was somehow disappointed that the two vans we rented are not air-conditioned to think that we are in the most hottest city of Philippines. We hopped on then look for a hotel. Hotels in Tuguegarao are not the same as those in Manila. They look and feel comfortable and simple. Just that. Don’t look for luxury. But most hotels in Tuguegarao have wifi, this would probably the farthest you can get for luxury per se. After hopping on Hotel Carmelita and Meynard’s Resort (this one is my favorite but there are no available rooms), Kuya Rolly suggested the Ivory Inn. This hotel is 15min far from the city proper, but if you have a car, that won’t be a problem.  We paid P4,850 for 5 rooms (2 rooms for 4 pax, 1 room for 3pax and 1 room for 2 pax). The room is pretty much beyond what we expected. At a range of comfortability, it is above the average. The receptionist initiated to give us the 5 rooms because we told her our budget is only P300/px. True enough, we were able to save.

We checked in then ask Kuya Rolly to fetch us at 11:30am. We dined in resto of Ivory Inn. I ordered Tapa breakfast with atchara and scrambled egg.

The day should went like this: Sierra Madre Cave, Callao Cave and Bat watching in Pinacauan River. But this went wrong.

Although we already knew about the shooting of John Lloyd and Bea in Callao Cave, we were not able to visit Callao Cave. Why? Because apparently, they rented out the whole cave.

Sierra Cave is also within the premise of Callao Cave. We did not have a choice after unending plead with the Provincial Tourism officer to let us in. We asked another Provincial Tourism officer what he would propose us to do. After so much huggling, he said that they know a cave near Callao Cave and we can explore it. But for one condition, we should go with the Councilor. Mr. Councilor knows that cave. He has explored it and some other locals. No other people outside the locals had explored it.

That was very intriguing…and dangerous.

I asked the Provincial Tourism officer if he could also help us out with the permit needed for the Sierra Madre. But, it’s Saturday. And permit should be acquired two days from the visit date. What we planned then is to come back on Tuesday to visit Callao Cave and Sierra Madre Cave. And for that to happen, the officer can help us out by contacting the DENR in city center of Peñablanca. But this did not happen. Why? Because of Abukay Cave – the unchartered cave.

We stopped by a house of another local who also knows the in and out of Abukay Cave. Armed with only around 6 headlights and bottles of water, we walked down a really huge rice fields surrounded by green mountains and a forest that has no walkpath. Sharp plants were patting our arms and ankles as we walked thru the forest. Mud were starting to get into our trek shoes. This cannot be compared to Sumaging Cave of Sagada. This will be a different experience, I thought, after seeing the dark muddy entrance of Abukay Cave. We left our trek shoes at the entrance for we would experience a very muddy and slippery spelunking inside.

Tuguegarao is indeed a Capital of Caves. They have around 300 caves but only 70+ were explored. And only Callao Cave was publicly open for tourists. Sierra Madre Cave, for one, need a DENR permit and tour guide because some of its stalamites are being robbed off by spelunkers.

Some caves are too risky and dangerous to explore, like the San Carlos Cave. And some are still unknown to many.

If Sagada gives certificates to I-Survive-Sagada tourists, Abukay Cave, well I thought, should also have one. But seriously talking, if you would ask me, the certificate is a little too touristy and common. Just saying. =P

We explored the Abukay Cave without other people inside aside from a Provincial Tourism officer, Councilor and a local spelunker. And the mud…my goodness. When you step on them, your feet will dig in more and will sound like a sticky chocolate when you pull your feet up.

It was almost 6pm that we realized we were a little late for the cicada bats watching in Pinacauan River which is also located in Callao Cave. We hoped that this river is not also close for shooting.

We dozed off hurriedly to the river of Callao Cave and whistled out to a boatman to tour us around the river for some bat watching. I thought then that this will only be a simple bat watching. But I was wrong. It was millions of bats flying in the midst of bluish sunset just above the series of mountain of Peñablanca caves. It was a 10 minute bat watching and per second of it is like madness. They were really loud as they exit a dark hole of a cave and fly over to the forest to eat some meaty plants and insects. (Boat ride is P700 for 17 pax)

Below is a photo from one of my companions, Jerome.

After so much spelunking, mud and bat watching, we head off to KobyKubo Restaurant. We finally made it for our pancit with sabaw. Haha. That’s a first!

So much for the 1st day in Tuguegarao!

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