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Saturday, July 1

Of Chambers, Light and Darkness: Callao Cave, Cagayan

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Inside the not-so-creepy cave Callao in Penablanca, Cagayan
Fossilized remains were discovered inside Callao Cave in 2007 by Armand Mijares. The discovery was of a single 6 centimeter metatarsal which when dated using uranium series ablation was found to be at least about 67,000 years old. If definitely proven to be remains of the Homo sapiens, it would antedate the 47,000 year old remains of Tabon Man to become the earliest human inhabitant remains in the country, and one of the oldes in the Asia Pacific region. Researchers note that the remains was about under four feet high and a possibility that the descendants were the Aetas. Meet the “Callao Man” of Callao Cave, Penablanca, Cagayan.

Part 4 of The Northeast Diaries

Grasses along highway going to Callao Cave, Penablanca
Well that is some sort of interesting discoveries according to Wikipedia. I don’t know the authenticity of this article, but if it says so, then Cagayan is a truly magnificent historical landmark in the Philippines—way older than Jose Rizal that we used to know, or even the Tabon Man in Tabon Cave in Palawan province.

Callao Cave is located in Bgy. Magdalo and Quibal, both in Penablanca, a nearby town about 24 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of the capital city of Tuguegarao. It is pronounced as “kal-law”, for those not aware of how it is pronounced. From the best ever noodle dish “pansit batil patung”, we headed to Callao Cave at the speed of light—no not really, but by the way my friend’s brother drove his bike to Callao Cave—it only took us 20 minutes to reach the entrance gate of the popular cave tourist spot.
Here we are at Callao Cave in Cagayan

Cagayan Map posted in the bulletin board in Callao Cave Resort

Bulletin Board of achievers!

Yes, we rode a motor bike to reach Callao Cave. If you are a tourist coming from Tuguegarao, the best bet for you if you want to visit this famous cave in the Philippines, is to inquire from your hotel staff to book you a van or car going to this site. Otherwise, you can haggle down with trike (tricycle) drivers within city center to bring you to this place (price for 2 about Php500, for 5 at Php 750, round trip). There is no direct public commute such as buses or jeepneys going this direction. The best way to do so is to rent or hire drivers back and forth. The road going to Callao Cave is like a road going to Patar Beach in Bolinao, sans the dusty rocky roads.
Callao Cave signage

The weather is cool, in fact, it is comfortable to wear a jacket, thanks to a cooler December weather in the northern part of the Philippines. Going to Callao Cave is at ease, even though we went there on a motor bike at a time where people should not be driving bare under the scorching heat of the tropical sun—12 noon.
Welcome to Callao Cave

Stairway to Cave of Callao

The vicinity looks like a typical tourist area where you’ll find a front desk to pay your entrance fee (general admission is Php 20 pesos only or USD 0.50 converted). It’s cheap knowing that is tagged to be the cave capital of the country and one of the biggest ones in the whole nation. When visiting Cagayan, Callao Cave must be on the top of your bucket list.’

The road from Tuguegarao to Callao Cave is easy, but the challenge starts when you walk through the one hundred and eighty four concrete steps to the entrance of the cave itself—plus series of other ascending motions you need to do since it is part of the mountains.
Callao Cave, Cagayan entrance

Upon arriving at the “main lobby” of the cave, you will get to see a setup where it looks like a church. My friend told me that sometimes, they do masses or church services inside the cave, and some couples even book to have their wedding organized and held in this not-so-creepy place. Wedding in a cave.
Callao Cave rock formation

I have already visited some caves in the Philippines, such as the Enchanted Cave and Wonderful Cave in Pangasinan and the Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, Mountain Province. This cave is different from those mentioned because the cave is wide and spacious inside. There is no need for spelunking activities; however, if you will pursue to visit all the other remaining chambers of this spooky tourist attraction you need to visit if you are a nature lover, then probably a tourist guide will be there for you to do so.

I remember that popular MMK episode before about a young man who at a very young age already knows how to be a tourist guide and explain all the wondrousness of Callao Cave. The tourists were all amazed with this young guy, thus, he was featured in the show. I guess that young man already grew up now on his teenage years or early 20’s. When we visited the place in 2014, I haven’t heard of him though.
Callao cave plants

Road to Callao Cave in Cagayan

The mixture of darkness and a patch of light from above as if angels are going down every now and then was a treat to our experiences. Also, I am glad and thankful to my Cagayan friends who are game and adventurous enough to accompany me even if they already visited the cave probably several times already. We took several pictures inside and tried to reach the next chamber. We stopped when we already reached the last one where tourists are still allowed to go to and take pictures. The next chambers though are already not for beginners because the path going there is going to be a road to another world. The darkness is seeping from the holes of the cave.

Unlike in Sagada where there is a feature where you can enter a cave and go out alive in another cave, we took a u-turn back to where we entered the cave and call it a nice end of the cave episode of our adventure. We walked down again and my friend told me we will be doing a river cruising beside it.
Mororan River Cruise just near Callao Cave

And wow, Mororan River cruising is just as exciting and even more, as Callao Cave.

The Northeast Diaries Series:

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