CAGAYAN | Callao Cave, Seven Chambers of Light and Darkness | Lakad Pilipinas

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan

Before the discovery of pancit batil patong, the first thing that comes to my mind when one mentions Tuguegarao City is a cave; a huge one where light filters in from a natural crevice above, illuminating a row of pews facing a natural stone altar. A cave, whose chambers are large enough to hold weddings in; one unlike any other in the Philippines. Callao Cave.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
INSIDE CALLAO CAVE IN PENABLANCA

But I was dead wrong on my assumptions.

During my first visit to Tuguegarao City, I was finally able to step inside this northern gem. It’s not located in Tuguegarao City as I previously thought, but in the sleepy town of Peñablanca. 24 kilometers away from where I thought it was.

Pinacanauan River in Penablanca Cagayan
BOATS CROSSING TO CALLAO CAVE

To get to Callao Cave, we were presented with two options. Hire a van, which was too expensive, or commute via tricycle, which would take too long as we would have to wait for it to get filled up. We did something in between; we hired a tricycle to take us to and from the cave. The usual price for such a trip is pegged at around Php600.00 to Php700.00, but since we were only two in the group, we were able to haggle it down to Php400.00.

Pinacanauan River in Penablanca Cagayan
ROMANTIC RIDE ACROSS PINACANAUAN RIVER

From the city center, it takes more than an hour to reach the Callao Cave Resort at the banks of Pinacanauan River, one of the major tributaries of the Cagayan River in the town of Peñablanca. From there, a long wooden boat awaited us (Php20.00 round trip). The ride through the serene waters of the river took about five minutes. We wanted it to last longer, it was quite romantic.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
CONCRETE STEPS TO THE ENTRANCE OF CALLAO CAVE
Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
ALMOST TWO HUNDRED STEPS TO THE MOUTH OF CALLAO CAVE

Then it was an uphill battle to get to the mouth of Callao. A hundred and eighty four-stepped battle to be exact. Cagayan’s warm and humid weather was not helping, I was grunting and puffing my way through it all, my shirt drenched in sweat, my lungs about to burst.

After what seemed like an eternity of stairs, a vertical limestone rock face came into view. We’ve finally reached Callao’s awning mouth.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
LIGHT FILTERING INSIDE CALLAO CAVE

Callao Cave is only one of the 300 caves in the area, it is part of the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape; one of the earliest National Parks in the country and considered as the cave capital of the Philippines. It has a total of nine chambers, seven of which can be explored by visitors. Its remaining two chambers were closed off by an earthquake during the 80’s. It is so massive, it covers two barangays in town.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
MASSIVE CHAMBERS
Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
FOLIAGE INSIDE CALLAO CAVE

Located at the foothills of western Sierra Madre, Callao Cave’s seven chambers are gynormous; its largest one, soaring to a great height of 118 feet. Of its seven open chambers, five of them have natural roof crevices which let in sunlight all the way to the cave floor. It’s actually not uncommon to see vegetation growing on some parts of the cave due to these natural skylights.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
THE CHAPEL INSIDE CALLAO CAVE

The main draw of Peñablanca’s Callao Cave is its first chamber. Here wooden pews are set up facing a natural rock formation resembling a church’s retablo. The area is naturally illuminated by an enormous opening above. Supplemented by warm lamps, the effect is quite magical. One can just imagine how a wedding would take place here.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
SPELUNKING INSIDE CALLAO CAVE

Unlike most caves I’ve been to, navigating Callao Cave is relatively easy. A walk in the park if I may say so. There are established pathways and clay stairways throughout its seven chambers. Just make sure you don’t time your visit during the wet season as it can get muddy and very, very slippery real fast.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
NATURAL PORTALS

Student guides are available right at the entrance of the park for a minimal fee of Php20.00, but we opted out since my buddy has already been inside the cave before. In hindsight, it would’ve been better if we availed of their services, helping the community even in a small way.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
INTERESTING ROCK FORMATIONS INSIDE THE CAVE
Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
DRY SEASON INSIDE CALLAO CAVE

It would’ve been a chance to brush up on our history, as unbeknownst to us then, Callao holds the record for having the oldest known fossilized remains of a probable Homo Sapien in the country, dating to about 67,000 years old. Dubbed as the Callao Man, it is 20,000 years older than Palawan’s more famous Tabon Man.

Callao Cave in Penablanca Cagayan
CALLAO CAVE, WORTH IT

Even with its gargantuanly inhuman size, Callao Cave makes justice for its name. From the placid river running parallel to it, to its monastic-like echoing chambers, it is indeed callado or calm, as the Spaniards referred to it back in the day. A definite must-visit tourist destination when in the province of Cagayan.



Callao Cave
Address: Barangay Magdalo and Quibal,
Penablanca, Cagayan
Phone Fee: (078) 846-7576
Entrance Fee: Php20.00
Boat Fee: Php20.00 Roundtrip
Open Hours: 8:00am to 5:00pm

GPS Coordinates Map: 17°42'24.6"N 121°49'08.9"E

 



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Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Sunday, April 26, 2015

12 comments:

  1. Yeah, I always thought that Callao Cave would be a great wedding venue. The 189 steps to get there might be a concern for the not-so-outdoorsy members of your entourage though, haha! It looks like a lovely place. :)

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    1. Haha Patricia, yeah and the stifling heat the region :D

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  2. Amazing pictures! I hope I can visit someday. There's so many great sites in the Philippines and very limited time.

    www.laneyatbp.com

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  3. Hi! I'm trying to fix our Cagayan itinerary and I'm not sure whether to schedule this before or after Palaui. How many hours in total did it take (including the tricycle ride to Penablanca and back)? :) Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks for this super helpful article!

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    1. About four hours to half a day would be enough to cover Callao Cave :)

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  4. Hello.. May contact details po ba kayo ng van na pwedeng sakyan papuntang Callao Cave? Thank you.

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    1. Hi Nica, unfortunately our tricycle driver to Callao Caves doesn't have a cellphone. There are numerous trike drivers from the main town og Tuguegarao who could take you there though, just haggle. :)

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  5. Replies
    1. Hi Isabelle, we rode a trike there, I'm pretty sure the hotel you'd be staying in at Tuguegarao could recommend a van for you :)

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  6. This looks very similar cave Son Doong cave in my country, majestic and beautiful.

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    1. Hi Emma, that's the biggest cave in Vietnam, right? :)

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