Counting Glitters at Calinawan Cave

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One of the downsides of having a full-time job is that you don't get to have the time to travel as much as you would want to. And if you do get the chance to go on an adventure, you would prefer to go somewhere not that far. Well, this adventure was exactly designed for such a dilemma. Specifically, for my Adventure Buddy For Life, Dennis, who's willing to work six days a week just so I could afford to put everything behind. (One of us needs to be the mature one, and it ain't going to be me.) :)

An hour (more or less) jeepney ride from my beloved hometown is Tanay, Rizal. Famous for its Hane Festival held in November, Tanay offers several things to do for time- and budget-constraint adventurers. Factor in the fact that it's easily accessible from Manila, fellow adventurers should not hesitate to come and visit this lakeside town.

Take Calinawan Cave, for example. Found in Sampaloc, these system of caves, discovered by one Milencio Piguing during the Spanish era, will surely captivate anyone who has no problem with dark, enclosed spaces. If you imagine caves as home to fantastical yet-to-be-discovered creatures and are not claustrophobic, then I highly recommend you unleash your inner spelunker and brave the hallowed halls of Calinawan Cave.

So it was a glorious Sunday, 16th of March, around eight in the morning, when our adventure began in the public market of Tanay. Here, we met our chauffeur-cum-tour guide-cum-photographer, Kuya Lester. We had rented his tricycle for the day, and he had explained that he'd be charging 50pesos/person/spot. We thought 600 pesos divided among the four of us was quite cheap so off we went to the 30-minute ride to our first destination.

The road to Calinawan Cave is, for the most part, bumpy. There were paved portions but it was nothing but dirt and rocks for the rest of the trip. Kuya Lester joked that residents of the unpaved areas did not vote for the incumbent politicians, ergo the lack of road works. While there may be some truth to this, he later explained that the roads cut through private properties. Apparently, the local government deemed it fitting to delegate the task of paving the roads to the owners of the lands. I'm no political expert but I find that rather shabby. But I digress.

Anyway, despite the bumpy, dusty and face-tearing ride, my fellow adventurers and I did not complain. When you get to have picture-perfect scenery like these, it's very difficult to be grumpy:

At one point, we had a stop over on a bridge that overlooked what seemed to be a river bed devoid of water (see last two pictures above).

My fellow adventurers, French and Julius (aka Pareng Marty)
With my Adventure Buddy For Life
All together now!
After the brief photo op, we hopped back into the tricycle and continued traversing the rest of Sampaloc Road. A couple more minutes later, we've reached our destination:

The entrance fee to the cave is 50pesos/person plus a 100-peso tour guide fee. We paid an additional 100 pesos because we opted to explore up to the Level 4 of the cave (the initial 100 pesos was only for a guided tour of the 1st and 2nd level). Our tour guide was Ate Jana, a petite woman who really knows her cave stuff. And oh, Kuya Lester also went with us inside and served as our photographer. By the way, the tour guides here are all licensed and had undergone training from the local tourism office.

We initially had to wait out a few minutes before we went inside since there was another group who went in ahead of us. Upon entering the cave, the humid air outside was replaced by a cool breeze. Sunlight poured through the cave entrance and the small opening above. Ate Jana said that during high noon, the sun's rays are reflected on the cave floor. There were interesting rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes. I couldn't help but take deep breaths. And not because I was trying to compensate for the decrease in oxygen but because, I have to be honest, I always had this fantasy of dressing up in a white gossamer dress and dwelling in a cave, like the diwatas, and I would call myself the "Tagabantay" (guardian). Hehe.

The "receiving area" of the cave

I think I speak for the four of us when I say that the natural crystals were very fascinating. And although there were artificial glitters on the walls, as Calinawan Cave is usually pegged as a location for TV Shows (Honesto, very recently), they could not compare to the natural minerals embedded in the rocks, shimmering under our flashlights. We weren't allowed to touch them as contact may halt the mineral formation and cause the rocks to "die".
Shining, shimmering, splendid
Amidst glittering rocks

Halfway through the second level, we climbed to this area that looked like it belonged to Middle Earth - a cavern in Dwimorberg, perhaps:

Although Pareng Marty disagreed and said it was from "Game of Thrones". Well, I could picture the Stormborn and her dragons milling about in here.

In any case, we forged ahead and found ourselves at the entrance to the third level of the cave. The entrance was almost floor level, and... You know what, just take a look at what he had to go through for the sake of adventure:

So, really, you don't need me reminding you not to wear your best shirt when you go spelunking. I tell you, dirt and fun almost always walk hand in hand. And if you're wondering where French was, she was already on the other side, and was the one taking pictures.

So after feeling like I had been into some kind of spelunker's rite of passage, rolling in the dirt and all, we went on and Ate Jana discussed how Calinawan Cave served as a hideout for wounded Katipuneros. She also shared that her sister once saw a huge hairy hand coming out of one of the openings in the cave. Interesting.

A couple of turns and we found ourselves in an enclosure. The walls were curiously wet. Ate Jana explained that during the rainy season, water would pour in the cave and can rise up as high as the ceiling. And since this particular portion of the cave did not have any exposure to sunlight, nor were there any steady supply of ventilation, the moisture was unable to dry out.

French had the idea of having our shadows photographed. We weren't really sure how to go about doing that, thus, this.
Near the end of the third level, we found a friend chilling in the cave ceiling:

Ate Jana shared that there used to be many fruit bats in the cave but the steady flow of explorers had caused them to fly off in search of a more peaceful abode. I thought we were rather lucky to have bumped into this adorable little creature.

In any event, we knew our spelunking would be over soon when we caught a glimpse of sunlight. A light at the end of the tunnel, literally. We emerged from the cave. I sort of didn't want to leave, I've grown quite attached. I wanted a cave dwelling. :) But, sadly, we were out of the cave whether I wanted to or not, so we did what any adventurer would do: take more pictures.

I completely disagree with Sheldon when he said there was nothing interesting about caves. Caves are magical. I stand by that statement. Go and explore Calinawan Cave to try and understand where I'm coming from. :)

And if you do go exploring Calinawan Cave, or any place for that matter, I do implore you to please please refrain from defacing the place by leaving garbage or performing acts of vandalism. If you think it's cool to carve your name in a rock facade that had probably been a witness to the bravery of Katipuneros, well, it's not. So please be a responsible adventurer. 

Cheers to the next adventure!

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