I craved whatever the underground has to offer.
As I sit down to collect my thoughts on our very recent trip to a municipality in Cagayan, I could still faintly feel the strong chilly winds that engulfed Peñablanca, Cagayan. As we ride a tricy (how local people prefer to call a tricycle) and I let my eyes wander through the ends of Callao, you’d see why it’s dropping in temperature the longer we go. The mountains are lightly covered with fog but they’ve managed to grace us with their beauty. According to Kuya Tonton, our tricy driver, during the chillier days of December, the mountains of Sierra Madre couldn’t easily be seen, if not completely invisible to the naked eye.
Before we reached the caves for which Callao is most famous for, we were greeted by a city-like Peñablanca first and travelled for almost 30 minutes in the tricy while our faces clashed against the very cold, powerful winds of the North. I dressed lightly so I’m sure at how cold it was. But being the cold person that I am, I didn’t mind it one bit. I basked in the coolness and closed my eyes from time to time to remember every second of it.
A little later of sightseeing, still slumped inside the tricy, we started seeing mini mountains that sported autumn colors – they were deep blazing orange in color and contrasted against the lively green fields. The sight went on and on, the travel undisturbed for the roads were already paved and it was still early even for the locals.
We were the first to arrive in the Callao caves. No one was there and Kuya Royal even gave his hair a few brush strokes before greeting us – we were way too early, I thought. Kuya Royal didn’t mind, hinting that our pictures will look better without flocking tourists to which I agreed. The entrance to the caves could be reached easily, 184 stair steps and you’d already see the big opening. It was overwhelming at first – I haven’t been inside a cave before and I thought I might get scared inside such an enclosed area.
Kuya Royal urged us to traverse along but be mindful of the slippery, muddy parts of the cave. At the entrance was where the students of UP (University of the Philippines) discovered back in 2005/2007? the bones of ancient times residents of the cave. The bones are theorized to be 67,000 years old and are still under examination of the students and another organization in France.
Inside the cave was like being inside the tummy of a scary monster – it was too quiet, as if prohibited to talk loud. The only sound I would hear aside from our tour guide was the occasional drip of water into the floor surface. Kuya Royal gave us the brief history of the Callao cave having 7 chambers in total but we only went to 5 because the 6th and 7th chambers were a little dangerous. The chambers were full of stalactites and stalagmites. One thing I didn’t learn in school was how they were created: these rocks apparently used to be one (or some of them) and got separated because of the dripping water. A stalactite would take approximately 10 years to grow 2 inches – imagine how many years it took for the whole chamber to have such low dripping rocks!
Out of the 5 chambers we visited, 2 were strikingly interesting for me. The first one was the chamber with a chapel, complete with pews, an altar and the Holy Family in front. This was, however, just recent additionals to the cave but are visited by the locals nonetheless. As we exited, there were 2 locals praying by the chapel. The second interesting chamber was the only chamber with plants. This might be because this specific, and last, chamber had the largest hole at the top which aided in growing of the plants.
As we left the Callao caves, I was left at awe by the entrance/exit. It was huge, arched and had bonsais all over the arch.
Upon going back to our hotel, I rode at the outside part of the tricy behind Kuya Tonton and I think he saw at how I wanted to take photos so he asked me if I wanted to go off our path for a couple of minutes (which turned into 2 hours) and see the other side of the mountain where the Callao cave is located. I eagerly said yes and we were on our way to my favorite part of the trip! All reserved for this trip’s next chapter. :p