Caves, bats and girls
Penablanca Travel Blog› entry 9 of 15 › view all entries
I havenâ€™t written anything in a long time because, well, Iâ€™m sort of living here and working. Like home. Only. Different. There have been birthday parties and midnight alcoholic philosophy and Iâ€™ve sung dream lover by bobby darin on the videoke.
This weekend I went to the Callao Caves at Penablanca, near Tuguegarao. This is probably the most renowned sight in this part of the country. I took the pink Honeymoon Suite in the Callao Cave Resort for one night (sounds like luxury, but this resort is ancient and completely falling apart) and went to arrange a boat to cross the beautiful Pinacanauan river to the caves.
While a father and son were busy emptying a boat of water for me, a schoolclass arrived.
There are actually more than 300 caves in these surroundings, one of which is at least 12 km deep (the end has not yet been discovered), and no more than 75 have been well explored. I visited just one, Callao, which was very impressive!
Callao Cave has five immense chambers in a row. Every chamber brings you deeper inside the hill, every chamber has a sinkhole in the ceiling with the sun shining through, and every chamber can easily hold a church in its belly. I visited the chambers before the classes and was therefore all alone, like a lone explorer. Forgive me, but I feel very compelled to describe these chambers in detail for you!
The First Chamber
As you enter the first chamber, you indeed discover a church.
The Second Chamber
The second chamber is one of the most magical places I have ever seen. I would rather pray in here. Imagine this:
A subterranian chamber of about 50 meters high, stalagtites along the walls, and a blinding hole in the ceiling like the Pantheon. From this hole, blue bundles of light shine down. In the middle of the chamber, a 4 meter high rock is standing proudly with mossy green patches all over him and the sunshine right on his head. The bundles of light are broader than the big rock and illuminate strangely shaped smaller rocks all around him with a blanket of fierce light.
If I would have been 15 mins later I would have missed it all, for the light would have shone against the walls.
The Third Chamber
The third one is even bigger than the first and second. In the middle lies a hill (a big hill, even if it would not be in a cave) and on top, in the light of the sinkhole, grows a miniature green forest, while the sloping ground around it is a barren as the Moon. On top stand little statues of Jesus and Mary (not visible on my pics), seemingly like their spirits are responsible for all this lush vegetation.
The Fourth and Fifth Chamber
Now we leave all life and holy spirits behind us and the earth is gray, rough and lifeless.
On my way back I was greeted by a class and everybody wanted a picture of me as a souvenir of the caves. I donâ€™t get it. Surely the caves are much more interesting! The teachers arrived and chased the students away, only to pose with me instead! I would be in the school paper! they said. I also wanted a souvenir of the cave but, wouldnâ€™t you know it, the pictures on the t-shirts were printed upside down.
But wait, thereâ€™s more!
At dusk I hired a boat to go upstream.
However, my guide from the boat told me that the girls simply made too much noise around me and he guided me to another spot and yes! The bats were leaving, but were flying safely along the wall. A black smear of bats moved across the dark blue sky. As if, after a given signal, Nature unleased her shadows to haunt the nightmares of children and to patch up holes in the blackness of the night. It took more than 15 mins for the swarm to leave the cave. Unfortunately it was far too dark to put it on camera.