Caves, bats and girls

Penablanca Travel Blog

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The first chamber

I haven’t written anything in a long time because, well, I’m sort of living here and working. Like home. Only. Different. There have been birthday parties and midnight alcoholic philosophy and I’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.

The second chamber
The girls all started to scream and wanted to pose for a picture with me. They dragged me into another boat and father and son watched me drift away on the river. I’m sorry guys!

 

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.

A gentle touch
In the twilight I almost bumped against a row of benches facing the spooky gray mass of rock. The altar is situated directly under the sinkhole of the chamber, so a bundle of light shines straight down into the “church”. I found the atmosphere a bit erie, but I can imagine many people will find this setting very serene. A good place to make some last wishes before entering the subterranian world.

 

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.

A journey to the center of the earth
Drops of water fall in a shining little stream through the light and burst into little glittering parts on top of the rock, seemingly in slow-motion.

 

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.

Sunset on Pinacanauan
The fifth chamber ends in an erie twilight and a desolate landscape of rough boulders. An evil place. The end of the Earth. The end of the cave. (On my way back, I noticed that the play of light above the statues of Jesus and Mary in the third chamber looks like a skull, looking down. Check the pic. Creepy.)

 

On my way back I was greeted by a class and everybody wanted a picture of me as a souvenir of the caves. I don’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, wouldn’t you know it, the pictures on the t-shirts were printed upside down.

 

........................

 

But wait, there’s more!

 

At dusk I hired a boat to go upstream.

The shadows unleashed
There is a little beach between the cliffs and a little cave above. At sunset, almost a million bats leave that cave, hunting for insects. Suddenly, there were girls around me waving cameras! Two boats filled to the brim with students unloaded on the beach! I must have posed for a camera at least 20 times today. The bat would not come and the students left again to catch their ride home.

 

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.

TravellinChic says:
Hahaha! You become an instant celebrity with your exotic looks :P The Callao cave seem very interesting..hope to visit it one day :)
Posted on: Aug 11, 2010
marix_sublime says:
u'r really enjoying your time in my country...i am glad. let me help you with the exchange...heheh...based on your description ... you spent about US$35 or thereabout on this cave exploration. ;)
Posted on: Mar 16, 2009
RJ82 says:
haha sounds like you had a fun time at the caves! youre like a celebrity down there. keep updating the blog. its good.
Posted on: Mar 09, 2009
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The first chamber
The first chamber
The second chamber
The second chamber
A gentle touch
A gentle touch
A journey to the center of the ear…
A journey to the center of the ea…
Sunset on Pinacanauan
Sunset on Pinacanauan
The shadows unleashed
The shadows unleashed
Entrance to the cave
Entrance to the cave
The first chamber
The first chamber
Erie place
Erie place
On my way to the second chamber
On my way to the second chamber
Nature lets her imagination run wi…
Nature lets her imagination run w…
The Rock
The Rock
The second chamber
The second chamber
Reaching up to heaven
Reaching up to heaven
A place of magic
A place of magic
The second chamber
The second chamber
In the spotlight
In the spotlight
The third chamber
The third chamber
The subterranian hill
The subterranian hill
Do you see a skull in the light?
Do you see a skull in the light?
A lost world
A lost world
We go deeper
We go deeper
The end of the earth
The end of the earth
Goodbye Callao
Goodbye Callao
my fans :-)
my fans :-)
On the river
On the river
On the river
On the river
The bat cave
The bat cave
Sunset on Pinacanauan
Sunset on Pinacanauan
Sunset on Pinacanauan
Sunset on Pinacanauan
Penablanca
photo by: Jeroenadmiraal