It was the third week of June when we travel north- part of Luzon. We were a little indecisive with this trip for two reasons, financial and weather. But I think this addiction has outgrown us, that no matter how tight the budget is and how bad the weather can be, we cannot be contained.
Originally, there were just the two of us, me and my other best travel buddy, Mommy Earl. I remember telling her that I will only join the trip, if the budget will be 2000 pesos only. Indeed, she came up with one. Then days before our flight, three more wanderer expressed their will to go with us, even if it meant an exasperating long land travel for them. And when I say long land travel, I mean, 12 hour-butt aching bus ride or make it, 15 hours for them, because of the traffic caused by massive road construction along the way. Told you, we cannot be contained. Haha.
So there, three of my friends had to leave Manila, Tuesday night via Victory Liner in Pasay – and endured the tiresome journey. The next day, mommy Earl and I took the pleasure of travelling with ease benefited from another seat sale last year.
We arrived in Casa Ludivina around 10am. It’s near the terminal of Victory Liner, so that’s little convenient for our friends who we expect to be arriving a little sooner. We took a double bed room that costs 1000 pesos. The casa may look very ancestral outside. It can be an ideal location for another Shake, Rattle and Roll movie. But it’s one of the cheapest backpacker lodges in town and the rooms aren’t bad at all. We loved the clean, spacious bathroom. And, it’s near to Brickstone Mall, near to several bus terminals, and you won’t be having a hard time looking for a traysi in the area.
Just about lunchtime, our three long suffering friends arrived from their 15-hour ordeal. And to reward their patience, we ate our lunch at Jomar’s where you can find the town’s specialty, the most appetizing pansit batil patung (naiinis ako sa part nato, kasi natakam ako bigla! Grhh! Haha!)
It was this regretful moment that I realized I forgot my camera back in Casa Ludivina.
We first checked out Gretchen’s, the other restaurant that serves the best pansit batil patung, but it has been closed down since March.
Jomar’s offers pansit batil patung in three different servings – regular (50pesos), special (60pesos), and the super special (70 pesos). Because we’re too excited about the famous pansit, and we were really hungry, we ordered the super special – yes, each one of us. It was too late when we realized that we cannot take them all. We were astonished how plentiful our plates were. Believe me when I say, the serving is really huge. One super special order can be shared by two, even three, if you’re not heavy eaters. And the taste? Ah, it’s very delicious, except for the part that it has a lot of atay because I’m not fond of it but other than that, I think it’s something worth the 15hour-bus ride! Haha!…(natatakam na naman ako.. grhhh!) After the pansit batil patung eating challenge, we headed to the main event of our trip in Tuguegarao – the Callao Cave.
We hired a trike to Penablanca, for 280pesos. I think it was at least 40-45 minute ride. Then we paid our registration fee of 10 pesos each, and another 20 pesos for the roundtrip boat ride. Callao cave seems to be on the other side of the world that you need to cross the serene beauty of Pinacanauan river, one of the beautiful and maybe the calmest river I have ever seen so far. Its blue-greenish colors are very enticing that would make you want to dive yourself into the cold waters. The chirping of the birds that compliments the deafening silence of the place washed away all our weariness caused by the unbearable temperature.
***Callao cave strictly implements the No guide, No caving policy. They do not have guide rates, but an ample donation will surely appreciated.
Just few weeks before this trip, I was able to watch an episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya featuring Andoy, one of the brilliant young guides of Callao cave. I have read about him before in some blogs, and I cannot hold back my excitement upon seeing his story on national TV. So when we reached the reception area of Callao cave, I was silently hoping to see him there. Apparently, he was in school that time.
But it’s not something I need to be disappointed about, because we were welcomed by another guide who’s personality seemed to be just like Andoy, perhaps a little older. His name is Gerald. And yes, his story has been featured on TV as well – Wish Ko Lang. Curious what Ms. Vicky Morales gave him? Well, apart from the goods and other stuffs, he was also given full scholarship from elementary and high school. He finished High School early because he got accelerated, thus we tagged him AXEL. Now, because of what he called financial breakdown, he stopped schooling for the meantime, and work as a guide in Callao cave.
Anyway, back to Callao Cave…
It was said that Cagayan is the caving capital of the country, because it has a more than 300 caves in the province. One of the famous and most explored is Callao cave. It has seven very accessible chambers that can be enjoy by everyone without dropping a sweat … oh well, expect from the part that you have to climb 100+ steps to get to the entrance of the cave. But as our guide said, the area is oxiginated, so there’s enough supply of fresh air that will enlighten your bodies from the short climb.
Stalagmites and stalactites will immediately welcome you at the entrance of the cave.
The second chamber houses a small chapel. Here, you can say your prayers with utmost silence. Mass can also be celebrated in the chapel on special occasion and with special permits. Axel told us that just weeks before our visit, actors John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo exchanged vows in the chapel (for their upcoming movie). There’s a skylight from the top of the cave that gives light to the tiny chapel.
It was said that the best time to visit the cave is in the morning until high noon, when the light from sun creates illumination inside the cave and produces hair raising, heavenly effects – best for photos.
I mentioned there are seven chambers in Callao Cave, but we got to explore only five, because the grounds were slippery and a little dangerous that time. So after finishing the first five chambers, we went back our way to the entrance for our exit.
We actually brought our headlamps during the exploration, but there was really no need for it, because unlike other caves, parts of the Callao Cave is open to skylights and there were also electric lights provided in different areas for the comfort of the visitors.
*thanks to Inch Datuin for the photos*