|PHOTOCREDIT: Rylle Valdez|
The last time I traveled alone for a big adventure was in my teens and as I grow older, I think I've become softer and more cautious. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my first solo adventure as an adult is to spend three days and two nights inside a cave! I am congratulating myself right now for being a brave soul.
|PHOTO CREDIT: Joni Bonifacio|
The girls I met during the 14th Spelunking in Calbiga Caves 2016 event were all solo travelers! One of them, Hazel Lagos, braved the Everest Base Camp alone! I laud them for their courage and as I listened to their stories, I realized that I have so many fears inside me (leery of men, getting lost etc.) that is stopping me from exploring the world.
To those who refused to accompany me on this trip(you know who you are), I'm sorry you missed the blood, sweat, bat shit and tears spelunking and trekking this trip offered.
To those of you who are soul searching, this may help you find yourself. After all, you will spend days testing your mettle and countless hours alone in your own thoughts while trying to find the perfect crevice to support your foothold or hang on to dear life.
To those of you tied to a 9-5 job, we are not meant to live life to pay bills. Get up, stand up, and do things that you want before you run out of time, health or money.
Enough of my prattle and allow me to take you with me to the bowels of the earth.
|PHOTO CREDIT: Joni Bonifacio|
Calbiga Cave System
The Langun and Gobingob Caves in Barangay Panayuran are part of the 12-chambered Calbiga Cave system. It is said to be 7 km long and covers 900 square km. It is the second largest cave system in Southeast Asia and is in fact, the largest cave system in the Philippines. It is also said to be the world's third largest karst formation! This karst cave covers 2970 hectares. It lies within the 333,000 hectares of lowland tropical forest that is Samar Island Natural Park (SINP).
Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore Adventures who run tours of different caves in the island of Samar shared to us a story on how Italian cavers discovered the cave system. According to him, the Italians were on their yearly exploratory expedition to the Philippines and was asking local waiters in a restaurant in Makati if they know of any caves that they can explore. One of the waiters who was from Calbiga said that there exists a big cave in his town. He then boasted how two airplanes can fit inside of it. Of course, this made the explorers curious and prompted them to visit Calbiga and the cave this waiter was talking about.
In 1987, an eight-person team of Italian speleologists arrived in Calbiga to see the cave for themselves. They had to convince local guides to accompany them to the cave as the locals held superstitious beliefs. It is believed to be occupied by engkantos or malignos, environmental spirits who can present themselves in human form. They can cause harm if disturbed. Finally, they were able to convince some locals to accompany them. They had to trek and cut through the thick jungle to reach the caves entrance.
The first cave which they discovered, explored, and mapped is called the Langun Cave. It was the original entrance. However, today, trips would usually start from the Gobingob Cave then exit in Langun Cave.
The caves especially Upper Gobingob has beautiful speleothems or stalaCtites (grows from the Ceiling) and stalaGmites(grows from the Ground). Other than its magnificent rock formations, it also boasts of underground water systems consisting of bath pools, rivers, and waterfalls as well as interesting and unique life forms.
2. Blind Cave Fish or Caecogobius cryptopthalmus.
|Eyeless Cave Fish of Langun Cave, Calbiga, Samar, Philippines PHOTO CREDIT: Joni Bonifacio|
The name originates from the total absence of any external trace of eyes. Its length is about 7cm. It has some pigmentation and thin scales. Its tiny, embedded eyes indicate that the adaptive process to its natural habitat is still underway.
3. Huge cave spiders.
They live off on bat guano.
5. Insect bats.
There are thousands of them. You can best observe them leaving the cave at the Langun entrance from 5pm to 6pm. Check out their video here.
6. Swifts or Balinsasayaw.
Their nests are often harvested to be sold to Chinese merchants and are made into birds nest soup.
|Selfie with Bes|
8. Blind crabs.
These are found in Lower Langun Cave.
How Experience Langun-Gobingob Cave
1. Book a tour with Trexplore Adventures.
Joni Abesamis Bonifacio of Trexplore The Adventures
Address: Abesamis Store, Allen Ave., Catbalogan City, Samar
Email: email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com
2. Pack your bag.
Be sure to pack the following: dry bag, wet wipes, waterproof camera, water bottle, good hiking shoes, socks, malong and one extra set of clean clothes. I personally like wearing leggings and dri-fit clothes. It's wash, dry, and wear baby! Put them all in a light backpack with a rain cover.
You can wear the same clothes for three days because you will not shower. You will also be getting really dirty and most likely your clothes will get rips from the sharp rocks. So, use your clean clothes to sleep and when you go home.
3. Getting to Calbiga.
Calbiga Caves is an hour away by bus from Tacloban City. The fare is 50php. You can take a bus heading to Catbalogan and then ask the driver to drop you off at Tree Park Bakeshop and Eatery. It is easy to spot as it is just right after the iconic red bridge on the right. This is the usual meet up place.
Day 1: Upper Gobingob
1. Meet up and brunch at Tree Park Bakeshop and Eatery.
|Kalinayan upland organic rice with this kick-ass solo traveler, Hazel who just flew over from Singapore.|
PHOTO CREDIT: Joni Bonifacio
2. 10-minute motorcycle ride to Barangay Panayuran
3. Meet with our local guides/porters and begin hike.
4. Easy 1-hour hike to Gobingob Cave entrance.
Grasses make my skin itch really bad. So, if you are like me, you might want to wear something that covers your arms. It's useful as well once you explore the caves because it will protect your arms from scratches caused by sharp rocks.
5. Break at the Viewing Platform
|View of Gobingob Cave.|
6. Rest and exploration at Gobingob Cave entrance.
|Checking out how deep the drop is.|
|Observing the sunshine playing amongst the leaves and rivulets of water dripping down on the limestone's rough edges.|
7. Orientation at Gobingob Cave entrance.
- Cave Do's and Dont's
Remember to take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time and leave nothing but footprints. Do not touch the stalactites and stalagmites. It took millions of years for Mother Earth to form them and just a split second of your touch to ruin them.
- The terrible two: Poo and Pee
If you are outside the cave and hiking in the forest, you just need to hide behind a rock or plant to eliminate your body waste. However, once inside the cave, you have to use a plastic bag to catch your urine or feces.
After urinating, transfer your urine to the empty water bottle. Meanwhile, for your feces, you would have to wrap it up well and throw it in the garbage bag. All of these wastes will be brought home and discarded properly by the porters.
- When your spirit is willing but the body is weak
|PHOTO CREDIT: Rylle Valdez|
8. Getting geared up.
We had to don hard hats with headlights to protect our heads and gloves to protect our hands as we clamber along sharp rocks.
9. Start spelunking and exploring Gobingob Cave! (12NN)
10. Kissing the entry stone.
One belief practiced before entering the inner chambers of the cave is to kiss a certain stone for protection or else you might be followed with bad luck. Better be safe than sorry!
11. Giant stalagmite and chandeliers
12. Giant flowstone formation aka The Stage
If you look closely you can see the lines caused by flowing water over time. There are also mineral deposits that make the stone glitters and glimmers.
13. Arrival at the Gobingob Football Field (1:00 PM)
If you can see the rocks on the left, that is where we hide to poop and pee.
This is where we set up our camp. We had dinner, celebrated Chasing Potatoes birthday and took a nap to regain energy for the 8-hour trek that night which was to commence at 8PM and end at 3AM.
14. Exploring Upper Gobingob Chamber (8Pm to 4AM)
|Sturdy shoes made for mad mud walking and rock climbing is essential!|
|The picture frame.|
|Finely crushed ice for halo-halo.|
|We scrambling in the dark.|
|Careful steps or else we will fall to our death.|
|Amazing! Can I bring this home?|
|Being tiny is an advantage.|
|Skip and jump.|
|More cave pearls.|
|You gotta move it, move it!|
|Melting ice cream?|
|I am so attracted to anything that sparkles!|
|Short pit stop before we hustle again.|
|Don't go chasing rocky shimmery waterfalls!|
|You so tiny!|
|Possible lingam shrine if I'm Buddhist.|
|It's dark and huge and I feel so tiny!|
The first part of Upper Gobingob chamber is filled with beautiful stalagmites and stalactites but the deeper you get into the cave, you will notice that it looks like a dynamite has been used to blow up the place. There are giant boulders everywhere!
The ceiling was so high that it almost feels like you are looking at the sky and when you look down, it seemed like it was a bottomless pit. I felt like an ant! I had to clamber up and down huge rocks and try my best to jump to over to the other side over crevices.
If you have a poor sense of balance and hand and eye coordination, perhaps this is not the activity for you. Eight hours of walking, bouldering, and rock climbing is not for the fainthearted. I was silently thanking the hours I spent wall climbing for helping me conquer this challenge. I can sometimes hear Miloy and Frienly's voice from Bukid Outdoor Shop telling me to find a good foothold and use my arms for reach.
This is the point of our adventure wherein I tore my new Lululemon leggings and had multiple scratches on my elbows. The rocks were really sharp! How many times have I thanked God I am actually wearing a HARD hat! Or else I would have cracked my skull or have a gash on my forehead already.
15. Sleep dead tired in total darkness
Read about the second and third day of my Langun-Gobingob Caving Adventure here!