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Tourguiding is More Fun in the Philippines

A peek inside Callao Cave

semi-overcast 27 °C

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I was so excited that after tending my professional obligations I have spare time to pamper myself. What best to entertain me is to show myself around a place new to me or that I seldom pass by. I was in Tuguegarao City then for a work-related trip. And knowing that the Callao Cave is just a ride away, I really set the alarm at 5am to take a peek inside this renowned cave. I have seen many photographs, heard a number of good testimonies, and lately watched a scene from a Filipino movie, The Mistress, captured from inside the Callao Cave. Now, since I was so close, I cannot afford to let this chance pass me by.

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Cold morning and alone. I travelled in the city with two other colleagues but they declined my invitation. I researched over the internet, mostly from travel blogs, that night before on how to reach the cave site at an affordable cost. That morning though, I opted to hire a tricycle driver at 500 pesos for a special trip to and fro, than wait for it to fill with 7 passengers, which definitely take a very long time. I have to be back at 10am to allow few hours to prepare before flying back to Manila at noontime.

At 6am, I was already on my way to Penablanca, Cagayan. Entering the barangay where the cave is actually located felt so far and remote.

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Should you visit the cave driving your own car, you should take the concrete road heading direct to the reception and ticket area. This road was constructed for tour buses, private vehicles, and hired cars. Since I was taking the traditional commute via tricycle, the driver took me to this riverbank. I arrived there at the dock so early; that was before 7am. I knew through the browsed information that I still have to take a boat and cross the Cagayan River to reach the steps at the cave's entrance. This you will miss though when you go straight to the entrance hall.

The driver told me to find my tour guide who will ride with me in the motorized canoe. The ride was dramatic but super affordable. It cost me 20 pesos each way.

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I was astonished to meet a teenager, a High School student, to guide my tour. His name is Johnrey. He's 15 years old. I never realized that this unique experience here having young tour guides was already featured in some TV documentary programs particularly those tackling travels and tours. A famous Andoy even was featured in the Maalaala Mo Kaya. And Johnrey is like Andoy. That he did tour guiding during his free time. That the money he raised from tour guiding helped his schooling. That he can even guide foreign tourists.

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Johnrey and I climbed the steps towards the cave. The gigantic cathedral welcomed me and it was an awesome feeling to be invited in. There is supposedly lights along the way inwards but since I arrived so early, no staff can be found to turn the lights on for me. There were sweepers though but I believe they have no access to electrical stuff. Good thing the interiors of the cave is not that dark because it has seven chambers, each with crevices where natural light peeks in and illuminates the surrounding areas. The largest chamber with the chapel intentionally erected in its center is the best place to be, unless you are non-Catholic or anything of sort who believed in statues. This is the set where the wedding scene in the movie The Mistress was shot.

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My guide was astonishing! It can be assumed that he had done this tour guiding for a long time now or he had burnt many candles to study the story, the history, the names, the discovery and the discoverer of this cave. I sucked in history or social studies or anything that involves memorizing names, places, dates, so I really cannot keep up with Johnrey. What really retained in my memory was the marvelous natural creation of this cave, the chambers, the cathedral. The walk into its interior was quite long; it made me sweat really. You have to climb up and down in some points.

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I completed my tour in more or less 45 minutes. We dropped by the ticket booth on our way down but the cubicle was still empty. That meant I have free entrance then. So I added the 20 pesos to the 50-peso guide tip and handed it to Johnrey. I jumped into the waiting boat without much ado and was back in the tricycle ride towards Tuguegarao City.

My 700-peso trip was so sulit!

Posted by crisbernal 06:15 Archived in Philippines Tagged caves caving spelunking callao philippine_tours budget_travels day_tours

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