Thursday, May 28, 2020

Lobo Cave: At The Bottom Of Jiabong, Samar Lies An Under Earth Experience Of New Places


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Beneath our feet lies a mysterious place where everything is living but isn’t moving. In this place, you’ll need courage to face your fear of heights, fear of darkness and fear of depths. Known as the third largest island in the Philippines, Samar also holds the title being the “Caving Capital of the Philippines.” Aside from the fact that the biggest cave in the country lies in Samar, the island is also composed of hundreds of explored perhaps unexplored caves in the Philippines.

Spelunking can be quite extreme, in fact dangerous especially for first timers like me. With the group of bloggers and writers, we we’re invited to explore the Lobo Cave located in Brgy. Tagbayaon, Jiabong, Samar. From our hotel in Catbalogan, the capital of Samar, it took us an hour to get to Brgy. Tagbayaon where a group of tour guides is waiting for us. Although the tour guides gave us a warm welcome, the weather did the opposite by welcoming us with a cold rainy weather. After a short briefing, we began trekking at around 8:00 am in the morning.

By the time we started trekking, the rain did stop but it was still cloudy and gloomy. That kind of weather can be a great advantage especially when you’re up on the mountain which is directed to the heat of the sun. However, a slippery muddy ground can be pretty challenging. We trekked on a downhill and uphill mountain, and vice versa. It may be a long kilometer walk but I didn’t get bored seeing the scenic high mountains, wide farmlands, tall coconut groves and the azure sky and bay of Samar.

While hiking, I got a chance to talk to ‘kuya elmer’, our tour guide, about the history of the Lobo Cave. According to him, not long ago, Joni Bonifacio who earned the name as “master of caves” started to explore the cave on 2005. It took them a year to explore the cave and its rock formations until they finally made an official map by 2006. Today, they have been operating the tour for almost a year.

Before reaching the mouth of the cave, going down on a steep hill is our only way and it is quite perilous. As I hike down the hill, I was looking for something to hold on to because the way was too precipitous to the point that I almost slide down the cliff. Unluckily, I grab the wrong branch of a coconut tree which was sharp that it made a cut on my hand. Thus, long pants, hand gloves, long sleeves and closed-shoes is an advisable gear as tall grasses and small insects are just along the way to the cave. After almost an hour, we finally reached the mouth of the cave which is a bit small. But, don’t be deceived with the entrance for it’s actually huge inside.

Looking exhausted, the porters let us rest for the meantime while they were preparing for our gears and equipment. Before entering the cave, they gave us a short orientation on what to expect inside. We were seven in the group and the tour guides were five. They told us that they already bought a lunch because the maximum duration of our adventure is 7 hours. They told us to expect crawling, swimming and rappelling.

But, the most interesting part is when they already started distributing the safety gears that we are about to wear. This includes the helmet, headlamps equipped with batteries, and safety gloves. Although shoes were not provided, it should be understood that when you’re off to spelunking, proper footwear is important for this will be your tool in carrying yourself in order to avoid slipping and getting cuts and bruises on your body.

And what is ‘adventure’ without a thrilling and most extreme encounter? Entering the cave, a low ceiling will be your way to get to the main chamber. So, we almost crawl for a few minutes to reach the inner-most area of the cave. Then our tour guide finally said, “we are here at the main chamber” of the cave. Witnessing it, you’ll know why it is called the main chamber because of its high-ceiling, large and wide space area. Aside from that, it is near the mouth of Lobo Cave, the main chamber is also the center of all the cavern in the cave.

As soon as we got there, the tour guides drop their bags and let us wore the life vests because the first cavern that we are going to witness is what they call the “bathtub” of the cave. We walked on a rocky path and reached a high cliff. In order to get to the bathtub, we had to hold a rope that is tied tightly on both endpoints and look for a big rock to step on to and walk. This is quite dangerous for we didn’t have any rappel to support us. So, taking your time is the key to cross the high cliff.

After that nerve-racking path, we surely deserve a relaxing bathtub. We plunge and soaked ourselves in the water which they said is pretty deep in the middle. Relaxed and refreshed, we then proceed to the next cavern where a huge white glittery rock is waiting for us. We had to swim through a tunnel where the ceiling is only two to three feet above our heads. And among the caverns, this for me is the longest path that we took. All of us were so exhausted that we didn’t have any energy to climb and see the mini Mc Arthur statue just above the white huge rock. Since our bags were left in the main chamber no one of us captured the beauty of the white glittery rock which looked like a huge crystalline iceberg.

Heading off to the next cavern, we had to go back because they said, there was no passage to the main chamber except for the path that we walked through. And as I said, the way is too long. It took us more than 30 minutes just to reach the main chamber again. It already took several hours just to visit those two caverns so, you could just imagine how huge the Lobo Cave really is. In need of rest and energy again, we first took our lunch together before resuming our exploration.

But, the best is yet to come. While we were on our way to what they call the “mini-waterfalls” of Lobo Cave, we did walk through a sandy ground and a very high ceiling cave which to me seems like a grand canyon. Nearing the waterfalls, I could hear a strange and inexplicable sounds coming from nowhere. Even if you rotate your head to 360 degrees, you won’t see any water flowing. This is because the waterfalls is located underground. And if the hotels have basements, caves have it too. Except, the access to waterfalls is not an elevator, but a 10 feet diamond hole where you’ll be needing to rappel and climb down the slippery rocks. But don’t be scared because the tour guides main priority is our safety.

Preparing to go down, the tour guide gave me an adjustable vest where they wore it to me tightly. At the back of the vest, they donned on a harness connected to a safety rope tied tightly on a big rock. Just when I thought the struggle is already done after passing through the deep shaft, a deeper cliff is waiting as I finished passing through the diamond hole. Without any rope and any rappel, just the tour guide pointing what rock I will step and grip on to, thankfully I did crossed safely.

Despite the extreme rock climbing, it was surely worth it seeing the majestic waterfalls surrounded by beautiful rock formations underground the cave. It was so surreal and it will definitely be a lifetime memory witnessing this kind of natural beauty. As it is the main highlight of the cave, we took longer time enjoying the cascading waterfall that massages our backs as we lean on the rocks.

Moving on to our last cavern, the nearest one to the main chamber and entrance is what they call the “Angel Wings.” From the main chamber, it took us only 10 to 15 minutes to get to the dead-end. But that dead-end isn’t dead at all because of the stunning peculiar rock formation that makes the room so alive. In the middle of the room lies a large stalagmite with a flowstones that resembles to angel’s wings. The tour guides advised us not to go near the rock because they are preserving the beauty of it. It was so glittery and shimmery that even without the light you could see how it shines.

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Angel’s Wings #lobocave #cavingadventure

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Stepping outside the cave isn’t the end of our tranquil adventure, in fact, it is just the beginning of a new one. But this time, we’re off to a water exploration. After more than 6 hours of darkness, adrenaline-pumping walk and nerve-racking rappelling, it feels good to step outside the cave knowing that you did all of those extreme activities. As a reward, a relaxing bath is waiting for us on our way back. Instead of hiking back, we walk through a shallow river known as the “salog dumog.” The water was so pristine that the rocks and small fishes are seen clearly from above.

After a few walks from the cave, I can also tell that Samar may also be named as the waterfalls capital of the Philippines for there are mini waterfalls along the way. And while waiting for the canoes to fetch us, we cherished the time to unwind by lying down and letting the water run through us while listening to the music of the forest— it was so relaxing.

As soon as I saw the wooden canoes approaching, it felt a little sad saying goodbye to the wonderful journey that I experienced. We then proceed navigating through Panaghoyan river. It was so scenic and serene passing through the calm river surrounded by coconut trees and flanked by grand canyons. After 45 minutes, the bridge and the houses have been my signal that we are back to civilization.

But, at the end of the day, it is not the experience that only matters, it is the kind-hearted and welcoming people that have been patient with us throughout our adventure. We are only visitors in their town and the adventure wouldn’t be as fruitful as it is without their patience, guidance, and hospitality. Overall, Samar is definitely a proof that it is indeed more fun in the Philippines.

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