Callao Cave in Cagayan: The Pride of Peñablanca
Updated December 12, 2018
If you think you need a tour guide to go spelunking every cave in the Philippines, you are wrong. Caves like the Callao Cave in Peñablanca Cagayan is a cave so big and well lit, its walls call out to every explorer to come to enter or even to come to pray.
Callao Cave Chapel. PHOTO by Eric Banes
The municipality of Peñablanca is a province in Cagayan and is home to the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape, the largest protected area in the northern Philippines. Known for its 300+ cave systems, limestone formations, and archaeological relics, the park is the location of Callao Cave, one of the province’s famous landmarks and tourist spots. The cave has pathways and stairways through its chambers making this trip calm or callado, as the Spaniards have named it.
Callao Cave has a total of nine chambers and formations; two chambers were closed off after an earthquake during the ’80s while travelers can explore the rest: the Column, Chapel, Skeleton, Elephant’s Head, Praying Angel, Rocket, Lion’s Head and Dog’s Head formations.
The Chapel, the only Roman Catholic chapel inside a cave, is naturally illuminated by a crevice found directly above the cavern floor. The caves also house its very own fossilized Homo Sapien, the Callao Man, elected to be the oldest known remains in the country. It’s said that Callao Man is older than Palawan’s famous Tabon Man by 20,000 years.
Getting there and What to do
Getting to Callao Cave is roughly a 30-minute ride from Cagayan’s capital city of Tuguegarao. Buses from Manila are available daily, with terminals in Cubao or along Buendia Avenue. After getting to Tuguegarao, hop on a tricycle (Php 400 round trip) or share a ride from Peñatoda Station in Tuguegarao Riverside to Callao Caves Resort for Php 40 per head, then ride a boat to Callao Caves for Php 20 per head.
One of the challenging experience is the hundred and eighty four-step staircase to the mouth of Callao Cave. The steps are concrete and daunting making all its travelers work to get to the gold at the top. Once inside the caves, many would look up and keep looking up as the caves are enormous. The largest rises to 118 feet and five of the chambers have natural roof crevices letting in warm sunlight and some flora growing down lining the walls with beautiful plants.
Other activities would include checking out the caves of the Cave Capital of Peñablanca. Other caves to add to your itinerary while you are in the area are namely, Jackpot Cave, Odessa-Tumbali Cave System, San Carlos Cave, and Sierra Cave. Try experiencing riding through the Pinacanauan River for Php 300 a boat once you get down Callao Cave.
This northern gem is a must-see for everyone in the Philippines, locals, expats, and tourists alike, so don’t forget about Callao when you’re in the area.