Thursday, May 19, 2016

Exploring The Paterno And Bengaongao Caves In Ambongdolan, Tublay, Benguet

When it comes to caving or spelunking destinations in the Cordillera region, the caves and underground rivers of Sagada in Mt. Province take the cake in popularity. However, in order to get to Sagada, you will have to endure at least five hours of travel from Baguio City. If this prolonged travel time sort of disappoints you, fret not because there are caving destinations within Benguet that are both near and accessible.

This brings us to the Paterno and Bengaongao cave systems in Ambongdolan, Tublay, Benguet. The sleepy village of Ambongdolan is just about an hour's drive away from the town of La Trinidad. Aside from its cave systems, the natural scenery in the area is also something to behold. A river known for its white rocks runs just below the Paterno and Bengaongao caves. It's a more than decent place to hold picnics.

How To Get To Ambongdolan, Tublay
If you are using a private vehicle, just drive through Halsema Highway until you reach the toll gate in Acop, La Trinidad. Turn left and follow the Kapangan Road until you reach the junction wherein a road diverges towards Ambongdolan. The junction is hard to miss because there's a huge green sign that says "To Ambongdolan".

If you don't have access to a vehicle, you can coordinate with the Tublay municipal hall so that they will arrange a transportation for you. This is what the receptionist at the Ambongdolan Barangay Hall told us when we got there.

Registration Fees To Be Paid
Before proceeding to the caves, you are required to register at the Ambongdolan Barangay Hall and secure a guide. Registration fee is 225 pesos per head. This fee covers everything from environmental fees to the salary of the guide. You should always have a guide with you when you enter the caves. Besides, one of the caves is locked from outside so you can't enter. Only the guides hold the key to the cave.

What To Expect
Expect to crawl on your belly and squeeze through tight spots inside the cave. There are also places wherein you have to rappel down rocks using ropes. Paterno Cave is basically dry and humid. It's the same with Bengaongao Cave but according to the guide, Bengaongao Cave can have running underground water during the rainy season.

Here are some photos from our recent visit in Ambongdolan: 
The view from the drop-off point. The cave systems are just above the river you see in the photo.
To enter Paterno Cave, you will have to squeeze through this small hole just a few feet from the cave entrance.
Some of the white-colored rock formations inside Paterno Cave.
More rock formations.
The elephant rock formation.

[Related article: There's also a cave in Camp 3/Twin Peaks in Tuba that's been getting a lot of attention lately. It's called Aran Cave and it's very accessible from Baguio City. Read more about Aran Cave here.]