Monday, March 13, 2017

5 Awesome Caves In Benguet For Those Yearning For A Caving Adventure

For decades, spelunkers and caving enthusiasts heading into the Cordillera region had but one destination: Sagada. This shouldn't surprise anyone as this peaceful and secluded town in Mountain Province has not one but at least four expansive caves. Truth be told, the town's status as a tourist magnet relies largely on these great caves.

Here's the good news: the caving scene in the Cordillera region is starting to flourish with renewed vigor as new players enter the game. Several caves within the province of Benguet are already open to the public. Logistics are also in place for some of the caves. The communities overseeing some of these caves have guides and gear for those interested in visiting.

This should sound good for those who have already explored Sagada's caves and are looking for new destinations. Or if you are not yet ready to endure the 7-hour bus ride to Sagada, why not consider exploring the caves in nearby Benguet towns. Below is a quick breakdown of the caves in Benguet that are open to spelunkers, hikers, and adventurers.

1. Aran Cave
If you fancy crawling through tight spots and wading through underground pools, this cave is for you. Since it's located in Camp 3, Tuba, you can get there in under an hour. That is if you're coming from Baguio City. Aran Cave is short but it has everything you'd look for in a caving adventure. There are waterfalls and pools inside where you can bathe and swim. There are rock walls that you need to either climb or rappel.

Tips: Wear long pants and shirts. Majority of the rocks and boulders inside have rough and jagged surfaces. One misstep and you'll be nursing a bloody injury. If you're bringing in phones or cameras inside, you should bring along a sealable plastic bag (ziplock) or something similar.
There are pools inside Aran Cave which are deep enough that you can swim in them. Photo by Daniel Feliciano / The Cordilleran Sun.
2. Ansagan Caves
There are about five caves (some say there's more) clustered within the outskirts of this small barangay in Tuba. These are as follows: Wagitwit Cave, Obbong-obbong Cave, Sinimbaan Cave, Pipingew Cave, and Takadang Cave. Aside from the locals, not many people know of these caves. And the place is a bit far. It can take you around three to five hours to reach the place. The caves are also undeveloped which means you will be entering them at your own risk.

Tips: Don't go there without coordinating with the municipality of Tuba and the officials of Ansagan. This is very important. Don't go there unannounced and expect to see guides and equipment waiting for you. Please coordinate with the local officials.

3. Paterno Cave
This is one of several caves located within the town of Tublay. In particular, Paterno Cave is one of two caves in barangay Ambongdolan that have been opened for tourists. The cave got its name from a certain General Paterno who used the underground hollows as hiding places during the Philippine-American war. To enter the enclosure, you have to go through a small slit in a rock wall. The cave doesn't go deep into the mountain although it has chambers that are dozens of meters high.

Tips: Always pay attention to your guide. If he tells you to duck down, do it. If he tells you to watch your step and use your headlights, do it. There's a certain section in the cave wherein you need to rappel down with a rope. Although there's a steel walkway built inside the cave, you can fall dozens of feet below if you slip.

4. Bengaongao Cave
This is the second cave in Ambongdolan that has been opened to the public. It's just a short distance away from Paterno Cave. It's deeper, it's longer, and it contains more rock formations. The entrance to the cave is in itself quite marvelous. There are chambers inside the Bengaongao Cave that were carved out by water over thousands of years. Fine sand and debris within the chambers point to the fact that the chambers get flooded with water during the rainy season.

Tips: Again, listen to your guide. There are some sections of the cave that can be dangerous if you slip or fall.
The giant entrance of Bengaongao Cave. Photo by Daniel Feliciano / The Cordilleran Sun.
5. Timbac Cave
You don't visit Timbac Cave in the town of Kabayan to spelunk, you visit it to see one of the great wonders of Benguet: mummy remains complete with detailed and fascinating tattoos. What's unique about these mummies is the process used by our Igorot ancestors to preserve the bodies. Although there are quite a few theories on how our ancestors accomplished it, the most accepted theory is the one put forth by Dr. Ursula Carino Perez. You can read more about how our Ibaloi ancestors mummified their dead in this Wikipedia article.

Tips: Always coordinate with the local government units overseeing the caves. Keep in mind that the mummies along with the artifacts around them are protected. In fact, the cave is locked so that only those who asked permission will be allowed to look at the mummies. And whatever you do, don't touch the mummies.
Photo by Daniel Feliciano / The Cordilleran Sun.
There ya go. If it's caving you want, the province of Benguet has you covered. Feel free to chime in at the comment section below to share your thoughts, suggestions, recommendations, and reactions.