The darkness has always been associated with fear and fatality. It is often avoided and labeled as an “unsafe zone”. But what if… this strangely connoted dwelling is actually the grounds for growth and the seat of wisdom? Would you dare know your depths and capabilities?
Just this October, I was invited to join a three day camping and spelunking at the Philippines biggest cave system – the Langun-Gobingob Caves of Calbiga, Samar – which covers an area of 900 square meters that spans over 12 other cave systems. It was considered as the second biggest cave in Asia next to Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave in Vietnam, until some recent discoveries.
Though I have been to a number of caves before, camping inside a cave is a thing that interested me the most. For some reasons, I wanted to feel the thrill and crazy pounding of my heart again.
Road to Gobingob’s Mouth
The activity started after lunch. From the jump-off area, we started an hour of ascend through a thick jungle before reaching the viewing deck built by the LGU several years ago. The façade of the cave gapes like hungry monster ready to devour a prey. It reminded me of Cebu’s White Cave opening.
We then commenced with the hike, trekked downhill, then arrived at the entrance of the cave. By then I knew there was no way to back out. We had a short orientation, question and answer portion, and short prayer before descending to the darkness. Goodbye outside world! Hello darkness my old friend; I’ve come to talk with you again. HAHA.
To the “Stage” we Go
We were then greeted by amazing rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. However, there are some parts of the cave which looked like a bulldozed area as a result of the exploitation done by some locals and Taiwanese businessmen who sold the gems of the cave as ornamentals. Good thing, it is now a protected area as mandated by the local government. After several minutes of bouldering and trekking through mud and rocks, we arrived safely at the “Stage”, which for me looked like a caramelized version of the famous Big Hero 6 superhero – Baymax.
Scampering around the Football Field
By six in the evening, we reached the “Football Fieled” – a stadium-sized field that is habituated by gigantic cave crickets – where we would spend the night. After setting our camp, we prepared dinner and fetched water from a nearby pool of water where blind fish and white crabs live.
Delving to Inferno
Yes, you’ve read it right. We’re going to Inferno. After dinner, we started exploring the Upper Gobingob Chamber where we’ve seen strange rock formation and white crystals. Going through the scrambling rocks made me realize how beautiful the underworld can become. Sadly, because of the limited capacity of our headlamps and flashlights, we weren’t able to capture its natural beauty. The more reason for you
(readers) to try this activity and see them in person. HAHA.
Going Through the Depths of Langun
Obviously, there’s no sense of time inside the cave. You explore in the darkness. You sleep through the darkness. You wake up through the darkness. By five in the morning, we started preparing our breakfast then began packing our things in preparation for the second day of exploration. We were bound to leave the Football Field and traverse to the connecting Langun Cave system. This time, it involves serious technical roping and rappelling down to the abyss. It wasn’t as scary as it seem – probably because I had been thoroughly practiced with rappelling during our Canyoning activity in Biliran. What really made the traverse memorable was the trek across the mountain of bat shits (guano). Believe me, challenging is an understatement. You have to be quick and flexible. In an instant, your feet can dive into a knee-deep trail that would dig up loads of bat shits, cockroaches, and crickets.
I see the Light!
It was really a breather upon seeing the light again. After dealing the mountains of bat shits, we were then welcomed by the opening of Langun Cave which was adorned with mighty stalactites. After cleaning ourselves, we had siesta with the rest of the group – a time to slack off and bully each other. HAHA. Upon twilight, a sound came in rushing before a massive number of bats came into the picture – altogether hovering the entrance like a perfectly choreographed dance number. The show lasted for almost an hour before such night dwellers began to disappear amongst the forest in search for food.
Down, down to Lower Langun
The night was eerie. Different sounds created by unseen creatures can be heard and fireflies started to dance to the music only they can hear. We were down to our final mission: Lower Langun Exploration. Compared to the other chambers, it took us a longer time to get inside because the snake guarding the entrance decided to stay longer than expected – disallowing us to enter in peace. After an almost an hour of waiting, the guides then announced that we are free to enter. We then rappelled several meters and fitted ourselves into a three meter hole. We had to move all parts of our body – like snakes – in order to successfully enter the cave. Later did we know that just on top of such opening, the snake was silently watching our trespass.
And behold, great things come to those who persevere. Beyond the minute opening is a huge system of knee-level mud, natural tubs, cave terraces, rivers, and even waterfalls that only the brave ones can witness.
And just when we thought the struggle has ended, we are bound to experience the scariest part of the adventure – sleeping with snakes and everything else that deals in the dark. The guides were all alert to guard through the night. Three snakes passed by our sides without us knowing! What a scare it would be had we seen face to face those friends. HAHA.
Up, up and away
Like any other struggle, everything comes to an end. On the third day, we bid goodbye to the darkness. However, going back to the town proper requires four hours of direct ascend through rocky trails and thick forests. This is the only activity I’ve tried so far that requires several disciplines: hiking, spelunking, rappelling, river trekking, and rock climbing. All at once!
Many have asked if I got scared during the activity. Of course, I did. Fear always paves the road that we walk in, constantly pushes us to our limits before unraveling how amazing we can become. It draws us from the shadows of comfort that we have always been clinging to. At the end of the day, it’s not the end of the tunnel that gives us hope – for there’s darkness within us that cannot be eradicated – rather, it is light within us. Truly, sometimes, the best days are in our darkest moments.
Safety should always be a priority. Camping and spelunking is not for the faint-hearted and should never be taken lightly. Thus, it is best to book tour packages to a reliable team. Contact Sir Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore the Adventures through these numbers (055-2512301 / 5438550) (0919-294-3865 / 0927-675-0062) or check Facebook for updates. You can as well visit www.trexplore.ph for more details.
How to get there?
- Flights are available from Manila to Calbayog City, Manila to Tacloban City, Cebu City to Tacloban City, and Cebu City to Calbayog City.
- V-hires are available in going to Calbiga.
- Daily trips from Cebu City to Ormoc City are available while a scheduled M-W-F is followed for a Cebu City to Calbayog City trip.
- Practice light backpacking. Bring only the essentials.
- You can opt to bring your own meal or ask the team to prepare your food for an extra charge.
- Avoid direct contact with the stalagmites and stalactites to avoid further damages inside the cave. Always follow guidelines.
- Don’t poop and urinate inside the caves. Guides are bringing containers for their excretions.
Here’s a video compilation of our trip. :D :D :D