The Natural Cathedral of Callao Cave

TEXT & PHOTO: Kaycie Gayle

Callao Cave is a popular cave in the country that has been well known for the discovery of the remains of Callao Man inside it. While this is one of the reasons why it is known, I was however introduced to this famous destination through seeing it on a tourism advertisement some years ago where it features a church inside a cave that is beautifully lit by the ray of sunshine. This has instantly caught my interest and lured me to see it the soonest possible.

2019-03-31_15.07.01Ray of sunshine passing through the cave’s crevice

After a few years,  some colleagues have invited us to spend a few days in Cagayan Province. While staying in their hometown, we went to what they refer as a ‘huge’ cave in their place. After riding a tricycle, an auto rickshaw version in the Philippines, crossing Pinancauanan river through a wooden boat, and climbing to almost 200 steps on a steep uphill, we have reached the mouth of the cave. To my surprise, the ‘huge’ cave they were referring to is the cave I’ve been aiming to visit – the Callao Cave.

2019-03-31_09.29.28Rough Road to Callao Cave

2019-03-31_09.27.27Welcome Mark

2019-03-31_08.55.56View from the stairs to Callao Cave

2019-03-31_10.03.36One of the openings in the cave

2019-03-31_09.40.52Archaeology of Callao Cave narrative

2019-03-31_09.58.24Another cave’s opening

Upon entering the cave’s huge opening, I have instantly felt that the temperature inside is rather lower compared to outside. Upon walking just a few steps from the entrance I have seen a tarpaulin providing information about the archeology of the cave. Since it has been developed, exploring it is fairly easy as its pathway is of least resistance upon not having so much steep ascent and loose rocks. Moreover, it does not have slippery surfaces since we visited it in summer.

2019-03-31_09.34.58Boulder inside the cave


Another reason for the easement in exploring this cave is due to the light that comes naturally through its chambers. When its limestones are illuminated by sunlight, it naturally shines which results in a natural sparkle aesthetic. The best time to see the dark chambers being lit by the sunlight is when the sun is high which is between 10 am to 1pm.

2019-03-31_10.20.32Surrounding trees above the cave

2019-03-31_10.12.24Sunlight and Stalagmite

Going further inside, I have reached the main attraction which they call as the Divine Room. Instantly I have remembered the image of a chapel inside a cave I drooled over before.  However, they don’t refer it as a chapel but consider it as a cathedral since the locals have purposefully converted it to look like a cathedral by putting long wooden benches used in a church and had set up an altar. In addition, since the structure has a large cavern with a high ceiling it somehow resembles a natural cathedral. Meanwhile, the large opening on the cave’s ceiling allows the sunlight to enter the cavern hence illuminating it and makes the place look stunning. 

2019-03-31_10.36.26The famous Callao Cave’s Cavern


2019-03-31_10.51.35Aisle towards the altar

Expect that capturing the spotlight effect on the cave’s atrium can be elusive since you have to consider timing and finding the right angle. To have that perfect photo like the ones you may see on postcards and promotional ads, you might have to climb up on a stack of rocks to get that perfect angle. However, it would be safer for you to just find the most comfortable way to position yourself in capturing the best shot that you can have. Though this could look slightly different in advertisement photos since the cave is normally dimly lit, this will give you a more realistic image taken from a different angle.

2019-03-31_14.59.44Close up on the Benches

2019-03-31_15.20.25Natural Spotlight effect on the Altar

The cave has seven chambers called as Column, Chapel, Skeleton, Elephant’s Head, Praying Angel, Rocket, Lion’s Head and Dog’s Head and has irregular texture of massive rock formations and limestones which when accented by the skylight glow in hues of yellow, brown and greens.

2019-03-31_10.17.30Hues of earthy colors

2019-03-31_10.15.11Rock formation

I have decided not to explore all of the chambers though I have tried to go to some and try to identify the image that was named after each one. However I can not visualize the rock formation’s images since i’m just trying figure it out on my own. Therefore getting a guide would help you identify the images and assist you to know more about the history of the cave and the mineral formations available on each chamber. 

2019-03-31_10.08.28Light inside

2019-03-31_10.27.29Stalactite up close

Being a popular destination comes with a price. On my visit to this cave, I have spotted some vandals on the wall, benches and rock formations. Though visitors like us would want to leave mark on the places we have visited, I believe that it would be better if we just take pictures only and let the beauty of the place just leave a mark on our memory. I  hope that both the locals and tourists will cooperate in preserving this cave to keep its natural beauty.

2019-03-31_15.09.04Vandalism on the cave’s wall

Meanwhile, to ensure that you can bring home souvenirs other than the photos you took, you can proceed to its souvenir shop to buy refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, and other accessories. This would certainly remind you of your visit to Callao Cave and a good souvenir gift to your family and friends back home.

Before we headed home, I stayed for a while at the Callao Cave’s viewing deck to enjoy the scenic view of the Pinacanuanan  River. I was also hoping to see a Kalaw bird since it was once abundant here hence the cave’s name. But since it is already rare in this place I haven’t seen one, but still, I was happy to finally have seen the natural cathedral of Callao Cave.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All expenses were paid by the author.

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