For the more adventurous type, Sierra Cave, which is a very short distance from Callao Cave offers a lot more excitement with numerous cave formations in its pitch-black environs. We had our lunch after the Callao Cave exploration and then set off for a short hike up from the road. The cave mouth is barred with gates but since we informed them ahead, Ted was able to secure the key. Sierra Cave is one of my favorite caves because it’s a perfect example of a living cave which is ideal for studying various rock formations. Below I’m sharing an excerpt from an article I wrote back in 2005 for a magazine. It was my first visit to the cave. Nothing much has changed since then which is a good thing.
In contrast to Callao Cave, its neighbor tells is a different story. Sierra Cave is a subterranean cave with a small opening and enveloped in darkness, nevertheless, within its pitch black environment, this cave is so alive and still breathing from the process of creation. A contact in advance to the local Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) office or Sierra Madre Outdoor Club (SMOC) is needed as they will provide guides in order to explore this cave.
A gate was constructed at the cave entrance to prevent vandalism and to protect its priced limestone formations. Only scientist and students were normally allowed to go inside the caves to study its formations. But again, despite this control, intruders somehow were able to go inside. It’s a sad fact but we were able to find a long bamboo pole inside the cave that was used to extract Nido Bird’s nest on the cave’s ceiling. Sierra is also home to the small Nido Birds and its nest is the main ingredient to make the Nido Soup.
Hidden in the dark recesses of the cave are spectacular rock formations or what scientist calls speleothems. Sierra has not only stalactites and stalagmites but abundant in helictites and straws as well. The cave also has unique formations like the dogtooth curtains, and dripstone cave curtains as well as amazing fossil imprints or marine life on its walls. Sierra also houses the famous “Celica’s Passage” a very low and narrow opening where you would have to crawl to get in on out. The passage was named after the child of Mr. Richard Guzman, who was the head of SMOC then. Celica was playing hide and seek inside the cave and was found hiding inside the passage.
Callao Cave and Sierra Cave are only two of the numerous caves within Peñablanca. A spelunker’s haven is what they call Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan. Having more than 300 caves in the vicinity, only 75 have been properly documented and 30 have been mapped by the combined efforts of the British Exploration Club and SMOC. So whether you’re a newbie in caving or an avid outdoorsman, there are enough caves to explore with varying degrees of difficulty. But what is more important is the conservation of these natural wonders. These caves are formed by the natural hand of nature as old as the earth itself, and with the careless hand of an irresponsible man could destroy them in an istant.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.