The jeepney’s wheels spewed out chunks of mud as the driver floored the engine, determined to get the jeep out of the rut. We sat at a distance, drenched in the rain, our feet caked in mud, but still in high spirits. A little rain never hurt anybody.
The agenda for the morning was boating in Governor’s Rapids, a tributary of the Cagayan River in Quirino province. We were told that during summer months the water here was crystal clear. From the riverside, we were supposed to board a boat to enter a cave in the cliffs which contained a hidden waterfall. It sounded wonderful and we were all excited to see the place for ourselves.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. The grey clouds that greeted us in the morning eventually poured buckets of rain and turned the rapids into a churning chocolate brown river. Our guides ruled in favor of safety and we agreed that it was too risky to push through with the boating. At least we have a reason to go back to Quirino, they told us.
While waiting, we passed around slices of tubikoy, a sticky rice and coconut cake that combines elements of three Filipino delicacies: tupig, bibingka, and tikoy. Tupig is a delicacy made out of rice flour and coconut strips grilled in hot charcoal. It’s a common souvenir item from Northern provinces like Ilocos and Pangasinan. Bibingka, a traditional Christmas cake is made from galapong (milled glutinous rice), coconut milk, margarine, and sugar and topped with cheese. Tikoy, a staple of Chinese New Year celebrations, is a cake made from glutinous rice flour. Sliced like a buko pie, the sticky and chewy treat of rice and coconut pulp topped with grated cheese was pretty filling. It disappeared all too soon.
Plan B. We boarded the jeep and headed to Aglipay Caves instead, where the rain wouldn’t do too much damage, making a quick stop first at a roadside carinderia for early lunch.
Aglipay Cave is a 37-chamber cave system ideal for spelunking, with 8 chambers developed for caving for enthusiasts of different levels of ability. The good thing about caving is that you can do it in any type of weather condition. Or so we thought. The rain seeped through the cave openings and dripped down from openings and stalactites above, making many portions of the cave trail really slippery. It made the adventure more challenging.
Photo courtesy of Ironwulf. Check out his account of our caving trip here.
Good thing we weren’t really in a hurry. We took our time walking through the main chambers, which were pretty impressive. I’m pretty bad at cave photography so I couldn’t really capture its beauty. Good thing other companions brought along tripods to really maximize the photos.
We emerged in the forest and passed a short trail in order to enter another chamber of Aglipay Caves, whose entrance was a barely-visible opening in the rocks hidden under thick foliage. Along the way, I made a mental note not to wear camouflage in future caving trips as I blended too much with the scenery and trees, as my companions pointed out.
The tiny entrance led to another impressive mid-sized chamber. Somewhere along the way, several slippers came apart in the slick mud. Others opted to go barefoot because their footwear kept slipping on the rocks.
The most exciting part was when everyone had to squeeze through this tiny crevice in the rocks one at a time. The hole was really low in the ground, so the only way to pass was to pass our bags and cameras to the person ahead and then crawl through the opening into a puddle of mud. Exciting!
Another bottleneck came towards the cave exit. We had to climb up a crooked steel ladder with rungs caked in mud to get back on top. Since not everyone had flashlights, it was a slow climb. But when we got to the top, we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel!
Despite the rain and setbacks, the whole day of getting all muddied up, crawling through the tiny openings in the rocks and duckwalking through the chambers was pretty fun. What made it even better was being in the company of like-minded travelers.
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- For Aglipay Cave Tours, contact the Tourism Office of Quirino province. Contact Ms Aurea Martinez (0917.416.5945) who can arrange guides and proper gear for you.
- Environmental/Entrance fee for Aglipay Cave is P25.00. There is no standard rate for guides yet but it’s customary to give a tip. There’s usually a ratio of 1 guide for every 4 visitors.
- What to wear: clothes that are easy to move in that you wouldn’t mind getting wet and/or muddy like rashguards or dri-fit shirts over swim wear, board shorts or leggings. Wear sturdy footwear like sandals with straps or minimalist trekking shoes. White or light-colored clothes and slippers are not recommended because of the mud.
- What to bring: flashlight or headlamp, waterproof camera or plastic to protect gear, change of clothes & towel (leave this at the campsite or vehicle). Photographers might want to bring a small tripod to maximize cave photography, though it can be difficult to carry in the gear especially in the small entrances and caverns
DISCOVER THE UNDISCOVERED
Special thanks to the Provincial Government of Quirino and Binary Digital Communications for making this #DiscovertheUndiscovered trip to Quirino possible.
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