The holes were small and I have to fit in.  Warnings of slippery when wet has never been precise until I found myself walking (a normal and a duck walk), squatting, crawling and climbing the mud-covered floors with loose rocks and formations in a cave named Aglipay at the Province of Quirino.

In time for our eco-tourism adventures, the heavy downpour of rain became an uninvited guest. With the current situation, I even thought that this part of our itinerary will be cancelled. The show must go on, as they say. I have to admit I am not into outdoor activities that require too much physical strength but there are times that behind my qualms I surrender for the mere sake of adventure.  After all, I always preach “Life is short.”

Approximately ten (10) kilometers away from the Provincial capital of Cabarroguis, off we went to the succulent forest and hills of Quirino where the cave complex is situated.  My original intention was just to check the opening of the caves and to abort further exploration.  But intentions will remain intentions. 

Aglipay Caves consists of over thirty-seven (37) interlinked underground chambers, of which only eight chambers have been explored and opened to the public.  Tailored to the visitor’s capacity, we were made to explore four chambers.  How did they assess our capacity? I don’t know.

We trekked towards the cave’s opening and I saw total darkness.  Being unprepared, I had no headlights, a basic for spelunking.  Thus, I have to depend on my companions.  On the first chamber, there was an instance in the midst of darkness, I suddenly stopped and talked to myself: “What am I doing here?”  But I have to continue.  There is no turning back.

The Aglipay Caves is said to be as much as 20 meters deep.  It has open chambers and crawl spaces, with a variety of stalactites, stalagmites and other geological formations.  I must admit the rock formations were indeed stunning.   

Photo by:  Mica Rodriguez
Since I have no lights of my own to cover my own pace, I have to hurry yet cautious of the slippery path, and be with the tour guides and companions with head lights most of the time.  Thus, the only thing I can remember on the first chamber is the miniature “rice terraces” formation, sculpted in the chamber.

The misty forest came into view as we exited the first chamber.  It was a relief for me.  I cared less for being drenched in the rain at this time. 

After a trek in the forest, a small hole was pointed as our entrance with warnings of being slippery inside.  Will I fit in that small hole?  I can.  They said so.  Thus, the adventure continues.

The next chamber is not Chamber 2 but 8.  I am unfamiliar with the cave connections and numberings so don’t ask me why.  It is the given. 

Chamber 8 started with a slippery path.  I decided to walk barefoot.  I was even contemplating on the idea of crawling than to walk with the possibility of slipping off and be out of balance.  Chambers 8, 2 and 3 were all connected.  The ceiling was getting lower as well that we were mandated to duck walk on certain portion.

I suddenly remember my COCC days during high school (the last time I duck-walked) with all the trainings to become an officer of CAT and I can manage the routine back then.  But that was so high school and will only serve as a motivational factor this time around.  Since I don’t have headlights and I wasn’t able to catch the first group of tour guides ahead of us, I have to wait for my companions while in squat position and suspended for a few minutes.  And it was just the start of the unforgettable exploration of the Aglipay Caves.

Photo by:  Ferdz Decena

Photo by: Kara Santos
Entering Chamber 2 poses a challenge for those quite big in physique.  It’s squeezing through a small hole after all.  The tour guides have demonstrated how to do it properly and we complied.  Unending laughter ensued which lessens the degree of difficulty.  If there is one consolation for this adventure, it would be the opportunity of having to witness the varied stalactites and stalagmites of whatever formation along with great travel buddies.

Just as I thought we have already overcome the difficult parts of the trail, our exit at Chamber 3 is a death-defying one.  A slippery steel ladder full of mud on a quite high elevation will be our gateway to end this adventure.  On each step of the ladder, I was told not to look down.  My knees were shaking as I forcefully climb my way out.  After a few minutes, I made it with a huge sigh of relief.  And everyone went out safe.

Photo by:  Kara Santos
As we went out in a forest after the cave connections, I decided to walk barefoot for fear of slipping off and decided to have it on my own pace – a walk in the park I told myself.  And then I was the last one to arrive.

Had the weather been nice, would we have experienced the same?  I keep asking myself.  It was fun and a thrilling adventure though, one for the books and a good way to explore the undiscovered Quirino province.

This trip was made possible through the collaboration of the Local Government of Quirino, the Tourism Promotions Board and the Department of Tourism.  

Thank you for making me a part of this discovery. 

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