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Exploring Up North : Tuguegarao

Exploring Up North : Tuguegarao 5


When I was asked by my brother to go with him on a trip to Calayan, I said yes without any hesitation. What I loved most about it was that it was free flowing and no expectations. Prior to flying, I already heard ‘horror’ stories about getting to Calayan. Apart from riding the lampitaw (a small open banca) in open waters for a minimum of 4 hours, I was told that we could get stranded with no food. I also knew that we will be soaking wet throughout the trip and in several cases, the 4 hour boat ride turned into 7 or 9. Why would I subject myself to such ordeal? Well, didn’t they say that in the end it’s worth it?

Being a sucker for adventure, I prepared myself for the most roughing it adventure of my life. Day before the trip, Benj mentioned that he would be joining me at a later date, therefore I was tasked to lead a group of 4 people whom I didn’t know. That didn’t pose a problem though, since I’m used to planning and organizing trips.

We landed in Tuguegarao at 1:20 pm. On the way to the airport, I realized we didn’t have accommodations, so I quickly searched the net and found a place ( Villa Blanca)that offered us a rate of 300pesos per head. Not bad right? Given that we would be on a 9 day trip, we were on a tight budget.

Villa Blanca was in the outskirts of the town center but close enough by Tricycle. Lucky for us, the hotel provided free shuttle service. The room was good enough for the price we paid and the staff were very helpful and always willing to help. They only have wifi in the common area though.

1st Stop: Callao Cave

Callao Cave is located in between Baggaba and Quibal, Penablanca. The town of Penablanca means “White rock” and to date it is known to have 378 caves in its vicinity. Callao is one of the more popular one. It got its name from a bird called Kallaw. It was once very prominent in this area but due to hunting, they’re rarely seen.

It takes around 30 minutes to reach it via tricycle, and costs around 600 pesos to hire one that will wait for you and bring you back to town. The hotel concierge said that public transportation in the terminals can bring us there for way less, but in our case, since we were starting off at around 3:30 pm, it was best that we rented one for ourselves. It proved to be a good choice as when we got out after bat watching, there was no public transportation available in the area .

Note : When I saw the tricycle, I asked if we could all fit. The guy jokingly said “You can ride on the roof”. I decided to take him up on that literally; I was up on the roof in a matter of seconds. Viewing everything from the top of a tricycle was so much better. Of course, everyone else laughed and teased that I would get charcoal dark by the time I get back. Thanks to my trusted malong that managed to keep me protected from the sun

Upon arrival at Callao, the first thing I told the girl was “I want an informative guide who takes good pictures”. Laughing at my comment, they gave us Anne. She was definitely the tour guide we needed. She knew how to manipulate my camera as if it was hers and she knew the right angles for a picture. The guides are required to accompany you but they do not charge a fee. You can give however much you want as tip.

Callao Cave was open until 5 pm and they charged a small amount for entering:

Adult 20 Php
Student with ID 10 Php
Senior Citizen 15 Php
Children Below 12 10 Php
Wedding Pictorial 500 Php

Callao is known to have 7 chambers, but before you get anywhere, you will have to climb 184 steps of a concrete staircase. What I loved about it was that it was numbered, so you know exactly how many steps more to go. It allowed us to pace ourselves. The trail was also covered in trees so it felt breezy, and the stairs were built well enough to make the ascent less tiring.

The entrance of the cave is called “the aviary”, and to us, was already very inviting. When we saw it, we immediately got excited. It was brightly sunlit, and was home for lots of bird species.

The 2nd chamber is called “the Divine Room”, and is the highlight of the cave. It houses a solemn chapel where they hold mass every first Saturday of the month.
The 3rd is “the Dark Room” which, as its name connotes, is very dark that you have to navigate slowly through it.

The 4th is “the Cream Room”. It got its name from the cream-colored stone structure that looked like three scoops of Ice Cream. Our guide said she could serve us Pandan, Mocha or Vanilla flavor.

The 5th is “the Jungle Area” where you can find structures like a lion (similar to Baguio’s Lion head), the Merlion ( similar to Singapore’s) and a turtle kissing a lion.

The 6th is “the Sun Room” where light shines through between 8-10 am.

We weren’t able to enter the final chamber as Anne said it is not open to the public for now, as it is already quite steep.



Up close, it looks like Jesus with his crown of ferns, and an Angel.

2nd Stop: Pinacanuan River Boating and Bat Watching

We spent time around the cave, looking at the different formation, and taking lots of pictures. We finished at around 5:30 pm, so Anne suggested we go boating around the Pinacanauan river to watch the bats come out. It was 600 pesos for a boat for 15 persons, but we were only 4. Eager to save on our budget, we asked other people if they were willing to join us, until we were able to form a group of 12.

We cruised the serene river during sunset. It was amazing. We stopped at an area where there was a cave opening, and waited for the bats to come out. It took a while, but when they did, they were swarming. There were thousands of them, all flying as if synchronized, in a slithering snake like formation as they flew into the sky. Everyone clapped watching the bats. We watched for a good 15 minutes until the bats looked real small and dispersed. We then headed back to shore.
Note: For those who would like to spend the night in Callao Cave, there is a resort across it. This is beneficial for those who want to explore the other caves around the area. One of those that Anne suggested was the Sierra cave which is a whole new set of adventure since you will need to crawl through mad to get through it.

3rd Stop: Pancit Batil Patong

We were told to try “pancit batil patong”, a specialty in Tuguegarao, so we asked our driver to take us to a legit one. He took us to a carinderia named J Ren which was the only thing open since it was late, but OMG best 70 pesos meal ever for the mega ( everything in it ) dish. Their servings were also very generous. We ordered 2 of those for 4 people, but even so, we struggled trying to finish it all.



Hotel Villa Blanca Php 300 for a dorm room with bathroom
Tricycle Roundtrip Php 600/ group
Entrance of Callao Cave Php 20/ headp
Bat Watching Boat Php 600 for 15 people
Pancit Batil Patong Php 70 but good for 2 people

Other Places of Interest

Calvary – Found in the town of Iguig . It has all 14 huge stations of the cross on top of a hill.
Visit Our Lady of Piat Basilica Mayor
Sierra Cave
Bunton Bridge – Second longest bridge in the country and offers an unobstructed view of the Cagayan River


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14 thoughts on “Exploring Up North : Tuguegarao

  1. Stunning places!! Love the boat ride at the end of the day.
    My husband and I have visited Philippines beginning of the year, and we are planning to go back by December or January… You post arrived in the right time, as we are planning and thinking where we might go this time!

  2. I’m going caving here in the USA in a few weeks, but it will be nothing like this! Every place has paved walkways and railings. I love how you got to just walk around and explore your surrounding!

  3. Wow! They first paragraph had me wondering….why in the world? But the rest of the article cleared that up. What an incredible experience! Thanks for sharing. This is now on my list of places to see!
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  4. Absolutely incredible photos! And how brave to just jump right in and lead! We went through our first cave this year and it got us hungry for more – this is now on our list of places to see!!

  5. I never heard of this place, and thank you for sharing! 🙂 I want to check this out when I visit Philippines in the future 😀 I love how you literally took the guy’s joke – “You can ride on the roof”. haha 🙂 I’m loving your blog by the way! I really enjoy reading your posts 😀

    1. Thank you for appreiciating. I think I tend to go for something “crazy” so the moment he said that I just said “yes”. Besides aerial view gives another perspective. It was different from up there. I could see more ( given I am really short ) .

  6. oh it’s the perfect cave for the evil planning! i like how linear the benches are while complementing to the edgy, rock formations. Seems a forum is yet to happen. Perfect also for special halloween party!

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