We are all familiar with its irregular crevices, multiple galleries, entrances, exits and shafts. Its fossil passages are adorned with various stalactites and stalagmites. It’s dark and it’s cold. It’s eerie with its chambers full of secrets awaiting to be unraveled — or not.
Yes, you got it right. I’m referring to the morphology of caves.
Personally, I have not gone to many caves in the country. My up-close encounter would only include Hito-og Cave in Matalom, Hinangdanan Cave in Bohol, Titip Cave in Cebu, and Bontoc Caves in Hindang. The latter, I would say, is the most interesting by far.
Found in the sleepy town of Hindang is the thriving Hindang Caves & Wild Monkeys nature park. Locally known as Bontoc Caves, this is just one of the many destinations people can arrange when visiting Leyte. The park is managed by the LGU and for only 20 pesos, you can enjoy an all-day worthwhile leisure.
Upon entering the grounds, my siblings, James and I were warned of our untamed friends. These wild monkeys are local residents of the forest and guests are cautioned to watch their belongings for the monkeys can get playful.
To get to the caves, one must climb a concrete stairway canopied by tall trees and shrubs. The monkeys remain as onlookers waiting for treats (feeding them is prohibited) or something to steal (hold on to those phones and glasses).
Hindang Caves & Wild Monkeys has 6 to 8 cave system said to have served as refuge to guerillas and protected them from the Japanese bombings during the World War II. Among these are Pandayan Cave, Cathedral Cave, Lili-on Cave, Dahikon Cave, Pandong-Bato Cave, and Lusaron Cave.
Though dry and lifeless over geological epochs, these limestone solution caves are home to several life forms that are attracting (or deterring) tourists. The biggest and most interesting of eight is the Cathedral Cave.
I added deterring because not all tourists would dare to enter this particular cave. It is home to thousands of bats above and millions of cockroaches, crickets and other crawling creatures below.
At the entrance, one can already hear the squeaks and squawks that bats make in their roosts. Cathedral Cave is a naturally lighted cavern lit by sunlight which filters through a hole in the ceiling. It is a picturesque spot, however, the challenge is making it through the center. Aside from enduring the noise and the rancid smell of bat droppings or guano, one must brave walking to a cave floor filled with roaches. They glisten in faint light and you can feel them crawling on the ground.
James and I went deeper into the cave but had to turn our backs. I felt drops of urine on my skin while James was treated with a nice splatter of guano on his shirt. Perhaps we’ll try our luck next time.
We headed to Pandong-Bato Cave where locals put cemented tables and chairs for visitors to rest. It also offers a view of Hindang and Hilongos lowlands, as well as a glimpse of Canigao Island.
Pandayan Cave is the second of the largest chambers and is more accessible because it’s empty. Despite its barren stalactites and stalagmites, the cave still strikes an interest with its random formations. The rest of the interconnected cave complex are accessible only through spelunking.
To cap the nature park experience, guests may also ride the zipline from the mountaintop. Himokilan, one of the islands comprising Cuatro Islas, is also under the administrative jurisdiction of Hindang. I suggest though to take a 30-minute drive to the Diving Board located in Brgy. San Vicente and for only 5 pesos complete your summit to sea escapade. 🙂
Since 2011, Hindang Caves & Wild Monkeys is one of the four caves assessed by DENR-8 as part of its development and protection program. Even before the Paleolithic Era, men have lived and survived with bare hands, sticks and stones. And these caves carry much more story than any book could provide. So let’s take care of them, shall we?
If you ever go and do it for the Gram, take your trash with you — every piece, every gram.