Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pinagrealan Cave
Spelunking! ...the real kind!
No. This is NOT a codeword for something nasty.

7th of January, 2007

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu

Previous Post: Another Funeral

(Click here for the Prequel)

Kate was as cute as ever, even after a few years of marriage and raising a child. Her husband is a very lucky guy, I thought. Being a highschool classmate, she invited us (cousin Marco and I) for a quick dessert at their place in Barangay Buenavista that Sunday Afternoon of the 7th of January. It was from Marco - who himself is Kate's daughter's Godfather - where she learned that I was here on vacation.

We talked, caught up to the past ten years, and so on and so forth. 

Now, people ask me about what it's like living in Canada all the time. And the same was no different with her. I however, got the impression that she wasn't just asking out of curiousity, but actually to explore the idea that they, as a family, may migrate there.

Hmmn... I'm dying to explore the Philippines and people here are dying to get out.

Marco and I said our goodbye's rather quick so we could hurry home to pick up our cousins, Francis and Fritz. We were going to Pinagrealan Cave. We found out about this cave on an unplanned trip to Hilltop, a few days ago, and we couldn't just resist exploring this feature further. The two of us tried to go in the first time we saw it, but found it impossible without any lighting of any sort. This time we brought flashlights, non-slip footwear, and slightly more appropriate clothing (the kind you won't regret tearing).

The Mini Cruiser (baby FJ40) was hauling ass. Marco was giving her the lead foot. He really wanted to get there quick. We had left Kate's place past 2pm, and we were in danger of running out time. The 'park' where Pinagrealan Cave is situated closes at 6pm.

We got there around to 3pm and were disappointed to find out that a large group of people were there also exploring and had gone in right before us. So much for that "undiscovered" feel that we were looking for.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hF5H87CBjo0/UsuMQgC0i4I/AAAAAAAAAjU/2AzyDOL9IoY/s1600/IMG_0094.JPGWell, it turns out that this may have worked to our favour. If it hadn't been for the knowledge that some people had gone in ahead of us, we may have not had the courage to have kept on exploring further and further inside. The cave is not like the popularized movie caves that I was expecting. It was not dry, and there were no cobwebs. Instead, the presence of an underground stream (itself perhaps responsible for creating the cave itself) made things very very wet indeed. There were numerous sinkholes and water filled passages that we had to cross. Some of them above my waist. At the time, I wondered, how much more water fills these chambers during the wet season? I was already pretty close to being up to my neck in water. I imagined a sudden downpouring of rain over the mountain above increasing the underground stream's flow and trapping us inside the cave.

And then there was the darkness. Our flashlights' batteries were on the weak side - so much for coming in prepared. To preserve the batteries and to keep ourselves from catching up to the group ahead of us (whom we could hear), we would halt and turn off our lights. Now, darkness inside a cave is darker than the darkest night. At night there's moonshine and starlight. In a zig-zagging cave, there is nothing beyond the opening. Your eyes could adjust as much as they can, but when there's no light to pick up on, there is absolutely nothing but pitch black. And even when the flashlights were on, we could see only whatever they illuminated - nothing else. Pinagrealan's walls aren't even the least bit reflective. (photos were aided by flash photography)

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-bVwZeSIA4Eo/UsuMUSUhFWI/AAAAAAAAAjc/s96nVatLu6o/s1600/IMG_0098.JPGOh, and there too were the sounds. Inside an irregularly shaped, naturally occuring, rock-walled tunnel, sounds carry on forever and reverberate in all directions. Had it been a cave that branches off into numerous little chambers, we could have lost each other easily. Good thing Marco let out a booming fart to ease the tension.

We made it to only about as far as 200meters in because from there on, it gets harder. To ease my disappointment that we didn't (and couldn't) plow through towards the harder parts, I told myself a Monty Python-esque joke. From where the cave transitions from easy to difficult, there would be a sign that reads "Experienced Spelunkers only from this point". There will be an ornery gatekeeper who will quiz people who wish to enter, but those inexperienced or don't know the act are turned away...

...whatever. It was funny in my head. Probably would have made for a great sketch though!

The trek back out was a lot easier and faster. There was less of the "I don't know what the heck's ahead of me so I'm gonna take one step at a time very VERY carefully" factor, I suppose. There was less of the creepyness too. Our eyes and brains had gotten used to the mere snapshots of the terrain ahead that our narrow beam flashlights provided, that each step was taken with so much more confidence. As well, we knew that the water crossings couldn't soak us to our heads - at least not at this time of the year.

We met the fading light of day that greeted us at the Cave's mouth with such relief.

"Whew!" I exclaimed, "we made it!"

All in all, a very easy cave to explore. But the novelty of doing something for the first time ever - that of exploring a cave - makes it a very memorable part of this Existential Trip.

It was another one of those things where you go, "Who knew there was one of these things just here, right in our backyard?"

Flickr Photoset.

Next Post: I am Randy's Existential Trip

Upon further research:

Pinagrealan Cave Norzagaray, Bulacan This major cave in Norzagaray is a natural refuge used by Filipinos during the struggle against Spain and the Americans and during the last world war. Floral species observed on the hills encompassing the cave are limited to shrubs, vines, cogon and some types of plants that thrive on limestone with very thin soil substrate. A few unidentified birds are noted flying over the loose canopies of the thicket. Inside the cave, which averages about 4 meters by 2.5 meters in height and width, is a quite and crystal-clear stream which extends to some 200 meters to a point where the ill-equipped team can no longer penetrate due to deep water. Fauna observed include shrimps, biya, and bivalves. Sounds of nocturnal bats, which are few as characterized by unnoticeable guano excretes, are also heard. Stalactites and stalagmites abound after passing through two passages 10 meters from the portal, which converges some 20 meters to the underground stream. Numerous sinkholes, columns, uneven vertical fractures, domes, flowstones and fossilized flora and fauna are embedded in the limy sand-stones that form some parts of the cave wall. This subterranean network of caverns was the site of secret meetings of the Filipino revolutionary forces during the war against Spain in 1896.
Source Webpage

Here's another site worth visiting.


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