My Near Death Experience in Central Cave, Was it Worth it?
People from our island usually go to the cities like Manila and Cebu to study for college so we can receive better education. Whenever I go to other places, they often ask me where I am from because of my different accent. Most of them were not familiar of Samar because it used to be an unknown place. I often get the question, “Samar, saan ‘yun? Anong makikita dun? (Samar, where is that? What can we see there?)” Our island was not a popular tourist spot compared to the other places in the Philippines like Cebu, Boracay, Palawan, etc. I felt embarrassed for not being able to answer their questions because I myself didn’t know what’s in our island. At that time, Samar was not yet featured in any travel magazine, newspaper, or blog. Our local government didn't focus much on tourism until Governor Sharee Ann Tan, the founder of Spark Samar, was elected. Most of us were clueless. I started my exploration in 2015 after I got acquainted with whom we call “cavemaster”, Mr. Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore Adventures, and from then on I always go with him whenever I want to explore our own island. Although there are other local tour guides around, I am confident going around only with him because nobody else in our island has the necessary equipment for all the extreme adventures that we have to go through. Unlike other islands, I can say that Samar is only for adventurous people and not for the faint-hearted. That’s probably why our island is rarely visited by tourists. If you only want to go sight-seeing and have a peaceful vacation, our island may not be for you; but if you are looking for challenge and yearning to experience adrenaline rush, exploring our island is worth it.
What can Samar offer? Aside from having beautiful rivers and waterfalls, Samar is also the caving capital of the Philippines. There’s a cave in almost every town. We already have more than 100 discovered caves. Some still remain unexplored. So far, I had visited three caves, those in San Jorge, Jiabong, and Calbiga, but I had not seen the cave in my own hometown (Catbalogan) yet. In 11 September 2017, I was invited again by cavemaster Joni to explore Central Cave. It is located in Brgy. San Andres Catbalogan, Samar. The barangay is just a few meters away from our house, but we still have to trek for about three hours to reach the cave.
My Adventure Diary
We started leaving at 7:30 a.m. We just rode a tricycle, our local vehicle for public transport, since Brgy. San Andres is just very near to the center of town.
On our halfway to the cave, we suddenly saw a green snake. I was petrified because I have viperophobia. By checking its structure, I was certain it’s venomous. It looks like Bothriechis guifarroi, a highly poisonous snake, but I’m not sure if they’re the same species. According to the locals, it usually attacks the head of its victims. My eyes opened wide when the snake suddenly turned its head towards us. I was not able to take a picture of it because I was horrified to get near it. I wanted to stop and just go back; but we were already halfway, so I just took courage to keep going. I just remembered what our Zoology professor told us when I was still a student: snakes don’t attack unless they consider you a threat. I just ran fast as I passed the snake.
|Snake we saw while trekking. Photo by Joni Bonifacio|
|How to distinguish poisonous and non-poisonous snake|
After two hours and forty minutes of trekking, we finally reached the cave. If we didn’t stop to take a rest and walked faster, I think we will reach it in just two hours. However, the path was very slippery, so we needed to be extra careful. I got so exhausted that I almost pass out while climbing the mountain. I also forgot to bring my medicine.😅 Anyway, I made it. We had lunch before going inside the cave so we can have energy.
We went inside the cave one-by-one. Lai went in first, next is Gly, third is me, then Fathema, and lastly our cavemaster. Among all of us, I was the most ridiculous. I was the only one who was not able to practice rappelling. I almost had an accident because I did everything on the spot. While descending the cave, I suddenly couldn’t grip the red instrument, so I was stuck in the middle while rappelling. When I pressed it hard, I slipped very fast. Good thing there was another backup rope that was held by our porters and cavemaster, so I was saved. Cavemaster said the backup rope was necessary. If we didn’t have it, it’s possible for me to slip and hit the rock bottom. Goodbye, Jon. LOL It was very scary at first. It took me a lot of time before I decided to go down. My heart palpitated and my body shook especially when the rope was bouncing. I was relieved when I reached the ground safely.
|Preparing our lunch because we were famished|
|Closer shot of cave entrance/exit|
|Lai was the only one smiling while going down.|
We explored the cave for about three hours. Unlike other caves where their stalactites and stalagmites have already been discoloured, a few of those in Central cave still remain white. Most of the crystals were shining and shimmering. It’s a beautiful cave indeed.
We used single rope technique when we went out of the cave. I didn’t look down so I wouldn’t be distracted. I was afraid that I might slip if I lose my concentration. Cavemaster said it’s impossible for us to slip because we have a safety harness wrapped on our body, but, you know, my imagination is always horrid. It’s better to be safe than sorry. When I was almost near the hole, I suddenly couldn’t move the yellow instrument that we used to go up. Damn, I was stuck again! Good thing that I was really near, so the porters just dragged me up. I was sweating when I finally got out of it. I thought I couldn’t make it. I am forever grateful to my cavemates for their support and to our cavemaster and porters for their help and guidance in the exploration. I really think I was lucky to be with the group. I finally had a breath of fresh air when everything else was finished. I swear you shouldn’t go to that cave without cavemaster Joni if you still want to go out alive!
Realizations after my experience
1. I learned to trust people. If I did not the follow instructions, I wouldn't have the chance to write this blog anymore.
2. Ask help when needed; it doesn't mean you are weak. No matter how independent I thought I was, I still need other people in order to be safe.
3. Humility is necessary when going out for adventures. Even when we think we know everything, we still need to follow other people’s advice.
4. Being friendly with others goes a looooong way.
5. There are some things that should not be rushed no matter how excited you are to reach that point. Patience is a virtue. It's better to do things slowly but surely.
6. Misfortunes aren't always bad. Sometimes, they make our stories more interesting. 😉
Important things to take note before/while caving (DON’T MISS READING THIS!)
1. Always go with a trusted tour guide who has complete caving equipment.
2. Don’t miss practicing how to rappel. If I was able to practice, I could have avoided experiencing any misfortune. 📌
3. Condition your body. You need to be physically fit so you won’t get exhausted right away. I highly recommend strength training exercises so you can have strong arms, legs, and core.
4. Don’t leave anything but footprints. Make sure to preserve the cleanliness of our environment or else the ghosts of the caves will haunt you and you will never be able to return. 😝
5. Don’t try to kill wild animals unless it's already a matter of life and death. If you attack them while they are not doing anything to you, they will retaliate and there will be a higher chance that you will be killed by them. Remember the snake? Good thing we didn’t touch it. There was also a fox while we were in Calbiga cave, but it did nothing to us.
6. Having presence of mind is very important! Never ever let yourself be distracted by anything (not even by your crush or your ex-boyfriend).
Photos inside Central Cave
|Photo of Fathema while rappelling (Left: no flash; Right: with flash)|
So, what do you think? Was taking risks really worth it? Let me know your opinion. Comment below. :)
Central Cave is not really risky as long as you have proper gears and equipment. My only mistake was I didn't go to the practice for rappelling because I was busy on that day. It was also my first time to rappel. Next time, I promise I won't dare miss any practice. ^_^
Cavemaster, Trexplore Adventures
Allen Avenue Catbalogan, Samar
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