Contributed by Bean in Transit
I don’t know why but Argao is one of the towns in Cebu which holds a special place in my heart next to Boljoon and Santander. I’ve been meaning to visit the town for some time but I only got the chance to do so when my friends and I decided to explore Balay sa Agta cave.
This cave had been in my travel journal for months and I’ve been trying to invite my friends and partner. I kept insisting until my best friend Charlyn as well as my sister and her boyfriend relented. Happy that I was able to convince them, I then called Argao Tourism Office to start my inquiries.
I was assisted by Jotham, one of the Tourism officers in Argao Tourism office. He was very accommodating and answered all my inquiries patiently.
Jotham said that the best time to enter the cave would be in the morning, preferably around 8 or 9 as streams of sunlight are best seen at the centre of the cave.
In the end, there were only three of us since my sister had a bad scrape on her foot after she got into a motorcycle accident when we went to Sirao.
Argao is two hours away from the city and we arrived at the bus stop at exactly 8 AM. We ate breakfast first at one of the carenderias near the market before we proceeded to the Tourism Office. When we arrived at the office, we had to wait for awhile for our designated habal-habal drivers and guide. We also had to wait because it started raining just as we were all suited up with the gears.
The travel time from the tourism office to the cave’s location which is at Baranggay Conalum is about an hour. It was like Cebu City to San Fernando minus the decent roads. Wa na’y mas sakit sa lubot atong biyahe-a. 😀
Now, this is where adventure begins.
You will have to trek for about 20 – 30 minutes on a steep and dangerous trail before you will reach the cave’s entrance. As you can see on the picture above, the right side of the path is already a cliff. That’s about 500 metres deep, according to our guide. You’ll have to be very careful when trekking on this part. I read somewhere before that a mountaineer already tripped and died in this treacherous trail. Yikes.
The good thing about arranging the trip with the Argao Tourism Office is that the tour package already includes gears such as straps, harness, headlamp and hard hat.
Balay sa Agta entrance
Our guide, Kuya Nasser, gave us a quick briefing at the entrance about what to expect, what to do and what not to do inside the cave. The trek towards the dead end takes about an hour.
As soon as we turned on our headlamps and started moving towards the darkness, a sudden breeze of cold air welcomed us. It was total darkness!
The cave smells bat shit but I would say the smell is so much better compared to Puerto Princesa’s Underground River. Bats there shit bombs.
The trail is also challenging since it is slippery as there is water inside and you will have to rely on your headlamp (and camera flashes :D) to see what you are stepping at.
Stalactites and stalagmites are clearly visible along the way. There’s one stalagmite that looked like a bao or turtle.
About half-way through the trek, we reached the centre of the cave that has an opening which means – SOURCE OF LIGHT!
At one point, we reached a portion at the left side of the cave where there is another pathway going up. Kuya Nasser told us that only experienced cavers and rock climbers are allowed to go there since you will have to swim to cross to the other side of the cave. Nah, thanks. The idea of swimming in the dark, not knowing what to expect at the other side, sent goosebumps all over my body.
At the end of the trek, there’s a small opening when we looked up which gave us a small view of light. There was a rock formation which we couldn’t clearly identify. To make things more exciting, Kuya Nasser then asked us to turn off our headlamps so we can fully immerse in this caving experience. In no time at all, there was total darkness except for the small opening above us. There we saw that the rock formation which looked like a human form holding a tobacco. It is believed to be the Agta called Mangao who was Maria Cacao’s husband. ← Check out the link for details.
We were supposed to go to Bugasok Falls right after the trek but we chose not to since the falls was murky that time and not available for swimming. Our trek ended with us devouring torta and sikwate at Jessie’s Homemade Torta.
- To get to Argao, ride a bus bound for Cebu south (Bato-Oslob, Bato-Oslob via Liloan Port or Cebu-Dumaguete) at the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Inform the driver you will be stopping at the Argao bus stop.
- Since going to Balay sa Agta cave requires a guide, you will need to schedule the tour with the Argao Tourism Office. You may call them at 4858063. Their office location is just walking distance from the bus stop. It’s located near the St. Michael Archangel Church.
- Best wear trekking shoes or any closed shoes in general that is good for trekking.
- Pack light. It’s best not to bring a big backpack to avoid tripping en route to the cave.
- Bring extra clothes, slippers or shoes and drinking water.
- Bus fare from Cebu City to Argao cost around 80-90 pesos. The tour package costs 600 pesos inclusive of round trip transportation (habal-habal) from tourism office to the cave’s location, a guide, gears, entrance fee, permit and, snacks. Sulit kaayo, promise!