Pineapples, caves and angel wings

Rhea Claire Madarang
Caving — among other things — is more fun in Samar

ONE OF THE SPECTACULAR formations in Lobo Cave is appropriately named 'Angel Wings.' Photo by Joni Bonifacio

MANILA, Philippines – With the largest cave in the Philippines and the most number of caves (100 explored caves and an estimated 1,000 more unexplored) Samar Island is easily the country’s caving capital.

Overwhelmed by this sheer number, I decided that exploring just one or two during my visit to Samar would be enough. I was staying in Samar’s city capital, Catbalogan, and the caves in the municipality of Jiabong were among the closest.

I signed up for a whole-day caving tour, not knowing what else to expect aside from the usual spelunking through stalactites, stalagmites and interesting cave formations.

I got much more than that.

Breathtaking scenery, sweet pineapples

A JIABONG FARMER CARRIES the local pride on his back. Photo by Claire Madarang

To get to Lobo Cave in Jiabong, my caving guide and I had to trek up and down a hill, and trek some more.

Up on the hill was a small, quiet barangay that occasionally came alive with children’s animated laughter. The children were friendly and wished us well on our adventure. 

Once my guide and I passed the barangay, we were greeted by tall grass, a smattering of trees and men carrying baskets of freshly harvested pineapples on their backs. I got one and bit into the sweetest, juiciest pineapple I ever tasted. Its juice dribbled copiously down my chin.

The pineapples were planted in rich upland soil, whose plantations we saw later during our trek. I soon learned that the people of Jiabong take pride in their pineapples.

THE VIEW PRE-EXPLORATION is already something. Photo by Claire Madarang

As we progressed in our trek, the scenery unfolded into a panoramic view of neighboring mountains and the pale gray sea in the distance.

After we went down, we trudged through dry, rocky river beds before arriving at Lobo Cave’s entrance.

Climbing, sliding and swimming

Lobo Cave is a visual treat with its glittering crystals, pointed stalactites and stalagmites, and waterfalls.

It was quite an adventure weaving through rocks; I was all hands and knees sometimes. In some parts, we had to wade through water; in other parts, we had to swim.

The most challenging part for me was scaling a cave hole and wall: finding stable handholds and footholds was not easy, despite careful instructions from my guide. Thankfully, I was tied to a harness the whole time for safety.

I rested while having lunch by the waterfalls afterwards.

(Left) SCALING THE WALL. (Right) Playing with mud. Photo by Joni Bonifacio

My guide revealed to me that despite Lobo Cave’s challenges, even kids have safely “conquered” it in the past.

The kids would have undoubtedly had fun in Lobo’s “mud bath.” I certainly did!

There is an area in the cave with thick mud, and it was inclined enough that I had no trouble having one mud slide after another. My guide half-joked that the mud would make an excellent facial, given its minerals. He assured me that I could get covered in mud from head to toe since the mud would be rinsed out anyway once we swam to the cave’s exit.

So I “muddied” myself to my heart’s content.

PANAGHOYAN HAS SHORT, NUMEROUS stalactites. Photo by Joni Bonifacio

We left Lobo by early afternoon and with time to spare so my guide added another cave to our tour, Panaghoyan.

Panaghoyan is smaller, with smaller cave formations as well. Most of the cave is immersed in water, so navigating it required a cool and refreshing swim through dome-like passageways.

Cooling down with a canoe ride

THE SCENERY DURING THE canoe ride is a balm to a body spent by caving

After the uphill trek and the exploration of two caves, I was beat.

The canoe ride through Panaghoyan River en route to the main road was a relaxing end to the tour. Towering rocks with greenery, hills, nipa palms, other canoes and bamboo poles used to catch mussels rolled past us as our boatmen paddled us through green waters.

I went home thoroughly spent but happy, resolving to come back to Samar to explore more caves.

Next time, I might even have the guts to try the more challenging adventure of 3 days and 2 nights of caving. –


For details on Samar caving tours, contact Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore.

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