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Kasibu Cave Systems

Baranggay Capisaan and Alayan, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya

After climbing several peaks, my mountaineer friends were ready for a different kind of adventure...spelunking towards the deep bowels of the earth. A good friend, Naidz of MMS, led the expedition while working hand in hand with the great guys of Sang-at Salug (literally, "Ascent Descent," when you translate the Ilocano term), a dedicated outdoor club based in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya, and the local cave guides of Baranggay Capisaan, in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

The aftermath of super-typhoon Feria might have left most of Northern Luzon devastated, but it certainly was not able to touch the underground paradise of the Kasibu Caves System in Baranggays Capisaan and Alayan in Nueva Vizcaya. It did not dampen our enthusiasm either. Naidz had to defer our schedule to the next weekend (July 14 & 15, 2001) to give way to Feria. With a few e-mails, text messages, and telephone calls, our original party of four in the Ifugao villages last November is complete. This is more fun since we have more buddies from MMS, Pilipinas Sierra, and Cypress Outdoor Club.

Fields and streams

The two and a half hours trip to the upland town of Kasibu was an adventure treat in itself. Like children unleashed from school, we scampered for prime spots on the roof of our minibus-like jeepney bound for Kasibu. We acquired neat demarcations of suntanned and untanned skin on our arms and legs from doing this. But that's a small price to pay for viewing the changing panorama of the Malabing Valley countryside. The mountain ranges of the Cordillera and Sierra Madre fenced the horizon on both sides. Banana plantations gradually faded into dense forests with giant ferns, interspersed with vegetable and citrus farms (mostly Perante oranges) and rice paddies. Clear streams and brooks occasionally bisect the bumpy road our jeepney took.

Lion Entrance to the Kasibu Cave Sytems, Baranggay Capisaan
Photo by Vic Baloco, PSI
Lion Entrance to Capisaan Caves
Click to zoom

Doorways to the center of the earth

An underground river runs the length of the 4.6 kilometers from the Lion's Entrance (named because the rock face outside the entrance shows the image of a lion's face) on the northern side of the cave system, which we also chose as our entrance, down to the southern Alayan Entrance. In the middle is the Sang-at Salug Entrance where we chose to exit because the water level on the Alayan side was deep at that time.

Trail movement and rules

To enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of the caves was not an easy feat. We had to slush our way through muddy waters that sometimes reach shoulder-height level. We crawled our way through narrow cavities and duck-walked on narrow passages. We waded through deep pools, jumped over trenches and trekked on the underground terrain. We scrambled on rocks, tethered on narrow ledges and slid down steep drops.
Wading through the underground river inside the Capisaan Caves
Photo by Vic Baloco, PSI
Capisaan Caves underground river
Click to zoom

The three tenets of mountaineering: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time--- also holds true for spelunking. That, and more rules. Our cave guides divided us into small groups and placed a trail master and sweeper on each group. We are not supposed to touch any of the living formations that took millions of years to grow. We should move in single file on the established trails not just to minimize impact, but also to prevent us from wandering in the labyrinth of passages with certain portions still unmapped. Everyone should wear a flashlight! Do not leave any garbage, and no vandalism on the walls. Urination is absolutely not allowed because it will change the alkali content of the natural water inside.

Natural sculptures within the subterranean paradise
Natural formations inside the Capisaan Caves
Photo by Vic Baloco, PSI
Natural formations in Capisaan Caves
Click to zoom

Claustrophobia was the last thing I felt as we explored the inner recesses of the multi- chambered caves. Instead, my imagination ran wild on the various cave formations we saw. Nature sculpted some of the most fascinating stalactites and stalagmites in this subterranean paradise. They formed into curtains, solid waterfalls, pillars and columns (as stalactites and stalagmites meet), islands, castles, human figures and sometimes, well…. a group of erect male sex organs.

One chamber looked especially majestic as its ceiling was dotted with straw (so called for the stalactites that look like small tubes) glowing in the dark. In another chamber, the straws turned into huge, thick and pointed daggers, waiting to pierce anyone who makes a false move inside their domain. Another chamber can simply be described as heavenly, while we stopped to admire the immaculate living calcite and glowing crystal-like formations on the tunnel's walls. While entering a dark cavern with its entrance lined by overhanging enormous fangs, I got this eerie feeling, as if we were willingly submitting ourselves to be swallowed by the dark cavity of a monstrous dragon.
Straws dotting the ceilings of the Capisaan Caves
Photo by Tonton Rola, PSI
Straws illuminated the ceilings
Click to zoom

As mountaineers, we seek the refuge of the mountains we climb, where time stops in the stillness of its summits. In the quietude of the caves, we felt like spectators in the middle of an eternal process of building and growth. As mystic waters continue to drip from the overhanging stalactites to the upright stalagmites, we witnessed how a future is gradually shaped, how change within the subterranean universe goes on forever....

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