When I used to think about Samar, all that floods into my head are the San Juanico bridge, Biri Islands, and the infamous tale of “Biringan City“. The rest? Well, they’re just all blacked out. Let alone cave explorations like in Gobingob Cave. I hate to admit but I really had no idea what gems lie within the island. I can’t even believe that out of the neighboring islands of Cebu, I haven’t been to the largest one which is Samar. Samar is like an island of mystery to me. But all of those preconceptions changed as I, for the first time, stepped on the island and splashed colors to it in my head.
From seas to summits, I’ve been feeding my experiences and flooding my blog with those adventures, but never have I ventured for an adventure underground. Yes, underground, beyond 6ft deep, UNDERGROUND. For the first time, I am about to go on an extreme caving. Well, I did not even have a slight idea how extreme it will be. I experienced caving before in Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, but it was like a touristy kind of experience. Never the hassle, never a challenge. This time, it is different. We are about to experience the insides of the country’s largest cave and one of Asia’s biggest, by far, the Gobingob Cave in Calbiga, Samar.
How do I define and remember Gobingob Cave? Well, Gobingob Cave has a system that expands up to several kilometers in length and with chambers so big that it can house stadiums and grandstands.
It was in this cave that I got a new set of eyes. Eyes that see the world completely different from the surface. The Gobingob Cave is connected with another cave called Langun. These caves served as our shelter for more than 2 days during our adventure in the island of Samar.
We arrived at our meeting place just in time. While waiting for Sir Joni and the rest of the company, we hurriedly bought necessary supplies from the nearby market. Fresh meat was out from our option since we will be out for an adventure for more than 2 days. We opted for canned goods and meticulously budgeted the measure for each meal. Back at our meeting place, we did our last checking and preparations. It was then when Sir Joni and the gang arrived, we signed a waiver and then off we went.
Getting to the cave’s mouth, one has to hire a motorcycle to get you through the narrow winding roads heading to the jump-off point. It was the easiest and the least challenging part of the entire adventure until the rain started pouring down. We all got soaked-up but we have no choice but to dance with the rain’s rhythm. Getting wet is not a problem unless you are sensitive to cold temperatures like me.
The whole experience started with an hour of mountain trek heading to the mouth of Gobingob Cave. It was not an easy trek though, we have to pass through several uphills with our bags fully loaded. I salute the porters who not only carried humongous bags with our gears on it but were also just wearing simple slippers.
The gloomy weather was a blessing. There was no piercing sun during our uphill trek. If it was sunny that time, then I would have passed out.
Seeing the mouth and facade of the cave from afar, I could not help but be awed by its size. I can’t believe it was actually that big and wide. Getting near and witnessing it from just a few feet away is another story. It was scary and thrilling at the same time. Anticipating and imagining the wonders we are about to see gave me shivers.
How to handle pooping while inside the cave?
Before we jumped on our main journey, Sir Joni gave us a brief orientation and background history of the cave and the nature of caving itself. Also, on what to do and what not. One thing that sparked my interest and curiosity is how to address personal necessities and hygiene inside the cave. Well, especially *coughs* pooping. Not getting a proper bath and shower is not an issue. But surviving for a few days without pooping? Well, man, that’s another story.
I know myself very well. I can’t survive even a day holding it in. My friends and my adventure buddies know that I’m the man known for pooping every damn destination I go. I’m near having “expert in making a cat hole in the mountains” tag in my profile. But yeah, got to deal what’s about to happen. Que sera, sera!
Poop for souvenirs?
It doesn’t mean you really have to hold in your poop. It’s just that you have to pack your poop and bring it with you until you get out of the cave where you can dispose of it properly. The thought of carrying my squishy-warm poop in my backpack, as if a cute quick-time souvenir (sorry for the explicit description) bothers me a lot. But I am not a man who gives no solution. I brought with me OTC medications to stop the spawn from hell from being born into the world. Loperamide to the rescue!
The start of the adventure
“Okay, let’s go!” signaled Sir Joni. Excited and thrilled, we started our descent down the mouth of Gobingob cave. It felt like entering a giant’s mouth.
As you go deeper inside the cave, the temperature drops and you’ll notice breaths form clouds in the air. The light starts fading then your eyes will slowly adjust to the light.
My sight failed to acknowledge what’s in front of me. Everything was pitch black until we turned on our headlamps. That was the moment I got a slight hint of how big the cave is.
Our fully blasted headlamps were still not enough to illuminate even the ceilings of the cave. We were literally being dwarfed inside the cave’s chamber. The size of the cave alone was enough to stun me in awe.
Few meters away from the cave’s mouth is a small portal towards another chamber where we will be pitching our camp. It has been a tradition to kiss the portal’s stone wall before entering the chamber as a sign of respect and a wish for good luck and safe ventures.
I thought the cave has an all flat ground, but to my surprise, there are several hills or mountains, I must say, that we still have to go through. Those are no ordinary hills or mountains, but piles of boulders and clusters of dead stalagmites.
Prepare to literally get down and dirty as you pass through the muddy trails heading towards the camping site. It really tested my skipping and balancing skills as I avoided getting stuck on the mud. Several meters and we were at the camping site.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as it was too wide and spacious to fit several basketball courts inside. It was past 3 in the afternoon when we settled in the camping area and rested for a while. We laid down our camping mats and prepared our early dinner. It was by that moment I remembered I left my other bag with my camera on it outside the cave’s entrance where Sir Joni gave us a quick briefing. One of the guides, Kuya Lando to the rescue! I couldn’t thank Kuya Lando more for volunteering to recover my bag.
After dinner, we recharged and took a nap before venturing out for our midnight cave exploration. Eight in the evening and we packed everything we need inside our dry bags. “Okay let’s do this!” says my mind.
Sir Joni and several porters were with us as our guide. The whole exploration was a combination of fun, disappointments, and learnings. At the same time, it was also filled with challenges and tests.
Traversing through the chambers will fill your eyes with spectacles. Pristine stalactites, towering stalagmites, and glittering stones as if embedded with diamonds are all around inside the cave.
The scale of the chambers alone literally stuck me in awe on how big the cave really is. Not only the mere size of the cave but also the fact that there is an entire living ecosystem inside the cave will explode your thoughts.
Albino crabs, blind fishes, bats, snakes, birds, and huge crickets and other insects made the cave entirely a sustainable ecosystem.
The danger the cave is facing.
Because of its raw beauty, the Gobingob Cave has been a victim of abuse. The might and size of the cave failed to exempt it from the past abuses of extortionist. It is still suffering from the trauma of past hoarding of its precious stalagmites and stalactites. FYI: An inch of each stalactite and stalagmites take thousands of years to form. Evidence of the hoarding is still present inside the cave.
Not only that, we were able to pick-up plastic trash inside the cave. Trash either left there by irresponsible or uneducated visitors or locals or was washed-up during flood seasons. On the positive note, locals and the local government units have already started their campaigns in educating the people with regards to the preservation of the natural wonders of the island.
A challenging exploration
Catching up with the pace of the cave master and the other guides is a challenge, especially when coursing through the large boulders. You need to have quick reflexes.
Not knowing if the rock is slippery or not, you have to be very extra careful. What made it more challenging is the fact that you have to use all your four limbs to grip and balance yourself while passing through the ridges and avoid falling into the dark abyss of whatever is below.
A hassle for me was the occasional fogging of my eyeglasses. So I have to take them off and make the most of my blurry vision. Well thank goodness and I survived the entire exploration without wearing them.
The whole exploration lasts for more than five hours of almost endless challenging trek.
To be honest, I was really exhausted during our exploration. My energy tank completely depleted. I felt like I could give up, but the eagerness to complete the adventure gave me another set of life to complete the course. It was not only me but most of us were really burned-up. But nothing replenish your soul than the feeling of accomplishment.
The adventure does not stop at the end of the trail. You still have to traverse on the same trail back to the camping site.
But this time at a faster pace and lesser resting time. Arriving at the camping chamber, we did not go directly back to out mats. Few meters away from our camping spot is a deep pool where we washed our bodies and clothes from the sweat and dirt. The pool is cold and relaxing but at the same time scary since we don’t know how deep it is and what’s lying deep down the pool. And yet, we still enjoyed it like kids.
Changing clothes was a liberating experience. Privacy is never really a concern as you can actually get naked right on the spot you are standing as long as no one flashes light on you. Complete darkness, that’s one way I can describe the insides of the cave. It was already around 2 AM when we finally took our rest to replenish our energy for tomorrow’s another set of adventure.
Special thanks to Sir Joni Bonifacio
Sir Joni Bonifacio is a cave master in Samar. He is one of the few people with the drive to explore and promote the caves and other natural attractions on the island. Sir Joni Bonifacio is a man of adventure with a vision. He sees Samar’s tourism on the pedestal some day. His aim to promote the tourism of the island and his effort to achieve this is beyond compare.
My sincere thanks to Sir Joni for letting us experience this wonderful and different kind of adventure. It was truly a memorable and mind-opening experience. I experienced so many new things during the entire adventure.
HOW TO EXPERIENCE LANGUN- GOBINGOB CAVE ADVENTURE
- I highly recommend you contact Sir Joni Bonifacio. Here’s how and why:
- Experienced cave master. With caving experience for more than two decades.
- Equipped with essential gears and tools.
- Has a network of cave guides in contact.
- Passionate about promoting the island’s cave tourism.
- Educates and orients guests on what to do and what not.
- Equips guests with information and facts with regards to caving.
- Very informative. All fun. No worries. Very accommodating.
- You can contact him through his website: https://trexplore.ph
NOTES and REMINDERS
- There are several notes to observe when staying inside the cave. So listen attentively during orientations.
- Your safety lies in how you comply with the rules and guides set by the cave master.
- All that glitters are for the eyes only. Don’t touch the pristine stalagmite and stalactite formations.
- Never litter.
- Bring dry tissue papers, wet wipes, and alcohol for personal hygiene. You’ll be spending several days with no shower.
- Bring enough potable water for consumption for several days.
- The trek exploration can be very exhausting that’ll make you consume a lot of water.
- Bring extra batteries for your gadgets and flashlights.
- If you have a sensitive stomach, better be prepared with OTC medications like loperamide.
- Lastly, enjoy and appreciate the world inside the cave
- Don’t forget your souvenir pictures.