They are mysterious realms where wonders are beyond imagination. They are places where the simplest decisions can mean the difference between life and death. Welcome to the alien world of caves. These dark chambers—hollowed out after millions of years of water erosion —are home to various biological and geological wonders.
Largely made up of soft limestones, the island of Samar has the perfect geological conditions for caves to form. As such, it has numerous caves, some of them unexplored. The island is often called the “Caving Capital of the Philippines.” Through the invitation of Joni Bonifacio, a professional cave master and proprietor of the Catbalogan-based tour services provider, Trexplore the Adventures, we explored several caves during a warm summer sojourn.
One of these caves is Lobo Cave, often described as one of the most beautiful and diverse caves in the Philippines. With its variety of underground environments, it is an ideal place for those looking for a great weekend adventure or want to experience a real cave.
Joni took us to the jump-off point at Barangay Tagbaya-on in the municipality of Jiabong. After meeting with our porters, whom Joni already coordinated with beforehand, we headed out to Lobo Cave. Getting there involved a short 30-minute hike up the hills (which offers amazing views by the way), down the farmlands, and finally, through a riverbank that led to the mouth of the cave itself. At this point, the entrance to Lobo Cave didn’t seem spectacular save for the green teeth-like stalactites that guard it.
We had a short briefing before we got suited up in overalls and helmets. Caves are not exactly the safest places in the world, but we can mitigate the danger by observing precautions and following an expert guide such as Joni. With two porters behind us, we entered Lobo Cave and into the darkness.
The first geological wonder that greeted our team were numerous blunt stalagmites and cave pearls, stones that have been polished by water erosion. They line the tunnel all the way to the Main Chamber, which serves as the hub of various tunnels that lead away from it. High above us, bats chirped noisily as mortals far below visited their realm.
There are amazing rock formations here. On one side of the chamber is a massive crystallized rock formation that looks like the cascades of a waterfall that is frozen in time. Called a rimstone dam, this type of formation can extend to several hundred feet.
Young, glittering speleothems adorn the walls of this chamber. Speleothems are mineral deposits that have accumulated on the cave walls for hundreds or thousands of years. They are stunning geological decorations, but care should be exercised when checking them out as they are quite fragile.
From the Main Chamber, Joni took us to a low, winding passageway that led to a dead-end room. Inside this room was one of the most spectacular rock formations we’ve ever seen. Joni called it The Angel, and we clearly saw how it got its name. In the middle of the room is a large stalagmite, which vaguely looks like a torso wrapped in a cloak. The top quarter of the stalagmite is joined by flowstones that resemble wings. Together, the rock formations resemble a mythological angel.
Furthermore, everything in this room glitters thanks to the millions of gypsum crystals embedded in the rock surfaces.
Another tunnel that connects to the Main Chamber led us to the Grand Canyon. It is actually the bottom of a large 200-meter long crevasse. The ceiling is so high that the light from our headlamps couldn’t reach it. But we knew there was one overhead because we could hear swallows as they flapped their wings.
The ground of the Grand Canyon felt quite strange. It was as if we were walking on very fine, ash-like sand. In fact, walking on it felt a bit labored and unnatural.
The Grand Canyon seems to be a waterway as we saw natural tub-like pools filled with clear, cool water. We took a dip in them to cool off in the humid cave.
While following the Grand Canyon to its very end, we could hear the faint but unmistakable flow of water. But we couldn’t find the source of the sound anywhere. Where was it coming from? Except for the pools we passed by earlier, everything else was quite dry.
Well, it turned out that there really is a river in the Lobo Cave system. But to access it, we needed to climb down the Diamond Hole, a slippery, wet rocky hole that is just big enough for a person to go through. For safety, we donned on a harness connected to a safety line that Joni rigged for us.
Lobo Cave River System
The underground river system of Lobo Cave is a wonder of creation. Fast-flowing water gushes out from a terrace waterfall, creating a magical curtain that sings the songs of the Earth.
We followed the river system upstream. Walking against the current was fine, but swimming against it was a bit challenging. We didn’t mind though because the cold water felt like a cooling balm against our skin.
You’ve probably heard or read about canyoning, right? Well, this is the same thing only it’s done inside the dark bowels of Samar! How cool is that!
In one corner of the river was the Mud Room, a small cavern whose floor is covered with wet, sticky mud. We rolled, lay down, and smeared mud all over ourselves. Why? Well, Joni said the mud has healing properties.
We had to be careful here because there were very fragile stalactites above our heads. One brush of our helmets and these stalactites could have broken.
We headed back to the Main Chamber where our porters served us a delicious lunch. Despite our heavy tummies and the strong urge to take a nap, we proceeded to the upper level of Lobo Cave. But to get there, we had to carefully traverse a near-vertical cliff where a fall could have definitely been injurious or even fatal. Joni rigged a safety rope from one end of the cliff to another so we could traverse safely.
The Dream Chamber was given its name because it has strange rock formations. We found massive flowstones hanging over the walls, weird chalice-like formations on the floor, bathtub-like pools, and giant chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
Strange creatures inhabit these lightless places. Aside from bats, we found albino crabs, crickets with very long antennas, and worms as thin as spider webs.
It took us around an hour to explore the Dream Chamber, trekking on uneven ground and swimming in an upper-level river.
At the end of the Main Chamber is the King’s Chamber. It was named as such because the stalagmites that dot the floor resemble people who are looking towards a throne-like rock formation far across the room.
Entering the King’s Chamber requires an unroped climb up a short cliff, so you better be careful.
Our Last Tranquil Adventure
After 7 hours in the darkness, we went back to where we entered and exited Lobo Cave. What a great adventure under the ground! But it wasn’t over yet!
To return to civilization, we rode a dugout canoe along the tranquil Panaghoyan River. Along the way, we witnessed the tranquility of Jiabong’s forests and the charm of the rural fishing village. After 45 minutes, we reached the town of Jiabong where we rode a jeepney back to Catbalogan.
For those with a love for adrenaline and a drive to explore the unknown, the adventure inside Lobo Cave is for you. Come now and witness the magnificent wonders of Samar that not a lot of people get to see.
In an alien environment like caves, accidents can easily happen! Rescue is difficult and sometimes, impossible. To lessen the chances of accidents happening, always follow the right caving protocols.
1. Be aware of your own capabilities and limitations.
2. Give a person who is close to you your itinerary, estimated schedules, and emergency numbers.
3. Never go caving without an experienced and skilled guide.
4. Never go caving alone. Do not separate from the group.
5. Watch your step and check if handholds are firm.
6. Never swim unaided. Do not swim underwater to explore a tunnel.
7. Do not remove your personal safety equipment without the instruction of the guide.
8. Use the safety gears and lines that the guide provides.
9. Always inform the guide if you have problems with your equipment, if you feel sick, or if you are having a difficult time overcoming an obstacle.
10. Your guide will bring safety equipment and emergency supplies. However, it is a good practice to bring your own such as an extra waterproof headlamp, flashlight, first-aid kit, and personal medication.
Take a flight from Manila to Tacloban. Once you arrive at Tacloban, ride a tricycle or taxi to the bus station. From there, you can ride a van or bus that will take you to Catbalagan. Do book with Joni in advance so that he can fetch you when you arrive in Catbalogan.
Joni Abesamis Bonifacio of Trexplore the Adventures is the guy to approach if you want to visit Lobo Cave and other caves of Samar. Trained by top Italian and French speleologists, he is an extremely skilled and experienced cave master. For caving guideship services, contact Joni using the following details:
Address: Abesamis Store, Allen Avenue, Catbalogan City, Samar, Philippines 6700
Mobile Numbers: +63 919 294 38 65 / +63 927 675 00 62
Landline: +63 55 251 23 01
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Website: Trexplore the Adventures
Facebook Page: Trexplore the Adventures