Caves radiate a certain aura of mystery. Entering these natural wonders makes you feel as if your link to the real world has been severed. Exploring a cave means that you are visiting the geological memories of the planet.
The tropical paradise of Cebu is home to a large number of caves, many of which are still unexplored, thanks to the island’s large number of limestone karsts. One of these beautiful caves straddles the municipality of Barili and Carcar.
Locals call this geographical wonder Cave 3, but outdoorsmen call it many other names. The most common of which is Mainit Mabugnaw Cave since it is located in a sitio of the same name in Barangay Guadalupe.
It is not well known even among Cebuanos although it is the centerpiece of the 57-hectare Mainit Mabugnaw National Park.
After paying an entrance fee, visitors walk along an established trail.
One of the sights along the way to the cave is a beautiful aquamarine pool that is fed from a local spring. Locals congregate in this pool to cool off or wash their laundry. The spring is also used by the Carcar Water District to pump potable water to the community’s households.
Visitors continue to climb up a rocky trail. It can be uncomfortably hot due to the exposed hillside and light wood cover, so guests are advised to bring an umbrella or wear a wide-brimmed hat.
In an hour or so, the cavernous mouth of the Mainit Mabugnaw Cave comes into view. It is so huge that those who have creative thoughts can imagine it as a mammoth jungle-eating monster! Stalagmites taller than the tallest people adorn the cave floor. Guests may also climb boulders the size of cars and houses.
Large flowstones covered by layers of moss decorate the cave’s walls. Large teeth-like stalactites, many more than 10 feet tall, hang precariously on the cave’s ceiling a hundred feet high.
A few sub-caverns, like deep, black voids, dot the main cathedral. These cave systems are largely unexplored. Who knows what’s inside? A crystal kingdom? A massive underground waterfall or river? Weird rock formations? Deep holes that lead nowhere? A waiting indescribable monster? Professional speleologists and spelunkers will find these caverns paradises that they can explore.
One cool thing about the Mainit Mabugnaw Cave is that visitors don’t need any artificial light source as long as they visit it during daytime. The cave’s ceiling has large holes, caused by erosion, that allow sunshine to get in, giving the cave an ethereal glow.
Tree roots, like gnarled fingers, trail down from these holes from the forest above. The forest itself cools the surrounding air, thus the temperature in the cave is comfortable and pleasant.
The Mainit Mabugnaw cave is home to many species of birds and bats, chatting noisily high above the cave floor. In the nooks and crannies are bugs, reptiles, and amphibians, safely hidden from view, that make the cave their home.
Visitors may also come across old and broken religious statues on the trail and inside the cave. Well, they are all relics that show the town’s devout religious Roman Catholic culture. A few decades ago, the cave was planned to be a pilgrimage route. Statues depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross were laid on the proposed trail. A conflict in the local parish, however, halted and abandoned the project.
Locals believe that the Mainit Mabugnaw is haunted by restless spirits. But adventurers don’t mind ghosts in their company. Indeed, many rappel down the holes, set camp on the cave floor, or crawl inside the nooks and crannies of the huge cave.
If you want a dose of adrenaline rush and, at the same time, wonder at Mother Nature’s artwork and immersing in local culture, then Mainit Mabugnaw Cave is the place to go!
There are two ways to get to the Mainit Mabugnaw National Park.
One, take a bus bound for Barili from Cebu South Bus terminal. Stop at the junction of Mainit Spring in Guadalupe, Carcar, and take a habal-habal (motorcycle for hire) to the park’s entrance. Fare is around ₱50 for the bus and ₱15 for the habal-habal.
Two, take any bus bound for Southern Cebu and stop at Carcar. Then hire a habal-habal that takes you directly to the Mainit Mabugnaw National Park.
Once at the park, there are local guides there who can lead you to the cave for a reasonable fee.