The majestic Callao Cave of Cagayan Valley

Photo by Donie Cruz

One of Cagayan Valley’s most famous tourist attractions is the imposing Callao Cave in a town called Peñablanca (Spanish for “white rocks”), a 30-minute drive from the capital city Tuguegarao. 

This site was where the remains of the oldest humans in the Philippines have been dug up. 

The newly described human species, Homo luzonensis, lived between 50,000 and 67,000 years ago. While the people in the area and the scientific community have known this for years, the discovery was only confirmed in 2019.

The cave, one of at least 300 this side of the country, features seven chambers–including a man-made church where special Holy Masses are held on special occasions. A rock formation serves as the altar of the chapel lit by a stream of light coming from a rooftop opening.

Unfortunately, because of the slippery ground, guides recommend to see only five of the seven chambers. It’s a bit of a bummer, but understandable as no one wants to risk anyone getting hurt while trying to see the chambers.

Callao Cave is situated within the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape, which stretches from the caves to the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean. It is easily the most accessible of all the caves, its entrance is reached by climbing 184 concrete steps (make sure to do some stretches for your legs before climbing!). 

Perfect time to visit is around 4:30 p.m., so you’ll have ample time to check out the amazing rock formations. This also allows you to witness the thousands of bats that go out of the cave every 6 p.m. to feed.

Listen to the guides, who are very knowledgeable about facts and trivia about Callao Cave. While a visit to the area is free of charge, please do not forget to give the guides the tip they deserve (this is their livelihood, after all).

Like many attractions nowadays, visiting Callao Cave is temporarily prohibited because of quarantine restrictions. But add this one to your places-to-go-to when in Cagayan Valley.

Kenneth M. del Rosario
Kenneth has been writing for the Philippine Daily Inquirer for more than 17 years, covering travel, food, motoring, technology, real estate, and business, among others.