Going inside a cave emanates a feeling of enchantment and wonder. As you go deeper into an underground cathedral, you cannot help but feel that you are entering an unknown, magical world. In Cebu, we have lots of grandiose caves that are just waiting to be discovered. One of these geological treasures is located in Guadalupe just a few kilometers off the historic city of Carcar.
The Mainit Mabugnaw Cave is the centerpiece of the protected Guadalupe Mainit Mabugnaw National Park. It is relatively unknown as it has been left at the edge of the municipality’s tourism map; Carcar is usually known for its Spanish-era houses, juicy lechon, and interesting delicacies but not for its natural wonders.
We had a chance to enter this beautiful underground kingdom through an invitation by the founders of Outpax, an innovative social media application. The Base Camp Emergency Rescue Team (BCERT) organized the event. Seeing an opportunity to meet new adventure-loving friends, we readily agreed to the invitation.
At the Cebu South Bus Terminal, we met with the BCERT marshals and the participants who registered through Outpax. After everyone was accounted for, we started a 2-hour trip to the secluded barangay of Guadaulpe in Carcar. The barangay is located roughly midway between the municipalities of Carcar and Barili.
We arrived safely at the Mainit Mabugnaw National Park where a commissioned multi-cab drove us to the park.
After paying the registration fee as required by the park, we had the usual introduction of the participants. After that, Eric Tuñacao, proprietor of Outpax, explained to us the nature of this ingenious and convenient outdoor social media application, which we will present in the next blog post.
All set? Good! Then it was time to head out to our destination. A few stalls at the entrance of the park sell snacks and refreshments in case you forgot to bring some.
Mother Nature immediately takes over at the bottom of the concrete steps. We followed what looked like a dried-up riverbed towards the foot of a rocky hill. Be careful because the ground, which is made of compacted soil, is muddy and slippery.
It is hard to resist the beckoning of this aquamarine freshwater pool, especially during a hot summer day. Locals often spend long hours here to cool off against the hot weather. Madams gather around the pool, sharing the latest gossip in the neighborhood.
This freshwater pool is an offshoot of an underground spring that is utilized as a water source by the Carcar Water District. Massive pipes and canals feed potable spring water to the local grid.
The pool, which is located at the base of a large hill, marks the start of a trail that leads deeper into the national park. It’s a moderately steep ascent all the way to our destination.
Full-cover footwear such as trekking shoes are ideal here. The trail is littered with loose soil and sharp rocks that could easily cut skin. In addition, the hill is lightly wooded, so there was little protection from the hot morning sun.
But that’s okay. Hills like these almost always reward us with lovely views of surrounding areas. From here, we saw the verdant magnificence of Carcar, which is usually understated. We are sure that there are other natural treasures in this hidden part of the municipality.
The team re-grouped and took a well-deserved rest after a 45-minute uphill trek under the sun. Yes, we were a little bit tired, but just look at our smiling faces! In each one of us, you can see a genuine love for the outdoors.
Our group rested on a clearing just in front of this large cave. According to Eric, this is already a dead cave, meaning it can’t support an ecosystem, due to excessive phosphate extraction. That’s really sad. Check out the chopped stalactites.
To give you an idea of how big this cavern is, check out the ladies and gentleman standing on one side. We had to take this photo quickly because the ground they were standing on is unstable thanks to past uncontrolled excavations. One day, the ground fronting the cave will collapse under its own weight.
Concluding a 10-minute rest, we resumed our trek through thick vegetation. It’s better to wear arm guards here as the plants are quite prickly.
In less than 10 minutes, we came face-to-face with a giant maw that is naturally cut into a gigantic rock face. We have arrived at the entrance of the cavernous Mainit Mabugnaw Cave, the centerpiece of the national park. We felt a sense of forbidding and awe as we entered the cave as if we were entering into a monster’s mouth.
Just right at the entrance of the main cave is another deep cavern that is filled with nothing but a black void. According to locals, there are many several sub-caverns inside the Mainit Mabugnaw Cave, many of them unexplored. It is believed that the caverns form a vast and intricate network of underground passages that go beyond the main cave. Experienced spelunkers will definitely be tempted to check them out.
Some of the rock walls are completely covered with moss, which serve as habitats of insects, worms, and other invertebrates.
Whoa! That is one monstrous cave, isn’t it? Check out those sharp stalactites; the cave’s cathedral looks like the maw of a sarlacc! Some stalactites are several feet tall, hanging close to a hundred feet from the ceiling of the cave.
Massive moss-covered stalagmites adorn the floor, with some as taller than a person. For comparison, can you see the guy at the center of the photo (the one holding a blue water bottle)?
Large holes break the continuous ceiling of the Mainit Mabugnaw cave, letting a lot of sunlight in. Filtered by the forest canopy at the cave’s roof, the sunbeams cast a soft and fairy-like glow inside the huge cathedral.
These gaping holes are carved by erosion thanks to the unrelenting assault of the forces of weather. Due to these holes, the main cave is adequately lighted, eliminating the need of headlamps and torches.
Testaments to Mother Nature’s unequaled million-year artistry, these huge flowstones adorn the cave’s walls. The forces of wind and water have sculpted these rocks into very interesting and weird shapes.
There are also remnants of beautiful man-made objects inside the cave. Many years ago, the local parish decided to make the cave a part of a pilgrimage trail and started installing religious images. Unfortunately (rather fortunately for Mother Nature), the project was halted, and the unfinished and broken statues lay down in silent reverie, slowly being reclaimed by nature.
We arrived at our staging area, a large and relatively flat piece of ground inside the gnarled cave system. The place is pretty cool—literally! The cave’s walls block warm air, allowing air that is cooled by the forest above to flow through the cavern.
It would be really nice to set camp on the cave floor and huddle together to tell stories about ghosts that, according to the locals, haunt the cavern.
Beautiful flowstones decorate the cave’s walls and ceiling! Look at just how magnificent Mother Nature designed them; none of them look the same.
Flowstones originate from films and drops of rainwater that flow down on the cave walls. The water contains minute amounts of calcium carbonate, gypsum, and other cave minerals. Over time—and we’re talking about thousands or even millions of years—thin layers of these cave minerals are built on top of each other; the flowstone is formed when the deposits are thick enough to be seen. Flowstones tend to get more rounded as they get thicker.
Check out those tarps. The BCERT used them to protect the rope from brushing against the delicate flowstones.
In another part of the cave, locals climb up the gnarled roots that latch themselves on the cave’s walls. Yes, they climbed it with no proper safety system in place. Don’t try this!
Above the cave’s roof, professional riggers of the BCERT team prepared the ropes and other systems for the day’s abseiling adventure.
At the staging area, BCERT marshals briefed the participants on the right techniques in rappelling down a line. They also properly equipped the participants with harnesses, helmets, and abseiling hardware.
Safety checks? Done! Follow-up checks? Okay! Then it was time for a whole day of rappelling fun! All participants had the chance to rappel 70 feet down inside a cave. How cool is that? Many similar adventures are organized and offered in the Outpax outdoor application tool.
To reach the staging area, we need to exit the cave and hike up a forest-covered hill right beside it.
That’s the BCERT team in action! They ensured that everyone is safely set up and oriented for proper rappelling. That’s Joseph Inosante wearing a white helmet and Karl San Pablo donning the blue helmet. They are officials and professional trainers of BCERT.
Check out that rigging! Clean and simple, isn’t it? To ensure safety and efficiency of movement, BCERT officials communicate with their marshals using handheld radios.
I crawled towards the edge of the hole to get a better view of the jumpers and the ground below. That’s quite a good height, don’t you think?
Apparently, as you can see, all the participants in this adventure had a great time! Just look at those smiles.
Some first-timers were nervous, and they concealed that nervousness within their beautiful smiles. But, well, never mind. Their first rappelling experience was an exhilarating one.
Some even went up for second tries. Their abseiling techniques improved while some vanquished their fear of heights.
Check out this short video of our adventure. You can actually feel everyone’s enthusiasm from start to finish.
Near the end of the day, a few participants attempted to ascend the rope using SRT techniques. Since we didn’t bring an ascender, they used prusiks in order to scale up the rope.
Excitement, physical exertion, and pure fun took a positive toll on our bodies, leaving us feeling pleasantly exhausted and mentally refreshed. As much as we would like to simply head back to the jump-off point to take a nice shower and grab a snack or two, we made sure the trail is clean by picking up garbage. Sadly, locals who pass by this area just throw their trash anywhere.
An information drive regarding eco-preservation is required to maintain the park’s beauty.
We would like to give a huge thank you to Outpax for inviting us in this amazing caving adventure. We are very happy and honored to be your partner. Thank you too to all participants; you guys are wonderful! It is such a privilege to meet kindred spirits like you.
A huge thank you also goes to the Joseph Inosante and Karl San Pablo of BCERT who organized this caving adventure, setting up the rig, and making sure everyone has a good time. Salute to you, sirs!
Overall, our adventure inside the Mainit Mabugnaw Cave was a great starter for 2016. The cavern is truly a beautiful adventure destination that is worth preserving. We hope that through this blog post, the LGU can take measures to clean and protect one of our island’s geological treasures.
This event is powered by Outpax and organized by Base Camp Emergency Rescue Team.
6:00 AM – assembly at Cebu South Bus Terminal
7:00 AM – depart for Carcar
9:00 AM – arrival at Guadalupe Carcar, ride to Mabugnaw Mainit National Park
9:15 AM – arrival at Mabugnaw Mainit National Park, registration, briefing
10:00 AM – start trek for Mabugnaw Mainit Cave
10:45 AM – arival at Mabugnaw Mainit Cave
11:00 AM – start of rappelling activity
12:00 PM – lunch
12:30 PM – resume rappelling activity
5:30 PM – conclude abseiling activity, trek back to jumpoff
6:00 PM – optional swimming at Mabugnaw Mainit Spring, change clothes
7:00 PM – depart for Cebu City
- P 50 – bus fare from Cebu South Bus Terminal to Guadalupe, Carcar at the Jct. Mainit Spring (fare applies on the return trip)
- P 15 – habal-habal fare from Jct. Mainit Spring to Mabugnaw Mainit National Park (fare applies on the return trip)
Another option as suggested by locals is to disembark at Carcar proper. Then hire a habal-habal that goes directly to Mabugnaw Mainit National Park. Fare is P30.
- TBN (to be negotiated) – professional fee for guides and riggers.
- P 10 – regular registration
- P 5 – child
- P 100 – foreigner
* We did not include our expense for meals, snacks, souvenirs, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, miscellaneous transportation, and sharing scheme from us. Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.
1. For guideship services, contact Joseph “Choi” Inosante at (BaseCamp Recreations) 0933-4651477 or Eric Tunacao (OutPax) at 0942-8097700.
2. The trek to the cave is moderately exposed. Thus, don’t forget to bring a wide-brimmed hat, scarf, or umbrella to protect yourself from the heat. Don’t hesitate to tell the guide to stop if you feel exhausted.
3. Wear arm guards and trekking pants to protect your skin from the sun and prickly plants. Also, a dry-fit shirt or rash guard will help keep you cool.
4. Wear tough trekking shoes or sandals with an aggressive tread. The trail is characterized by loose soil and sharp rocks.
5. Be careful at the staging area. That’s almost a hundred feet from the cave floor, and you don’t want to fall down from that height! For safety, always follow your guide’s instructions.
6. Pack light but do bring the following:
- water (at least 2 liters)
- trekking attire
- trekking shoes or sandals with aggressive tread (terrain is rocky)
- umbrella, hat, or scarf (terrain is exposed and hot)
- packed lunch
- trail snack
- rain gear (in case of bad weather)
- extra money for emergencies
7. Don’t forget to waterproof your belongings. You can do this easily by wrapping your stuff with plastic bags or zip-lock bags before putting them inside your pack.
8. Remember that you are in a protected area. So please mind your trash; do not leave any of your garbage behind. Most importantly, avoid touching the flowstones, stalactites, and stalagmites. They are very fragile, and the oil from your hand can irreparably damage the delicate structures.