Travel Photography: Discovering the Secrets of Callao Cave - Peñablanca, Cagayan

January 28, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Callao Cave is one of the limestone caves located in the Municipality of Peñablanca, Cagayan province, in the Philippines. The seven-chamber show cave is one of 300 caves that dot the area and the best known natural tourist attractions of the province. The town is named as Peñablanca (Spanish for white rocks) for the presence of white limestone rocks in the area. Callao Cave is located in the Barangays of Magdalo and Quibal in Peñablanca about 24 km (15 mi) northeast of Tuguegarao City, the capital of the Province of Cagayan.

Callao and the other caves are situated in the western foothills of the Northern Sierra Madre Mountains of the Philippines. They are situated within the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape, which stretches from the caves to the eastern shores of Peñablanca town in the Pacific Ocean.

Callao Cave - Tuguegarao, CagayanCallao Cave - Tuguegarao, Cagayan
First Chamber and the Chapel inside Callao Cave

Callao Cave was visited by American Governor-General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in 1932 who under his term created the National Park system of the country with the passing of Act no. 3195 in 1932. Callao Cave was one of the earliest national parks of the country when it was established on July 16, 1935 by Proclamation no. 827. The Callao Cave National Park encompassed an area of 192 hectares (470 acres) of land. With the passing of the NIPAS Act of 1992 that revamped the protected areas of the country, the Callao National Park was reclassified but enlarged by Proclamation no. 416 on June 29, 1994. The protected area was reestablished as the Peñablanca Protected Landscape

Some stalagmites and stalactites, going to the next chamber.

"The Altar"

Callao Cave at a Glance.


More than 300 caves dot the protected area, 75 of which have been documented by the National Museum since 1977. Callao Cave and the nearby, but more challenging, Sierra Cave are easily accessible by car.

Callao Cave is the premier attraction in the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. It is the most accessible of all the caves, its entrance is reached by climbing 184 concrete steps. The Callao cave system is composed of seven chambers, each with natural crevices above that let streams of light to get into the cave, serving as illumination for the otherwise dark areas of the place. Previously, there were reported nine caves in the system, but an earthquake in the 1980s cutoff the last two chambers.

The first chamber of the show cave is the largest room with a width of about 50 m (160 ft) and a height of 36 m (118 ft). The cathedral-like room has been turned into a chapel by the local people. A rock formation serves as the altar of the chapel lit by a stream of light coming from a rooftop opening. The conditions inside the caves have caused the formation of stalactites and stalagmites, more so in the deeper chambers. Several spectacular speleothems or formations are found inside the cave like flowstones, glittering dripstones, cave curtains, crystal helictites, columns, etc.


In 2007, a team of archaeologist led by Armand Salvador Mijares excavated a metatarsal (bones on the feet) on the first chamber,  and discovered that, after being dated in France, the remain was 67,000 years old – 20,000 years older than what I taught was the first humans in the country. It was called the "Callao Man".

If definitively proven to be remains of Homo sapiens, it would antedate the 47,000-year-old remains of Tabon Man to become the earliest human remains known in the Philippines, and one of the oldest human remains in the Asia Pacific. It has been noted by researchers that Callao Man was probably under four feet tall. Researchers also believe that Aetas, mountain dwellers today on Luzon Island, could be descendants of the Callao Man.


All photos are taken with my #Fujifilm X-T1 and 18-55mm kitlens. Hope to see you on my next #photoescapade. =)



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Travel Photographer PhilippinesArj MuñozTravel Photographer Philippines

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