Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Maasin, Southern Leyte ~ Cagnituan Cave & Falls and Jalleca Hill

The group was starting to enjoy the backpacking vibe of their Eastern Visayas adventure as they rode an ordinary bus from Matalom, Leyte to Maasin, the capital city of Southern Leyte. But with fresh clean air and nice sceneries during the 30 minute ride, you will not really look for airconditioned buses in this part of the country. The BACKPACKERS were welcomed by BP Weng's relatives whose humble abode served as a safehouse for their belongings. After being introduced to the local deli of Maasin City: the circular hopia and the hanging rice or 'puso' ~ the local's eco-friendly way of cooking and serving rice, they geared up for their next adventure: checking out Guinsohotan Falls and an unexpected spelunking challenge at Cagnituan Cave.

We Survived Cagnituan Challenge
by: Ivan Ignacio

Author ~ BP Ivan


We were joined by Ate Weng's cousin, Jhana (left) and BP Marion (right)

Hidden beyond the mountains and the mystical forest of Maasin City in Southern Leyte is a natural wonder: Cagnituan Falls, or what the locals prefer to be called as Guinsohotan Falls. Its catch basin is wide, deep and stunning. But what's more majestic is discovering the source of its refreshing water that is sprouting out from the mouth of the equally enchanting Cagnituan Cave.

Riding the multicab
We rode a multicab to Brgy. Maria Clara and from there we opted to charter four habal habals that took us to Brgy. Cagnituan. The roundtrip ride cost us 100Php. Because we wanted to visit the city that afternoon, we needed to opt out of the two-hour trek to the base of the waterfalls and allowed to be taken in a thrilling habal habal fashion. Each motorcycle had four riders (the driver + 3 passengers), except BP Weng who was alone in a habal habal sitting like the Visayan Cleopatra of Kuya driver. The ride was bumpy, exciting and very unforgettable. It was a surprise on how the local drivers maneuver through the uphill and sometimes zigzag course. But to the delight of every mountaineer and nature lover, we got a cool glimpse of the vista of Maasin City bordered by the Visayan Sea. As the ride took us higher in the Maasin City mountains, we delved deeper into its forest. We could certainly trek this trail but due to time constraints, we opted for this which turned out to be one of the wildest ride of our lives. After half an hour of silently reciting our favorite prayers, the butt-enduring ride came to a halt as we finally reached a small civilization deep in the jungle of Maasin: Brgy. Cagnituan, finally!

Habal Habal style!
BPs April, Marion and Percy
Our ride! BPs Ivan, Chons and Heinz


Posing in front ofthe barangay hall of Cagnituan
We gathered at the barrio's open function hall; a gymnasium of some sort, while waiting for the Brgy. Chairman and our guides. We changed our shirts as we anticipated being wet and dirty during this adventure. We were told that spelunking inside Cagnituan Cave could cost us an hour or two and we were all up to the challenge. Spelunking, aside from mountain climbing, beach bumming and waterfalls chasing, is one of the activities that The BACKPACKERS enjoy. There was only one problem: due to sheer excitement, we all forgot to bring our flashlights which were in our packs at the Aguelo's residence. It was too late to head back, so we asked the brgy. chairman if he can lend us some source of light for we really wanted to try to navigate the cave. To our delight, we were able to borrow one flashlight and were introduced to several young guides who had their sources of light. These 'guides' became our light as we traversed the cave from point A to point B.

The first order of business that afternoon was to get to the mouth of the cave which is also the location of Guinsohotan Falls. It was a short trek passing through the abundant greenery of the rustic town. It was a pleasant afternoon walk which became a little muddy when a short downpour greeted us. And when we heard the rumbling water coming from the falls, we all got excited. The catch basin and the falls came in to sight as we came nearer. I have seen a lot of taller and more majestic waterfalls in my whole life as a traveler but I still could not help myself from staring in awe and amazement upon standing face to face with Guinsohotan Falls.


Heinz and Marion posing by the falls
Rocking it above the rocks
BP April in Maasin City, Southern Leyte 
Enjoying the smaller cascades of the falls
BP Percy in Maasin City, Southern Leyte 
Ready for a dip at Guinsohotan Falls
BP Marion in Maasin City, Southern Leyte 
Hiding behind the greens
BP Weng in Maasin City, Southern Leyte 

We had a limited time enjoying the cascades and the basin of the falls because we needed to allot an hour or so exploring the cave in the area. Some were able to dip in its cold and refreshing water. When we all had our fair share of viewing the falls, we readied ourselves for the ultimate spelunking challenge inside Guinsohotan Cave.


The entrance of the cave
These faces were both excited and nervous!
We trekked upstream until we reached the opening of the cave. The water in its wide opening was leg deep. The cave was inviting but at the same time, we were all very anxious on what to expect while passing through that pitch black passage. We were guided by ten young men. Guinsohotan Cave is similar to Sumaguing Cave of Sagada in the sense that water is flowing all throughout its passages. We had to be very careful in our steps as the base of the floor was slippery and not flat. There were several portions where we had to cross the water, some of which was neck deep. Here, we made sure that we held each other's hands as we navigate the watery course. Considering that we all were just relying on the source of light of our guides, the uneven rock base and slippery parts added more challenge to this spelunking experience. If the watery course was difficult, maneuvering in its boulders with sometimes sharp edges was also as challenging. Because the interior of the cave was filled with running water, the part spared by the flowing water were slippery. So even when there's water or not, we all needed to be very careful.

The BACKPACKERS working hand in hand
Posing after the hard part
We were challenged and we were loving it!
Deeper inside the cave was a spacious room where hundreds of bats were dwelling. Here, the squeaking of these winged creatures was more prevalent than the sound of water. We stopped and marveled at the place, but as long as it was total darkness ahead of us, we needed to keep on going. The goal was to reach the other end of the cave. When we arrived at the section where we needed to do some horizontal bouldering at one side of the cave because the water was very deep, the guides suggested that we abort the expedition. However, Weng, Chons, Percy, Jhana (Weng's cousin) and some of the guides were already way ahead of the end pack. They could not hear when me, Ralph and Heinz shouted regarding the decision to go back. Soon, we decided to push through in trailing by the side of the rocks. With half our bodies submerged in the water, our upper torsos needed to navigate through the rocks so that we can always have something to hold on to away from the abyssal cave water. After a couple of minutes of stretching every bone in our bodies to avoid falling completely at the deep water, we saw a glimmer of hope, a relief: a light!

There's always a light at the end of every tunnel

The light that we saw was from the other end of the cave! We huddled up when it seemed that we can no longer go any further as it was pure water basin. The challenge of Cagnituan Cave was already satisfied when we saw the opening but the guides challenged the members who can swim to float to the other end and climb the rocks to reach this other exit of the cave. Marion and Heinz accepted the challenge and soon after, all of us followed them when the locals arranged a long bamboo stick for the non swimmers to hold on to for swimming support. Then the tricky part was climbing through the slippery rocks so that we can get outside the cave. That crucial portion was where some members gained bruises and scratches. But after climbing and reaching the other side of the cave, it was worth it. We felt the accomplishment of surviving Guinsohotan Cave's challenge.

Weng, April, Jhana and Percy
Near the Cagnituan Cave exit!
The group ~ almost there!
It seemed like the start of a forest trail and the guides confirmed that we can actually traverse it but we would end up in a different barrio far from Cagnituan. We just took our time smelling the fragrance of our spelunking achievement while we posed in front of the camera. Until it was time to go back. 

What lies beyond this point?
It was a creepy sight, honestly.
The survivors of Cagnituan Cave challenge

Ascending the rocks to reach where we were standing was hard; Percy had a cut, Heinz scathed his foot, and I also had some minor scratches on my right foot. Ascending was difficult because of the slippery rocks, but what more was descending on it? I knew that one slip could be bone breaking, but I would still choose to maneuver with the rocks than giving in to the guide's other suggestion of going down: to jump all the way down to the water and swim to the shallow end of the basin. It was an adrenaline pumping challenge but most of us opted to take the risk of failing at the rocks than drowning in the dark water basin. It was only Heinz who tried to jump when he was halfway through the rocks. Everyone survived the climatic start of our journey back. Trailing back was the same challenging experience.

This was the tricky part.
Jump or crawl on the rocks?

Just some concerns to those who may want to conquer Cagnituan Cave: 
I have mentioned earlier that the environment inside the cave was like that of Sagada's Sumaguing Cave, but there is a big difference between the two. Guideship in Sagada is very well organized as compared to the one offered in brgy. Cagnituan. And we can attribute that to the lesser number of visitors going to this place. The guides in Cagnituan Cave may not know all aspects of the cave so exercise your own judgment in crossing the cave especially if you are composed of non swimmers. Water inside the cave can be very unpredictable and there was a point where some of us almost drowned when we trusted the guide who opted to lead us to the wrong path. If possible, ask for a better, older and more experienced guide from the barangay chairman.


The top of Jalleca Hill is marked by a big statue of the Virgin Mary

It was a very challenging activity in one of Maasin City's hidden natural wonder. We went back to town and spent sundown in one of Maasin City's famous tourist spot: Jalleca Hill. On top of Jalleca Hill is the Shrine of our Lady of Assumption. Two days in and we were all very appreciative of this time that we had together, thousand miles away from home. Atop Jalleca Hill, we had our reflections as we thanked the Lord for giving us a very beautiful country and for giving us, The BACKPACKERS, the opportunity to enjoy His creations.


On top of Jalleca Hill
BP Heinz in Maasin City, Southern Leyte 
Stations of the cross
BP Chons in Maasin City, Southern Leyte 
Did you see that sign: Dating is not allowed here?
Jalleca Hill has a resting station
In front of Our Lady of Assumption
BP Ivan in Maasin City, Southern Leyte 
Dating is not allowed here, so the two needed to be farther apart
Lovebirds Sheryl and  BP Ralph in Maasin City, Southern Leyte 
BPs on top of Jalleca Hill

The BACKPACKERS would like to thank the Aguelo family for their hospitality and for letting us stay in their house in Maasin City.

Lunch time!
BP Weng and childhood friend Michael
The BACKPACKERS conquered Maasin City
Thank you very much Aguelo family!!!

back to Eastern Visayas Escapade index
Go back to >>> An Escape at Canigao Island
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