Sudden Turn to Calinawan Cave

One of my travel goals is to set foot on and write a piece of travelogue about all the provinces of the country. But I must admit that my home province itself was a stranger to me. Rizal province, located adjacent to the eastern part of Metro Manila, is home to several attractions of any kind but was often overlooked by tourists because of its close proximity to the metro. Manilenos can be forgiven, but a Rizaleno who considers himself of having a restless feet but was not that familiar with his province? I think no excuse can be given consideration.
Exploring Rizal has been a plan for such a time. Since I cannot travel that much to far-flung provinces as my first baby is currently on its journey, I found this a perfect time to explore both the popular and off beaten spots of my home province. To start with, my cousins and I embarked on a ride bound to Daranak Falls, arguably one of Rizal’s main tourist magnet. It was supposed to be the first destination of our #RizalWeekendRide until I noticed a signage along Daranak Falls Road pointing to a certain Calinawan Cave and took a sudden turn.
Despite being a Rizaleno for my entire existence, I only learned about the cave just recently through several blogs. I have no idea about the location and how-to’s of getting to the cave then.
Upon turning from the paved Daranak Falls Road, a series of rocky and incompletely paved paths became an obstacle to me and to my two-wheeled buddy’s worn-out tires. I was about to suggest turning back but my cousins were driving ahead of me and I could not see them on the horizon, so I continued the agony.
We stopped for a while as we passed by a concrete bridge overlooking the lush mountains of Tanay. It was indeed a picturesque view, but my appreciation was earned by the bridge itself for being a refuge in the middle of a balls-breaking road network.

EXPLORING THE CAVE

After about 20 minutes of shaky ride, we reached the main entrance to the cave along Calinawan Road at around 3PM and we had seen only a few visitors on that cloudy afternoon. Several groups were from neighboring towns of Rizal and Laguna taking a side trip after visiting Daranak Falls. We also met a group of bikers heading back as we were approaching the site.
Calinawan Cave is situated in a privately owned property in Barangay Tandang Kutyo. It got its name, according to a local, from an event during the revolution against Spanish government where the American and Spanish troops settled their disputes inside the cave. Thus, Calinawan was derived from the Filipino word “nagkalinawan”, which means had arrived to a settlement (of something). The cave served as strong hold of Filipino and American revolutionaries during Spanish occupation and as a shelter during the Second World War.
Exploring the cave’s interiors takes about an hour depending on the visitor’s own pacing. No wonder why photo stops usually make tourists spend a lot of time inside as the cave’s natural beauty is alluring. There are narrow passages and low overhead stalactites but the trail is generally easy. It might only get difficult to navigate after it rained as the trail becomes slippery. My cousin fell when she unknowingly stepped on a muddy portion of the cave. Luckily, her newly bought camera was safe. 🙂
Interestingly, I learned that Calinawan cave system was not yet fully explored. It is composed of multiple levels and several chambers and openings and some say that some of these chambers may lead to neighboring towns of Montalban, Baras, and Morong. The cave is so enormous that there maybe other paths hidden behind its boulders waiting to be discovered.
Guides are readily available upon reaching the site. They do not allow tourists to get inside on their own and since the cave lies on a private property, each visitor entering the cave are asked to pay P20.

A SMALL LAGOON

It was past 4PM when we were about to leave the vicinity to visit Daranak Falls. A local told us that we might not be allowed to see the falls as the management closes its gate to guests by 5PM. That would mean driving home that early smelling like how I smell the day before (or maybe worse). But again, I noticed a signage near the cave opening where we got out pointing to a certain river side. I asked where it leads to and told us that there is a small lagoon a few meters away where we could take a quick dip for free.
We started trekking downhill, following a trail for about 5 minutes. The relaxing sound of gushing waters welcomed us as we reached the lagoon nestled in a lush forest at the foot of Calinawan plateau.
A small portion of the river, about 2 to 3 meters wide and several meters deep, is a perfect spot for backdiving over submerged rocks and jumping over a boulder standing 3 to 4 meters high on the river bank.
Small fishes were conspicuously thriving on slippery moss that covers some of the shallow parts of the river floor. The river was not that majestic as many would expect and the water was not that clear, except on the shallow part, but it was certainly clean. The only distinguishing characteristic of the lagoon was the rock formation where the water flows freely. Those rocks are somewhat similar with that of the cave.
Since it seemed like we owned the whole place, we took a dip wearing nothing but our undergarments. I like to include pictures of my cousins posing freely but I would rather not to for my own protection againsts their outrage. We headed back home before dark as it would get difficult to drive considering the condition of the road.

USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS

Calinawan Cave is located along Calinawan Road. Drive along Manila East Road, turn left to Sampaloc Road when you reach the intersection with Flying V and Shell stations, turn left to Daranak Falls Road (with several signages pointing to Daranak Falls), then turn right as soon as you see a signage pointing to Calinawan Cave. Follow the unpaved path then turn left when you reach the paved Calinawan Road. Expect another rough path until reaching the cave entrance.Commuting from Manila, catch a shuttle bound to Tanay town proper in EDSA Shaw terminals. Fare is around P70 taking about more than hour of travel time depending on traffic situation. From town proper, get a tricycle to take you to Calinawan Cave for around P150, one way trip.
Tour guide fee is P200 per group.
It is best to bring your own flashlight. We were a group of 7 but only 4 were given seemingly old flashlights. You may also donate one if you like. 🙂
For safety reasons, they do not allow visitors to enter the cave if it is raining or after a heavy downpour.
For a greater caving experience, you may ask the guide to navigate a more difficult trail. However, they may not allow you for that during rainy season.
Tell your local guide if you want to get to the lagoon. There is a small hut you can rent for about P200 where you can leave your things if you opt to take a dip, but you may also just leave your things near you at the river bank.
Practice the “Leave no trace” policy, of course.
Calinawan Cave is a great side trip when you visit Daranak and Batlag Falls or even Regina RICA. Sometimes, going off the itinerary may lead to great places and that alone makes a certain trip worth the troubles of getting there.

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