Pangagawan Cave is an undeveloped tourist spot located at the mountains of Bolog, Kiangan, Ifugao. It offers extreme spelunking experience. A must go for thrill seekers.
Our group comprising of members from various organizations headed by Real Sons and Daughters of Ifugao (RSDI) went on a tree planting activity at Bolog, Kiangan. The event was dubbed as One Nature One Community 8, a sagip kalikasan project of the organization and was a follow up for a series of previous tree planting projects (ONOC 1-7). The group was able to plant 500 different kinds of tree saplings at the mountainside designated for the activity. To see a better view of the tree planting activity, here are two videos for your enjoyment:
After the tree planting activity, we continued to climb two mountains more. The path was slippery and muddy since it was rainy season. The trail was lined with tall trees and plants – great for eco-walks. After a few hours, we reached the “tourist center”, a small lone house built near the entrance of the Pangagawan cave.
While the Barangay Officials and volunteers were cooking lunch, some members of the group decided to visit the Pangagawan Cave. An article written by Sir Peter explaining an incident at the cave is included at the end of this post. What I will provide is the descriptive nature of the cave.
Pangagawan cave was opened to the public in 2007 but it was not supported as a tourist destination. As an effect, the trail going to the cave was not developed and the cave itself lacked the proper safety railings. The opening of the cave is around 4 ft. wide and a vertical drop of 26 meters deep! There are two ways to enter, either by rappelling or by using the small metal stairs straight down. Since we did not have the proper gears at that time, not even a single rope, we used the metal stairs. Going down was already an adventure because the metal stair was wet and rusty. Getting a grip on the stairs was painful because of its sharp edges. But we managed. Here is a video of the entrance of the cave:
(VIDEO ON process)
After the 26 meters vertical drop, there was another smaller semi vertical passage. Entering deeper into the cave, I already knew that it was going to be more dangerous than expected. First, not all of us had flash and head lights. Second, the stones were very slippery and most had bat poop. The main challenge was actually to overcome the very slippery stones. One small mistake will decide whether you will live or die. It was that slippery.
The cave was full of narrow entrances. Some as wide as 2 feet, just enough for one man to enter at a time. At the middle of the cave, there were two small ponds and the first batch who went inside decided to take a plunge. Our guide told us that it was not the end of the cave and instead of stopping we proceeded to a narrow entrance and water was running ankle deep then knee deep. The pathway was full of sharp stalactites and so we had to bend lower as the pathway became smaller up to about 2 feet. At that time, our clothes were already soaking wet. I had to squeeze my fat body on that small opening and a small mistake can cause accident because of the sharp rocks. Inside was a bigger pond with water flowing from a 4 ft. tunnel with beautiful rock formations. The flooring of the tunnel looked like a yellow-white carpet of soft stones. I thought it was the end of the cave but I was wrong again.
I told my companions that I was fairly satisfied with the adventure but our guide signaled for us to follow him at the tunnel. The tunnel itself was amazing with beautiful rock formations sorrounding it. We walked on knee- deep water. The sound of gushing water at the far end was resonating inside the tunnel path dwarfing our voices. I was somehow afraid. The tunnel space became smaller as we were reaching the end and then there it was, a dome filled with the echoes of flowing water. The highlight? a majestic waterfall 30 or 40 feet long! .We were all mesmerized.
It was a great spelunking adventure. It would have been best if we had complete gadgets and equipments. But there is always a next time and we will come more prepared.
If you would like to have your own Pangagawan Cave adventure, please contact their local tourism office.
Here is another article written by Sir Peter CTJ. It is worth the read.
THIS IS THE WHOLE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED WHEN ONE OF THE VOLUNTEERS MET AN ACCIDENT DURING THE TREE PLANTING @ BOLOG KIANGAN , JULY 13 2013.
A Struggle to Survive: 200ft Underground
(An accident inside the cave)
Trekking the rugged mountains of Bolog for more than 2 hours while energetically planting tree seedlings on the way is so much fun when you are with a group of selfless volunteers from diverse cultures. At the top of the mountain is a Cabin prepared to house tourists, hikers, and mountain climbers. And in order to grasp a view of one of the most spectacular water falls inside the cave where the rocks glisten like gold and the pleasing sound of rushing fresh water echoes inside the cave is mind-blowing.
The entrance to the cave is about 3 meter in diameter hole with 52 steps staircase going down in a 90 degrees angle (about 50 meters)before we reached the horizontal surface suitable for walking in an erect position. It seems at first easy to ramble around for the first few meters, it was also expected that there will be pointed, sharp-edged stones so shoes or slippers are necessary.Then a more challenging part of the journey begins when we have to fit ourselves into tiny holes large enough for humans to enter with the lower part of the body first or vice versa and we have to crawl before we get in. As we move on further, we were faced with more daring encounters as we have to descend from a 15 – 20 meter slippery 85 degrees slope using a vine that was tied in place to an old piece of log that might break anytime, and while at the middle of this slope we have to find a hole in these rocks to insert our feet to support us while climbing sideways to get to the area where we can set foot on a wider wall protrusions.
It was past 1pm when we started our journey to the cave. There were about 25of us, At random ages, including tour guides who went inside the Mt. Pangaggawan Cave in Bolog, Kiangan, Ifugao. It was unexpected of us to see a spectacular water fall at the end of the cave. It was about 15 – 20 feet high, and just as magnificent as the other waterfalls that can be found here in Ifugao. It took our group about an hour until we reached the fall. The space is about 10 meters in diameter enough to accommodate all 25 sightseers inside. The sight of our companion enjoying the sweet, cold and fresh water isamusing while the others are taking enthusiastically taking photos andsome are charmed at how beautiful and how magical it is to have such paradise inside. It was after allworth the challenges that we faced on our way in.
After a few minutes on fun at the falls, the group decided to go back but few meters away from the water fall the Real challenge begins when unfortunately one member of the group accidentally tripped on a slippery path. The tour guide tried his best to get a hold of him but his weight and the impact of the fall was just too quick that he was not able to prepare support for himself and the victimslumped hitting his back first on the flat surfaced rock, then he slides down and fell into a 10 feet deep hole, luckily he landed on the horizontal surface without hitting his head in any of the sharp edges of the rocks below. It was shockingly horrible to see him slip and even more horrifying to hear his gasping breathing sound. First thing that came to my mind was that I am hoping he did not hit his head on the sharp-edged rocks below. In a flash, we immediately followed him down to check his condition and assist him in a comfortable position, while he was trying to catch for his breath, I tried to check for any bleeding but fortunately found nothing very alarming. While the other three people is trying to assist him, I checked and rechecked for other wounds but it seems that he only had abrasions on the lower leg and at his back that hit the rock. With the fear that he might have internal injuries we asked him to rest or lie down but he requested to be in a sitting position as he is more comfortable with it. We reassessed again his status for any deterioration but we can’t find anything except that he is having difficulty and painful breathing that can be expected due to the impact of the fall. We let him rest for a while until he himself decides that he can move on. The fact that we do not have anything at hand for emergencies like this and due to the fact that sometrails inside the cave is not enough for two persons, he willingly offered to walk by himself with our continuous support. Immediate planning and direct implementation has been set and with absolute trust in each other’s suggestions and a common goal to get out of the cave alive and safe, we began our way out.
He was struggling to find a position where he can breathe with ease when moving while we energetically attempt to help him in ways we know can assist him to walk with comfort. While one of us has to push him up at times, raise his legs, support his arms and assist him climb the slippery walls, the rest of us tries to support him in moving easily and comfortablyusing our feet and any other useful part of our body as a means to travel across and the other moves forward to prepare himself and pull him up carefully. We came to an area where it seems almost impossible for him to pass through this steep and slippery 85 degrees vertical path and at the top of this is a tiny hole that we have to crawl ourselves out but with team work anddue to the optimism of the wounded, we were able to cross this challenging path. We stretched our feet out for him to step on until reaching the top. We used whatever resources that we can see on the site such as logs or vines to make it through to this path. It was definitely risky to traverse this path but with the support of each other from every move, we were able to make it. If something went wrong while crossing this path then a more fatal consequence could have happened.
After more than 2 hours of crawling on pointy razor-sharp rock edges, climbing almost 90 degrees vertical paths, passing through tiny holes, countless rest periods, without even a drop of water, we were relieved to see the stream of light from the entrance hole and some of our companions patiently waiting for us with high hopes that no serious injuries has happened to the victim. I have to give him my shoes for him to use while climbing up the stairs so as to make sure that he does not slip on his way up and to comfortably aid his steps from the thin steel bar stairs. The tour guide assisted the victim on his way up to the ground and with the other tour guides waiting at the entrance they helped him out and assisted him to the cabin. It was already about 6:00pm when we got out of the cave. As soon as we got out, the rain poured as if, the sky was celebrating our successful battle inside the cave.
We reassessed his condition again, checked his breathing, changed his clothes using the dry shirt of our companion, and gave him Mefenamic Acid hoping that it will help relieve a bit of the pain. We all ate together. When we were reassured that his condition was a bit stable and after a few minutes of rest, 2 other volunteersduring the tree planting assisted him on the slippery path and into the massively forested mountain. Since the path was wet from the rain and we fear that he might slip again and might cause further injury, One volunteer consented to carry the victim at his back then ferried him through this slippery and narrow path up the hills, with no bolo knife or blades left because most of our companions went ahead with our tools, we tried to cut some branches using the shovel we have on hand but then the tour guide arrived with a bolo knife and a blanket so we decided to make an improvised hammock “ayod” using the blanket tied at both ends of the wood that we took from the forest. Since the blanket was alto too soft, we took off our shirts and connected them together to support his back not to further any wounds in case there were internal injuries. He claims that it gives more relief that way. He was then ferried using the “ayod” patiently carried by 2 volunteers and taking turns on the way. It was a struggle carrying the wounded from the top of the mountain to the road because the path way was very narrow and slippery that a small mistake in our step or in the carrier’s step might send them all down to the cliff. There were instances on the way down that almost led us into that situation and some of the volunteers who carried the wounded slipped and fell on their butts but not to the point of falling into the cliff. The wounded was very considerate of the situation and with his strong-will he confidently showed us that he was able to get anough rest and might as well walk with assistance in order not to let anyone in danger. He was then assisted back walking through the slippery path although struggling but confidently staggered down the road. After a few stops and strenuous efforts, we were able to reach the road where we were received by 3 other volunteers to assist the wounded. He was already very pale, tired and in severe pain yet he does not show us that he is getting weak. I assessed his condition again and he already is feeling a little dizzy but optimistically admits that he can still make it.
Because of the exhaustion that we have noticed on Sir Ray’s condition, we insisted that he gets back on to being carried using the “ayod” so he agreed with a compassionate consideration of the exhaustion that everyone also felt. He was then carried down the hill to the road where there is access to vehicles. Though there is a wider road at this time, the challenge for us did not end up when we reached the wider road because it was still very slippery and it took us about half an hour before we reached the area accessible to vehicles. One of the injured members of the organization has to force himself carry the hammock too and the other slipped on the road with his knees hitting a rock. When we reached the concrete road, we transferred him again to the tricycle of one of the tour guides then ferried to the national road where we asked him to transfer again to my car thinking of what might possibly have been injured internally, we cannot really use the tricycle to transport him to the hospital because it might worsen the injury. Thinking that he will be more comfortable in a slightly declined position, we asked him to get into my car and he agreed and got inside immediately. When we were to start, the police car arrived and suggested to wait for the ambulance but in my assessment the patient must be sent immediately to the hospital and not wait for a single second more for an ambulance besides I am a nurse trained in ICU and ER with complete training in Basic Life Support, Basic First Aid, Advance Cardiac Life Support, Emergency Training Course, Advance Pediatric Life Support, and Neonatal Resuscitation program, with training in psychiatric nursing too.
He is 72 years old and a lawyer with so much humility and optimism in him. He is one of a kind, we did not even know that he had previous cardiac surgeries and we did not know how young he was until we arrived at the hospital. Moreover, he never complained during his struggle inside the cave and he never said a word of regret that he visited the cave. In fact, when he was asked sarcastically by a drunken guy on the way “what were the things he had seen in the cave, and now that he had seen the forests of Bolog?” and was jokingly ridiculed with these statement of the drunken guy “anakkaya sir pahpahayod a pay nayya!” when in fact he walked all the way down from the top of the mountain. But regardless of the exhaustion, severe pain, dizziness and difficulty breathing, he still replied with a very calm and a very positive answer. He even took this accident constructively to improve the safety and security of the cave so as not to let this incident happen again to anyone visiting the caves.