Callao Cave


Useful Information

Location: Peñablanca Town, Province of Cagayan, Luzon island. 21km northeast of Tuguegarao City.
From Tuguegarao follow Bonifacio Street east 2.5km, turn left on Cagayan Valley Rd/Pan-Philippine Hwy/AH26. After 3.6km on the other side of the river turn right on Peñablanca - Callao Cave Rd. Follow road 15km to the end.
(17.707851445919587, 121.81952669667298)
Open: All year daily 9-17.
[2020]
Fee: Adults PHP 20, Children free.
Parking: Car PHP 30, Motorcycle PHP 20, Bus PHP 50.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch, only rudimentary electric light
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided, guides available
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Florent Détroit, Armand Salvador Mijares, Julien Corny, Guillaume Daver, Clément Zanolli, Eusebio Dizon, Emil Robles, Rainer Grün, Philip J. Piper (2019):
A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines,
Nature volume 568, pages 181–186 (2019). DOI Nature pdf
Armand Salvador Mijares, Florent Détroit, Philip J. Piper, Rainer Grün, Peter Bellwood, Maxime Aubert, Guillaume Champion, Nida Cuevas, Alexandra De Leon, Eusebio Dizon (2010):
New evidence for a 67,000-year-old human presence at Callao Cave, Luzon, Philippines
Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 59, Issue 1, July 2010, Pages 123-132 DOI sciencedirect
Armand Salvador Mijares (2017): Understanding the Callao Cave Depositional History. DOI researchgate
Address: Callao Cave, Department of Tourism, Regional Office No. 02, 2nd Floor, Supermarket Building, Bonifacio Street, 3500 Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, Tel: +63-78-844-1621, Fax: +63-78-846-2435.
Callao Cave, Callao Cave Rd, Peñablanca, Cagayan.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1932 visited by American Governor-General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
16-JUL-1935 Callao Cave National Park established by Proclamation no. 827.
1980 first excavated by Maharlika Cuevas.
1980s earthquake causes collapse which blocks the last two chambers.
29-JUN-1994 reestablished as the Peñablanca Protected Landscape by Proclamation no. 416.
06-OCT-2003 protected area was further enlarged as the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape (PPLS).
2007 excavated by a team led by Armand Salvador Mijares from the University of the Philippines.
2019 fossils of archaic humans confirmed as a previously unknown and now extinct human sub-species Callao Man (Homo luzonensis).
FEB-2020 officially recognized as an important cultural property of the Philippines.

Description

Callao Cave is only half an hour drive from Cagayan's capital Tuguegarao City, it is one of the province's most popular caves. The popularity was boosted by the official recognition of the Callao Man (Homo luzonensis) in 2019. It was named after the Callao (Kallaw bird), once very common in this area, but because of hunting it is now very rare.

The cave is located on a hill above the Pinacanauan River, north of the river, while Peñablanca is located on the southern side. To reach the cave, cross the river on the eastern side of town, there are two bridges over the two branches of the river. Turn right on Callao Cave Road and follow it to the end around the bend of the river. At the end of the road is a parking lot with a Visitor Information Center of the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. At the far end, after numerous souvenir shops, is the ticket office. This is a new addition, the cave was open without restriction for a long time, but a few years ago increasing visitor numbers made some restrictions necessary. Now there are open hours and an entrance fee. We originally listed the cave as a very easy semi-wild cave because it has no trails and no sufficient light system. The trails were not developed, they are still mostly footpaths in the cave sediment created by the feet of the visitors. There is now a rudimentary electric light but we strongly recommend to bring a lamp. Nevertheless we reclassified it as a show cave, because of the other upgrades.

A stone staircase leads up 184 steps on the mountainside to the cave entrance, for the convenience of the visitors they are numbered. A series of seven chambers with numerous karstfensters may be visited. Until an earthquake in the 1980s there were nine chambers, but the last two were blocked by a collapse. All chambers except the third have at least some natural light. The first huge chamber is called the Aviary Room, having many openings which let in daylight and several species of birds who live here. The site of archaeological excavations right at the entrance is fenced off. Archaeologists from the University of the Philippines found Neolithic tools and human remains. The main attraction of the cave is the second chamber called Divine Room. It was transformed into a church, because it is spacious and has an opening allowing the sunlight to enter the huge chamber. There are benches and an altar. The locals jest that it is possible to have a wedding in this church, but only if the groom carries the bride all the way up the 184 steps.

From here a good lamp is necessary, and actually this is the place where many visitors turn around. The third chamber has no opening and is thus dark, logically it is called Dark Room (no pun intended). The Cream Room was named after a large formation which looks like three scoops of ice-cream. It follows the Jungle Area, named after several animal-shaped rock formations. The sixth room has a passage branching off halfway up the ceiling. It is accessible on cave trekking tours, but the participants enter the passage on the far end on the other side of the mountain. The final chamber is called Sun Room, because early in the morning, between 8 and 10, sun rays shine through an opening in the wall. Later the angle changes and the sun does not directly hit the cave any more.

The cave became quite famous as a result of the 2007 excavation by a team led by Armand Salvador Mijares from the University of the Philippines. They discovered bones of archaic humans confirmed as a previously unknown and now extinct human sub-species Callao Cave Hominin (CCH) (Homo luzonensis). It is commonly known as Callao Man. This type of small-bodied hominin lived around 50,000 to 67,000 years ago. The bones were intensely studied and the results first published in Nature in 2019.

The Callao Cave is home to many bats, like other caves in the area. Every day at dusk the bats leave the cave in great numbers to hunt insects. If you are here in the late afternoon you should definitely watch the bat flight. Also the cave contains snakes, which feed on the bats. During your visit you should not leave the worn trails.