Remember my blog about Mulao River in Compostela, North of Cebu? A week before our trekking feat, I suggested to my friends that after Mulao, we will set foot on another adventure in Argao, South of Cebu. I had no idea at all why it will be Argao after Mulao. Maybe the words rhyme, lol. Kidding aside, later did I know that the two places have a story connection. So here in my blog I am going to share the story but first here’s our venture in Balay sa Agta Cave and Bugasok Falls.
At 7:00 A.M., my friends and I met at South Bus Terminal. We rode a bus bound for Argao. It was a two-hour trip. We told the bus conductor that our drop-off area was the Municipality of Argao.
- Tip no. 1 Choose any bus of your preference.(Aircon or Non-aircon) Plan to take your bus trip early to avoid heavy traffic, save time and have a chance to maximize your trip.
- ♦The fare of the non-air conditioned bus is 79.00 Php
- ♦ The fare of air-conditionned bus is 84.00 Php.
After travelling the 68-kilometer road in the southern part of Cebu for two hours, we finally reached the Municipality of Argao.
FUN FACT : Argao is a first income class municipality in the province of Cebu.
As what I have read from travel blogs, it’s a MUST to visit first the Tourists Assistance Center office which is located in Cabecera de Argao. Since we did not know the exact location of the office, we inquired from a local who willingly gave us the direction. (Thank you for that!) We passed by the beautiful town of Argao which offers a lot of heritage sites.
I was amazed by the physical attractions that caught my eyes. I realized that Argao has much Spanish infuence. It’s like a mini Vigan of Ilocos. The Casa Real (Municipal Hall), St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church, the Unity Plaza, Argao Hall of Justice (APTA Building) and many more were preserved and maintained. I find this place quiet, quaint and just perfect. The preservation and maintenance of the heritage sites can serve as model for other municipalities in the province.
At the tourism office, the tourism officer, Kuya Francis Manayan, informed us that there were no available tour guides. The guides who were in the office were waiting for another group of tourists.
The officer’s information immediately made us desperate. This can’t be happening!!!. Our plan would be going to naught. I was frustrated at that time. Oh God! Please help! And you know what, God heard my prayer. The tourists were A NO-SHOW. So luckily, we could continue our adventure. YEY!
- Tip no. 2 Please contact the Argao Tourism Commission at (032)-485 8063 a day before the scheduled tour for reservation of the guides.
- Tip no. 3 Before proceeding to your tour, negotiate first with the guides. The normal rate (as of this writing) is 500.00 Php per guide and it is essential to have two guides for this tour. So a total of 1,000.00 Php, subject to haggling if you wish to try for a lower rate.
And the tour began. Good thing was that our guides, Kuya Nazer and Kuya Ariel, had their own motorbikes or “habal-habal”. Why was it a good thing? Because if we hired another “habal-habal”, we would be the ones to shoulder the fare of the guides at 160.00 Php per person back and forth. At least we were free of additional expense.
- Tip no. 4 The “habal-habal” ride will take 45 minutes to one hour going to Conalum Barangay Hall. It’s really far. We could feel the scorching heat of the sun while riding the “habal-habal”. So it’s important to use sun block, wear sun glasses, hat, etc. for skin and body protection.
I wasn’t bored while riding the “habal-habal”. In fact I was amazed with the surroundings. I looked around and saw houses which eventually became fewer and fewer. The next thing I saw was the beautiful scenery of nature dominated by my favourite colors green and blue. The tranquility and serenity of the place made me forget the scorching heat. I was happy being with nature once more.
At last we arrived at Conalum Barangay Hall. We paid 20.00 Php as Barangay Fee. AAAAAnd the trek going to the cave started.
The trail was very easy at first. We saw lots of bushes and trees and heard the sound of the beetles in the area. The natural sound of the beetles was music to my ears. As we went onward, the trail became narrow. As I looked at it, the width measured one foot. It was literally a foot trail, lol. Beside the trail was a cliff, 70 to 80 feet deep. This may be the reason why two guides were needed for safety purposes.
In some parts of the trail, the cliff was carved intentionally to make passing through it easier. We went down to the mouth of the cave and came to the most scary part. We had to cross a very narrow path with a cliff at the side by holding on to a rope so as not to fell down to the depth. It was risky and difficult. This venture is not for the faint-hearted.
- Tip no. 5 Though there are guides to guard you from danger, please be extra careful. The guide told us that one mountaineer fell off and died.
At last Balay sa Agta was now in full view. The name Balay sa Agta in English translation is Giant’s House. The cave was really HUGE. Let us see if there’s really a giant living in the cave.
- Tip no. 6 Kuya Francis, the tourism officer warned us that there are insects that may bite us along the way. It is better to wear sandals for this venture so that you can easily scratch off the insect. (And it really bit me, OUCH!)
One nice thing in the cave was that it was cold!!! The guides joked that the Giant turned on its aircon unit, lol. It was really cold. It was my first time to experience a cave that was cold. Inside the cave, it was very dark, darker than the color of night.
- Tip No. 7 Though the guides brought flashlights, it is advisable to bring additional headlamps or flash lights.
For every five minutes of the trek inside the cave, we encountered new discoveries. We saw different kinds of rock formations. There was a rock that seemed to have tiny bits of diamonds which caused it to sparkle. Hundreds of bats sticking their feet to the ceiling, hopping cockroaches (or I may call them cockhoppers, though it’s not a nice name, I think, lol.) could be seen through the flash lights.
Midway of our tour was a huge hole above the cave, creating a majestic view where the light from outside passed through. They call it the skylight. Finally we saw light. And we continued our tour to the end. Upon reaching the end of the cave, we were instructed by Kuya Nazer to turn off the light to see the rock formation above! AND OMG! The rock above really appeared like a giant puffing his tobacco!!! It was the AGTA!!! We saw him despite the darkness because there was a small hole where light passed through. I tried to take picture but it was not clear! Kuya Nazer told us that a lot of tourists also wanted to take a picture of him but could not do so while others were able to take shots which were not clear or blurred. CREEPY!
The walk from the mouth to the end of the cave could take 45 minutes to one hour and there was no other way out so we had to go head back. A total of almost two hours was our cave experience in Balay sa Agta!
- Tip no. 8 Please don’t ever touch the rocks or anything else in the cave. Let us be eco friendly and be responsible for the preservation of this unique natural resource.
- Tip no 9 Bring a lot of water for hydration and a little snacks in case you get thirsty/hungry. Remember you are inside a cave and there is nothing to buy there. Again, don’t throw your garbage anywhere.
We headed back and I garnered no sweat, lol. It was because the cave was such a cool place!
Our trail in going to the cave was still the same trail in going back. Our next destination was Bugasok Falls. We rested for a while. Then we bought some young coconuts which were fantastic for hydration. Fifteen pesos each only.
We rode on motorbikes in going to Bugasok Falls which took us ten minutes. I was really happy to see again this kind of water form but then felt sad because we couldn’t take a plunge in the rapids because the rope that used to be there was not there. It was used for rappelling to go down to the falls. Without a rope one could not climb back. So what we did was take nice pictures for instagram.HA! 😛
I requested Niña to take a pic of me on a different side of the waterfalls. Excitedly, I hurriedly run to the place. I stepped on mud and whoops. I got stucked. The mud was knee deep. 😦 Good thing, I got no wound or scratch.
- Tip no.10 Please be careful and be mindful of the surroundings.
But still picture taking must not be missed. We couldn’t leave without pictures.
And then it was time to bid goodbye to the falls and we headed back to Argao town. Before going to the town, we stopped at the Riverstone Castle, but apparently it was closed and it was now for sale. 😦
Torta is a kind of sweet cake with ingredients of tuba (soured vinegar) and mantika sa baboy ( pork’s fatty residue.) If you want to buy some TORTA(sweet cake) for pasalubong you can buy them in CHITANGS Torta at 35 pesos each only. The store does not only sell torta but also some other delicacies.
The guides were good natured. Kuya Nazer even told me that they were well taught and trained on the proper ways to guide and the things to avoid, in short the dos and the don’ts. Good job, Kuya, for you really applied what you learned and guided us very well. We learned a lot from you. So, thank you!
There were buses that pass along the highway. So it was just easy to ride back to Cebu City. (same bus fare)
My words are not enough to describe this difficult and risky feat so here’s the video for your reference.
As what you have seen in the video, we didn’t have proper caving equipment but today, the package tour for caving in Balay sa Agta already includes rental for caving equipment.
Shown below are the estimated expenses in this Balay sa Agta and Bugasok Falls Venture
79.00 Php/pax – (non-aircon) Bus Fare from South Bus Terminal to Muncipalilty of Argao
160.00 Php/pax – Habal-habal fare from Municipality of Argao to Barangay Conalum (back and forth)
20.00 Php/pax – Barangay Fee
240.00 Php/pax – Tour guide
79.00 Php/pax – (non-aircon) Bus Fare from Muncipalilty of Argao to Cebu City South Bus Terminal
A total of 578.00 Php/pax
*food, souvenirs and miscellaneous fees are not included
Before I end this blog, here’s the story that connects Argao and Mulao.
‘’Maria Cacao is the diwata (fairy) or mountain goddess associated with Mount Lantoy in Argao, Cebu, Philippines, similar to Maria Makiling of Los Baños and Maria Sinukuan of Mount Arayat. The basic form of the legend is that whenever rains flood the river that comes from Mount Lantoy, or a bridge is broken, this is a sign that Maria Cacao and her husband Mangao have either travelled down the river in their golden ship so that they can export their crops, or travelled up the river on their way back.” excerpt from wiki
Kuya Francis told us that the golden ship is parked somewhere. I guess the golden ship is in MULAO! So that’s the connection of my two adventures.
I know this is just a myth, but stories are stories, they may be fact or fictitious! But this story explains the existence of the present. Without stories, there can be no explanations. Stories channel us to where we are now, the present!