I am not a fan of caves... it's dark, crawling with creatures and is not safe for equipment. But there is something about caves that I find mysterious and exciting and whenever someone ask me to go caving, more often than not, I would say YES!
Bathala Caves located in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque is the town's biggest draw. It is composed of dozens of caves that are said to be the playground of Gods. There are about ten caves that have names but locals said there are at least dozens more in the area that are yet to be explored. I was there at the area a bit late in the afternoon so I got to explore only three of them - Secret, Church and Python Caves. It took me a little less than three hours to navigate the sharp karst and some tight holes in and around the cave system and with a dslr and a tripod in tow, believe it, it wasn't easy.
You will not know why this cave is called "Secret Cave" until you have climbed it's very end because after you have gotten out of the cave, few more steps away from it and you will not see the hole where you came out. It looks like a secret passage, thus the name.
Secret Cave is alive as evidenced by the drips of waters that form stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave. It also has impressive wall sculptures and formations at the entrance. Also, this cave has lots of bats and guanos and roaches. It is impossible not to be caught by bat droplings whenever you are in this cave.
|Bats and Roaches|
There is a big entrance to this cave but going down is a bit tricky because of slippery boulders. You need to traverse to the other side of the cave to get out where you need to climb a bit and get out of a narrow hole.
|The Light and the Altar|
Kuweba ng Simbahan or Church Cave is the biggest cave in the area than can fit around a hundred people. It was called Church Cave because it was believed that this cave was the home of Bathala or God.
History has it that this cave was used as a place of worship of extremist and religious sects who believes in amulets and that the elements in the cave can protect them against harm. If you let your imagination run wild, you will see images form before your very eyes inside the cave.
What makes Church Cave attractive is that there are several holes above that provides ample rays of light the illuminates the cave's interiors. There is also evidently lack of bats and the smell of guano that is evident in some other caves and because of its size, this cave is not too claustrophobic like the others.
|Rocky Horror Show|
A running monitor lizard greeted us we approach the mouth of Python Cave. It went out directly on the same path that we are about to enter. Yay. Monitor lizards and python snakes, I asked my guide, are you sure we will still be alive after this one? My guide only laughed giving me the assurance that he has visited this cave a hundred times and out of those times, there was only one instance where a guest was bitten by a snake. Another Yay. Hope the law on averages do not caught me.
|I See The Light|
As the name implies, pythons once thrive on this cave. However, since these caves were opened to the public fewer and fewer pythons can be seen in the cave and most of them are in the the darkest and coldest cranny which is usually unreachable by visitors.
I have seen shreds of snake skins but unluckily(?) I have not seen a python. FYI snakes are normally dangerous and aggressive, but here at the cave they are not harmful. But then again, visitors should always heed caution because when harmed, these pets of Bathala might strike back.
Note: Inset photos of bats and python snake are from flickr.