Have you ever asked yourself why you do certain things in life? Why do we subject ourselves to long uncomfortable bus rides, sleepy red-eye flights, or unsettling new foods? Why do we travel to places even if it means defying difficult logistics or risking our safety? All of these questions came rushing to me again when I went to Pinipisakan Falls and Sulpan Cave in San Jorge, Samar.
In order to reach this mysterious underworld, I had to use my strength and endurance to its optimum level. I’ve read a lot of things about Sulpan Cave prior to this trip so I kind of knew what to expect, but immortalizing the things you have read is a different experience.
We left Catbalogan City early in the morning to catch a bus going to San Jorge. It took about an hour before we arrived at this junction where we waited for our designated motorcycles, or habal-habal, as we Filipinos call them.
I didn’t quite expect that most of the motorcycles in this part of the Philippines have a roof. Now, that is definitely something new for me. You don’t really see these types of transport motorcycles in Cebu. Anyway, Anna and I didn’t get to ride in one of those motorcycles, but the ride was definitely one hell of an experience. It was a 30-minute motorcycle ride under the searing heat of the sun in a rough terrain. I almost couldn’t feel my butt right after.
It was almost lunch time so we decided to fill our bellies first in a nearby resort before heading to our next destination.
After we’ve had our fill, we proceeded to a nearby docking area to get on our respective boats. The boat ride alone was already an adventure. It took about two hours, under the scorching heat of the sun, and every now and then, we had to disembark from some of the areas of the river are shallow. The boatmen had to stop the engine, carry the boat, and then manually start it again so we can proceed.
When we finally reached the docking area at the far end side of the river, we trekked the jungle for another hour. The trail is very steep and slippery that I almost slipped two times. After the seemingly endless assault, we finally reached the campsite. It was a simple hut with makeshift beds in the middle of the dense jungle. It was definitely one of the best camping sites I’ve ever been.
But the day was definitely not over yet! After a few minutes of rest, we wore our respective wetsuits on top of our rash guard and swimming pants. We were told that it gets extremely cold inside the cave and we can’t risk getting hypothermia especially that we will be submerged in the water for hours.
Crossing to the other side of the river was challenging especially for a tiny person like me who have zero swimming skills. We had to use some ropes so we won’t be washed away by the strong current. After scrambling through loose and slippery rocks, we finally reached the majestic Pinipisakan Falls. It was a sight to behold. For a long time now, I have been dreaming to reach this place and finally, when I saw it with my own eyes, I couldn’t stop containing my excitement.
But we’re not there yet. We had to climb Pinipisakan Falls so we can reach the mouth of Sulpan Cave. It was so much fun. At one point, we had to climb a tree and then jump to the cold water in order to cross to another side.
Finally, we reached the top tier of Pinipisakan Falls. Upon seeing the dark hole ahead, I couldn’t wait to see what Sulpan Cave wants me to experience. The view was jaw-droppingly beautiful. Mysterious. Intriguing. Dark.
It was almost nighttime and we were still about to enter the cave. We had to be extra careful this time because the area is mossy and slippery. One last rappel to the mouth of the cave, and finally, we turned our headlamps on to explore this mysterious underworld.
Sulpan Cave was a whole new experience. My previous 3-day spelunking adventure in Calbiga, Samar was entirely different. This time, I had to face another challenge.
You see, I am probably one of the bravest and risk-taking individuals you’d meet but that doesn’t mean I don’t fear something. Throw me into a dungeon, leave me in the dark, keep me in an enclosed space, let me jump from a canyon, but you can never force me to swim in the sea. This fear of the deep blue sea and my abnormal breathing has kept me from learning how to swim. I never truly learned how to swim.
So when I entered Sulpan Cave, I had to face this dilemma. We had to cross an underground river. Nothing could ever stop me to experience an adventure of a lifetime so I pressed on. I had to trust myself that I can do this, no matter what.
Exploring a cave is always a humbling experience. It reminds me how small and vulnerable I am – an insignificant dust in this vast universe. Who knows the dangers waiting for me inside?
You have to learn how to trust the people with you and you also need to be present at all times. Otherwise, one wrong move can lead to a fatal casualty.
Mother Nature always says the last word. It is up to her what things she wants us to experience. You can never be too sure even if you prepare because anything can happen. This is why respect for Mother Nature is of utmost importance if you seek the deepest part of her heart. We have to remind ourselves that this is not our natural environment. We are entering a different world we are not familiar with so we have to be careful and be fully prepared.
As we entered the dark chambers and passageways, I could see the magnificent stalactites and stalagmites in every corner. Heavenly white calcite adorned on the ground and ceiling looked like sparkling jewels. Such beauty in the dark!
We had to be careful not to touch any of them. One touch can block the continued growth of stalactites and stalagmites. We need to remember that it took thousands of years for these natural formations to grow. These are things in this world that we have to admire from a distance.
After hours of climbing rockfalls, wading through cold waters, and trekking rugged terrains, we finally reached the end which means we were already at the far end side of the mountain. But before we could reach it, we had to swim the underground lake which is the coldest part. I was shivering. Even with our wetsuits on, it felt like the cold water was seeping inside our bones.
We didn’t stay long so we can get back on time. Besides, we were already hungry, bone-weary, and cold. We stopped to have some snacks to energize ourselves. I never thought Skyflakes and cheese could taste like heaven when you’re inside a cave. Haha!
I was relieved when we finally reached the mouth of Sulpan Cave. It was already dark but we’re not there yet. We still have to descend to the lowest level of Pinipisakan Falls and cross the river.
While all of them jumped, I chose to rappel instead because my knees were already shaking. I simply could not do it anymore. It would have been one hell of an experience to jump a waterfall at night time but I did not regret my decision. I was starving and shaking. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When we finally reached the campsite, our porters and some local guides already prepared our dinner. It was one of the best dinners in the middle of the jungle.
I slept soundly that night. When I woke up the next morning, I remembered all the adventure that happened and I still couldn’t believe it.
The adventure was far from over. But that would be for another story soon.
When I think about Sulpan Cave, it makes contemplate about everything I have done so far just to travel. Time and time again, I am always reminded of the things I would gladly do just to experience an adventure of a lifetime.
How to get there:
Getting to Pinipisakan Falls and Sulpan Cave requires a professional guide since it is one of the remote destinations in Samar. I highly recommend contacting Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore the Adventures on these numbers: +63 055 251 2301 ; +63 919 294 3865
You can also reach them through their official Facebook page.
1-Day Pinipisakan Falls Tour – PHP 5,000
Transportation (Bus, habal-habal, and boat)
Food (breakfast and lunch)
Guides and porters
2-Day Pinipisakan Falls and Sulpan Cave Tour – PHP 10,000
Transportation (Bus, habal-habal, and boat)
Complete Gears, caving and camping equipment
Food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
Guides and porters
A minimum of two persons is required to organize the caving and waterfalls trip. Anyone above 8 years old so long as they are physically and mentally fit can do this adventure. In case of bad weather or unfortunate situations, the organizer has the right to cancel or reschedule or for safety reasons.
Please note that the rates stated above are subject to change without prior notice. For updated rates and a detailed itinerary, you can visit trexplore.ph.