Guiuan is known for its white sand beaches and big waves from the Pacific Ocean. But who would have thought that this major town, which is also composed of several islands and islets, in Eastern Samar is hiding a gem of nature? At the seaside facing the Pacific Ocean, we can spot the huge waves that delight the surfers. At the opposite side, we can see the rocky forest that will challenge anyone into a great adventure.
The day before I went to ABCD beach in Calicoan Island to try surfing for the first time, me and my cousins went to Linao Cave, a hidden cave in the tropical forest located just a thrilling walk away from Calicoan and Brgy. Sulangan.
The name Linao Cave is derived from the word Linao or Linaw, a Waray-waray term (the local dialect of Samareños) which means clear. The locals called the cave as such because of the cold, fresh and clear waters that it houses.
How to get there
1. From Manila or Cebu, you can fly to Tacloban City in Leyte with your favorite airline. Travel time from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport is around 1 hour, while it takes around 40 minutes from Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
2. From Tacloban City, you can ride a bus or van to Guiuan. Travel time is around 3 hours for a 150-kilometer journey. The fare for an air-conditioned van is P160 per pax. This trip will also let you experience crossing the infamous San Juanico Bridge that connects the islands of Leyte and Samar.
3. From Guiuan town proper, you can get to Sulangan by riding a Multicab parking near Guiuan plaza. Travel time is around 30 minutes. Fare is P30. Another option is to hire a tricycle driver for a fixed rate to bring you to Sulangan and get you back to Guiuan for a fixed rate, since there might not be multicabs anymore going back to Guiuan after 4PM.
Important tips and reminders
1. Before getting to Linao Cave, it’s advisable to contact a local tour guide first. You may contact Jayson of Yes Org at 09056038451. Yes Org currently charges P150 per person.
2. Wear proper gears and apparels for trekking and swimming. The journey can be exhausting so make sure you are in a healthy condition when you visit the cave.
3. There are two ways to get inside the cave. It’s either you rappel from the opening above the cave or pass through a small dark tunnel with waters.
4. The latter choice above requires swimming. Hence, bring a dry bag if you are bringing a camera and other gadgets. Also bring a flashlight since the cave tunnel is dark.
5. Please don’t leave your garbage inside the cave or near its perimeter. Don’t bring alcoholic beverages and too much food – it’s not a beach or a picnic ground. Caves are delicate natural formations that must be taken with extra care.
6. Don’t harm the living things inside and near the cave, including lizards, bats, plants and trees. Harming them is against the law according to Republic Act No. 9072.
7. Don’t visit the cave late afternoon so you won’t be in a hurry to go out because it’s already getting dark.
Suggestions for the government, the local community, and other stakeholders
I observed that there were no rules and policies that are strictly enforced to protect and preserve the cave. When we get there, I saw garbage left by some tourists. If this will continue, I’m afraid that the natural beauty of Linao Cave will be gone in the nearest future. To preserve this gem of nature, I suggest the following:
1. The government should provide free caving training for the local tour guides. And if possible donate proper caving gears, such as caving hats, life jackets, and equipment to improve their caving tour services and ensure the safety of the tourists. These will also help them improve their livelihood and boost the local economy.
2. Tourists should first obtain a permit from the local government before they can visit the cave. Securing the permit should also require orientation so that tourists will be aware of their responsibilities when they’re inside the cave.
3. The number of visitors at Linao Cave should be limited only to a certain number per day to reduce crowd, noise pollution, contamination, and disturbance of the cave’s ecosystem.
4. Guards should be stationed near the cave during visiting hours to strongly enforce the law and rules that are aimed to protect and preserve the cave.
5. Alcoholic beverages should be banned inside the cave.
6. Tourists should be required to bring a garbage bag with them so they can also bring their garbage with them when they leave the cave. Violators should be punished or be banned from visiting the cave again to enforce discipline.
Remember that it takes thousands or even millions of years for Mother Nature to shape and form a cave. Should we allow some people to destroy it in just a year? Of course not!
Getting to Linao Cave is not only a journey to have some enjoyment for ourselves but it is also a wonderful expedition to be aware of our responsibilities with our environment. Therefore, visit Linao Cave and be closer with our Mother Nature.
Linao Cave is only one of the many amazing caves in the island of Samar, the caving center of the Philippines.