TWHS: Paleolithic Archaeological Sites in Cagayan Valley, Philippines

For the last leg of our Philippines trip, we headed from the southeast through Manila and up for a drive around north Luzon, and the first visit on our list was the tenative World Heritage Site

Paleolithic Archaeological Sites in Cagayan Valley

Callao Cave, Philippines


Paleolithic sites are located within the Cagayan Valley Basin which is bordered by the Sierra Mountain range on the East; the Caraballo on the South; the Cordillera Central on the west; and the Babuyan Channel on the north.

Found in two municipalities of the province, namely, Solana and Penablanca, Paleolithic sites yielded the earliest stone tools and remains of extinct and extant species of animals.

Archaeological excavations undertaken in Solana and vicinities resulted in the discovery of more than 68 Paleolithic sites in the Awidon Mesa formation.  These sites yielded stone tools and fossils of extinct animals that include stegodons, elephants, rhinoceros, and large tortoise.  The sites tended to confirm previous reports by prominent paleontologists and archaeologists from Europe that both Pleistocene mega-fauna fossils and chopper-chopping stone tools were present in the valley, suggesting mid-Pleistocene date for tool technology in the area at the earliest and later periods.

The frontiers of prehistory is thus being broadened and pushed back.  Tentative results of radio-metric reading in the valley have yielded at tektite date of approximately .92 – 1.7 m.y.  The Mid-Pleistocene dating of the presence of man in the Philippines has been established…

The caves of the inscription are protected within the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape, formerly known as the Callao Cave Park as that’s the most developed and accessible place to visit, so that’s what we did.

After a few minutes’ walk up 184 steps, you get to the cavernous entrance:

Callao Cave, Philippines

The actual educational content about the hominid finds are simply a few plastic sheets on that chainlink fence in the corner … Sangiran, this is not!

However, the setting is impressive; there’s some half a dozen large chambers, several illiuminated from sinkholes above. The locals have put a chapel in the first, and it’s certainly a novelty to see the Blessed Virgin naturally lit from above like this:

Callao Cave, Philippines

Definitely visit around noon so you get the full effect of the sun shining directly down in, the vistas are some of the most beautiful you’ll ever see in a cave system —

Callao Cave, Philippines

— seriously, this place would be the perfect setting for a Lord of the Rings dragon’s lair!

Callao Cave, Philippines


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If you are a hard-core spelunker, Tuguegarao City is your base for the 300-odd mostly unexplored caves in the region — “Caving Adventure Capital of the Philippines” — and if you’re just zooming through like us, Callao Cave is definitely a show cave worth a visit!

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  1. […] other one we made it to was the first stop on the Luzon drive, just before the visit to Callao Cave — the Church of San Mattias in […]

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