Extending our Nature Spree to Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge | Samar

Fresh from a two-day shindig at Kalanggaman Island, we pit-stopped for a night in Tacloban City to load up on Giuseppe’s pizza and pasta. The next morning, we all hurried out of bed just before sunrise planning to cross an iconic bridge and kayak another one. Since we’ve all been to San Juanico Bridge before, we decided not to stop and proceed directly to the town of Basey, Samar. Known for its local industry of banig (mat) weaving, Basey is also the jump-off place to Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge Park.

The water was so inviting here

The Banig Weavers of Basey

Before we proceeded to the tourism office of Basey, we dropped by the Spanish Colonial-era Saint Michael the Archangel Church. It was originally built in the late 18th century by the Jesuits on top of a hill. Because of its strategic location providing a good vantage point to view the quaint town below, it doubled as a watchtower to guard against attacking pirates back in the day. Walking around the town reminded me of my earlier visit here a few years ago. 

altar of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Basey
The altar of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Basey

Despite leaving in a hurry for Sohoton Caves, we made sure to come back later in the day to buy some banig from the weavers inside Saob Cave—where the women weavers prefer to work due to its conducive conditions in keeping the tikog grass soft and bendable. I ended up buying a two-person banig from one of the mother weavers.

a weaver of banig in Basey shows her work
The banig weavers of Basey

Still Waters Running Through Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge

After registering at Sohoton Visitor’s Center we took a short walk to the floating dock of canopied outrigger boats ferrying tourists to Sohoton Caves. Our boat ride lasted almost half an hour cruising over the calm waters the locals refer to as "Golden River". The water was so calm, it appear like a giant glass reflecting the thick rows of coconut trees along its ridges.

The calming scenery persisted until our guide pointed to us where the verdant surrounding made way to massive limestone walls. A few moments later, our guide ordered us to get out of our boat and transfer to two-person kayaks docked on a rocky bed.

This part of the river is where the Pinahulugan Cliff can be found. According to local history, this is where Filipino guerrillas fighters used to hide from the Japanese during World War II. They would ambush the enemies by dropping bombs at the mere sight of them through the shallow water passageway from the top of the cliff.

From here you will choose what to do first: Spelunking or Kayaking. We opted to explore Sohoton Caves first. We hiked up a short trail until we met two guitar playing men yodeling a harmonious Waray tune. We later learned that they were employed as part of a program by the local tourism office to also promote Waray culture.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries with the two men, we entered the mouth of Panhulugan Cave. If you've done your fair share of spelunking trips before—especially at the more technical and larger caves in Samar such as Langun-Gobingob—you will have a much easier time inside this cave.

This kinda reminds me of the alien in Predator

There's no duck walking, rolling on the floor and inserting your body through narrow openings here. In other words, you don’t need any cheat codes in here as the cave only requires a chill kind of caving exploration.

Notwithstanding the cave's easy level, there's plenty to see and marvel at inside. We saw a few speleothems such as the usual suspects, the stalagmites and stalactites (actually, the only two kinds of speleothems I know of)

Photo by Eazy Traveler

Inside the cave there's a natural formation resembling the Holy Family. Adjacent to it sits a natural altar where devotees would leave rosaries and coins as offerings. We also encounter some of the cave’s dwellers: a weird looking frog—a Walter’s limestone forest frog—bats, of course and other insects.

Finally, Sohoton Natural Bridge

After more than an hour of spelunking we made our way and proceeded to the fun part of the day—kayaking and swimming into the Sohoton Natural Bridge.

Kayaking to Sohoton Natural Bridge

The day’s second venture with the waters of the Golden River took us to the crystal clear part where you can see small fishes and the pebbly river bed below. Meeting the streaming waters as we paddle upstream, the surrounding turned more picturesque. In no time, we found our group heading to the famed archway that appears like a well, natural bridge when seen from a short distance.

THE Pinay Travel Junky feeling cute might delete never. 

“Locals love coming here even before it became popular our guide told us in Tagalog. As far back as the 1960’s as evidenced by an unfortunate memento left as graffiti scrawled on one of the walls that says “1968”.

Marky Ramone Go and Koryn Iledan

I played with the kayak by paddling round and round going under the natural bridge and back. Afterward, we took our much needed refreshing dip to cap our Samar and Leyte adventure. 

It was a long week for me coming from the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo to joining my friends Gay Mitra,  Edgar and Reginald for a trip to Kalanggaman, Tacloban and here in Sohoton.

How to Get to Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge

Gay Mitra feeling cute
Edgar, Reginald and Gaye

The closest airport to Sohoton is Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City. From there, just take a van or a jeepney crossing the San Juanico Bridge and into the town of Basey, Samar. Register at the Tourism Office where you can also rent an outrigger boat and a guide going to Sohoton Caves.