I wasn’t expecting this.

Even after numerous warnings, stories of exhaustion, and the proposal of two exit points for the weary, the five hour trek into the dense forest was a surprise to us participants. We passed through two caves, dense shrubbery, challenging rock trails and steep inclines to reach the much talked about White Cave in Camp 7, Minglanilla, Cebu. When we finally got there, it was all worth it.

When Kaloy Uypuanco emailed asking for help promoting Explore 360’s Travel Photography Workshop, I said yes without hesitation. Any event Kaloy is a part of is sure to be a fun one. Even with high expectations, the weekend workshop proved to exceed what I had in mind. The selling point was the presence of two travel photographers who have amassed a huge following on Instagram. A quick look at the Instagram feeds of @Kimijuan and @Thomascaja showed that we were going to be treated with legit travel photographers who knew a thing or two about taking a good photo. Their feeds are beautiful.

As photographers it’s easy to forget the importance of basics like proper composition and camera settings. These were the bones of the workshop, but what stood out was when Kimi and Thomas started talking about specific photos. You could tell they took the act of taking the perfect photograph very seriously.

Waiting 30 minutes for the light to shine on a mountain, cameras getting wet, long treks up mountains for the right vantage point, and thrilling car rides chasing sunsets were just a few of what they were willing to go through for the perfect shot.

 

“Are we there yet?”

This crossed my mind as we traversed through the Experimental Forest in Minglanilla. Not out of boredom, far from. For a city slicker like me, trekking through this dense forest was challenging. My time was spent looking down at the path making sure I didn’t trip on a protruding branch. When we went in a cave, it provided a welcome respite from the summer heat, but be careful. If you happen to be left by the group and your flashlight runs out of battery, you’ll be lucky to find your way out of the darkness. Clutching on rocks for dear life was a regular occurrence. The most challenging part was trudging up a steep rock less portion of the mountain where the loose soil beneath our feet made it difficult to get a foothold.

When we finally reached the White Cave, two things stood out. In the sea of green and brown forest, the White stood out like a lonely Pacific island. The sheer size of the crevice took me aback. If you look through some of the photos, you’ll notice how small the people look inside.  After hours of walking, I opted to sit on a rock with my feet dangling below and take it all in.

Any chance to go someplace I’ve never been is a good day.

If you’d like to see some of the photos of the rest of the participants, browse through the #explore360tpw.  Below are photos that I took from the trip.

Go someplace you’ve never been.

 

This is where we stayed. It’s called Springpark Mountain Resort. After the trek, we went swimming in the spring pools. The best feeling ever.

This is where we stayed. It’s called Springpark Mountain Resort. After the trek, we went swimming in the spring pools. The best feeling ever.

 

The Experimental Forest in Minglanilla clones trees with the intention of producing high quality planting materials. These are some of the clones.

The Experimental Forest in Minglanilla clones trees with the intention of producing high quality planting materials. These are some of the clones.

 

The caves were dark. Flashlights were a must.

The caves were dark. Flashlights were a must.

 

Our good friend, Kaloy, hamming it up for the cameras.

Our good friend, Kaloy, hamming it up for the cameras.

 

Portions of the forest were burned likely due to the El Nino. I don’t have a photo of it here, but there was a portion of the trek that was supposed to be a traversing through a river. It was bone dry. The summer heat is real.

Portions of the forest were burned likely due to the El Nino. I don’t have a photo of it here, but there was a portion of the trek that was supposed to be a traversing through a river. It was bone dry. The summer heat is real.

 

Despite the difficult conditions, there were still good photos to be found somewhere.

Despite the difficult conditions, there were still good photos to be found somewhere.

 

Our first look of White Cave.

Our first look of White Cave.

 

I took this on the top of the cave. See how small that person is? The cave was HUUUGE.

I took this on the top of the cave. See how small that person is? The cave was HUUUGE.

 

Our guide telling us the story of when a large group came over and two of them got left behind in the caves without any flashlights. They found them a few hours later crying and clutching each other.

Our guide telling us the story of when a large group came over and two of them got left behind in the caves without any flashlights. They found them a few hours later crying and clutching each other.

 

Whenever I’m away from the city, I always hope for clear night sky. The stars always seem to shine brighter in the outskirts.

Whenever I’m away from the city, I always hope for clear night sky. The stars always seem to shine brighter in the outskirts.

 

 

 

Carlo Villarica

Coffee stuff in Zerothreetwo.com. Follow @sobermusings.

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