A magnificent disruption. The first thought when I saw this lone limestone jutting out from the vast rice field surrounding it. “Andyan yung cave? (The cave is there?)” I asked. “Opo! Nasa loob nyan. (Yes sir! It’s inside)”, replied Dyna, who was also another surprise as this lanky girl of 22-yo would be our guide. We traveled about 22 km out of El Nido Town Proper, east to the direction of New Ibajay to visit the Ille Cave, one of the most significant archeological site in the country.
The Ille Cave
Palawan is not all about the natural beauty of its landscape and seascapes. There are several sites in the archipelago that traces the pre-historic roots of the country and one can be found in New Ibajay, El Nido. Just above a 100-meters high, this limestone cliff holds several artifacts dating as far back as 14,000 years. It’s a good thing that the National Museum with a joint venture with the Archaeological Studies Program of University of the Philippines and Solheim Foundation started their excavation and study of the 20,000 artifacts found in the cave in 1998.
Some of the artifacts are numerous shells, cherts (evidence of stone tools), evidence of food remains like fruits, plants and deers. But the most notable are remains of tigers dated from 9,000 – 14,000 years old. This suggest that tigers were natural inhabitants of the island and may have come from Borneo.
Climb Up the Limestone
Finding the information about the Ille Cave and the excavation sites in the area didn’t end there. Dyna led us into the dark cavern of the cave with her powerful torch light to lead the way. We groped, bent, crawled our way up to an opening above the cave. It is recommended to get a guide as there are sudden drops and deep excavations inside the cave.
From here on, it’s like a mini version of my climb to the Taraw Cliffs in El Nido Town. We navigated and rock climbed our way up among the sharp rocks, trying to find the right grip to lift us up. In around 20 minutes we were already at the top. Enjoying the breeze, glimpse of the eastern side of El Nido and the Sulu Sea. The view may not be as stunning as the Bacuit Bay but the other limestone outcrops in the area may also hold some surprises like the ones in Ille Cave.