By Bert Eljera
Noted cave explorer and guide Joni Bonifacio describes his feeling inside a cave this way:
“You can find serenity in caves; it’s a peacefulness that envelops in the inner self. It’s a magical place…the age of it, the shapes and the form of it…it’s a peace that you can’t find on the surface, where there is life and activity all around. It’s an appreciation that hold for a remarkable place, like a cathedral.”
If cave exploration seems like a religious experience for Bonifacio, it’s because he has devoted a big part of his life to finding, exploring and cataloging these natural wonders and leading teams of similarly-inclined enthusiasts in caving adventures around the country.
Bonifacio heads “TREXPLORE,” an organization whose self-assumed mission is to be a record-keeper of Philippine caves.
“It’s a labor of love, and there is a balance that must be struck between disseminating information and limiting human traffic in caves,” Bonifacio says. “Caves are a valuable, limited and nonrenewable resource. Once its destroyed, it’s gone.”
According to Wikipedia, a cave or cavern is a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter. Caves form naturally by the weathering of rock and often extend deep underground. The word “cave” can also refer to much smaller openings such as sea caves, rock shelters, and grottos.
It’s a process that takes hundreds, even thousands, of years to complete.
Speleology is the science of exploration and study of all aspects of caves and the environment that surrounds the caves. Exploring a cave for recreation or science may be called caving, potholing, or spelunking.
For caving enthusiasts, one of the favorite areas is Samar Island, which offers visitors a myriad of caves to explore.
Located in the eastern part of the Philippines, this place maybe the caving capital of the country. Some of the caves in Samar are well developed with large passages and more than of these caves are over ten miles long.
Bonifacio, who has extensively explored the Samar caves, says caving is a great hobby for adventurers who aren’t afraid of tight spaces, heights, darkness, and bugs.
He has led expeditions to the Can-Yawa Cave in Calbiga, Macatingal Cave in Las Navas, Northern Samar, and the Maybug Sulpan Cave in Matuguinao, Samar.
In Eastern Samar, he and his team visited Maslog, and discovered five caves: “Bagoy”, “Mercing”, “Jaime”, “Zoo” and “Bai-ang Caves”.
More than 100 caves have been explored and cataloged with more than 1,000 caves still to be explored. Thousands more caves are known in Samar Island. It has more caves than many other countries.
Rock formations will delight and excite the more adventurous visitors. There are organized expeditions in Samar and only the best equipment and most experienced guides are used, according to Bonifacio.
Among the popular caves in Eastern Samar are:
- Linaw Cave in Guiuan
- Donghoy Cave in Taft
- Talubagnan Cave in Borongan
In Borongan, the well-known caves are:
- Ganap Cave
Located in Barangay Cagbonga which is about 13 km. northwest of Borongan town proper. With beautiful spring; stalactites and stalagmites of various colours and sizes.
- Locso-on Cave
Located in Barangay Locso-on, about 8.5 kilometers south of Borongan. A beautiful cave full of stories and legends. Old folks would swear that many strangers get lost in this cave when they go deep into the hinterlands of Suribao River.
- Santa Monica Caves
Located in Borongan, it has a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean; excellent place for fishing, scuba diving, surfing, swimming.