Malangaan Cave and River ,San Rafael – Bulacan province
I woke -up past 4:30am with a mild flu and left home past 5:00am . I was contemplating if i would join the tour or not since i am not feeling well . Quite excited for the cave adventure and heritage tour together with Lakad Pamana .
Bustos Dam- San Rafael side
Arrived past 5:30am in our designated meet-up place for Metro Manila residents . We finally left the place at around past 6:00am on our way to San Rafael side of Bustos Dam . We ate our breakfast while waiting for the second van from Malolos ( some of the participants are from Malolos and Pampanga ) Our group was met by Mr. Chael Santos local photographer, guide , volunteer and blogger at tumblr . According to the local host and Mr. Chael Santos – During dry season , one can cross San Rafael going to the town of Bustos in just few minutes .
We visited the San Rafael Church and Parish Museum ( more on that tour in my next post ) then the Malolos group met us there .
cement road with cracks
We noticed that the roads leading to the barangay have a lot of cracks since heavy utility vehicles and 10-wheeler trucks pass the road, thereby some passenger jeepneys and tricycle would charge extra fare to compensate for the rough roads especially during the rainy season. After a short van ride , Our group arrived past 12:00nn at the site.
The Malangaan Cave and River system is located at Barangay Tukod, San Rafael, Bulacan but the place also shares border with neighboring towns of San Ildefonso and Doña Remedios Trinidad or simply known as DRT .
entrance to the cave system
There are a lot of interesting limestone formations at the site. one rock formation looked like head of a turtle , some limestone formations looked like an image of a woman .
the erosion are caused by rain
Portion of the road leading to the cave system would also be very muddy . The best months to visit the cave system is from late November to early June ( dry season )
During rainy season- The cave area can be flooded and can be very slippery .
There are several areas were we have to pass and there were mini checkpoints being manned by the local children and locals. ( We hired a van )
We have to pay three times – First was the road leading to the place manned by children ( Php 30 ) Second was crossing the river where an old woman was standing ( Php 30 ) and the last one was the entrance to the cave and river system ( Php 30 ) a total of Php 90 per van .Every time they would ask our van if we would like to swim or visit the cave .
turquoise colored spring water – photo by : Mr. Allan Martinez
Total of Php 90.00 plus so called RENT to the 3 cottages located within the river area – It cost Php 100 per cottage so a total of Php 300 rental for the 3 cottages. A cottage had a sitting capacity of between 6 to 10 people depending on body mass. If we divide the total cost among the number of participants , It will cost us around Php 20.00 per head We were about 25 participants including our driver, caterer and Mr. Gilbert Diño . We waited for another 30 minutes so that everyone can relax and enjoy the place.
schefflera / five fingers and begonia growing on the crevices photo courtesy : Mr. Jhon Gorme
The place had an interesting rock formations and a good habitat for bats and swiftlets .
We also saw native begonias , schefflera ( five fingers) Ficus pseudopalma ( niyog-niyogan or lubi-lubi ) , native ficus and a few native trees .
Kuya Kulot one of the local guides told me that the native begonia that i was referring is being use as a souring agent in the locality .
group photo at the cave entrance by Mr. Chael Sison Santos
We started the hike towards the main entrance together with Mr. Chael Sison Santos ,Kuya Kulot and a couple of kids who acted as our tour guide , Although we told them that we have an official tour guide from San Rafael.
one of the kids who joined us in our trek inside the cave
A couple of the kids went with us and they are the unofficial tour guides and ambassador of the cave system . There are over 20 of the children who takes their turn guiding people, some of them told us that the small token money that receive from tourists are used to augment their family income or allowance in school . Tourist season starts late November ( start of the dry season ) and peak during the summer months ( March , April and May ) then slows down by June as the rainy season begins with the cave network getting flooded. Flood waters can reach the several meters above the cave system .
Our group have seen that there were a lot of ugly graffiti written by locals and even visitors to the cave system . We counted several dozens of ugly graffiti from names of visitors , cellphone numbers, curses, sexual innuendoes , drawings etc… I think a lot of them were not properly brief by the local authorities and even local guides . They should give at least 3 to 5 minute briefing for every tour group entering the cave system and swimming area.
ficus roots and ugly graffiti marks
I have voiced my personal observations to Mr. Chael Sison Santos and Kuya Kulot about what i have seen , aside from plastic mineral bottles and empty plastic wrappers that littered all over the place.
Kuya Kulot photo courtesy by : Ms. Pheeyah Salones
Kuya Kulot and some of the children were featured in several television documentaries which featured their stories about their tour guiding experiences . He is called Kuya Kulot because of his long kinky hair. They were also featured on 24 Oras in 2012 by Mr. Mark Zambrano, Brigada Siyete ” Mga Batang Tour Guide ” ” Anak ng Kuweba” channel 7 and QTV channel 11 by Mr. Cedric Castillo in November 2015 . This had prompted a rapid in flock of local tourists from nearby towns and from Metro Manila.
author helping a fellow participant: Photo courtesy : Ms. Pheetyah Salones
We took a buddy-buddy system and try to take care of each other while climbing on the cave crevices and the cave , since almost all the male participants were able to climb the rock formation with minimal problems . We have to watch each other while climbing the rock formation. Except for Mr. Chael Sison Santos who went to the cave system over 24 times ! The cave network is quite extensive and there are several entry points and exit points. We only took the safe or tourist route.
inside the cave -just before the great ascend : Photo by Mr. Chael Santos
Seasoned cave explorers are usually called cavers or the hobby of exploring caves is called Caving , Spelunking or Potholing . I think almost everyone in the group were first timers . The cave system that we explored is between 250 meters to 245 meters long . Caver or spelunkers would normally spend between 35 minutes to 45 minutes along the route ,but our group are mostly non -professional and first timers. Our group spend about 1 hour and 20 minutes exploring the route. ( not to mention taking photos and selfies along the way )
candit shot by Ms. Pheeya Salones
Kuya Kulot and Chael pointed another portion of the cave with white stalactites and stalagmites formations, He told that we could spend a few minutes exploring the network , but we told them that it might damage the formation by just holding them , since our hands contains natural oil and perspiration which can damage the formation. They usually called them kumikinang na bato ( shining rocks)
conquering the top -photo : Mr. Chael Santos
I had explored at least 3 caves , Crystal Cave – when i was about 6 or 7 years-old, Baguio- Benguet 2008 and Quezon province in 2009 .
We also saw the sad realities of living in a limestone rich deposit site , there were several areas that were quarried and mined of marble deposits using a very destructive form of extracting techniques , blasting the boulders using dynamites . We saw several holes in the huge boulders and neatly cut lines . There are some people who collects bat guanos , limestone rocks. This is a big relief that the local government had banned gathering of marbles and blasting of boulders at the Malangaan Cave site . But we think that cause oriented groups and local government should start the reforestation projects using native trees to protect the water shed and the rock formation .
lunch time boodle fight
Our lunch buffet was a combination of well-known dishes from Bulacan province like steam rice, fresh ampalaya leaves , crispy dinakdakan , inihaw na bulig or dalag, balaw-balaw with fritong talong , nilagang okra ( boiled okra) , chicken and pork kalderobo , binurong isda ( fermented fish) , nilagang sampaloc with side condiments of bagoong , nilagang mani ( boiled peanuts ), chilli pepper and fresh slices of watermelon , pastillas and melon juice with milk ( they call the juice mixture as Milon na Bulakenyo) the consistency is more of a halo-halo rather than juice.
participants enjoyed the hearty meal
We also shared our food with the local tour guides and the small children who accompanied us .
We enjoyed the hearty buffet catered by Arki’s Tambayan from San Miguel, Bulacan – for orders and catering needs , just to to contact them at Facebook Page:Arki’s Tambayan
We left the place at around past 3:00pm for our final itinerary of the day and we all called our group Kwebarkats.
Note : I am encouraging all visitors to observe proper cleanliness by bringing trash bags and avoid putting ugly graffiti and vandalizing the walls of the cave.