Spelunking at Monte Cristo Cave System in Norzagaray , Bulacan

Punduhan ng mga Dumagat, Sitio Suha, Brgy. San Mateo, Norzagaray, Bulacan.

We arrived at around past 11:00am at Sito Suha , Barangay San Mateo , Norzagaray after a brief stop over to take photos at the Ipo Dam and Pinagrealan Cave .

Brother Martin Francisco

The group were greeted by Brother Martin Francisco and Agta- Bulos community. The place is known as Bato sa Bitbit Cave or more popularly known as Monte Cristo Cave. There were a lot of people who would visit the site especially during ” Holy Week” season or during summer months.  Aside from nature and community immersion activities . One of the more popular activity is spelunking , caving or trekking.

Spelunking  is the term used in the United States and Canada and potholing in the United Kingdom and Ireland

This is a few kilometers away from Bitbit river hence people would also refer this cave system as Bato sa Bitbit Cave. The best time to visit the cave system is between 6:00am to past 10:00am , this was according to Brother Martin Francisco .

motorcyle rider group

We saw several motorcycle rider group taking photos at the cave, some of them have visited the cave system several times.

Agta-Bulos child holding lamp

“The primary objective of this eco-tourism project is forest protection. We want to preserve our forest. When we first came here, we thought this was a virgin forest, but we’re wrong. The place was already destroyed by the illegal loggers, charcoal makers, and even treasure hunters. The Agta-Bulos were first afraid to go inside the cave system since it is where “Sabkal ” spirits dwell,  The Agta-Bulos consider the cave system as  Palanas or holy ground , where spirits lives. The group is also accompanied by several Agta-Bulos children with lamps.

Monte Cristo rock looks like the face of Jesus Christ

We made the rocks in Monte Cristo habitable and we made a prayer visit [stations],” said BSMP missionary and Sagip Sierra Madre Executive Chairman, Bro. Martin Francisco, BSMP.

kalye diablo

So far we explored the 4 areas , Monte Cristo rock , Kalye Diablo , Lungga ng Pitong Demonyo and some parts of Level 4 which is a multi-level story cave system believed to be hiding area for the Japanese.  This is mostly reserve for those with proper gear and equipment for rock climbing and rappelling . Some parts of the cave system is about 5 to 7 story .

Kuweba ng Poong Nazareno

They developed 4 out of 8 caves as pilgrimage sites, which was originally named the “Sagip NPC Project Site”, later on becoming the “Punduhan ng mga Dumagat.”

Lungga ng Pitong Demonyo

The cave system is not yet fully explored , However some of the biggest parts were hiding and sleeping space by the Japanese soldiers during the second world war . Some of the cave system were badly destroyed by illegal treasure hunters thinking that there were hidden treasures that lies within the cave. Aside from treasure hunters, There were also people who would get the stalactites and stalagmites .

climbing gear left by treasure hunters and rock gatherers 

land snail are found inside one of the cave system

“The Sagip Sierra Madre is not only an NGO, this is also a community-based organization with different tribes as members. We want the Dumagats to empower and organize themselves. We are teaching them on leadership training and how to be an independent,” Francisco added.

group photo at Monte Cristo

Note : All photos are taken by the author , please this blog link

For those who wanted to join our group , We will have a an organized tour and a community outreach project on May 29 Sunday . The Agta -Bulos community also needed some basic commodities like clothes, canned goods, school supplies , biscuits among other things.

Here is an FB event page Minsan Pa sa Piling ng mga Dumagats for those who wanted to join the tour . This is a whole day affair .

For Booking & Inquiries:

Globe – 0975 733 6464
Sun – 0923 346 7575
Viber – (+63) 975 733 6464

Email – lakad_pamana@yahoo.com.ph

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Punduhan ng mga Dumagat : An Advocacy Tour with Lakad Pamana

Punduhan ng mga Dumagat ,Looban Sito Suha , Barangay San Mateo,  Norzagaray, Bulacan provine , Philippines

Punduhan ng mga Dumagat lies within a 10 hectare property allotted to the Dumagats by the NAPOCOR within Angat Dam.

The word Dumagat originated from two words  duma means “hubad” or naked and gat means “gubat” forest ) loosely translated to naked people of the forest . However they are more appropriately referred as Agta-Bulos .  Dumagats are mostly in reference to the Aeta communities near Aurora and Quezon facing the Pacific ocean side.

Dumagats are known as Agta- Bulos ( Aeta ) who were semi-nomadic group of people that lives over a wide range of area in the province of Bulacan .

Sito Suha name originate from the word “suha”  -pomelo , which were planted by the “dayo ” or outsiders within the area. Hence the sito was named Sito Suha.

Punduhan ng mga Dumagat

Agta-Bulos are found from San Jose del Monte , Angat, Norzagaray and Sierra Madre range . They have a unique language that is distinct. Very few Agta-Bulos are fluent in 2 Agta languages – The other one is Alta-Kabulewan / Kabolewean of Doña Remedios Trinidad / San Miguel and Quezon province.

Mr. Gilbert Dino and Brother Martin Francisco

We were met by Brother Martin Francisco BSMP one of the founder  of Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc. (SSMESI). an NGO group that is involve with the preservation of Sierra Madre range and helping the indigenous Agta ethnic communities.

We toured the Bato sa Bitbit Cave system or more popularly known as Monte Cristo cave since there is huge rock formation with a face of Jesus Christ . ( more information about the post in my future blog post)

Agta-Bulos children and teenager performed a song

Our group were ushered to the community learning center which also double as an activity center , where guest are formally greeted .

Agta-Bulos

Binangkat is a type of fresh Tilapia fish seasoned with salt , pepper is encased inside bamboo poles and roasted on an open pit fire .

an agta cooking binangkat

The natural flavor of the bamboo infuse  with the tilapia fish adding more flavor to the dish . Cooking fish on bamboo poles were done by the Agta-Bulos for centuries on open pit fire even before the arrival of the Spaniards. This type of cooking is widespread all over the world within areas where bamboo plants are located .

binangkat laid out on banana leaves which served as plate

However , It was only in the past 50 years that tilapia fish became stable fish food among the Agta community living within Punduhan and at Angat dam.  Tilapia fish was introduce to the dam by BFAR authorities as an additional income opportunities .

condiments like soy sauce , calamansi fruit and freshly sliced tomatoes

sinabawon na manok

Sinabawan na manok with pechay or native chicken sinampalukan is another meal vian that was served to the group . The ingredients were pechay , cabbage , native chicken , onion  with some leaves of alibangbang added into the soup.

Sinagumpit

Siling Labuyo Binayu Sa Buho is also known as Sinagumpit , It is normally added to the rice or meal viand to add flavors . It is made from fresh chillies pounded to form a paste.

We were amazed that the Agta-Bulos like the spicy Sinagumpit . The Agta-Bulos also ate with the group and we also enjoyed their cultural presentation.

 

participants enjoyed the traditional boodle fight kamayan style

There will be another round of community immersion / outreach project  schedule on May 29 sunday . This will cover the tour of historic Pinagrealan cave, native rice cakes / kakanin  cooperative ,  Punduhan ng mga Dumagat , Monte Cristo Cave system , Angat Dam .

The group is composed of 20 plus participants like Ms. Rheeza Santiago Hernandez and Mr. Jonathan Hernandez ,Mr. Limuel Santos ,  Ms. Elvie Rayo Malabanan and daughter Sheryl, Mr. Denzel Gerona Sarmiento a  KenyoLakbay  from Mecauayan , Bulacan , Ms. Leilani Concepcion and Mr. June Bernardo of Malabon , Ms. Nellie Rodriguez , Chelle , Mr. Deandre Paul with his family , blogger friend Mr. Dennis Dy Kho of Loverboyz Avenue , Mr. Gilbert Dino ( Lakad Pamana ) Ma. Leonita Miciano of Kawaling Pinoy , Mr. Dennis Red Maristany  of Viajero King, Mr. Lea Barcinal , Ms. Maria Grace Artuz and Mr. Jeffrey Estalilia .

The group collectively donated old clothes, biscuits, vegetable seeds, canned goods, combs, candies and a councilor even donated some bottled water which was turned over to the head of the organization.

Note : For those planning to join the advocacy tour , We advise people to bring clothes, canned goods, blankets, biscuits , candies and school supplies to help the Agta- Bulos .

Here is an FB event page Minsan Pa sa Piling ng mga Dumagats for those who wanted to join the May 29 tour . This is a whole day affair .

For Booking & Inquiries:

Globe – 0975 733 6464
Sun – 0923 346 7575
Viber – (+63) 975 733 6464

Email – lakad_pamana@yahoo.com.ph