Picnic and Fun at San Rafael , Bulacan

San Rafael , Bulacan province -Philippines

We arrived past 7:30am at the scenic , Bustos Dam – San Rafael side . Our group then asked permission from the military officer manning the sentry gate at the 48th infantry battalion compound .

military sentry

The friendly officers tried to ask us where did we were from , We told them that our group is from Metro Manila and some of us are first time visitors of the place.

group photo

We asked the officers for a quick photo opportunity at the tank and military trucks which are parked within the compound. Some took their chance at a quick photo of the armor tank .

Bustos Dam

 Mr. Chael Santos and his team arrived a few minutes later , while some of us have started our photo shoot near the Bustos Dam РSan Rafael side. During the dry season , when water at the dam is at its lowest level , people would usually cross this side of the dam going to the town of Bustos . It is much faster and saves travel expenses.

Please try to visit about our recent visit to Lakad Pamana of Bustos Bulacan part 4


We saw several kind of birds , water hyacinth and interesting landscape scenery .

breakfast meal wrapped in banana leaves

Our group was served a traditional Filipino breakfast meal by Arki’s Tambayan of San Miguel, Bulacan which consists of steam rice , fried bangus ( milk fish ) salted duck egg and fresh tomato, Another meal which consist of steam rice, tinapa na galungong , ginisang mustasa with¬† choice of either coffee 3in 1 mix or swiss miss chocolate ¬† . While eating our breakfast , We overheard from a house nearby that there was a pabasa / pasyon or readings .¬† The pabasa usually starts on Holy Monday¬† and ends on Good Friday.

people at the balcony singing pabasa with electric guitar 

But according to some of the people in San Rafael , it would start during the lenten season and unlike some pabasa in Metro Manila. They would have a slightly different twist .

Lakad Pamana and Walk with Chan will be another round of tour schedule on April 10, 2016 SUNDAY ( whole day ) For those who wish to join us in our tour  there is a FB event page ( slot is very limited ) San Rafael Heritage and Malangaan Cave Eco Tour

Here are some of the places that we visited last March 12:

 San Juan de Dios Church and Parochial Museum

Malangaan Cave Adventure

A Tour of Greenery in Baliuag




Malangaan Cave Adventure with Lakad Pamana

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 РDuring 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.

rock formation

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 Do√Īa 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 .

 swimming area

 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 РFirst 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 Рphoto 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 Di√Īo¬† .¬† 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 .

graffiti marks

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.

Lakad Pamana of Bustos, Bulacan ( Part 4)

Bustos , Bulacan province – Philippines


The group then toured some of the most historical and oldest still existing houses in Bustos .

facade of the house ( Avelina Perez Ancestral House )

This house is a favorite shooting place among local films and television. Among the films that were shot at the house were Ibulong Mo sa Hangin ( Whispher to the Wind ) by Gerardo de Leon in 1966 .  Nasaan ka Maruja  1978 , Agua Bendita ( Television series Feb. 2010 to September 2010  ), Villa Quintana (November 2013 to June 2014 series) , Ang Biyahe ni Drew and I Juander QTV channel 11 .

living room

Aside from the films and television series , There are some instances that pre-nuptial photo sessions are also held at the sprawling garden.


plateria cabinet

Plateria is a furniture cabinet which is popular among jewelry / silversmith maker and rich families . Some of the compartments are used for storing materials that are used for making jewelry  . They are made using the best hardwood tree species and are ornately carved.

minasa wooden mold with 1874 date

What makes this furniture cabinet so special to the family is that this was one of the only 2 plateria that the Rizal family owns . And one of them is given to the family . They say that it might date backs to the late 19th century .

Sometimes, heritage and travelers would also tour the place upon coordination with the owners or tourism office.

Parts of the house was renovated , thus the facade of this ancestral house does not look old .

family tree ( courtesy of the family  )

According to the current owner of the house, They are distantly related to Reyes clan ( Nicanor Reyes Sr. of Far Eastern University¬† – who’s family hails from neighboring town of Baliwag ) They are also distantly related to Rizal’s -Lopez family clan, Mercado family and some prominent families in Baliwag and Bustos.

tables and chairs

There is also a book that was printed several years ago commissioned by one of the family member and written by Ms. Lourdes L. Mercado  .


 group photo together with Ms. Avelina Baby- Perez

We finally bid farewell to the owner of the house and the group went to the adjacent Perez Ancestral house – They owners of these houses are relatives .

 Perez House as viewed along the highway

The Perez Ancestral House was built around 1858, It is considered as one of the most important ancestral house both architecturally and historically .

stone carvings

The house had intricate stone hand-made carvings located at the sides of the house. Historians and architects are puzzled with the intricate stones carvings with two double headed eagle like creature with crown.

Habsburg -Lorraine royal seal -courtesy of  Wikipedia

This is like HabsburgLorraine ( Austrian- Hungarian ) or Augustinian in origin.

There are several theories:

1.) The family might have a royal lineage from Europe , hence they were able to have the stone carvings at their house.

2.) The family origins might be of Mexican royalty or nobles and was incorporated to the house design.

3.) Agustinian order – There are high priests and bishops who might once lived at their house.

4.) Royal merit from Spanish government for their family meritorious act or services .

Website link: http://www.habsburger.net/en

intricate stone carvings

 Jesus Christ

fray luna

Fray Luna is also called Versoza chairs which is popular during the late Spanish colonial furniture.

living room area

The living rooms of both houses looks quite similar except that this house got more crochet works and more simple.

 Cafe Apolonio

The house and compound is a good example of re-adaptive reuse by the present owner.

Dendrobium anosmum aka sanggumay

There are pocket garden and native orchids like  Dendrobium anosmum ( sanggumays ) were mounted on living trees. It seems that this is the most popular orchid species being grown by the people in this town.

They opened a cafe and restaurant located at the ground floor of the ancestral house with a garden area good for 50 to 60 people . Inside , The restaurant cafe area can host of around 20 to 30 people at any given day .

There is a patio area which can accommodate 4 to 6 people.

Ms. Ofelia Perez- Genabe together with some participants of the tour

We were met by the owner by Ms. Ofelia Perez-Genabe and  she showed us the living room and parts of the colonial house. The old ancestral house was built around 1858.

Business Hours:

M-TH: 11:00am to 10:00pm, F-S : 11:00am to 12mn

Mercado House

Mercado House is another ancestral house which is located near the Perez Ancestral  Ancestral Houses . This was built around mid- 19th century and is another sample of a house with Baroque-style carved stone corner pilasters, carved stone garland and crucifix motifs in the entrance, chrysanthemum designs, decorative reliefs, molave planks with narra sidings, capiz windows, moveable panels, graceful grilles.and baroque style.

Mercado House ( closer view of the stone carvings and pillars) 

Unfortunately, it was sold to an unnamed doctor just a few years ago and the new owners which are private people  is not keen to open the house to heritage tours from outsiders.  Based from the personal stories from the adjacent houses. The former owner is also a distant relative of the Perez. ( Conrado Mercado ).

Some of the group took photos of the exterior of the house from the street.

Bustos Dam :

Brief History : Built in 1926, 50 kilometers upstream from the Bustos Dam as a fixed type river weir without gates, the AARD, Angat Afterbay Regulator Dam (commonly known as Bustos Dam) is the longest rubber dam in Asia at 79 meters and the second largest in the world.

Bustos Dam

The present dam was rehabilitated by Kurimoto, LTD., Osaka, Japan , manufacturing date, as of May, 1997.

It has Washed Out, Intake, Sluice and Roller Gates sets. Its clear spans are 4.6% 1.53 meters. Its gate (opening) heights are 4.5 and 1.0 meters. The weights of the leaves are 5.4 and 1.0 tons. The operating speed is 0.3 m./ min.

Mr. Conrado Garcia Mercado statue

He is known as “Mr. Irrigation” or Mr. NIA . He was the first National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Assistant Administrator; Original owner of the Mercado Ancestral House in Brgy. Bonga Menor; the government created a statue for him to serve as a memorabilia for him and his contributions. The statue is located within the¬† park near the entrance.

commemorative marker

 The Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2001 , (JICA) has approved a P500-million grant-in aid to the government for the repair and improvement of the Angat Afterbay Regulatory Dam (AARD) in Bustos, Bulacan, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) .

closer view

six-span dam’s main features are easily deflatable and inflatable rubber body.

intake gate with irrigation canal

a boat made from cement

mermaid riding a large fish

The park and the vicinity area is a favorite shooting place for films and television shows .

picnic area

We were given a snack which consists of puto bumbong , suman and avocado tea made from the fruit .

dog sleeping in one of the picnic table

There is a small entrance fees of Php 5.00 for tricycle , Php 10 for jeep , Php 20 for car , Php 50 vans and Php 100 truck.

group photo

My only concern is that the place had a lot of graffiti and some areas  needed some rehabilitation . The authorities must try to reforest the surrounding areas with native trees to improve the water holding capacity of the place.

Cunanan Ancestral House

Cunanan Ancestral House had some similarities in terms of stone carvings with the Mercado House , although the house looks like there were some expansion done maybe during the early or mid 20th century  .

The house looks smaller compared to the Mercado house . The house had capiz windows and adobe stone walls hand carving in floral details .

details of the stone crucifix  carving

We manage to take some photos of the exterior parts and adobe walls and its details . Unfortunately , The current owner of the house ( around 92 years-old might not be around ) .

carved stone corner pilasters

A visit to these ancestral houses must be properly coordinated with the local tourism office set several days or even weeks in advance.

Special Mention to Mr. Edwin Del Rosario of Bustos Tourism office , Office of the Mayor and Sir Gilbert . Maraming Salamat Po !

Please visit the links:

Lakad Pamana of Bustos, Bulacan part 1: https://renz15.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/lakad-pamana-of-bustos-bulacan/

Lakad Pamana of Bustos, Bulacan part 2: https://renz15.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/lakad-pamana-of-bustos-bulacan-part-2/

Lakad Pamana of Bustos , Bulacan part 3: https://renz15.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/lakad-pamana-of-bustos-bulacan-part-3/

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