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Bohol, Cave Country

IJsselstein, Sunday, 7 April 2002 (updated: Friday, 17 March 2006)

The island province of Bohol may aptly be called "Cave Country." Some 1400 caves have been counted, and probably many more have escaped notice. Some claim that Bohol even got its name from the word "buho", meaning "hole.", although that term is actually applied to a hole from which spring water leaves the ground -- something you can find quite often in the coastal towns of the island.

Bohol, like the surrounding islands, emerged from the sea during the mid Tertiary, some 20-30 million years ago. The island is made of extensive karst (limestone) formations, such as sinkholes, ravines, the curious Chocolate Hills, and a large number of caves, many of them still unexplored. You may also come across streams that pop up from the ground at one place, to disappear again into a cave a few kilometers further on, and reappear again after running some distance underground. If you enter this underground world, you will encounter the many unusual and even bizarre invertebrates, such as albino crabs, that have evolved here and are especially adapted to this life in darkness.

All these caves of course are an ideal hideout, and have played an important role in Bohol's history. The Francisco Dagohoy Cave in the town of Danao is probably the most famous of these. This cave was the headquarters of the Boholano patriot Dagohoy, who, in the year 1744 started a rebellion against Spain that was to last until 1829. One of the many crystal-studded passages within Dagohoy's cave has an underwater route leading to dry land, and it is said that every time Spaniards would search the cave, Dagohoy would swim underwater through this passage to hide in the breathing space.

Well known, and easy to reach is Hinagdanan ("laddered" in Cebuano) cave on the island of Panglao, just 2.5 kilometers from Dauis. This cave has a large number of stalactites hanging from the sealing, and

Hinagdanan Cave
Hinagdanan Cave.
Copyright Harry Boer of Harrys Diaschau
matching stalagmites sticking out of the earth below them. The cave leads to a large underground cavern, that contains a pond. Both ends of the cave are open but swimming in the pool is not advisable as the waters there are not clean.

The inland town of Antequera, surrounded by hills and best known for its basket market, has a number of caves. They vary in difficulty. Close to town is Buhong Tiawan, one and half kilometer from the town center. To reach the entrance, in the wall of a limestone hill, you will have to walk about one kilometer through dense vegetation. The entrance itself is about 3 by 5 meters wide, and leads to a cavern that is less than 100 meters long. Inside you'll find various types of dripstone. During the Second World war, this cave served as a refuge for the locals, but was discovered and raided by the Japanese imperial army. Today, the cave is the home of bats and birds.

Two kilometers out of town lies Hagakgak cave. Again, you will have follow a trail through dense vegetation. Located about two kilometers from the town center, the cave is still quite undisturbed. The entrance is a 15 meters wide pasasge at the base of a sinkhole. This cave is a bit more difficult, and it can be quite wet and muddy inside. To get enter, you'll at times have to wriggle yourself through some narrow passages, but once inside, you'll be rewarded with some nice stalactites and stalagmites. This cave is the home of some animals which have adapted to a live underground, such as the rare albino crabs of the species sundathelphosa filipina and fishes.

If you're really into caving, you'll probably also want to be challenged by Inambacan cave. Also about two kilometers from the town of Antequera, you can get to the entrance of this cave over more accessible roads. Inside Inambacan cave is flowing water, which often fills most of the cave -- often the water is over 1.20 meters deep, and often only a mere 30 centimeters of air remain between the current and the ceiling. Inside the cave are some small stalactites and stalagmites. Don't go here without some experience in spelunking.

Roughly halfway the Southeastern coast of Bohol lies the town of Jagna. Best known because from here the boats to Mindanao and Butuan depart three times a week. However, the town also has a large number of caves, including the deepest cave in the Central Visayas. Carmaloan 2. This cave goes down to a depth of 149 meters. If you want to explore it, plan to stay in town for at least one night.

The largest cave in the province is Sudlon. This cave is located in a lovely mountain environment and serves as a hide-out for a huge population of bats. At dusk, you can see them emerge from the cave like large storm clouds.

The Bingag cave.

Told to the writer by Mr. Lorezo Cimafranca, of Dauis, Bohol.

In Panglao, one of the towns near Tagbilaran is a big cave called Bingag. In early time, no one dared enter this cave with only a few companions for fear he would not be able to come out again. It was originally composed of several compartments, with passages so low that one has to stoop low in order to pass through. The passages differed in size. Some passages were so small that a person could do nothing but crawl very slowly and patiently if he was eager to see more of the wonderful cave. People who went there brought many candles and matches for fear they would all be consumed before they reached the main entrance again. They went hand in hand so as not to be lost. Others who were more precautious brought a very long rope, one end tied to the main entrance to guide them back to the outer world and not be lost on the dreadful and dim cave. Others who were more superstitious, wrote their names on the walls near the entrance to make their safe return more certain. When they were inside they did not attempt to talk or to point out at any object, lest something terrible befall them.

Many people come to this cave, to see the rare gold fishes, and to see the weird shapes in the roof and walls and specially the altar with images and saints and the people of stone that are kneeling. This cave was once a beautiful church, where people heard mass everyday. One day while the mass was going on, a woman entered quietly, knelt near the altar and prayed fervently. The people in the church on seeing her, stared at her and tried hard to control their laughter. The more they tried to control it, the more they were tickled to laughter. To them, the woman's behavior was funny, useless, a sign of inconsistency and hypocrisy. She was a courtesan of bad reputation, a shameless woman who desecrated the church.

While the people were laughing, a frightening lightning and a deafening thunder came. The rain fell in torrents, and the church became very dark. The earth quaked and the church crumbled. The kneeling people were all changed to stones, to laugh no more at a person showing repentance in the house of God.

For fifty years, these figures were never disturbed, the gold fishes continued to live in a sort of lake in the middle of the cave. There seemed to be no outlet and inlet. The water was deep and dark but many people were not afraid to swim in it. Time has destroyed the stones. Every earthquake that passed by caused the stone figures to ruin. Nowadays, the cave of Bingag is still there. The lake is still there but the gold fish is found no more. No more figures could be found except stalagmites and stalactites. The entrance to the cave is still small and narrow that only one person at a time could pass down it. The lake is surrounded by aisles of rock where people could go around it. It is a vast dome with a high ceiling of rock. It has become a scenic spot for picnickers and excursionists at present.

From Boholano Folklore by Maria Caseņas Pajo.

Jeroen Hellingman

What readers think...

Francis wrote:
Tuesday, 1 March 2016 12:49:31 PHT
We have a property accessible to hinagdanan cave. if you want to live in pangalo, we offer you affordable lot to buy through an easy installment. Inquire me for more details. We have 5 lots left, so hurry..
Debra wrote:
Thursday, 13 October 2011 15:33:05 PHT
I'm from bohol but i've only seen the hinagdanan cave in dauis. how i wish i could see the other caves, esp. the one in s bullones described by vic ybalez. and yes, dagohoy's cave, too. bohol may be small but it really has a lot to offer.
Aiz wrote:
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 11:22:51 PHT
Hai happy day! meron din cave sa Trinidad so nice and adventurous. kakatakot nga eh ... hehehehe
Manuel Gallegos wrote:
Friday, 18 February 2011 05:46:18 PHT
Can you more experienced travelers to this part of the world give me some advise? What other islands are worth the visit to see rain forest? please let me know thank you
Mcbride wrote:
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 16:51:46 PHT
maaung hapon sa tanan! @ vic ybalez: ask lang ko unsa name sa cave man nga naa sa sierra bullones? is it safe to bring a DSLR camera inside? As in mulosong ba gyud ka sa tubig? Asa pwede contakon ang moguide pasulod sa cave? censya dghan pangutana.:) planning to explore bisan usa lang ka langub sa bohol. Im going home this coming Jan 2011. So, murag naganyar ko sa imong post nga dunay waterfalls sulod sa langub. hope to hear from you soon..... cheers, mcbride

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