There’s another reason why Sen. Ninoy Aquino (formerly Kulaman) of Sultan Kudarat is well known aside from it being the coffee capital of the Philippines - it’s home to a number of world-class caves or cavern system.
That is according to Glen Malliet of the United States Speleological Society. That’s right and in fact, in 2008 the prestigious 3rd Mindanao Caving Forum under the auspices of the Philippine Speleological Society held its congress at Sen. Ninoy Aquino in Sultan Kudarat. During that time, cave explorations were made within Sultan Kudarat area and according to feedback we got, there’s still more to be discovered. Last week, I had this chance of joining a team of eco tourism advocates (including Mindanao Funnest Sox Bloggers Avel, Nanardz, Darlyn, Bebegems) from both DTI (Mam Nelly Dillera) and DOT (Sir Noel Insular) of Sultan Kudarat province.
I ran out of “wows” inside Lagbasan Cave.
Lagbasan pertains to a mountain pass used by indigenous people in Brgy. Kuden in Sen. Ninoy Aquino, to go to the town proper and back to their mountain community. Lagbasan Cave got its name from this pass, since it is located right beside it. Mr. Charito Santiago was the first person to discover and explore the cave , after a farmer reported seeing birds coming out of hole on the side of the mountain. What was discovered beneath that 2 x 4 feet hole was a huge limestone cavern system the size of a gymnasium. Lagbasan Cave is located some 20km from brgy. hall by (rough road) then another 1 km of trekking thru the Lagbasan Pass. The opening hole is 3 feet wide by 6 feet length then you get into the chamber after a 10 meter of descent.
Lagbasan Cave has two huge cathedral-like chambers (one is estimated to be 300meters long and the other 500meters long) filled with magnificent array of speleothems or cave formations like dripstones (stalactites and stalagmites), flowstone (drapery) and cave crystals. We were led inside this cave by no less than the discoverer himself Mr. Santiago and Brgy. Captain of Kuden after being briefly oriented at the Brgy Hall about the cave. We were allowed to take a pictures of what’s inside the two chambers, even that of the restricted chamber for documentation purposes. The cave entrance by the way has been padlocked, and only one of the chambers is for exploration. This was enforced strictly after an ordinance was passed disallowing random cave incursions, to sustain the cave ecology and discourage the poachers from “harvesting” speleothems.
I’ve been to several caves in the past, but Lagbasan Cave has so far been the most magnificent and most preserved cave I’ve been into. Now, I’m not really an expert on speleothems but I took lots of photos so the experts can identify these for us. Here are some of my photos (please don’t grab them, these are copyrighted):
I’m not sure when will I’d be able to go back inside Lagbasan Cave because frankly, I got this fear for dark and enclosed spaces (plus fear of heights). But being inside Lagbasan Cave and seeing the magnificent and mesmerizing speleothems makes me wanna come back. I keep glued to so many cave forms inside Lagbasan that Manong Santiago and “Kap” has to check on me always lest I go astray!
We should be aware though that there are conservation efforts to save these caves (inluding Lagbasan) in Sen. Ninoy Aquino from destruction. One of the caves in the area that was found to have burial jars believe to be hundred years old are already emptied by “antique poachers”. DENR 12 led Regional Cave Management Committee with consultations with the various stakeholders -provincial and local LGUs is spearheading the conservation plan formulation and is strictly enforcing Republic Act No. 9072, or the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act.
So if you’re going to come here, I advise you coordinate first with the provincial tourism office of Mr. Noel Insular then SNA’s tourism office and then call up “kap” or Mr. Charito Santiago. I also suggest you get ready for some mountain trekking and bring along headlamps and cave helmets to protect yourself! Be careful with what you’re stepping or holding at inside . The rule is, never touch anything that is white or you’ll kill the cave!
Lastly, have fun exploring the bossom of Sen. Ninoy Aquino!