Thursday, March 6, 2014

Biak Na Bato National Park

The BACKPACKERS and Friends 
Welcome Summer of 2014
by visiting two wonderful National Parks 
in Central Luzon!

First Stop: Biak Na Bato National Park, San Miguel, Bulacan

by Ivan Ignacio

March 1, 2014 - we say goodbye to the cold, windy and rainy months and start March with high hopes that we would finally get the summer party vibe started! 

The BACKPACKERS' traditional Hirit sa Tag Init is bigger and better this 2014 as we are slated to hold five events during our favorite season of the year. First in line was a back to back visit to two beautiful and culturally rich national parks in Central Luzon: Biak Na Bato National Park (Bulacan) and Minalungao National Park (Nueva Ecija).


We drove about a hundred kilometers from our meeting place in Mandaluyong City all the way to San Miguel, the northernmost town of Bulacan. The tedious trip was saved by a forty minute stopover along North Luzon Expressway. By the time that we deviated from the National Highway, we saw ourselves inching closer to the mountainous part of Central Luzon. Until our truck hit the dirt road where the park was situated.

BP Anna and her travel buddy Chipay

Biak Na Bato National Park is a protected area where some of the historical events in our country took place. This is where the katipuneros led by Emilio Aguinaldo fought for freedom during the Spanish occupation. They built their hide outs and headquarters through the several cave systems present in the area. This is the first ever Republic declared in the country and it is where the first constitution was drafted.

Locals mentioned that more than a hundred caves can be found inside the national park. Aside from the cave systems, one can enjoy strolling around the main park where statues depicting historical events are found. For the adrenaline junkie, a hike at Mt. Susong Dalaga and Tilandong Falls are a must; or you can challenge yourself by conquering as many caves as you like!

The park fees
Because we were on a time crunch that afternoon, we signed up for the historical caves exploration. We would be checking out four out of the hundred caves in the area where history transpired the most. We hopped on our truck and trudged the path around the park to get to the jump off point. 


We had a brief introduction conducted by our guide, Kuya Marvin at the jump off point. He answered some of our questions and gave us some tidbits regarding history and the booming tourism in the area. Then, the hike commenced across the fields until we get to a vast plain where we stopped for some group photo ops. Less than five minutes from here was our first 'yungib': Hospital Cave.

Kuya Marvin explains why 'Biak Na Bato'
Hospital Cave is said to be the farthest of the four caves. Based on its name, it served as the hospital for the injured revolutionists. This is where Trinidad Tecson, the mother of Biak Na Bato, worked her magic. She gave her biggest contribution to Katipunan by nursing those who faltered in the battle field. The cave is just perfect for its purpose as there was a wide space between two unnoticeable ends. Outside these two ends were perfect hiding posts for spotters and snipers to ward off Spaniards who may threaten to enter the cave.

Inside the cave are rock formations which locals refer to as pillars, curtains, chandeliers etc. It is important to note to the guests not to touch any of the shiny rock formations as it would stop the rock minerals from growing. There was also a part where human bones can be found. 

Here are our pictures inside Hospital Cave:


The second cave was just three to five minutes away from Hospital Cave. Going around some bamboo and other plants took us to the cave entrance. There was wide darkness inside the cave, which had the honor of being named as 'Imbakan' Cave. Imbakan, is the vernacular word for storage. This cave was used to house food, medicine, artillery and other weapons. The spacious cave also had some sinkholes and a good amount of stalactites and stalagmites. 

Here are our pictures inside Imbakan Cave:
At the mouth of the storage cave
Anna, this is a sinkhole, not a 'zipcode'  :-)
A ray of light from sinkhole heaven
Posing by the Imbakan Rock
The wide storage a.k.a Imbakan


All neophytes of the revolutionary movement had to know this third cave: the Tanggapan Cave. Tanggapan is the vernacular for reception area. All neophytes who joined katipunan underwent initiation and were welcomed here. The initiation was the famous blood compact where you will slit your wrist and let the blood drip in a wine and both parties (the neophytes and one member) will drink from it. 

Inside Tanggapan Cave
This cave was said to be smaller during the Spanish period. It just became wider due to erosion. That explained the names written on the ceiling of the cave which probably date back to several decades ago. So getting into this cave was really difficult, considering the abundant flora that surrounded the park hundred years ago. Before one can enter the cave, a password was set up to ensure that non-katipuneros won't enter the area. The password would be either Anak-bayan, Anak-pawis or Gomburza. Instant history lessons, eh?

Tanggapan Cave


The last, darkest and longest among the four was the Ambush Cave. Coming from the third cave, we had to trek until we chance upon the river before curving outwards again to get to the mouth of the cave. 

Carabaos dipping in the mossy stream
There was just a narrow opening and we had to bend our bodies to get inside it. Our guide warned us that this would be the darkest cave, not to mention the longest to maneuver. He constantly reminded us to duck down and be cautious of the head board. We did not want to be head butting some hard stalactites. 

The cave was named such because this was a perfect avenue for the katipuneros to take their enemies by surprise. The darkness and silence inside the cave were perfect for them to stealth and observe. As their enemies come close, they would hear every tiny bit of sound coming from them. And when they drew near the courageous Filipino heroes, within a blink of an eye they would have been ambushed already. 

BP Chons in Katipunera Red shirt inside Ambush Cave
We were halted by our guide in one part of the cave. We were asked to stay silent and turn off our lights for a couple of minutes. This was to experience how quiet it was inside the cave; that 'deafening silence' they always say in an idiomatic expression. Unfortunately, we had to try too many times before the group could become successful in mastering the art of group silence.

Almost at the end of Ambush Cave
There was a presence of a ladder near the seemingly exit of the cave. The light from down below was alluring. It was like an opening to a holy tunnel or something. At first I thought that it was an opening that will lead to a church. But we were still inside the cave. A couple more minor spelunking moves and we reached another ladder which was the true exit of Ambush Cave. 

We helped ourselves with some balut, penoy, halo halo, softdrinks, kikiam, fishball and sandwich with a super delicious creamy peanut butter after our four cave stint in Biak Na Bato National Park. Because it was already late, we forego visiting the main park, Aguinaldo Cave and Bat Cave. Maybe next time? Half a day is not really enough to check the wonders of this historical park.

We boarded our service, all anticipating to witness another National Park that's gaining more popularity these days... Minalungao National Park: Nueva Ecija's best kept secret is next!! 

Photo Credits to Marion, King, Nick and Jun

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