Do Not Risk Your Life

Agus, Mactan

pawod bad_divers cropA disturbing situation at the Pawod Underwater Cave System (PUCS) was encountered today by an FCD Member. As per the report, the Member was aghast to know that the 3 divers (as shown in the photo) were diving the cave in recreational diving configuration; each person was diving with only 1 back-mounted scuba tank and using small underwater lights. They also did not use a standard cave line and instead utilized a thin rope that they tied from the surface.

The divers were confronted by the FCD Member and through their discussion, the following points were noted:

1. The female (foreigner) leading the dive claimed to be a cave diver and a scuba instructor;

2. Her two other male companions (1 Filipino, 1 foreigner) are Divemasters only;

3. They were all from a dive shop operating in Mactan;

4. It was their first time to dive the Pawod Cave;

5. They were not (thankfully) able to enter the cave system since they couldn’t find the entrance to the cave;

6. They wanted to explore the site after reading about it on the internet.

The life-threatening dangers related to bringing untrained divers into a dark, confined, overhead environment was enumerated and elaborated by the FCD Member to the “scuba instructor”. Additionally, the following scenarios that may occur should an accident happen in Pawod was explained to the erring divers:

1. The closure of the area to all other divers;

2. The loss of tourism potentials due to the closure;

3. The negative impact to the cave system as a tourist destination and the stigma that will be received by the country’s diving industry.

The Member has also verbally reported the incident for follow-up to the Lapu-Lapu City’s Disaster Risk Reduction & Management (DRRM) Office which is incidentally chaired by the FCD Vice-President, Andy Berame.

We, the Filipino Cave Divers (FCD) strongly urge all divers to act with prudence and to avoid diving in areas where one is not yet trained to dive into.

There is nothing inside the cave worth dying for.




Fellow Cavers, Talk To Us

File Photo: FCD Jake Miranda conducting a report to the Brgy. Captain of Malixi, Surigao del Sur.

The Filipino Cave Divers strongly encourages all cave divers/ teams who are planning to visit the cave systems we’ve explored to communicate with us before and after exploring the area. Doing so will satisfy the following points:

1. We can give advise on the interesting and fragile aspects of the chosen site;

2. We will be updated on any physical changes that may require the attention of the Local Government Units (LGU) of which we are in direct communication with;

3. We can expedite to the attention of the National Cave Committee (NCC) any pressing concerns since we are a member of the said committee;

4. Any new discoveries (flora, fauna, tunnel, etc.) are considered by the FCD as public information since all sites are considered territories of the Philippines and any such discoveries should benefit the public.

We will appreciate your cooperation. Let us help each other protect the underwater cave systems of our country for the next generation.

Appropriate credits will be given when we publish your report/s.


For & behalf of the FCD,

Bernil H. Gastardo

Bernil H. Gastardo


Public Awareness for Springs & Caves

During the June 2017 Surigao Exploration, FCD Jake Miranda donated to Barangay Officials several tarpaulins with Do’s and Dont’s for the local community to follow in order to maintain the prisitine condition and the peaceful ambience of their water resource.


The simple reminders were the following:

1. No defecating or urinating.

2. No lifeguard on duty, swim at your own risk. Please supervise children.

3. No jumping or diving from platform, trees or banks.

4. Leave no trash behind, no toxic chemicals.

5. No loud music or noise, no drinking alcohol.

6. No fishing, no campfire.

The recommended measures are in line with a DENR administrative order on the preservation of caves.


NO DEFECATING OR URINATING. Such signs if used in other communities are seen to help lower E. Coli levels and prevent schistosomiasis infection in water-filled caves.

FCD assists local communities in raising awareness among their constituents of the importance of clean and pristine water bodies in inland ecosystems.

The FCD is working on getting more tarpaulins printed for distribution to the local government units that have springs and caves within their borders.


Article by:

Bernil Gastardo and Jake Miranda

A Successful Cave Clean-Up

After 3 days of hard work which was from July 25-27, 2017, the Clean-Up Team was able to remove 21pcs. of concrete blocks from deep inside the Pawod Underwater Cave System (PUCS).


The Clean-Up Team posing with the obtrusive concrete blocks .  L-R: Jackie Genuino,  Juan Naval,  Bernil Gastardo,  Jaime Lapac

Additionally, 200 meters of line were replaced and the main chamber was given a new guide line that follows a more systematic path to allow cavers a better view of Doc’s Chamber as the area is called. A new diagram of the lining will be published soon for everyone’s reference.

FCD gives credit to the following team members:

1. FCD Member and UTD’s Regional Manager, Juan Naval for spearheading the project and for sponsoring the cave lines and line markers.

2. UTD caver Jackie Genuino for the underwater support and video documentation of the maintenance work.

3. FCD Secretary and proprietor of Jaime’s Dive Center, Jaime Lapac for all the logistical support required during the 3-day project.

The garbage collection was not fully completed at the sump due to time constraints but the FCD will be making another schedule for the removal of the debris scattered all over the bottom.

All cavers are also encouraged to collect garbage whenever they visit the site. With your assistance, the Pawod Cave can be kept clean and natural looking.

The Filipino Cave Divers dedicate all efforts for the protection and preservation of Pawod Cave to it’s first explorer, the late Dr. Alfonso “Boy” Amores.

Photos from the 3-day activity:

Article by:

Bernil H. Gastardo

Bernil H. Gastardo


Pawod Cave Clean-Up Project

The FCD in cooperation with Jaime’s Dive Center and Unified Team Diving (UTD) Regional Manager, Juan Naval (with UTD caver Jackie Genuino) started today the maintenance project inside the Pawod Underwater Cave System (PUCS) of Mactan Island, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.


L-R: Jackie, Juan,  Bernil, Jaime’s staff

The objectives of the dives that will be performed until July 27, 2017 are the following :


Concrete block used as line guide. Photo taken by Dr. Alfonso Amores, 2013.

1. Removal of the concrete blocks placed by a group of divers some years ago. The blocks that weigh 10-15kg each and numbering approximately 20pcs. were placed around the main chamber, at the start of the tunnel and all the way to the deepest point of the area. These were used as line guides by the said group but FCD deems the blocks unnecessary and obtrusive and thus has ascertained that the careful removal of the blocks will return the PUCS to a more natural setting. In addition, it may give visiting cavers a better perception of the place as a cave system that still harbors exploration opportunities.


One up, a few more to go.

2. Relining of the chamber and tunnel. Due to age, certain points of the main lines have become frayed and are needing to be replaced for safety purposes. And since the unsightly concrete blocks will all be removed, the lines will be reattached to other points of the cave.

3. Removal of plastics and other garbage inside the cave and in the sump. Due to rain runoffs and from basically lack of care by the community for the area, there is numerous garbage swept into the bottom of the sump, flushed into the cave and lodged inside the cracks in the cave walls and ceiling.

The FCD wishes to remind visiting cave divers to be sensitive to the frailty of the cave and exercise due caution when exploring the site to avoid further damage to its walls and ceilings due to body and air bubbles contact.

It is the hope of the FCD that Pawod Cave may be given its proper protection soon by the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Lapu-Lapu City. The creation of the ordinance for the site’s declaration as a protected area is still ongoing at the LGU level.

Acknowledgement goes to the efforts of Juan Naval and Jackie Genuino for reaffirming the importance of the clean-up and for coming down all the way from Manila to spearhead the project.

A Deep Beauty Under Threat

Tarusan Spring aerialLightly explored by FCD Jake Miranda to a depth of 15 meters fresh water on September 7, 2016, the Tarusan Spring cave system held more depths for discovery.  Revealed to Gastardo and Miranda during the June 20, 2017 exploration was the knowledge that the underwater cave system goes further and deeper than 31 meters/ 102 feet.

The freshwater spring is located in Brgy. Tarusan, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur and it features a strong outflow. With the monsoon rains washing down silt into the area, horizontal visibility during the latest dive was at 2-3 meters.

Tarusan Spring Map 2017Logs and tree branches were in the way as the divers made their slow meandering descent. Line laid was approximately 70 meters and upon reaching the depth of 31 meters after 30 minutes, the divers turned the dive and vowed to return for further exploration during a period when the rain will be less and the visibility will hopefully be better.

Although the dive was safe and successful, what dismayed the FCD was the introduction of “improvements” by the landowner. The spring water harbored various aquatic plants of astounding beauty, with lush growth along the river bank complimented by thick topside foliage.


With the vegetation uprooted during the construction of a cottage above the headspring, it resulted to erosion. There was heavy siltation observed during the dive.

The following pictures below explicitly show what the area looked before and after the perturbation of its natural beauty by misguided individuals.







Hinatuan Mayor Shem Garay and the Tourism Council have been duly informed of the state of the area and the latest news received from their side is that the landowner has been in a meeting with them and he is supportive of the LGU’s intervention program for the spring.

“We have already talked with the landowner. We even invited him to attend the ER & Tourism Stakeholders’ Dialogue and he appeared and stood up during the Open Forum asking for the immediate intervention of the LGU so that he would know what to do. During our initial talk prior to the dialogue he promised to remove the cottage and conduct re-greening in the surrounding area. He is very much willing to abide to the wishes of the LGU. “

– Ms. Gemma Salonga Millan, Hinatuan LGU Information Officer

The FCD will continue to monitor the progress of the LGU’s intervention and eventual management of the area. Aside from being the water source of 2 barangays downstream, the area has a natural beauty and it must be kept as pristine as possible.

All topside images by Jake Miranda. Aquatic plants images by Bernil Gastardo.

Article by Gastardo and Miranda.


Exploring a Jungle Coral Reef

FB_IMG_1500553257187Located in the peaceful and sleepy barangay of Malixi, Hinatuan- Surigao del Sur, Katinuan Spring was initially explored and lined by FCD Jake Miranda on Sept. 2016.

The spring is fed with water from the Tagbina Watershed and adjacent to it is the meandering river of Hinatuan.


Katinuan Spring aerial (1)

The June 19, 2017 exploration by Miranda and Gastardo revealed that the cave harbors a variety of coral reef fossils. The divers noted the fossilized presence of brains corals and of small plate corals.

katinuan spring1

As posted by Miranda in his social media page,

“It is a remarkable geological find for the area noting that the surface entrance of the underwater cave is at least 15 kilometers from the modern day coastline and 22 meters above sea level. Initial discussions with scientists point to the age (2.588 million years ago to 11.7 thousand years ago) and origin of the fossils from the Quaternary Period’s epochs: the Pleistocene and the Holocene. The report on the fossils will be presented to the DENR Caraga’s Regional Cave Committee to discuss the way forward for more scientific explorations of the underwater cave.”

The spring spews clean, fresh water and exhibits a very strong and consistent outflow. Real challenge is posed when navigating into the cave’s mouth (“Nino’s Crawl”) from the water surface due to the strength of the water current. Once inside the chamber (christened “Kap’s Chamber”) which measures approximately 45 meters in circumference, the water becomes still with clarity reaching to approx. 25m horizontal.



At 29 meters, the deepest point of the cave, a surge of water blasts out from the bottom, creating popping sounds on one’s caving helmet due to the multitude of disturbed sediments of which are primarily pebbles. The said area (christened “Popcorn Point”) is turbulent and causes one to be pushed up to the ceiling.

Katinuan Spring

A few small shrimps and 2 eels were observed inside the cave.

The FCD acknowledges the support and hospitality of Brgy. Captain Bibiano Malangi, his family, councilors and constituents.

Credits for the aerial drone photos goes to Jake Miranda.

REPORT: Search and Recovery in an Underwater Cave in Siargao Island


The recovered body inside a body bag at the foot of the spring.

SIARGAO ISLAND- In the late afternoon of April 29, 2017, the body of a 40 year old male was found deep inside an underwater cave of a spring in Brgy Esperanza, Del Carmen municipality of Siargao island.

The deceased, Mr. Jose Borja, a local farmer, was believed to have suffered a seizure while doing laundry in the Can-agong-agong Spring in Dringcamdors Village. (9° 51.889’N, 126° 1.082’E)

Cave divers Jake Miranda and John Rey Pingkian of Surigao City recovered the body from a crevice inside the cave.

Barangay chairman Fred Galolo said that Borja was reported missing on April 19th and was last seen in the spring attending to his laundry. They immediately conducted a search and suspected that Borja drowned in the spring. Hookah divers using compressor-fed air tried to dive the spring but failed to penetrate beyond the entrance.

Del Carmen Mayor JR Coro requested the assistance of Miranda, a member of the Filipino Cave Divers and a dive supervisor of Emergency Response Diving International, an international dive agency specialized in public safety diving and body recoveries.


Cave Diver tender John Rey Pingkian prepares while Brgy. Captain Fred Golo and PNP personnel help secure the area.

The dive team arrived on site at 2 PM, and immediately set up all the gears. The underwater operation commenced at 3:43 PM. There was zero visibility throughout the search and the diver had to grope for the cave walls to avoid getting disoriented.

The dive was made even more challenging because it was a foray into an unexplored cave which was also heavily-silted. The second diver acted as surface tender and standby diver. At 4:08 PM, the body was finally located at a depth of 4 meters during the ascent phase of the dive.

At 4:13 PM, the diver surfaced with the body of Borja which was in an advanced state of decomposition. It was then placed in a body bag away from public view. The whole underwater search took 30 minutes and went as deep as 15 meters. After procedural turnovers using the chain of custody, the area was secured and the cordon was removed. The activity was terminated at 6 pm.


The dive profile showing in yellow the phase of the dive when the body was located.

The municipal, barangay government units and local police station provided excellent support at topside which lessened the risk and made the recovery successful without incident. Protocols like cordoning the area, pre and post-briefings, and safety procedures concerning contaminated water were practised throughout the activity.

The volunteer recovery team was well supported by other parties. Shore It Up Foundation of Metro Pacific Group lent Ocean Reef full-face masks and an M105 and GSM DC underwater communications setup, while Ravenworks also lent a Viking HAZMAT drysuit, an OTS full-face mask and a net body bag.

Siargao island, a well-known tourist destination famous for its surfing, is a limestone-rich flatland with numerous springs and waterways in the middle of lush forests and mangroves. Locally known as bito or busay, most of these springs serve as laundry areas. The springs with the purest waters are the main sources of drinking water for the remote villages.


Jake Miranda in full haz-mat suit similar to the equipment used during the recovery operation. He is an ERDI Dive Supervisor and a TDI ITC Instructor.  File photo.

Report by:

Jake Miranda

Jake Miranda

Preserving a Dying Spring


The Filipino Cave Divers is proud to be part of a landmark move to preserve a dying spring.

As of March 5, 2017, the blue lagoon area of Enchanted River is closed for swimming. The decision came after a series of scientific studies and multi-partite consultations with the Hinatuan LGU, local tourism stakeholders, Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and its Environmental Management Bureau, a team from Department of Biology, University of San Carlos, Cebu City, Filipino Cave Divers, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

In the past, swimmers would intentionally and unintentionally break off rocks from the delicate limestone walls. The rocks descend down to the underwater cave and block the mouth of the spring. As the mouth got smaller, this decreased the optimal flow of freshwater, allowing seawater to come in and destroy the river. As more tourists visited and swam in the blue lagoon, the situation became irreparable to the point that no freshwater was coming out of the spring.

Since the closure of the blue lagoon to swimming, the spring has been restored to its original condition-bluer than blue freshwater has been coming out and forcing salty water back to sea. The unimpeded flow of the freshwater benefits the ecosystem of the river which extends out to Hinatuan bay, the traditional fishing grounds of Hinatuanons.

A new swimming area downstream has been opened just outside the blue lagoon area. This will ensure visitors will still be able to experience the spring’s clean and blue freshwater.

Hinatuan Enchanted River is the most famous tourism site in Mindanao and is gaining more fame around the country and in the world. Help us protect it for the present and future generations to come. It is the only one of its kind in the Philippines.

Article by:

Jake Miranda

Jake Miranda