Rapid Source Assessment: Bababu Lake of Dinagat Islands

Bababu LakeOn April 17-20, 2015, the FCD-USC-DENR-GIZ will conduct the last leg of the Rapid Assessment of Terrestrial and Aquatic Biodiversity Survey on Lake Bababu, Dinagat Islands.

Bababu Lake, 10.074197°N, 125.509106°E, is in Barangay Basilisa, Dinagat Island- Province of Dinagat Islands. It is accessible from Surigao City via a 1.5 hour boat ride. The lake is approximately 200 meters in diameter.

The lake cave (Cave Entrance) is at 10.075459°N, 125.508469°E, which is approximately 700 meters from the sea outlet. The sea outlet is at Kabun Cove, Agongon (Cave Exit) 10.079940°N, 125.505360°E.

Cross-section of the Bababu TunnelThe area is also an upcoming tourism destination. The underwater cave tunnel system discovered in 2012 has been initially measured to be approximately 700 meters long, making it the longest natural underwater cave tunnel in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.

Bababu LakesideBababu features closely contiguous ecosystems within the lake, inside the underwater cave and on the terrestrial area that are unique and a home to a wealth of unexplored biodiversity.

After being identified as a eco-tourism site by the Local Government Unit, there has been a surge of the number of visitors going to the area. Concerned stakeholders now fear that the opening of the site will result in the degradation of the critically fragile ecosystem and will result to the loss of the still undocumented biodiversity treasure.

Habitats: Heavily forested karst area with lake, sea basins, coves & surrounding islets.

Key Diversity Areas: Freshwater lake, forest area, corals in the basins

Trigger Species: Freshwater fish, shrimps, sponges, urchins & unknown species

Hinatuan Enchanted River Underwater Cave System (HERUCS) Rapid Source Assessment

Hinatuan Enchanted River

Hinatuan Enchanted River Underwater Cave System (HERUCS)

The Hinatuan Enchanted River,  8.458886°N, 126.354667°E is in Barangay Talisay, Hinatuan Municipality, Surigao del Sur, Caraga Region (Region XIII). It is accessible from both Butuan City (2.5 hour vehicle ride) and Surigao City (4 hour vehicle ride).

This particular river starts from the underwater cave entrance at 30 meters depth, forms into a spring pool, and flows out to sea. Its stream is approximately 1,000 meters long starting from the spring pool and terminating at its outlet to sea.

The area is now Mindanao’s main tourism destination. On weekends, crowd of more than 1,000 persons is not unusual, most if not all partake in the swimming activities.

HERUCS is a contiguous ecosystem joining the underwater cave and the terrestrial area that are unique and a home to a wealth of unexplored biodiversity. Concerned stakeholders now fear that the gaining popularity of the site will result in the degradation of the critically fragile ecosystem and will result to the loss of the still undocumented biodiversity treasure.

The Local Government Unit of Hinatuan was able to acquire ownership of the lands around HERUCS totaling to 27 hectares.   A ordinance declaring the HERUCS as eco-tourism area had also been adopted. Moreso, the DENR and DOT had recently facilitated the determination of the area’s carrying capacity. This project will greatly augment the present efforts of the LGU of Hinatuan to sustainably utilize and develop HERUCS. The LGU of Hinatuan had expressed desire to declare HERUCS as conservation area expanding the coverage to 150 hectares and having more conservation supportive legal provisions.

Hinatuan_fishesOn March 20-24, 2015 the FCD with the University of San Carlos- Biology Department, DENR-BMB and GIZ will conduct the first ever Rapid Source Assessment of the Enchanted River.

There will be daily sampling of the water from the outer, middle and inner parts of the cave system. Biological assessments and sampling of specimens both flora and fauna will also be made by the accompanying university biologists.

Mapping will be conducted by the cave diving team to enhance previous data gathered during earlier surveys by FCD founders, Dr. Alfonso Amores, Jake Miranda and Bernil Gastardo.

Joining the survey team is FCD Alex Santos. He is the 1st cave diver to explore the cave system back in 1999.

Visit http://www.facebook.com/FilipinoCaveDivers for real-time updates of the upcoming survey.

2014: A Year of Discoveries & Trial by Fire for the FCD

The Filipino Cave Divers started the year 2014 with a series of epic discoveries. Mid-year, it suffered a devastating loss of a beloved co-founder. Forging ahead through such bitter challenge, the organization maintained its core values and expanded its membership, networks and partners. The future of the country’s underwater cave explorations, protection and management is secure in the vision that FCD has set forth. The FCD is discovering more of its potential and 2015 is going to be another year of awesome discoveries indeed!

January 12, 2014– The Siargao Island was initially explored by Doc Amores, Lyndon Cubillan and Larry Williams. Located in Baragngay Tuburan were 3 promising springs that were reported (by locals) to connect Tuburan II to Tuburan I some 2 kilometers away. https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/01/16/search-for-new-underwater-caves-siargao-island/

January 20, 2014– The Pawod Cave was surveyed by Doc Amores, Lyndon Cubillan, Andy Berame and Jaime Lapac. This survey was to determine if the area suffered any damage during the Oct. 15, 2013 earthquake which, at its epicenter in Bohol, registered 8-9 in intensity. No damage was observed in any of the areas especially in the main chamber, and main tunnel.

January 26, 2014– The Pawod Cave was relined by Doc Amores, Andy Berame and Jaime Lapac. Several cave divers using the cave had been leaving temporary lines in the area that were confusing. These temporary lines were removed by the team and yellow permanent lines were installed.

February 23, 2014– Doc Amores and Jake Miranda went to Tagbilaran, Bohol to attend the 18th National Cave Committee meeting chaired by the Biodiversity Management Bureau. Together they presented the credentials and exploration reports of the FCD to the committee. After viewing the presentation, NCC Chair and BMB Director Mundita Sison-Lim said, “With cave diving expertise now locally available, we have a partner in FCD to finally explore the numerous freshwater and sea caves in the different parts of the country. Previously we had to rely on foreign expertise. This partnership boosts our local capability to conduct studies on cave geology and biodiversity inside the underwater caves.”

February 27, 2014– Jake Miranda added one more letter to the cave divers TGADL acronym. FCD now utilizes the mnemonic “Thank God All Divers Live Long”. L (ong) stands for Local. As his article explains, “Local knowledge of the cave includes cave geologic characteristics and composition, water flow, depths, chambers, established lines, and important data from previous expeditions. The new letter in the acronym is added to reflect the need for the cave diver to properly study the cave and prepare for his dive inside its environment. Each cave is different and presents unique challenges to the cave diver.” https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/02/27/thank-god-all-divers-live-long/

April 2 – 3, 2014– Doc Amores, Lydon Cubillan, Jaime Lapac, Ferdinand Edralin, Jake Mirand and Larry
Williams returned to Siargao Island to explore the several sites in Siargao Island. The Del Carmen Cenote No. 1 which was considered by the team as an epic find. The water movement in the area is affected by the tidal flow. With proper tide timing, this can either be a no-current dive or a spring dive with significant flow for pull-and-glide dive propulsion exercises.


April 5, 2014– The Siargao Exploration team proceeded to explore the other sites in Del Carmen, Siargao Island. The crown jewel of the expedition was the discovery of the “Inner Sanctum”. Bamboo ladders and skills in rappelling were required to access the water’s edge. https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/04/09/the-inner-sanctum-of-del-carmen/

May 17, 2014– Doc Amores signed-off 3 new FCD members that he started training a few months back.
Considered certified as FCD Cave Divers are Dean Apistar, Ferdinand Edralin and Marc Berame.

June 17, 2014– A very bleak point in the history of FCD was when Doc Amores passed away while exploring the Hinatuan Enchanted River. An undiagnosed heart condition was the cause of his death. He was recovered by Jake Miranda inside the main chamber, 40 meters deep with his right hand intentionally wrapped in the cave line. It was assumed that he did it so that he wouldn’t drift deeper into the cave. Doc’s last decision made the recovery safer for the team.

June 25, 2014– In the shadow of Doc Amores’ passing and during his wake, the FCD held its first election of officers. Elected as President and Vice- President is Bernil H. Gastardo and Andy Berame respectively. The Board of Directors and the new officers vowed to continue Doc’s advocacy to protect and preserve the country’s underwater caves and marine resources.

July 2, 2014– 7 Concept Note proposals for the exploration and consequent protection of 2 sites in
Cebu and 5 sites in CARAGA region were sent to the main office of the DENR-GIZ Protected Area Management Enhancement (PAME) Project. These proposals were initially worked on by Doc Amores.

August 11, 2014– The Final Proposals for the survey and protection of cave sites in Cebu and CARAGA region were hand-carried to the PAME HQ in Quezon City by Joseph Nacario to meet the deadline. This was after a rigorous 4 days & 3 nights writing binge by the FCD proposal writing team composed of Jake Miranda, Joseph Nacario and Dean Apistar.

September 8, 2014– Executive Order 2014-24 which is “An Order Organizing Task Force Pawod” was enforced by the Lapu-Lapu City Hall. The committee is composed of 12 members– the City’s elected officials, executives and 1 private organization (FCD). The initial meetings opened a lot of possibilities for the development and protection of the Pawod Underwater Cave System. A management workshop will be conducted on January 2015.

September 26, 2014– The FCD held its 1st Convention in Mactan. Members joined in the survey of Pawod and an Advanced Buoyancy, Trim and Propulsion Workshop was conducted by UTD Instructor, Juan Naval. https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/10/17/the-1st-fcd-convention/

October 14, 2014– Alex Santos conducted an IANTD Cave Diver training in the exotic and beautiful Paglugaban Cave in El Nido, Palawan.

November 28, 2014– The FCD signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of San Carlos- Biology Department for the exploration and study of the underwater caves in the country. https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/11/29/fcd-and-usc-a-partnership-for-the-underwater-caves-of-the-philippines/

Dec. 1, 2014– A contract was awarded to FCD by GIZ to survey 4 underwater cave systems until May 2015. The sites to be surveyed starting January 2015 are Casili (January), Silop (February), Hinatuan (March), and Bababu (April).

The Silop Cave Complex

Silop Cave Complex (SCC) is in Barangay Silop, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, Caraga, Philippines, which silop2is accessible via daily flights from Manila and Cebu.  SCC is located at 9.740553°N, 125.515011°E. It is just 15 minutes from the Surigao City Airport.  It now has sixteen-cave entrances system (out of a possible 23) as of June 2014.

Of particular interest is Cave 4a which is part of the established 16 other entrances. It is the only water cave in the system where freshwater runs through the cave at an average depth of 5 feet in the dry season. Certain lengths are as deep as 8 feet. Source pool is 20 feet deep or deeper. The cave is estimated to be 1,000 meters long to reach the source pool.

As of today, there is no baseline information for which the LGU can use as basis to start protecting the area. Today cave 4A’s waters remain an enigma as to its contents, composition and importance to the surrounding forest. Since 2011, the FCD members have spent personal finances to investigate the nature of the SUCS to find out about the value of protecting the area against urbanization. silop_image

Fish, shrimp and bats are commonly found. However, it is under threat from siltation and runoff caused by gold-panning activities in nearby upland areas. In the surrounding areas, unclassified bats and primates are commonly seen.

The Silop Underwater Cave System (SUCS) is a contiguous ecosystem joining the underwater cave and the terrestrial area that are unique and a home to a wealth of unexplored biodiversity. Concerned stakeholders now fear that the gaining popularity of the site will result in the degradation of the critically fragile ecosystem and will result to the loss of the still undocumented biodiversity treasure.

The main threats that can be reduced are the siltation and brown water effect that unfortunately are diffusing to nearby Barangay Silop. The other major threat that this project wants to address is the lack of site-specific policy and mechanisms to safeguard this fragile ecosystem. There is also lack of framework in which development and utilization of the area can follow on

The Local Government Unit is amenable to the conservation of the area due to its enormous potential for eco-tourism and understands that intervention must be brought-in in order to preserve the area’s main attraction-its pristine and water feature. It can be said that currently, there are no significant interventions for conservation being done in the area.

The key stakeholders of the SCC and terrestrial ecosystem include the people and communities of Surigao City, the barangay of Silop and of the Province of Surigao del Norte, along with the tourists and the tourism service sector.

This is one of the areas that the FCD will be surveying early next year with the funds received from the BMB- GIZ PAME project.

A Journey of Discovery

what lies bemeath..The Filipino Cave Divers (FCD) has been contracted to take the lead in an exciting and pioneering project called the “Assessment of Terrestrial and Aquatic Biological Diversity in Selected Aquatic Cave Systems”!

This ground- breaking endeavor which will be undertaken with FCD’s scientific partner, the University of San Carlos- Biology Department,  is under the close supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which has partnered with the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). The implementation of the cave assessments falls under the Protected Area Management Enhancement (PAME) Project.

PAME projects are jointly implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

A rapid source assessment of 4 underwater cave systems will be made in Cebu (1) and CARAGA (3):

  1. Casili Underwater Caves System – Balamban, Cebu
  2. Silop Cave Complex- Surigao City, Surigao del Norte
  3. Enchanted River Underwater Cave System- Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur
  4. Bababu Lake Underwater Cave System- Basilisa, Dinagat Islands

The main tasks and activities that are expected from the FCD and from the University of San Carlos- Biology Department are as follows:

  1. Generate biological profile of the underwater caves including invertebrates;
  2. Produce vegetation profile outside the cave;
  3. Mapping of the underwater cave (inside and outside);
  4. Generate hydrological profile to include water quality (temperature, pH, nutrients, coliforms, salinity and biological oxygen demand), water current directions and velocity and water level rise;
  5. Develop management options per cave as basis in management planning;
  6. Develop assessment and monitoring protocols for the underwater caves.

The project contract was signed last December 4, 2014 and project activities will be undertaken until May 31, 2015.

Please stay tuned for updates as the Filipino Cave Divers and the USC- Biology Department embark on a journey of discovery that will show to the country and to the rest of the world the beauty, complexity and the biodiversity that reside in the underwater world of freshwater and anchialine caves in the Philippines!

FCD and USC: A Partnership for the Underwater Caves of the Philippines


Last November 28, 2014, the Filipino Cave Divers (FCD) and the University of San Carlos (USC) – Biology Department forged the country’s first-ever partnership between a team of underwater cave explorers and a team of university scientists.

The relationship is officially sealed with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will strongly encourage collaborative research projects in underwater caves; the exchange of scientific materials, information, and publications; lectures and symposia; and the promotion of other academic cooperation between both organizations.

Both the FCD and USC share a common goal of furthering the protection of the Philippines’ natural resources. With FCD’s technical expertise on cave diving, the partnership will enhance USC’s science-based approach to addressing local biological resources, environmental issues and problems.

USC’s technical expertise on taxonomy and systematics, as well as biodiversity conservation will complement FCD’s primary focus which is the exploration, survey and subsequent protection of underwater cave systems in the Philippines.

With this merging of brilliant scientific minds, passionate cave divers and environmentally concerned citizens, the country can expect a boost in substantial research related to the biological, hydrological and geological studies of the underwater cave systems in the Philippines!

The signing of the MOU, which was held at the USC- Talamban Campus was attended by Ms. Annie Diola- USC Faculty, Dr. Danilo Dy- USC Faculty, Mr. Dave Valles- USC Museum Curator, Mr. Dean Apistar- FCD Biologist, Mr. Bernil Gastardo- FCD President, Mr. Ariel Rica-  Region VII Division Chief of the Regional Protected Areas and Wildlife Division, Ms. Bernadette Bragat- PAWD technical staff, 5 other scientists of the USC Biology Department and Mr. Terence Dacles of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

Acknowledgment and appreciation goes to MOU co-signatory, Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD- USC President and to Dr. Danilo Largo- USC Bio Dept. Dean and Dr. Julie Otadoy- USC Bio Dept. Chair for their participation in the development of the MOU.

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The Paglugaban Cave of El Nido, Palawan

The Paglugaban CaveIf you have not yet been, I can only describe Paglugaban Cave as truly amazing! This part of Palawan’s geography and geology is estimated to have formed about 300 million years ago.

As such, all of Paglugaban speleothem are very old. In fact, even the cave floor and all of its sediment had taken millions of years to compact and remain undisturbed. Regretfully, not everything has been good.

During our last visit a few weeks ago, we discovered many disturbances on the cave floor such as finger marks and depressions as deep as 5cm, obviously from divers pushing off from the bottom. We also found many other marks and tracks indicating divers had settled on the floor for whatever reason.

One even drew letters on the floor that if we attempt to erase, may just add more to the disturbance.

Hence, these marks are now permanent, or will at least remain visible in our lifetime. We found these and other irregularities such as hazardous line work left inside, and line arrows without any directional purpose. We have since removed these unnecessary incidentals, and the line-work is again safe to use for emergency exits.

Despite all the signs of ignorant but unintentional behavior, the cave remains majestic and breath-taking.

We believe this should be experienced by all who have the means and training to do so! We hope that you will find the time to dive Paglugaban Cave.

Through stewardship, education, and information dissemination, you too can share with others the experience, and inspire in them the value in preserving the Paglugaban Cave in its purely natural state.

Article by:

Alex Santos

Alex Santos

The 1st FCD Convention

Last Sept. 25-28, 2014 the FCD conducted its first convention. Members from Luzon and Mindanao joined the Visayas members on Mactan Island, Lapu-Lapu City for the activities scheduled during the 3-day meeting. The group engaged in discussions on mixed team protocols, held a UTD Advanced Buoyancy and Propulsion Workshop, and conducted an extensive survey (photo, video, directional and distances) of the Pawod Underwater Cave System (PUCS).

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The logistics for the meeting was ably handled from the official HQ of the team– Jaime’s Dive Center.

Gas requirements, manpower support, transportation, accommodations, meals, on site coffee breaks (& after-dive cold beers), WiFi connection and hot showers were generously offered with the distinctive personal attention from team member and dive shop proprietor, Mr. Jaime Lapac and by his better half, Rio.

FCD donation

L-R: Jaime, Bernil, Mrs. Amores, Alex, Juan, Dean, Des. Image courtesy of Karen Amores.

The team also visited Mrs. Luz Amores to convey their respects and deep appreciation for the laudable efforts of the late Dr. Alfonso Amores, co-founder of the FCD. Mrs. Amores handed over monetary donations from their family and friends to be used in the continuation of his advocacy for the exploration and preservation of the underwater caves in the Philippines.

The passing of Dr. Amores was a very heavy blow for the team, but during the 3-day convention, the passion and determination of the FCD was renewed and strengthened. The projects that “Doc Boy” initiated will be continued and enhanced.

During the expanded survey of the Pawod Cave, the seamless actions of the team produced a detailed map of the site that will be used for the creation of an ordinance by the Lapu-Lapu City for the protection of the area.  A short documentary was made from the videos taken of the dives for non-cave divers to appreciate the hidden beauty of the Pawod underwater cave system.


The FCD Pawod Survey Team from L-R: Juan, Des, Bernil, Alex, Jaime & Ferdinand, posing with the FCD made Modular Survey Device. The survey tool is composed of a slate attached to an aluminum frame with an underwater compass, a dive computer, a forward facing light and a GoPro Hero3 camera. Recording of the depths, run time and directional changes is made easy with the camera capturing the compass and computer display during the survey run.

The 2007 Bohol Underwater Cave Explorations

This article originally appeared in the “Chronicles of a Filipino Cave Diver” blog.


Written by:

Dr. Alfonso Y.  Amores

Dr. Alfonso Y. Amores

The project was under close cooperation with the Bohol Provincial Government –

Hon. Erico B. Aumentado, Provincial Governor; Atty. Tomas B. Abapo, Jr., Provincial Administrator; and Mr. Guido Valleser, a senior officer at the Bureau of Fisheries, Provincial Agriculture Office.

The Municipality of Antequera was particularly heavily involved through Hon. Cecil Rebosora, Mayor, and her trusted brother Police Officer Maximo “Boy” Rebosora.


DAY 1 (July 3, 2007)Tigdao Spring

We hit the town of Anda, 90 kms from Tagbilaran for our Exploration Day 1. This was the first working day of the newly elected officials, so we had to rely on the private sector to guide us to the exploration sites. We could not have found a better man to this than “Col.” Cipriano Bernido (actually a retired Army General), the well-respected elder statesman of the town.

The first spring we went to was Tigdao. This got our hearts racing right off the bat since the place looks similar to our Pawod underwater cave in Mactan Island. Bernil did the initial swim-around exploration down to a maximum depth of 8 meters at a blind cul-de-sac.

Kabagno SpringWe then proceeded to the Kabagno spring, a very interesting place indeed. Firstly, cliffs all around fringe it, with the water surface a good 5 meters vertical from the cliff’s edge. Exit problems became apparent very soon since the ladder was removed by the owner the day before we came, not in anticipation of our coming but to put and end to the illegal harvesting of his coconuts by people swimming in the hole.

We tried knotted ropes for clambering up. On a trial, this was successfully negotiated by Bernil…barely. We finally sent somebody out to get us a bamboo ladder. The underwater site in this area was nothing short of amazing – clear waters pierced by dancing sunrays. This is a truly amazing site indeed! No significant tunnel penetrations in this area, but what a place for confined open water instructional dives.

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Still in the same general area of Anda is Banilad spring. The area has long been converted into sort of a place of worship. A grotto with a statue of the Blessed Virgin serves as the center of attraction. Because of the extensive modification, only a small natural cave is left. This leads to a Banilad Springtight space with a small pond of cool and crystal clear water. An underwater tunnel exists but it appears significantly constricted. We wonder how beautiful this place must have been before its conversion into a place of worship.

Kalorenzo, the fourth cave we explored is very close to Banilad, right in the middle of nowhere. Following a small path through the brushes, we arrived at the entrance. Inside, there are a big variety of geological formations dominated by stalactites and stalagmites. We found small pools of crystal clear water here and there and perhaps an underwater tunnel, which appeared constricted. We put this one on our “to-explore-further” list.

Kalorenzo CaveThe last cave for the day was the Convento. This is a trio of three different entrances. The caves again present a fascinating variety of geological formations dominated by stalactites and stalagmites. Only one has a pool of crystal clear water at the bottom. A tunnel was explored but this leads to a constriction after a few meters – another one for the “to-explore-further” list.

No significant underwater cave found, but what an exciting day!

We thank Col. Bernido, our local host, and his associates for this – and Mr. Guido Valleser for introducing us to the Col.

DAY 2 (July 4, 2007)

Canawa dive prepCanawa spring is up in the mountains of the municipality of Candijay. This is a relatively big pool of water surrounded in three-fourths (3/4) of its circumference, in a horseshoe manner by a high steep slope that seems to funnel down into the spring. This explains the poor visibility of the area, what with all the rains of the last few days carrying soil and silt into the pond. The locals swear to the fact that during the months of January to May, the water is crystal clear. They further told us the story of how someone sounded this area and the weight still did not touch bottom after 50 fathoms.IMG_2616

In the murk, we registered a maximum depth of 15 meters after about three bounces. This was a truly unique dive, as we have to negotiate a jumble of downed logs every turn we made it seems.

Because of the long slow drive up the mountains to Canawa and the 90-km trip back to Tagbilaran, this was the only spring we did for the day. Definitely, Canawa is another one for the “to-explore-further” list.

DAY 3 (July 5, 2007)

We met the day with much anticipation as we planned to spend the whole day in Antequera. Bohol Caves 34Report has it that this town in the foothills of Bohol Island is studded with caves and springs. Antequera was my original interest to come to Bohol when I met the mayor’s wife in Mactan more than three years ago. She told stories about rivers, water falls, caves and springs.

Speaking of mayors, we arrived in town early in the morning and parked right in front of Antequera’s beautiful Municipal Hall. We must have looked funny as we put up a picnic scene in the plaza at 7:30 AM. The town’s mentally challenged mascot (Canawa had one too) just pestered us, pleasantly of course, with all the curious questions. A youngish looking lady in a typical municipal hall employee uniform came and rescued us from the pestering mascot. After she flushed me a welcome smile, I asked her whether she works at the Mayor’s office. Politely, she said: “I am the mayor.”

With this embarrassing start, this memorable day (in terms of discovery) started with her calling all available resources to have an informal conference with us in the town plaza while we were having breakfast of sardines and tuna-flavored spread sandwiched in “Amerkambred”.

Inambakan CaveThe Inambacan Falls was our first destination. The experience in this area started to shape our day like a tourism rather than an exploratory trip. We explored a small cave wading in against a strong current up to hip high in clear water. This was a very interesting experience of amateur spelunking cut short by fear of bats. No underwater cave here, but what a place!

Next tourism stop was the Mag-aso Falls. Like the tourists that we were already, we took a swim up to the main falls area. Much like the locals, we thoroughly enjoyed the cool and refreshing waters. But, with wet suits and hoods on?!Tourist

On the ride to the next site, Bernil and I discussed our slim chances of finding an underwater cave of significant penetration on this trip. Very shortly, we arrived at Dahonog Cave in Barangay (Village) Tabu-an. Another steep walk down improvised steps, we arrived at yet another cave with cool waters rushing out. Not minding the small headspace, we went under 2 meters of water to a pool area about 5 meters away. The cave space expanded considerably. We decided to split up and explore the walls from both sides. I took the right side. Less than half the circumference around, I dropped into what seemed like a void in the poor-visibility environment.

Dahonog CaveWe had a surface conference and we  planned to  descend to 2 meters, follow and keep the wall to the right until we dropped into the cave.

And what a cave this can be! Under the difficult circumstances visibility-wise, we religiously kept our positions. About 5 minutes into the dive, and not having reached the end of the cave, I decided to call the dive off. As a tribute to how much we stuck to the dive plan under the difficult circumstances, we had an orderly and uneventful exit. We will be back for a full exploration early in the dry season (January/February) when the water clears.

As we were doing the post-dive briefing somebody came and told us that there is another hole a stone’s throw away. Going through the bushes, we found a nice pool. After a challenging climb down carved steps, we hit the cool waters. We split up and took opposite sides of the Dahonog Cave 2circumference on a surface (mask and lights) look-see. I ran into cool water coming from under an overhang along a wide segment of the rim. I checked this out on one breath – another cave!

We went in on a two-man configuration with Bernil taking reel man position. After about 8 minutes, we exited – another cave with extensive possibilities.

It does look like we will be coming back to Antequera on a regular basis starting at the front end of the next dry season (January). I had a text-conference with Mayor Cecil. As much as we are, she is looking forward to the coming dry season.


A cenote, in the language of the Indian natives of America, translates as the underworld’s window to the outside world. In the language of the world’s community of cave divers, it means entrance to the unparalleled underwater world of Yucatan, swimming around preserved stalactites and stalagmites. To date, these are the only known geological formations in the world that the term “cenote” is attached to.Bohol Cave

Philippine culture is such that Filipinos in these contemporary times believe more in the existence of otherworldly beings than the native Indians of Mexico do. Unnatural beings populate the caves, both dry and underwater. So too, the trees surrounding the sinkholes and springs. The common practice is to ask permission from the resident beings when one enters the cave (a simple “Excuse me” will do). Henceforth, we will refer these karst formations as the Bohol cenotes.

The Bohol cenotes present an interesting view of the outside world when one comes out of a cave dive. One has to come and experience this “unnatural being’s eye view” of the outside world.



Coconut TecCave diving is extreme diving in its truest sense. A claustrophobic underwater environment, strict training requirements and logistical necessities make cave diving an adventure of a relative few – it is estimated that only 1% of scuba divers are or want to be cave divers.

A typical complete cave gear includes twin big-volume tanks joined as one by a manifold connector, appropriate “wings” (buoyancy control device to match the heavy gear), independent primary and secondary regulators with DIN valves, primary light that is as powerful as a car headlight, two backup lights, and a set of guide reels.

Additionally, logistical support requirements involving these complicated systems make cave diving trip relatively expensive. Our trip cost us more than Php40,000 over four days on transportation, food and lodging (cheap hotels).


Northern Florida in the USA remains the mecca for cave diving and cave diving certification. When I took my cave certification, I remember a small sign that hangs on the lobby entrance of the small motel in the town of Bransford that says “Under this sign pass all the future cave divers of the world”.

Cave diving started in these parts of the world in the 70’s. To date, there have been more than 475 deaths in the Florida caves. Most all were caused by lack of proper training.

At the outset, we espouse safety in cave diving here in the Visayas region. One must not attempt to enter the underwater cave environment unless properly trained.

Doc Amores 2007

Dr. Alfonso Y. Amores- Cave Explorer

Balamban’s Casili Underwater Cave System

6 explorations were conducted from Aug. 2011 to Nov. 2012

6 explorations were conducted from Aug. 2011 to Nov. 2012

The Casili Underwater Cave System (CUCS) is located in Barangay Arpili- Balamban [10.441806°N, 123.711667°E].

It was initially explored by FCD members Bernil, Doc Amores and Alec Toting on Aug. 23, 2011. Subsequent explorations by the 2-man team of Gastardo and Amores have determined the underwater cave’s deepest point at 40 meters/ 130 feet. The present cave line terminates 250 meters/ 820 feet away from the mouth of the cave.Casili Spring

Located several kilometers from the sea, the water from the spring flows into the riverbed alongside. The spring’s water outflow is noted to be of considerable volume but was observed to have stopped during the month of October 2012. Huge earth moving trucks were observed passing on the river bed where they continue to an undetermined site to collect river gravel and sand for commercial purposes.

Noted in the pool of the spring are various fresh water species of mollusks, chordates and arthropods. The last exploration in the area confirms the presence of a large freshwater eel with an approx. length of 0.75-1 meter (locally known as ”Casili”). The observation formed the assumption that the area’s ecosystem is capable of allowing such specie to survive and to possibly reproduce.

The following questions remain:

  1. From where is the source of the water that flows from the cave?
  2. What are the possible effects of the river sand extraction to the cave’s ecosystem and the spring’s continued existence?
  3. How far and how long is the underwater cave system?
  4. What other freshwater flora and fauna exist in the area?
  5. What threats are affecting the endemic species?
  6. Has the farming community in the area made any impact to the water quality of the spring?
  7. How is the existing large-scale shipbuilding industry that is flourishing in the neighboring area of Barangay Buanoy impacting the water table in the immediate vicinity of Barangay Arpili and does it affect Casili Underwater Cave System?

Huge earth moving trucks were observed passing on the river bed where they continue to an undetermined site to collect river gravel and sand for commercial purposes.The FCD is hopeful that the Local Government Unit of Balamban Municipality will see the value of this priceless resource within their community and create the appropriate steps to protect the area to include the following points:

  • An ordinance declaring CUCS as a Protected Area
  • Pre-intervention documentation of flora and fauna endemic to the area
  • Post-intervention documentation of flora and fauna endemic to the area
  • Preservation and documentation of species, fossils and other paleontological and geologically important features in the area
  • Monitoring and maintenance of the quality of the water in specific sections of the cave as per hydrological parameters
  • Establishment of a management body and an enforcement plan adopted and enforced
  • Zoning and regulation of specific activities passed by the management board/LGU

Article by:

Bernil H. Gastardo

Bernil H. Gastardo