DENR employees brave fascinating Tublay caves

>> Wednesday, July 19, 2017

TUBLAY, Benguet -- Twenty seven employees from the regional office of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources and line bureaus participated in a recent eco-tour here at Barangay Ambongdolan in celebration of Philippine Environment Month 2017.
This activity synchronized with this year’s theme “Connecting People to Nature.”  This gave a chance for employees to gain first-hand experience cave resource management as mandated under Republic Act 9072. 
Participants explored two of five caves found here namely Paterno and Bengaongao.
Both caves were assessed by the technical personnel of the then Protected Areas and Wildlife Division, Paterno on June 28, 2005 and Bengaongao on Nov. 6, 1996.
The recommended classification is Class III or generally safe to inexperienced visitors with no known threatened species, archaeological, geological, natural history, cultural and historical values. The other classification of caves are Class I – delicate and fragile geological formations, threatened species and extremely hazardous and Class II - with sections that have hazardous conditions.
In the orientation conducted by engineer Wrexton Afidchao of the Conservation Development Division and Ronie Polker, a member of the Association of Tour Guides of Ambongdolan, both gave emphasis in ensuring one’s safety while enjoying the beauty of the caves at the same time maintaining their natural features. 
Paterno Cave was named after the second Prime Minister of the Philippines, who according to elders of barangay Ambongdolan, took refuge in the cave during the World War II. 
The cave’s small entrance with a width of 1.8 meters and 1.1 meters height opens to two caves with a length of 44.25 meters and 93.8 meters, respectively. 
The personnel were amazed by speleothems or cave formations like stalactites, stalagmites, columns and flowstones that resembled cathedrals, chandeliers, fox, Mary and Joseph, lion, crocodile, Ibong Adarna among others. 
Also, they witnessed the presence of bats and the smell of their droppings.
It was a different experience in the Balinsasayaw Cave, a sub-cave of Bengaongao Cave. 
The only way to enter is by crawling and wriggling to fit in the narrow crevices. 
The highlight of this cave was reaching the nesting place of the swiftlet or swallow birds.
The birds’ saliva make up the famous but expensive “bird’s nest soup”.  Balinsasayaw is a Tagalog word for swiftlet or swallow bird.

The experiences gained and sights seen surpassed the physical strains brought about by the activity. -- Gayle S. Astudillo


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