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"Come Back, Come Back to Palawan, Philippines"

"Getting Inside the Underground River"


The fiber glass boat is allowed only to have 8 passengers who must wear helmet and life vest. It was manned by a boat man who, I learned later from our tour guide, is actually a forest ranger but was being pulled out to beef up the regular boatmen because of the unusual number of visitors for the past several days. The boat man doubled up as the tour guide giving us important facts and figures about the underground river as he paddled our boat. Not only that, he has a good sense of humor giving us a good laugh.

A passenger at the front side of the boat is designated as the light man, who has to hold a battery-powered flashlight to light our way inside the darkness of the cave. The battery is same as the battery of our cars so that it can give out a good illumination that would help us appreciate the formations inside the cave.

As we slowly get inside the cave, even if it was already my third time, I still felt that same old strange feeling of “the unknown”, of being unsure what is inside that dark place. I really believe that there is some truth to the mysticism of the place. According to our all knowing boat man, the entire mountain above us is made up of limestone. Thousands of years ago, the water current coupled with the rain water must have caused the “tunneling” of the limestone mountain creating the tunnel or the cave where the present river is now actively flowing. It is a cave with a river.

The boat man explained to us with all authority that just like an ordinary cave the flowing of water from the top portion of the mountain caused the stalactites and stalagmites formation. The formations range from mystical – there are those resembling the face of Jesus, image of Mother Mary, images of the three kings in the nativity to vegetative – there are images resembling to common vegetables like patola, pechay, cabbage, mushroom to animalistic – there are images of horses, dragon, eagle etc.

Moving further inside the river cave, the boat man pointed to us the guano deposits on the crevices of the walls of the cave produced by the thousands of bats inside the river cave. He also pointed to us the nests of the swallows – birds locally known as balinsasayaw. The nests are the source of the expensive nido soup popular among the Chinese. The balinsasayaw birds share the airways of the cave with bats.

On our way out of the river, I wonder if the river would be inhabited with snakes or other unknown creatures just waiting to make their attack. However, the boat man assured us that there are no unknown violent creatures lurking under the dark water or the creepy walls of the caves.

After getting off from the boat, we roamed around the forests near the ranger station where we had photo ops with the tamed monitor lizards (bayawak) and monkeys. We were warned by Ralf not leave our things unattended specially our cellphones because the monkeys are notorious of grabbing cellphones and taking it up the trees!


Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 18:41 Archived in Philippines Tagged ecotourism

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Tried Nido soup last year from like www.geocities.jp/hongkong_bird_nest/index_e.htm . Tastes really good... yeah, I thought it was gross at first, but wow, you won't regret it.

by LisaMiller

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