Angel Cave: An Ecological Treasure in Need of Protection

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

angel cave bani pangasinan

Following the photos of an "uncharted" cave, taken from Filipino-born English actress Rachel Grant's Facebook, going viral, interest on Angel Cave in Bani, Pangasinan blew to frenzied proportions. And it's not hard to understand why.

With travel and adventure being what's "in," the otherworldly appeal of Angel Cave is difficult to ignore. Its cathedral-like structure, snow-white massive calcite formations, plus the thrill of swimming through numerous underground pools, is the equivalent of a come-hither look to adventurers.
angel cave
The entrance to a nearby cave system called "Tagay Cave"
angel cave bani pangasinan
Thousands of bats call the cave system its home
angel cave bani pangasinan
The hollowed "Tagay Cave," a few meters from Angel Cave
angel cave bani pangasinan
There are months when these tendrils of vines are decorated with green leaves, making it look like a Christmas Tree

The cave is located on a private land owned by the Tagay family who also serves as the caretakers of the place. But before you go venturing into Bani and demanding entry to this natural wonder, do us all a favor and read on.


Angel Cave, the unofficial name of the largely unmapped cavern in Centro-Toma in Bani, is declared as a Class 1 Cave by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), pursuant to the Republic Act No. 9072 or the National Caves and Cave Management and Protection Act.

According to the Cave Classification Manual by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the DENR, Class 1 Caves are "caves with delicate and fragile geological formations, threatened species, archeological and paleontological values, and extremely hazardous conditions. Allowable use may include mapping, photography, educational and scientific purposes."
angel cave bani pangasinan
A couple of bats in a narrow crevice inside Tagay Cave
Above the cathedral-like entrance to Angel Cave
angel cave pangasinan
The "Adult Pool," with over 10-feet depth in its deepest portion
In comparison, Class 2 Caves are "caves with areas or portions which have sections that have hazardous conditions and contain sensitive geological, biological, archeological, cultural, historical, and biological values or high quality ecosystem. It may be necessary to close sections of these caves seasonally or permanently. It is open to experienced cavers or guided educational tours/visits."
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The length of Angel Cave's "Adult Pool"
angel cave pangasinan
This massive terrace of shelfstones inside the cave is one of its astounding features
angel cave bani pangasinan
This pseudo-spider is one of the many creatures found inside Angel Cave
angel cave pangasinan
Deeper still into Angel Cave, the reflections of this cluster of speleothems on the still water create an eerie mirror effect
These shelfstones inside Angel Cave looked like the petals of a rose when viewed from the top
angel cave bani pangasinan
Aside from massive and stunning cave formations, cave pearls and helectites can also be found deeper into Angel Cave
Class 3 Caves, meanwhile, are "caves generally safe to inexperienced visitor with no known threatened species, archeological, geological, natural history, cultural and historical values. These caves may also be utilized for economic purposes such as guano extraction and edible bird's nest collection."

As examples, Sumaging Cave in Sagada, and Tinipak Cave in Rizal are Class 2 Caves, while Adoy Cave in Alaminos is a Class 3.
Many of this plant specimen litters Angel Cave's floor. A probable explanation for its presence in the cave is that bat dwellers feed on it, making its guano a natural seed carrier.
Taking these classifications into perspective, one of the implications of being a Class 1 Cave is that it will take time before Angel Cave is opened for ecotourism. But, that is also saying this is not impossible.
angel cave pangasinan
Another large delicate formation inside Angel Cave
In cooperation with the municipal government of Bani, I was granted access to the cave in order to learn of its environmental significance and its potential for ecotourism.
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The team, composing of personnel from the local government unit, the private land owners, and cave experts, that accompanied me during my visit to Angel Cave

Angel Cave, in person, is even more marvelous. Although, concerns for safety is real as there are pools to be swam and the cave floor is slippery. The cave is also teeming with large and delicate speleothems – cave formations – that require careful maneuvering of one's body in order to avoid damaging the formations.
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The angel-wing speleothem from which the cave's name is derived
angel cave pangasinan
Farther still into Angel Cave, a subterranean waterfall gushes into another underwater pool
angel cave pangasinan
On the "wings" of Angel Cave. Speleothems react negatively to body oil, that's why it's advisable to wear gloves or avoid touching them completely

These concerns are what Bani's government, the DENR, the private landowners, and the local community are working on to come up with a sustainable cave management plan that'll make ecotourism possible for the cave. For this reason, access to Angel Cave has been suspended until further notice while the persons and institutions involved devise a comprehensive plan for protection and preservation. To facsafety, the cave's carrying capacity, fees, maintenance, and other stakeholder concerns are being thoroughly studied.
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So, please be a responsible adventurer and abide by this notice. Let us give them ample time to formulate and put into effect a mutually beneficial cave management systemLet us support them in their initiative to conserve nature as well as to uplift the quality of life of the community through ecotourism.

In the meantime, check out Bani's secluded beach, pilgrimage site, its pakwan and salt industry, and another one of its protected area.


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