DIY Guide to Bagumbungan Cave

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

bagumbungan cave guide
My recent trip to Marinduque was not only hassle-free (thanks to Cebu Pacific’s thrice-per-week flights to the island) but also eye-opening. I knew the Heart of the Philippines has a lot to offer, but, it turns out, I had no idea just how much.

I knew of its beaches and islands. I knew of Mt. Malindig. But I haven’t heard of its subterranean offerings. And Bagumbungan Cave was a pleasant surprise.

My standard of caves is quite high. I have seen and been inside Angel Cave in Pangasinan. It’s a Class 1 Cave – a classification given by the DENR to the most pristine, most biologically diverse (and, thus, vulnerable) caves in the country. But Bagumbungan Cave held its own and did not disappoint.

Before we proceed, the Leave No Trace Principles:

Spanning the villages of San Isidro and Punong in the town of Sta. Cruz, Bagumbungan Cave got its name from “bago” and “bungan”. The former is a tree whose leaves can be used for cooking, and is abundant in the area. The latter is a term for a piece of bamboo meant to catch and route water, like a pipe. Bagumbungan Cave used to be frequented by men collecting swiftlets’ nests, but a cave enthusiast brought it to the attention of the DENR. In 2009, exploration led by the agency commenced. Mapping of paths and routes were conducted as well as cataloging of wildlife and speleothems. The cave was given the classification of Class 2, meaning some sections of it are off-limits and that tours must be lead by competent and trained guides. By 2013, a management system has been laid out and the cave was deemed ready for tourism.

Before starting the activity, guests must partake in an orientation. Here, the history as well as the features of the cave is discussed. Reminders about the dos and don'ts are also given.
bagumbungan cave orientation

The trail begins with a cemented path that leads to the cave opening. It has several chambers and takes about three to four hours to explore through and through. One has the option to go halfway and do a back trail, but I highly suggest you finish it all the way to the Punong Exit.
bagumbungan cave how many hours

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places to visit in marinduque

There’s a host of rock formations – speleothems – most of them still “alive” and glittering. Flowstones, rimstones, shelfstones, your usual stalactites and stalagmites, – the works. There’s plenty of “river” crossings, too, so prepare to get wet.

caves in the philippines

class 2 caves in the philippines

There are also parts where you’ll need to hoist yourself up via rope. Your quads will also get some work out from all the duck walks to get you through the low-ceilinged areas.

At one point, your guide will ask you to turn all your lights off and experience total darkness. This is my favorite part. It was meditative. Calmed me. I had the urge to just lie there and rot. Cue in Hozier’s “In A Week”.

But I digress.

Bagumbungan Cave is a prime example of community-based tourism. Everyone involved is a resident of Brgy. San Isidro – from the administration to the tour guides. The guides are well-trained.  The village of Punong, where a portion of the cave is located, also maintains a cooperative role.

I should also mention that all the guides know what they’re doing and exhibit a clear love for the cave and the surroundings. There was a sense of great pride in them that must have stemmed from a great deal of empowerment and support from the community. This makes me so happy.
community based tourism in the philippines

From Manila, Cebu Pacific flies every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday to the Gasan Airport in Marinduque. One-way regular fare is around Ph3,000 to Php4,500. Travel time is just under an hour. Once in Gasan, get on a jeepney heading to Brgy. Lamesa in Sta. Cruz (I think this is the town proper). Here, there is a jeepney terminal heading to Brgy. San Isidro. The jeep leaves at 9AM. Travel time is about one and a half hours.

You can also get on a bus in Cubao bound for the Dalahican Port in Lucena (Php280). Jac Liner plies this route. Travel time is 3 to 5 hours, depending on traffic. Once in Dalahican, get on a ferry to Balanacan Port (Php290). It takes about three hours. From Balanacan Port, get on a jeepney or tricycle to Brgy. Lamesa, Sta. Cruz and get on a jeepney to Brgy. San Isidro. Jeepney trips from San Isidro to Lamesa is only until 1PM so make sure to finish your activities before then. Otherwise, you may rent a habal-habal or a tricycle to get you back to the town proper.

For an even more hassle-free trip, you may get in touch with Dream Favor Travel and Tours, the only DOT-accredited tour operator in Marinduque.

9:00AM to 10:30AM - Brgy. Lamesa to Brgy. San Isidro
10:30AM to 10:50AM - Pay fees, orientation
10:50AM to 12:50PM - Explore Cave
1:00PM to 2:30PM - Brgy. San Isidro to Brgy. Lamesa

Per person unless otherwise stated
Jeepney Fare (Gasan vv Lamesa) - Php50 x 2 = Php100
Jeepney Fare (Lamesa vv San Isidro) - Php20 x 2 = Php40

Caving Fees (Halfway, up to the "Falls")
Entrance/Environmental Fee - Php15
Entrance Fee (LGUs) - Php35
Cave Guide Fee - Php55
Equipment Rental (Helmet and Headlamp) - Php35
Right of Way - Php10
TOTAL: Php150/person

Caving Fees (All the way, up to Punong Exit)
Entrance/Environmental Fee - Php30
Entrance Fee (LGUs) - Php70
Cave Guide Fee - Php110
Equipment Rental (Helmet and Headlamp) - Php70
Right of Way - Php20
TOTAL: Php300/person

Practice the LNT Principles at all times (Read: 8 Basic Etiquette Rules Every Modern Traveler Should Know)
- There are restrooms in the registration area
- The minimum number of guests is two. So if you’re by yourself, you must pay for two people.
- If you’re a group of ten or more, you may request for a “kamayan” lunch to be prepared. It’s Php300 each for a minimum of 10 pax.
- Helmets and headlamps are provided and are included in the fees
- Bring a change of clothing in case you want to freshen up.
- You may leave some of your stuff in the registration area.

Check out more Travel Guides.

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