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AT LEAST FIVE CAVES in this city await cavers or adventurous tourists to explore them when the pandemic is over.

All these caves are within the jurisdiction of Catbalogan City, with distances ranging from 8 to10 kms. away from the city proper. However, more than half of the distance can be accessed by motorized cabs, which are available at the city proper. The rest of the way, however, cavers will have to hike uphill. Joni A. Bonifacio, a master caver and operator of Trexplore — that offers, among others porters, caving instructions and cave tour guide services — says cavers can be treated with various sights of rock formations inside these caves, like stalactites, stalagnites, flewstones, columns, curtains, chandeliers, and even cave pearls. He also believes that, with the support of the city government particularly the city tourism office, Catbalogan will soon earn the title as “City of Caves.”



Before he became a caver, Joni Abesamis Bonifacio, 42, was already an experienced biker. He did solo biking in Samar, Leyte and Cebu in the Visayas as well as in parts of Mindanao and in Luzon, too. On September 14, 2003, Joni has founded and organized in Catbalogan the Samar Adventure Mountain Bikers Association (SAMBA). Today, this biking group is still active as many serious bikers kept joining SAMBA. A big celebration was held during SAMBA’s anniversary this year: a biking activity to the SINP office at Barangay Tenani, Paranas, Samar where a 3-tier swimming pool filled with spring water is available. Nearby is located the Extreme Torpedo Boat Ride Adventure where people can take a thrilling boat ride at the Ulot River.



Despite the pandemic, Joni Abesamis Bonifacio was able to realize his dream of finding good routes for trail biking in Samar. He hopes that Samar, already the caving capital of the Philippines, be also known for trail biking. Joni, a sports-minded, nature-loving and adventurous person is a native of Catbalogan City. He is married to an amiable, unassuming woman, Rhine. They have a young son, Trex, who is likely to follow his father’s footstep. This dream to have good loops for trail biking started late last year, and was almost abandoned last March because of the threat of the coronavirus.


First Caving Guidebook in the Philippines launched in Samar

BY: Ven Labro



CATBALOGAN CITY – The first-ever caving guidebook in the Philippines — the “Samar Island Caving Adventures, An Experiential Guidebook” — was recently launched here to the delight of caving enthusiasts.

Samar’s cave master Joni Abesamis Bonifacio, who has over 20 years of caving experience in Samar, says the 76-page guidebook is of great benefit not only to local cavers but also to other spelunkers and even would-be cavers who plan to explore caves in Samar, dubbed as the “caving capital of the Philippines.”

“Description, maps and data for the top 20 caves in Samar Island” as well as “stories of caving adventures from 12 expeditions” are included in the guidebook. It also gives tips on cave photography, the length and time needed to explore a cave, the level of difficulty (whether for beginners or advanced caving) and if flood-prone, among other relevant information.

“But this is not your typical cave guidebook. While it contains essential cave data it takes an experiential approach to caving, including stories and photos of the caving adventures leading to its creation,” says Australian caver Sarah Francis, the author of the cave guidebook.

She adds: “Caving adventures in Samar aren’t just about caves. They’re about friendship, working as a team, sharing stories and laughter. They’re about challenging yourself but knowing when to pull back….”

Francis reveals that before she started writing the guidebook, she and Bonifacio first embarked on 12 separate caving expeditions in Samar Island in 2014, and that in the following year she collected more data from key international speleologists like Italian caver Guido Rossi, French caver Jean-Paul Sounier, and some members of the Aven Club Valettois and the Asian Karst Exploration Project that had previously explored caves in Samar Island. (more…)

PH ‘longest cave’ discovered in Samar

By Ven Labro

CATBALOGAN CITY, Philippines, May 3, 2017 — Exactly thirty years after a group of Italian cavers found in the province of Samar the country’s largest cave, another group of foreign cavers discovered this April the “longest cave” in the Philippines.

The Sulpan cave system in the mountain town of Matuguinao in Samar province, according to the cavers, is now the new record holder as the country’s longest cave after it surpassed by about a hundred meters the cave in Palawan that was the previous record holder (32 kilometers long) while the cave in Samar is 32.100 kilometers, Matteo Rivadossi, team leader of the 2017 Samar international caving and cave diving expedition, claimed.


Rivadossi said the cavers had a hard time exploring the Sulpan cave system, particularly during the last leg of their expansion expedition. “This is incredible. We have surveyed many, many little passages — crawling and diving, So, (it was) not easy,” he said in an interview with this writer on April 30, the day before their group left Catbalogan for Manila where they will took a flight back to Italy and Slovenia.

Rivadossi said the new record holder as the longest cave in the Philippines is composed of Sulpan Cave, which was connected to the Sulpan Barruz system in 2011, in Barangay (village) Barruz and the Sulpan Male-ho Cave, located near the nearby upstream village of Camonoan. “So, now the system is e-ho and Sulpan Cave and Sulpan Barruz,” he said. He disclosed that another cave, the Tres Marias Cave, is connected to the system, and that their last discovery was Libon Cave, “an enchanted place, a lake” that is a window into an underground river.

Aside from Italian caver Rivadossi (team leader), the other members of this year’s international expedition 2017 in Matuguinao were Italian cavers Guido Rossi (geologist), Antonio Cortina (geologist), Davide Merigo, Stefano Panizzon and Maurizio Reboldi; Slovenian cavers Simon Burja (diver), Matjaz Bozic, Katarina Seme and Marjan Vilhar; and Samar caver Joni Bonifacio (local guide) of the Philippines. (more…)