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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…)


MARCH 16, 2002 TO APRIL 20, 2002 CAVING EXPEDITION TEAM: 1.Jean-Paul Sounier (leader and photographer/French Caver) 
2.Philippe Audra (karst specialist/French Caver) 
3.Paul Courbon (surveyor/French Caver) 
4.David Hiou You (equipment coordinator/French Caver) 
5.Catherine Caullier (French Caver) 
6.Christine Le Roch (French Caver) 
7.Laurent Jovet (French Caver) 
8.Philippe Hache (French Caver) 
9.William Michel (French Caver) 
10.Luc Ruyssens (French Caver) 
11.Joni Bonifacio (Trexplore/Filipino Caver) 



ck2A YEAR AGO, French caver Jean-Paul Sounier and a ragtag team of explorers quietly slipped into the country on a lonely journey where only daredevils go: deep into the bowels of the earth, in the company of abysmal bats prowling in the darkest chambers. Their mission? To explore a cave system that might be Southeast Asia’s biggest ever in the heart of storm battered Samar.
It was not their first expedition to the rugged terrain where poverty stalks like the notorious phantoms of its fabled mountains. In year 2000 between January 30 and March 25 Jean-Paul first favorable into Samar’s lost caves together with countrymen Tristan Despaigne. Arnaud Guyot, Monika Kolowska, Christian Tamisier and William Michel.The results were quite staggering: 11,761 meters of galleries in five caves, with two found in the Suribao karst (east of Samar), and 10,251 meters in the Calbiga karst (west of Samar) inside the huge kanyawa cave where the main explorations took place. The total is way beyond the 900-sqaure kilometer surface estimate done by Italian cavers previously then considered the largest in the Philippines.Needless to say, it marked the beginning of a new era of cave discoveries in this side of the globe, and is now making its bid for recognition as the biggest ever in the Philippines, if not the Asian world.
The general surface features are a mixture of tropical pinnacle and cockpit karst. Alternate pitons and dolines form a distorted façade, which is covered by rainforest except in very steep portions deforested by people. Despite the distortion, few paths enable people to cross the platean in a cast-west direction.Yet it is only 10 percent, or so the French would like to believe. There is much left to be explored the reason why Jean-Paul. 51, decided to come back this time in the company of geography professor Philippe Audra 48 cave guide Laurent Jovet 35 military employee Catherine Caullier 45; survivor Paul Caurbon, 66; environmentalist Christine Le Roch, 38; fireman Luc Ruyssen, 54; cave guide David Hiou-You, 28; agriculturist Philippine Hache, 43; and the ruggedly handsome William, 35, the only other returnee cave guide who also sprints his ways in the rapid, rough-and-tumble world of kayaking, rafting, and other power sports. Local caver Joni Bonifacio 24; founder of Trexplore cave guiding  company based in Catbalogan, accompanied the French nationals.
The French “discovered” the caves not so long ago. During the Elf Authentic Adventure 1999 classic (beamed to the outside world via cable TV) three years ago, in the limestone area located east of Kaamlongan barrio, Jean-Paul noticed the huge flow rate of Calbiga river from two kilometers downstream its spring. On the east side of the six-kilometer wide limestone plateau, he waded through two streams and saw that they disappear under the mountains. It was enough for him to theorize about a possible connections between the two tributaries and the Calbiga river; six kilometer westwards, Virgin of exploration Jean-Paul decided to set up an expedition to track down the trail of the main river which sinks on the east side of the limestone mountains, as well as to explore resurgences located on the lower part of the Suribao river in the east, which cuts its way through a small limestone area. (more…)