Bulacan: A Town of Caves

Biak-na-Bato in San Miguel (de Mayumo), Bulacan is a town of caves. The name suggests a huge rock broken into several pieces or cracked into several openings. Spelunkers, cave tourists and other tourists will love this tourist spot that boasts of more than a hundred caves, complete with stalagmites, stalactites, spring waters, flora and fauna, the works.

Cave tourists don’t have to be expert cave explorers or dwellers to look inside Biak-na-Bato. It’s been open to tourists as a national park since November 16, 1937 by Presidential Proclamation No. 223. It’s safe. Just go right in. Back then, the proclamation covered a total of 2,117 hectares spanning three barangays: Sibul and Biak-na-Bato in San Miguel, and Kalawakan in Trinidad. Today the tourist spot is limited to 659 hectares–all for cave tourists.

Going to this tourist spot is some two hours from Manila. Just hit the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in Balintawak, Quezon City and the road signs and directions along NLEX will take care of everything for the cave tourist.

There’s an easier route from SM City at North EDSA to San Miguel. Take an air-conditioned hired van (P 50 or a dollar) and sit back shoulder to shoulder with other passengers. From San Miguel, it will be an easy tricycle ride to the spot. In all, the travel will take one to one and half hours.

It is 1897. Emilio Aguinaldo, a young leader of the revolution and would-be president, retreats from Talisay, Batangas to the formidable cave fortress of Biak-na-Bato with 500 men. He finds the mountainous place abundant with streams, forests, rocks, and caves. Limestones like marble tea rose—nothing like it anywhere else and which will be very expensive a century hence—flourish.

There he puts up the short-lived Biak-na-Bato Republic. He was pressured by Spain to give up the quixotic struggle and his cavernous office, but Emilio is stubborn. Spain appoints Don Pedro Paterno to dissuade Emilio. Don Pedro frequented him in his cave headquarters. After five harrowing months, Emilio finally succumbs to a voluntary exile to Hongkong, with $800,000 (Mexican dollars) for him and his leaders.

Emilio signs the pact with Primo de Rivera, the walls of Bukal Cave, also called Aguinaldo Cave, as silent witness.

Today, there’s an arched bridge leading to the tourist spot, Biak-na-Bato National Park, for cave tourists to cross on—an enshrined connection to the glorious past of Bulacan. It is also a bridge that transports one to a scene a century ago when a nation was at the pains of birth.

Aside from seeing the diverse rock openings of this tourist spot in Biak-na-Bato, a visit can also be an experience for cave tourists in reminiscing the historic past of a struggling revolution, a republic, and its national leader.

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