Bontoc plans to open caves in Dalican for tourists

BONTOC, Mountain Province – This municipality is eyeing to open three caves as additional eco-tourism destinations in Barangay Dalican.

Municipal Tourism Officer Caren R. Guinayen narrated that the community and barangay officials of Dalican informed their office of the existence of three unexplored caves in their barangay namely the Ararasi Cave, Baey Chalit Cave and Lalabbay Cave which is timely as the municipal government is currently identifying possible tourism destinations in the municipality.

Aware of the sensitivity of such sites, the municipal government requested the DENR- Central Office to conduct an evaluation for the former to be able to identify its next course of action.

As a step forward, a validation of the existence of the caves and an ocular inspection was conducted by the personnel of the Bontoc Municipal Government thru its Municipal Tourism Office in partnership with the Conservation and Development Division (CCD) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR- CAR) and a member of the Gaia Exploration Club on April 25, 2018.  This was in coordination with the barangay officials of Dalican. Of the three caves, only Ararasi Cave and Baey Chalit Cave were visited by the group.

Engr. Rexton Afidchao of the DENR – CAR after the initial assessment said that the Ararasi Cave and Baey Chalit Cave are potential eco-tourism destinations.

However, Guinayen emphasized that the caves are not yet open to the public for safety purposes. She explained that there are procedures and plans to be taken upon by the municipal government and its partner stakeholders before it will be open to cave enthusiasts.

“The caves are not yet open to the public to enter and explore. We solicit the cooperation of every one to avoid untoward incident. This is also for their own safety,” she reiterated.

Despite the prohibition of entry of the public in the three caves, Guinayen shared that there are other tourist attractions in Barangay Dalican which the tourist may visit and enjoy. She said that when visiting Dalican, one can enjoy a view of the Dalican Sun Rise, Dalican Sea of Clouds and the Guina-ang Rice Terraces. Also, one can enjoy walking along the rice paddies and going up the summit of the mountain to visit the Dalican Lake.

Lester Valle, a member of the Gaia Exploration Club who went with the group seconded the pronouncement of Guinayen that the caves are not yet safe for the public to enter. The Gaia Exploration Club is a registered organization whose members are trained cavers based in Luzon. It is also an organization which is part of the National Cave Committee.

Valle mentioned that the management, operation, and safety measures should be in place first to safeguard visitors.

Considering that the group was not fully equipped with the necessary caving gears during the ocular inspection, Valle proposed that another site assessment shall be conducted by the group in the three caves to explore the entrance until its tail end before it will be open for the local and foreign tourists.

Bontoc Mayor Franklin C. Odsey voiced out his support to this endeavor and assured that this will be given attention for this year. He stated that the possible opening of the caves as additional eco-tourism sites will boost the economic activities in the municipality especially to the host community. He added that this will provide income to the store owners, families who will be offering their houses for home stays and job opportunities to the locals.

Odsey further relayed that P23 million was sourced out for the Improvement of Balitian- Dalican Road. This was made possible as the Bontoc Municipal Government has allocated in its budget in 2017 the amount of P2, 760,000.00 as its counterpart while the national government provided P20, 240,000.00 through the Cordillera Highland Resource Management Project – Department of Agriculture (CHARMP- DA) and Integrated Natural Resources and

Environmental Management Project of the DENR as its implementing arms.

Odsey remarked that with the road improvement will ensure safer, better and easier access of tourists and locals who will directly benefit from the project.

“The improvement of roads are expected to invite tourists to visit Dalican, easier access of transportation of residents and tourists who might need medical assistance and help locals, particularly farmers who deliver their goods and products to the main markets,” Odsey added.

Dalican Punong Barangay Mathew K. Palangeo thanked the validation team for their time and efforts in helping the barangay identify possible tourism sites which they can offer to the tourists.

The barangay officials believed that the possible opening of the caves for local and foreign tourist will provide job opportunities to the locals.

Once the Ararasi Cave, Baey Chalit Cave and Lalabbay Cave will be opened to cave enthusiasts, it will be the first cave eco-tourism sites in Bontoc.

By Alpine L. Killa

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