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CALBIGA, Samar—Amazing stalactites,
stalagmites and other natural formations, bats, spiders, snakes, blind fishes
and crabs. What more can be discovered inside the Calbiga Caves complex in
Calbiga town in Samar?
For nearly a month, some of the best
European speleologists and cave divers led by Matteo Rivadossi, accompanied by
local spelunker Joni Abesamis Bonifacio and three other Samareños, explored the
Calbiga Caves in April.
aimed to confirm an earlier theory that
the municipality of Calbiga, and possibly the whole Samar Island, is
crisscrossed by underground rivers. Organized by Odissea Naturavventura, it was
a team up of two Italian caving associations, Gruppo Grotte Brescia.
It had permission from the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the municipality to explore the
The team included geologist Guido Rossi,
filmmaker Alessandro Gatti and Gigi Casati, both cave divers; Panizzon Stefano
Lillo and Merigo Davide, both cave explorers, all Italians; Frenchmen Tristan
Godet and Jean Paul Sounier, both cave explorers; Belgian Marc Vandermeulen,
cave diver; Slovenian Rok Stopar, cave explorer/doctor; and Russian Maria Tikka,
Rivadossi, Rossi, Sounier, Godet and Lillo
had been to the Calbiga Caves in 2009. They discovered the 6-kilometer
Camparina-Ludi Bito-Burabod Cave, which has many branches connecting to a long
and beautiful underground river.
Also in 2009, a three-member team of
foreign cave divers—Americans Bruce Konefe and William Hudson, and German Thomas
Bodis—found the Lurodpon Cave after diving into a submerged cave passage through
the Langun-Gobingob cave system.
A favorite destination of cavers, the
Calbiga Caves can be reached in one and a half hours on a foot trail from the
town proper. The system covers 2,968 hectares and is said to be the largest
karst in the country and one of the largest in East Asia.
It has 12 caves,
including Gobingob, Langun and Bitong Mahangin that boast of giant columns of
stalactites and stalagmites, unique rock formations, underground water courses and springs.
A team of Italian speleologists, who first
explored the cave system in 1987, said that Langun, the main cave, has a chamber
that is 270 meters long and 160 meters wide at its largest area, which can
easily fit three football fields.
Gobingob, on the other hand, has a huge
hall with beautiful stalagmite, stalactite and flewstone formations, while
Bitong Mahangin has a single dry tunnel at the bottom of which lies a lush
A protected area, the Calbiga Caves
complex is the habitat of rare species of blind crabs and the 7-centimeter
hypogean blind fish. At dusk, hundred of thousands of bats hover over the cave
The Italian cavers also noted in 1987 that
the Calbiga has a “truly exceptional hydrogeological karst,” swallowing more
than 20 watercourses.
Farther east, near Barangay Caamlongan, is
another cave system called Canyawa Cave (Devil’s Cave), which was discovered and
explored in 2002 by a team of French and Italian cavers. It consists of 15
galleries of distinctive features and underground rivers.
The latest expedition targeted the
Langun-Gobingob, Camparina-Ludi Bito-Burabod, and the Lurodpon caves, as well as
the Calidungan and Balogo springs. But bad weather prevented it from achieving
“Sadly, 45 days of rain caused the river
to become murky with zero visibility. It was then impossible to check in
Calidungan,” a lake fed by the Magtingol River, according to Rivadossi.
He says the final result of the trek was
“the reconstruction of the underground hydrographic net(work) from the inlet of
Palaspas River into the 10-km cave system (Langun-Gobingob) to Balogo Spring.”
While waiting for the weather to improve,
the experts went to other caves in Pinabacdao and Matuguinao, both Samar towns.
Still, Rivadossi says the adventure had
been a fulfilling struggle “to pass through caves and enter into the vast world
of nature’s magnificent phenomena!”
He explains that the team sought to see
the unexplored side of the earth where no satellite or robot can ever do.
“The cavers are not paid for their
extraordinary curiosity. The intrigue on the magical possibilities and the
search for new discoveries in the underground river (from the top to the spring)
have become their passion for years,” Rivadossi says.
With the exploration, he adds, it is
possible to make a deep investigation about the biology, hydrology or geology of
the Calbiga Caves.
Mayor Melchor Nacario recently received
word from American researchers from University of Texas that they wanted to
study the complex in relation to climate change. They did not give details,
In studying climate change, some
scientists are said to have explored caves to inspect stalagmites—known
“archives” of the climate history dating back to tens of thousands years—in a
particular area. The caves hold records that may give clues to climate change.
Stalagmites are formed as rainwater, mixed
with calcium carbonate and other elements, makes its way through the ground and
onto the cave floor, creating in time a column of rock.
Scientists would cut open the stalagmite,
study its chemical content to determine the relative moisture of the climate at
various periods in history, starting from the the oldest layers at the bottom to
the present at the top.
If the American scientists push through
with their plan, the Calbiga cave network may also tell what happened in the
past in relation to the present.