Bulabog Putian National Park
Every year, for Easter, the family wants to go somewhere way too crowded. One year we went to the island of Guimaras and climbed a hill to a big cross. Not so bad – but they said we were going to the beach. We need to work on our definitions ha ha. The funniest part was once we got to the top, and the chapel, no one in our group went into the chapel or went near the cross. We just had lunch and went back down the hill? It was still a nice day…
This year was no different. They announced we were going to the caves. I had never heard of any caves around Iloilo, and no one knew the name of the place. So I looked it up on Google and sure enough Bulabog Putian National Park, in Dingle Iloilo, has caves. Sounds like fun to me.
So it seems that about an hour from home is a cave system. Who knew?
I was reading some reviews on various websites and saw one thing a lot of people mentioned was the sharp rocks. They all said wear real shoes, or hiking boots. The limestone rocks are small & sharp. Glad I read that! I would have worn my hiking boots anyway, but everyone else would have worn slippers (a few of them still did). I do not know enough about rocks to say if they are limestone or not – but the entire way up the hill is full of various sized, sharp, rocks. I was very glad to be wearing my hiking boots, and to have my walking stick.
Another complaint I saw a few times in reviews was the condition of the park. It is not a well developed park. The entrance has a few buildings. They look fairly old, and not in great shape – but functional. The “path” is not developed at all. If you are expecting a handicapped accessible US park…. this ain’t it. (Some people even complained about the road construction on the highway?) I have mixed feelings on the development of parks, personally. Many of the Texas state parks are over developed. Sure, it makes them more accessible, but ruins the natural beauty of the area.
This park is definitely in it’s natural state. I am ok with that.
The only complaint I would have (and it is hardly worth mentioning) is there is very little signage to get there. That is normal here, though. If you do not know where you are going… good luck. Our driver did not know where it was either. As we were leaving the town of Dingle we stopped and asked a local lady where the caves were. She pointed to the right road, and we found it. The signs marking the turns were maybe 2 foot by 3 foot and quite faded.
I am old & fat, so the climb up the hill was tiring, but I survived. The trip down was incredibly slow for me. I was worn out! They had a sign at the entrance that locals were p15 and foreigners were p100. But since it was Good Friday everyone was p15. So that was good, we saved a big $2 ha ha (it paid for the ice cream).
The park has like 16 caves on the map. We followed the crowd and saw 3 caves. It was enough for one day. Looking at the map you can see the Tuko, Guizo, and Maestranza caves are all down in one small area. We thought we walked so far but this park is HUGE! I would like to go back when it is not so crowded and explore it more. Maybe next time we can go in a cooler part of the year. We are in the dead of summer right now, and it felt like it!
The caves we went to had a few handrails and ladders in place. They say some of the caves are unexplored, and no access provided. Unlike the caves at US parks there are no barriers, or guides. The caves are all open and you can walk anywhere you want. That may not be the best for the cave, but it is fun for the explorer.
The caves were used by rebels when the Philippines were fighting the Spanish, then later against the Americans, and then again during the Japanese occupation. There is some graffiti carved in the rock from 1900.
At the top of the hill there is a fork where you go to one cave or another. There were vendors selling water, peanuts, chips, and ice cream. We got ice cream! I feel sorry for whoever carried the cooler full of ice cream up that hill, but I sure am glad they did. Actually the coolers of bottled water were probably heavier – but I had my canteen and did not need any water. Oh, my GPS said we were at 270 meters elevation, but later at the beach it said 70 meters – so I don’t really trust the GPS on my phone. So I do not know how high we climbed.
We spent most of our time in the Maestranza cave. It is very large and has lots of natural light coming in. There were sections going off into the dark but no one in our group wanted to explore them (except me). We had some older folks with us, and a couple kids around 7 years old. So even climbing up the hill and down into caves is doable by most able bodied people. (Your 7 year old may or may not be up to it… up to you.)
After the cave, on our way back to Dingle, we stopped at the Moroboro dam. I did not get many pictures of it, but did get some video. It is used as a swimming hole by the locals, and is great! You can walk across the dam so it connects the area to the town proper. People climb down some steps into the river and swim. There is an old hanging bridge nearby that looks to be in bad shape. I would not try to cross it. The dam was built in the 1950’s so I assume the hanging bridge has not gotten much maintenance since then. This was a very fun area. In the US it would be blocked off and no one would be allowed to walk on the dam or swim in the spillway. I am glad the Philippines is not a litigious as the US.
Overall we had a great day. I would have liked to have taken it a bit slower and explore more. We left the house a little after 7 AM and were home by 2 PM. A few more hours would have been nice, but it was quite crowded. If you are visiting (or living in) Iloilo this is definitely worth a day trip. Be prepared for some exercise, but the views are worth it.