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 Post subject: Caving: Tonio and Bundok Caves, New Corella, Davao del Norte
PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 1:29 pm 
Tonio and Bundok Caves in New Corella, Davao del Norte, are similar in that they are both in urgent need of rehabilitation, having been largely destroyed as habitats for bats and swifts by the greedy guano and stalactite harvesters. This, combined with the deforestation and slash-and-burn agriculture prevalent in the areas above the caves – removing the steady trickle of surface water through the limestone - has left only the ghostly images of the majestic cave environments that once existed.
File comment: "harvesting" fruit bat guano, where once it was
harvested-guano-pit.jpg [ 108.76 KiB | Viewed 75049 times ]

In Tonio Cave "harvesting" has removed almost all of the fruit bat guano and reduced the once prolific fruit bat colony to just a few hundred animals. Our group did not actually explore the full extent of Tonio Cave because the remaining fruit bats were becoming restless and we did not want to disturb them further. Predators such a rats now frequent the cave complex, feeding off the waste of human intrusion and the frequently dying fruit bats.
File comment: broken crystalline structures were so sad to see
harvested-stalactites.jpg [ 44.31 KiB | Viewed 75031 times ]

The broken crystalline structures were so sad to see. They have been ravaged, we are told, because a Chinese trader once suggested that there was good money to be had in exporting stalactites to China for purposes unspecified. However, whatever the proposed purpose, the market for stalactites in China has obviously dried up (along with the water sources that made them), leaving a mixture of raped formations plus only a few specimens that survived long enough not to be cut. The garbage of human abuse - beer and rum bottles, broken sacks, plastic wrappers and other discards - is evident in every corner.

Bundok Cave, with its high entry point in the valley wall, suggests that it may have been spared the greed that has all but destroyed Tonio Cave. Alas, as we walked through the once-wet cave system we discovered that the other entrances to Bundok Cave, and even the roof, had been defiled in order to gain access to its contents.
File comment: beauty in the curtains and ribbons now dry
curtains-ribbons.jpg [ 65.42 KiB | Viewed 75035 times ]

Such beauty in the curtains and ribbons now dry, denuded and raped is tragic and should be a wake-up call for the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR), that urgent action is necessary if preservation of the Nation's heritage is truly valued.

The long, high chambers of Bundok Cave contain great beauty and in the latter stages before the exit the 30-40 foot high roots of the surviving banyan trees still finding some moisture in the cave floor allow us to imagine how prolific an ecosystem previously existed here.
File comment: 30-40 foot high roots of trees finding moisture in the cave floor
tree-roots.jpg [ 92.42 KiB | Viewed 75026 times ]

The Philippine swifts that once filled the vaulting roof-line crevices number now just a handful. The last bamboo poles, used to pilfer the nests, still stand as symbols of Man's ignorance and greed; the thieves could not even lay them down to rest, instead the bamboo poles create a highway for vermin and predation into the highest levels of the cave, ensuring the eviction of the petite and completely harmless Philippine swifts. The swifts' only crime is to use their spit to create a nest strong enough in which to raise their young; spit that for some some God-forsaken reason is considered a delicacy by cultures outside the Philippines.
File comment: bamboo poles create a highway for vermin and predation
bamboo-pole-highway.jpg [ 98.85 KiB | Viewed 75028 times ]

Whilst it may be relatively easy to prevent people harvesting the guano and stalactites in future, a larger issue is the ever expanding greed of the surface dwellers (a.k.a. Man) who engage in logging and slash-and-burn agricultural land theft from Mother Nature.

Fed for eons by the slow trickle of water, trapped in the root structures and trunks of majestic hardwood & softwood forests. to be released continuously, slowly, leisurely permeating the limestone rocks beneath, these beautiful caves across Mindanao (but especially in Davao del Norte) are being stressed by the rampant, and in most cases illegal, destruction of the forests. The agricultural vegetation that replaces the forests (particularly easy-to-grow banana and maize crops) contains no slow release mechanism or natural reservoir and rain that falls simply gushes across the land clogging streams and rivers with valuable topsoil, causing landslides and denuding further the ancient eco-systems that have made Davao del Norte famous in modern times for its beauty and bio-diversity.
File comment: agricultural vegetation that replaces the forests contains no slow release mechanism or natural reservoir
slash-n-burn-farming.jpg [ 164.11 KiB | Viewed 75027 times ]

In the areas closest to areas of population expansion some of the caves are now dry, others are drying-out; the streams and rivers that previously gurgled delightfully from cave exits lie silent for much of the year and the downstream river systems are chocking through lack of continuous flow and increased silting.

This is a modern problem caused by the uncontrolled expansion of humankind, the lack of environmental education at the grass-roots and the greed of a remote few who know better but care less for their fellow Man. The DENR is to blame for much but so is every local, regional and national representative who puts their own short-term interests before the interests of the children and grandchildren of their constituents.

Talking to the village-folk along the way, when I asked about the rewards received of rampant guano harvesting, and illegal logging I was told simply, "this is the way it has always been . . . we get a little extra". When I suggested that just because it has always been this way does not mean that there is not a better way, they just laughed and pointed to the placards promoting the candidates for the upcoming election “tell them, not us”.

We left Tonio Cave and Bundok Cave with the feeling that something must be done, and a program of grass-roots education was urgently needed in order to restore these and other caves in the immediate vicinity, as habitats for Mother Natures diverse interconnected family.

What treasures have we already lost? What more treasures, that we know so little about, will be lost? Education, sustainable income generation through tourism; these should be the goals of the new administration.

We can wait until May 11 but not much longer.

 Post subject: Re: Caving: Tonio and Bundok Caves, New Corella, Davao del Norte
PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:05 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:31 pm
Posts: 1
Gender: Male
I actually seen this place sa isang website kung baga nafeatures ito ganda nga itong place na ito, wonderful place to be.

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