BENJAMIN Alpetche was with his friend looking for spiders sometime in 2013 in Sitio Malalag, Barangay Calaboon in Dumanjug town when they noticed a hole on the ground.

Two years later, the Municipal Government discovered it was more than just a hole. It led to a cave.

Some residents broke the huge rocks to create a hole big enough for a person to enter.

And then they began exploring.

Calaboon Barangay Captain Gerard Irag said the soil inside the cave was found to have phosphate content; some have been illegally extracted for export to Japan as a fertilizer ingredient.

Irag directed people to stop the operation and reported their activities to the town hall.

Acting Mayor Efren Gica, Irag and members of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources

Office visited and checked the cave last Tuesday.

The cave, located about a kilometer away from the town proper, has seven chambers with boulders as high as eight meters.

Its entrance is narrow; only one individual at a time can enter. Once in, visitors have to use a ladder to descend and a flashlight to see what’s inside.

“Wa ta ko’y plano mo-sulod. Pero ni-sulod na lang gyud ko (I didn’t plan to get inside but I decided to enter, anyway),” Gica said.

He said the cave has a floor area of about 200 meters.

The mayor showed Sun.Star Cebu photos of some spiders spotted inside the cave, which

also has a colony of bats.

Don’t offer tours yet

PDRRMO head Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. said people should not go inside the cave for now because ground movements like an earthquake may cause some of the huge rocks to collapse.

However, the PDRRMO suggested that the formation be preserved as a bat conservatory.

Gica, however, said the town officials are considering developing the cave as an eco-tourism site.

The Provincial Government has asked the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to check the area.

Alpetche, 26, who holds a degree in marine engineering, loves trekking and spelunking. When he discovered the hole, he wanted nothing more than to get in and start exploring.

“Ingnon na lang gud ko sa mga tawo ngari nga mura ko og buang, magsige ug sulod sa mga lungag (Some of my neighbors told me I was crazy, exploring the area again and again),” said Alpetche, who hails from Carcar City but now lives in Calabon.

Alpetche said he found some Japanese characters and shapes on the walls of the cave. A treasure hunting code that he brings with him reportedly translates one of the shapes as “treasure”. It looks like a heart.

Florencia Sala, 79, a resident in the area, said that when she was five years old, some Japanese soldiers visited that area. Sala believes they must have hidden inside that cave.

Some residents, however, worry that the ground beneath their houses may not be solid, but part of the cave formation. The MGB has yet to verify this.

Dumanjug is a third-class municipality about 73 kilometers south of Cebu City. It takes about a two-hour drive to reach.

According to the municipality’s official website, Dumanjug is politically subdivided into 37 barangays, eight of these coastal. 

Its population was 46,754 as of May 2010, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. Dumanjug has gained importance as a gateway and transshipment point between southwestern Cebu and Negros Oriental.