Enchanting Su'bon Cave

Photo by Ian Ray Garcia
Photo by Ian Ray Garcia

IF YOU find spelunking as an exciting recreational sport, then prepare your caving equipment and head to Matanao as an unforgettable adventure awaits you there.

Matanao town in Davao del Sur is endowed with captivating natural landscapes that enthrall locals and visitors alike. One of its most notable attractions is the enchanting Su’bon Cave, which has a 220-meter-long horizontal entrance. Its width ranges from 4 to 6 meters, and its height is 5 meters. This cave is friendly to the new cavers. Su’bon Cave is located in Barangay Asbang and is approximately a two-hour drive from Davao City.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) conducted an evaluation and granted approval for Su’bon Cave to become a tourist site in 2020. The pandemic, however, forced a postponement of this plan. The cave was partially opened to the public in 2021. The first Davao del Sur Cave Congress was held from September 5 to 7, 2023, giving many people an opportunity to explore the cave.

According to the Matanao tourism officer, Clover Jane Chan Sabordino, the cave congress aims to promote and, at the same time, preserve the region's eco-sites, particularly its caves. There are also more than 60 caves in inventory in Matanao alone and around three caves have clearance for the public to visit and enjoy.

“It’s part also of the thrust of our municipality to make it sustainable and at the same time to focus on highlighting our local products and local economy like the homestays and at the same time our B’laan culture,” she said.

Various representatives from different regions participated in the first cave congress, with representatives coming from local government units (LGU) that also have caves within their municipalities and some attendees from DENR. Approximately 70 participants explored the cave during the congress.

The rise of this tourist destination has also provided an opportunity for the B'laan community for employment and upskilling. The municipal government together with its partners provided enough training to locals for them to become knowledgeable cave guides.

“Most of our cave guides are Indigenous Peoples (IPs), before nag-open ang tourism dito wala jud na silay [work], maulaw pa sila sa mga tao. Karon very involved na sila,” Sabordino added.

Su’bon Cave was named by the residents of Asbang, Matanao. The name was derived from the B’laan term "Su'bon," which translates to "baho" or stinky. This name originates from the musty odor resulting from the guano of bats inhabiting the cave. The local Blaan community and visitors alike have embraced the name Su'bon Cave, commonly referring to it as "Baho na Bangag."

Many amazing and unique troglofauna and stygofauna species can be found in Su’bon Cave, which are important for maintaining ecological processes that are advantageous to the human population. Su'bon is also rich in speleothems, which are calcified limestone formations such as columns, rimstone dams, bedrock formations, curly curtains, flowstones, shields, pebbles and gravels, and boulders that can be seen throughout the cave.

One of the mottos upheld by the caretakers of Su’bon Cave is "Take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill nothing but time," which means to protect nature and minimize the negative effects that tourists, hunters, hikers, and others may cause. This serves as a reminder also to all tourists to act responsibly when visiting the cave, as it is a valuable blessing for everyone to enjoy.

After braving the Su’bon Cave, you must also not miss the opportunity to explore and let yourself be enchanted by other caves nearby. If you consider yourself daring and brave enough, you can also explore Asbang Faksol and Dats Caves.

Matanao is located between the towns of Magsaysay, Bansalan, Hagonoy, Kiblawan, and Padada, as well as the city of Digos in Davao del Sur, and Columbio in the province of Sultan Kudarat.

Travel enthusiasts interested in exploring Matanao can get in touch with its Tourism office through its official Facebook page (Matanao Tourism Office) or by dialing 09308227089. For spelunking adventures, a fee of P200 per person is required, which includes caving equipment, a knowledgeable guide, and a comprehensive orientation plus P50 for the cave fee. AJA

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