Quezon: Rediscovering Tabon Cave
At exactly six in the morning, we went on our voyage from Narra towards the town of Quezon. The travel takes about an hour and most of the roads are unpaved. It is a small town and the primary source of livelihood of the locals are fishing while some are engaged in farming. Sir Bong, who guided us in going to the farm, told us that during our boat trip we will be seeing Tabon Cave. I was surprised that at during this trip we will be personally passing by here.
Forty minutes into the voyage, the boatman showed us the small caves at the mountainside. He told us that those are the famous Tabon Caves. We immediately asked if it is a restricted area, and they told us that it is open to the public, and we didn’t hesitate to go there as it is only several meters from our destination.
They placed a small port for the boats to dock, and fortunately, our visit coincided with the high tide so it’s much easier for the boats to dock. We walked almost 50 meters along the walkway until we reached the entrance of Liyang Cave. We approached the lone caretaker and we paid PhP20 for environmental and maintenance fee. Since some of our companions already went here, they also served as our tour guide.
LIPUUN POINT RESERVATION
The Tabon Cave complex is part of Lipuun Point Reservation, which has the size of 138 hectares and connected to the Palawan mainland via an isthmus and mangrove forest. The National Museum is currently tasked to protect and preserve the reservation. Rich in cultural and natural resources, the area was declared a Site Museum Reservation on April 11, 1972. The reservation is protected by the national government as a museum reservation to protect the caves and immediate vicinity from deforestation and to preserve the cultural artifacts present there.
The Liyang Cave is the first to go so we wandered around here. It has big chambers and bright lights outside. Cave openings are also visible from the shore. Markers were installed about the stone flakes as well as the flora and fauna in this site including the Palawan hornbill, balinsasayao, tabon bird, binuang tree and extinct deers.
As we exited the Liyang Cave we went up the stairs leading to a cave – the Tabon Cave. It is said to be the Philippines’ Cradle of Civilization. It is also the largest cave in the entire Lipuun Point Reservation. According to the marker, the chamber is 41 meters long, dry and bathed in sunlight throughout the day. These ideal features explain why the ancient man chose Tabon Cave as a dwelling place for at least 50,000 years ago. The earliest human remains in the Philippines known as Tabon Man was recovered in this cave. The recent study shows that the remains are 47,000 years old. But it’s a little bit disappointing as the site is littered with cement bags.
During our wandering we noticed one bird that is said to be the cave’s regular visitor, and where the cave’s name was derived from – the Tabon bird or the Philippine scrubfowl. They often stay on the ground but will fly away at a short distance when disturbed. True to its word, it digs out sand, bat droppings or guano, or soil to build their nests, lay its eggs, and cover them. As the eggs hatch, the chicks will come out from the mound. The word Tabon in Filipino means to cover.
As our time is only limited, and this is only intended as our side trip, we were unable to visit other caves such as Diwata, Tadyaw and Igang (We were told that the Reservation has over 200 caves and seven of them are open to the public). Also located here is the Manunggul Cave, where the Manunggul jar is discovered in the 1960s. The jar is used by the ancient Filipinos to contain the remains of the deceased. It shows the paramount maritime culture of the Filipinos, together with their ancient beliefs, as its lid contains two human figures on a boat, indicating the voyage to the afterlife. The jar is featured in the PhP1,000 bills in the recently demonetized peso bill series.
While we are here in just a while, we learned a lot from this hands-on experience. Especially that this is a rare opportunity to visit our ancestor, and the ancestors of the Filipino race, and the birthplace of the Filipino civilization.
Afterward, we immediately went to our next destination.
SITE RULES AND REGULATIONS
In order to protect and preserve the reservation, all visitors must strictly observe the following:
- No hunting, disturbing and handling of any animal from the reservation.
- The destruction and removal of any plant from the natural habitat are strictly prohibited.
- No littering of any waste.
- The destruction and collection of objects of natural beauty such as corals and limestone are not allowed.
- No vandalism.
- No damaging of trails.
- Artifacts cannot and must not be removed from the caves.
- No altering, removing or defacing boundary marks or signs.
- Animals not native to the reservation may not be introduced at any time.
- No removal and harvesting of forest products.
- No bringing of food and eating along the trail.
From Puerto Princesa, take the Puerto Princesa South Road towards Quezon town (You will be passing by the towns of Aborlan and Narra). It has a distance of 150 km and will take about 2-3 hours depending on the trip. Most roads are paved concrete, but some parts are unpaved rough roads, like some of the roads in Quezon town.
Upon reaching the town, ask the locals for the direction of the pier.
You may leave your vehicle, just don’t forget to notify the Tanods about it.
Take a van or bus going to Quezon. The trip takes about 2-3 hours. Most of them leave hourly from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Fare: Van – PhP200Upon reaching the town, take the tricycle going to the pier. Tricycle Fare – PhP8
Upon reaching the port, talk to a boatman to bring you to Tabon Cave. To save money, it is advisable to talk to boatmen in fishing villages near the town (everyone knows about it). Depending on the bargain, fare costs PhP600 – 800. Each boat can accommodate up to 6-8 people (including the boatman.) They are also the ones who will bring you back to the town.
Note: You can also ask them to go straight to Panitian River from the cave or do island hopping but expect additional pricing.