Barangay Chairman Oscar Santelices of Cabacao in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental found the National Greening Program a big boost in persuading local Mangyans to help protect their mountain village from rampant illegal logging.
When they started developing 100 hectares of thinning forest lands, not only did it provide livelihood for the Mangyan communities; it also gave them enough courage to guard the Luyang Baga, one of their revered ancestral sites and home of the early Mangyan settlers in the island.
He said that Luyang Baga was one of the early tourist attractions that the municipality promoted. But at one point the local indigenous people’s groups were irked that visitors had vandalized the place.
Barangay Cabacao is the starting point for the 8-hour difficult trek to Luyang Baga, a trek that entails 21 river crossings along the Hulong Tugilan River.
It was called Luyang Baga because its entrance is shaped like flaming ginger (or Luya in the native dialect). At least 1.5 kilometers have been explored in the cave, which boasts of white crystalline floors and walls, several deep pools of crystal clear water with cave diving potential.
The explored cave portion alone is a 7-hour expedition.
DENR Forester Roderick Orpilla said the cave could stretch from 7 to 8 kilometers. The still unexplored vertical pits, meanwhile, are believed to lead to deeper passages with interesting speleothems, numerous Gaul pools and guano (bat droppings) deposits.
Pottery shards found at the mouth of the cave dating to 200BC indicate that it was used as a prehistoric shelter.
According to Orpilla, they have temporarily closed the cave to visitors because of unabated vandalism.
With the help of the LGU, the DENR and the local residents are developing the area into an ecotourism site with trained guides from the community.