Sunday, March 22, 2009

PSS Cave Congress: A sort of homecoming this summer

By Ricky J. Bautista

Once a year, club members of the Philippine Speleological Society convene. Every year, other non-member caving clubs in the countryside adds up and joined them. All of us – the cavers, an underground faction of the outdoor community, so to speak, are a relative minority, but given the general conditions of caving, this may be good for the environment.

The last year’s cave congress was held in Cagayan de Oro City and in Sumilao and Manolo Fortich in the province of Bukidnon last March 31 to April 6, 2008. The Speleo Mindanao and the Conservation and Restoration Exercise (Core), both are member-clubs of the PSS, hosted it. It was indeed another successful event of the PSS.

Many of the member-clubs including those fundamentals in the formation of the PSS and the Philippine Cave Guides Association (PCGA) tagged along by their leaders regularly met each other to refresh themselves and impart their advance skills to the newest members and nature-loving individuals. Raising the quality of caving in the Philippines to international levels was always their primary aims. Every event is gatherings of cave enthusiasts, it seems like a homecoming, a sort of “reunion.”

For every men in the outdoors, each congress is not a time to play or to rest, instead, its a time for us to standardize our level through workshops that cover Cave Survey and Mapping and technical rope skills such as SRT (Single Rope Technique), the primary method used by cavers to descend and ascend vertical pitches.

And today, while summer is beginning to heat up, it is once again a time to head out, travel to one unique place where other comrades from different regions would meet up.

The venue and side trips

This year’s venue of Cave Congress is the Balantak waterfalls, Sohoton, Rawis, and other caves, all in Basey, Samar, Philippines. The once sleeping town of Basey is a home of the World’s longest mat-weaved banig as recorded in the Book of Guinness and a home for the mystical caves, golden rivers, panoramic rock formations and the world-famous Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park. In going there, one may pass and see the country’s longest “love” bridge – the San Juanico Bridge, which connected the twin islands of Leyte and Samar.

A side trip to the town of Calbiga town, a home of the East Asia’s largest karsts cave network is now being planned out by the organizers to be included in the itinerary. The cave, which has a total land area of 2,968 hectares featured huge stalagmites & stalactites, giant columns, underground watercourses, rapids, blindfish, snakes and dancing bats are also present in the area.

Like in the previous years, it’s a day we always knew would come, and the thought it would nag at the back of our minds riding at the back of a dump truck to the trailhead, sometime speeding around the tip of road cliff, cruising an inflatable motorboat, chasing the fastest trekker ahead of you that seems you’re into an adventure race huffing and puffing on a long and slippery limestone, trying to be dropped or slide from the muddy terrains.

International cavers to do the talks

“Caves are among the most beautiful places on earth. It has considerable value not only in terms of its beauty but also in its historical, economic, social, scientific and environmental importance. Yet caves are amongst the least explored and understood places. Their ecosystems are among the most vulnerable and easily destroyed.”

These were the event’s guiding tone set up in which three (3) international cave experts and local top executives are expected to impart their expertise on the “don’t and do’s” and the “how’s” of mixing up the process of environment conservation and promotion of tourism during this year’s hosting of PSS Cave Congress in this locality.

Event director Jason Garrido, of the Philippine Cave Guide Association, Inc. (PCGA), informed that at least three international cavers and conservationists had just confirmed readiness to visit Philippines for this caving event, which will last for five days.

They were Elery Hamilton Smith, a task force chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Australia; Dave Smith, a Biodiversity Programme Manager, Department of Conservation in New Zealand; another expert from the Spellbound Tours in New Zealand.

Other local experts expected to welcome and deliver messages of supports were the regional directors of DOT, DENR, Province of Leyte, and the host town Basey Mayor Didi Estorninos.

Conservation and tourism

Meanwhile, with the theme, “Finding the balance between conservation and tourism,” the Philippine Speleological Society Cave Congress on May 11-15, 2009 will be hosted by the PCGA, together with the Nature Unlimited Leyte Outdoor Club Inc., a local outdoor club based in Leyte, and in cooperation with the Eastern Visayas Department of Tourism and the Municipality of Basey, the host-venue of the event.

DOT regional director Karina Tiopes who helped facilitates the sending out of invitations said “caves are a viable attraction for tourism and the economic benefits it brings effects the whole value chain. But without a solid cave management plan that takes into account the relationship between conservation and tourism, there is always the possibility that we end up destroying the every thing we are promoting in the first place.”

”The establishing of protected areas and cave management programs, by themselves, are not enough to ensure our caves protection and conservation. Proper management of caves demands specific expertise. Education of personnel and communities as well as inter-agency cooperation and streamlining of existing policies are essential for a successful cave management program,” she added.

The “reunions” of local cavers

As of today, the event secretariat said that the expected numbers of participants, both foreign and domestic, is around 300. They also said each participant has to pay Php600 as their registration fee and has to bring their own provision of food and camping gear.

As to the local cavers, the Centro Outdoors Sports Unlimited based in Catbalogan Samar who previously hosted a series of local version (focus only in the Visayas caves) of the caving congress, signified support to the PSS event. They will be heading their affiliate caving clubs from UEP, Catarman, Laoang, Catbalogan, Borongan and in Palo, Leyte, to join the event.

Activities during the event were divided into four (4) categories namely Basic Caving Skills for the beginners; Cave Guiding, Cave Surveying, and Single Rope Techniques for the experienced and expert participants. “Each participant has to choose only one category to attend,” Garrido said in his invitation posted their website designed exclusively for this event.

After the event, the participants would be able to learn about cave ecosystem, navigation and principles of cave surveying; camping equipment familiarization, national laws such the NIPAS and Cave Act, and would be able to learn self-rescue and emergency procedures.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Water Damage - The Most Helpful Restoration Service in America - Affordable Services in Your Area - 24/7 Hotline.
Long Distance Movers - Long Distance Movers Since 1995 - GET A QUOTE. New York (NYC), California (CA), Los Angeles (LA) & San Francisco.
Travel tours guided by private tour guides - Book guided tours directly from private tour guides. Get in touch with the local tour guide behind each tour. Find travel tours, day trips, city tours & adventure tours, off the beaten tourist path.