Biak na Bato National Park is located in Bulacan, about 3 hours by land from Manila. It was declared a national park in 1937 because of its historical and ecological relevance.
Biak na Bato literally means “split rock” or “split boulders”, as the big rock formation rises to the sky with a cleft in the middle that makes it look like the rock was split in two.
Here was the site of the first republic declared in the Philippines. In 1897, the revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Biak na Bato Republic with members of the revolutionary society. The society was called Katipunan and its main goal was to gain independence from the Spanish colonial government. It was also where the Malolos Constitution was signed.
However, the republic lasted only a month and Aguinaldo was exiled to Hong Kong after a peace treaty was created with the Spanish Governor General. Later, Emilio Aguinaldo would be declared the first Philippine president.
Aside from its historical significance, the park has ecological importance. It is situated by the southern edge of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and consists of more than a hundred caves, only half of which is accessible to the public.
One of the most popular caves to visitors is the Paniki Cave or Bat Cave, which is considered to house at least six species of winged mammals.
The Aguinaldo Cave is another popular attraction as it was the headquarters of Emilio Aguinaldo and his fellow revolutionaries. Surrounded by thick forest in the mountains, it seems to have made an ideal refuge.
Other caves visitors can explore with a guide are the Hospital Cave, Tanggapan Cave, Imbakan Cave and Ambush Cave. This would take more time and effort.
The Hospital Cave was where wounded members of the Katipunan were attended to. At two ends of the cave were hiding posts for spotters and snipers to keep the camp secure.
Nearby is the Imbakan Cave, which literally means “Storage Cave”. It housed supplies, food, medicine and weapons. In one part of the cave’s ceiling is a sinkhole or a very big hole, which provides natural light to the area.
The Tanggapan Cave is where new recruits were initiated through a blood compact. They had to know the password, which was a word related to the cause. Tanggapan means reception. In the cave, visitors can see names etched onto the wall. It used to be smaller but widened due to erosion.
As its name suggests, the Ambush Cave was where members ambushed enemies and spies. Dark and silent, it is a rather difficult place to get to. Revolutionaries would clearly hear a stranger’s moves nearby because of the deep silence. In the cave are huge stalactites.
Aside from spelunking, visitors can go for a swim or hike the trails especially during summer. Several types of birds, reptiles, monkeys and plants can be found in the park. Streams, waterfalls and a hanging bridge can be found as well. Reflective of its name, interesting rock formations and boulders abound in the park.
Take a bus going to San Miguel, Bulacan from SM North in Quezon City. Tell the driver to let you off at the park entrance. Alternatively, drive or rent a private vehicle for about Php 1500-2000.