Puning Cave is one of the most visited caves in Central Luzon. It is situated along the hilly barangay of Bayabas in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan. The location makes it a dream destination for bikers as well as local tourists who are into rest and recreation.
Upon reaching Bayabas, one needs to trek through a river to reach the site. For so many years this had been the only way there.
Visiting bikers have pitched the idea of possibly having a concrete pathway by the riverside to make it easier for them to bring their bikes up to the mouth of the cave. Their sentiment reached barangay authorities, and the village’s tourism council heeded their call.
Barangay Bayabas is a Pantawid Pamilya implementation area. The program has covered it since 2011 under Set 4B. There are 60 household grantees residing there; some of them find livelihood as cave guides.
The engagement of Pantawid Pamilya in community development projects prompted barangay officials to forge partnership with beneficiaries.
Initially, they presented the idea of building a pathway going to Puning Cave to Municipal Link Joanna Marie Victa; she in turn relayed this to her three groups in the barangay.
During a consultation with beneficiaries, there were those who were adamant about the idea. However, they eventually collectively agreed citing long-term benefits the village will gain from the project.
If the pathway will be built and the number of tourists increased, this will generate livelihood opportunities.
For one, the already identified guides will have more customers, which translates to P100 more for every tourist that they will assist in exploring the cave. Also, there will be demand for bottled mineral water, cold drinks, food and souvenir items, which spell out sources of income.
Rowena Castillo, 29, is secretary of the barangay tourism council and a Parent Leader-beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilya. “I do not have salary in the council. What I receive is from a percentage of the total income of the council,” she said. “We charge P10 for a bath in the river and P100 for cave visit.”
She added that 50% of the total revenue goes to the barangay; the remaining 50% is divided among the six members of the council.
Barangay Bayabas receives an average of 500 visitors every month. Most of the visitors are river bathers and only 20% go to visit the cave.
Puning Cave reached a milestone last January 22 when Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries started constructing the pathway.
The blueprint for the pathway stretches 250 meters. Four groups of beneficiaries take turns in doing the construction. Their schedule goes for four successive days in a month wherein a group is in charge for a day. The beneficiaries are expected to finish the entire stretch by the last quarter of the year.
The village government takes charge of the construction materials. For a day’s work, the barangay provide each member with two snacks and lunch. And just like ordinary workers, they too had their time in and time out during work.
“We have members who are already senior citizens; they can no longer participate in the community development project. We have agreed that for households headed by senior citizens, they can elect replacement for the construction,” Castillo shared. “We see the importance of our efforts; it is our contribution for the development of our community. We know that beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries alike we will all benefit from the way we have developed our place.”