Tipan Cave: Zamboanga Sibugay’s Emerging Tourist Destination (Sandugo)

I can still remember it well, back in 2012 that the Barangay Captain of Tipan went to my former office in the Provincial Capitol of Zamboanga Sibugay to report mining activities. An international company went to their barangay to start open-pit coal mines that would dig holes to get minerals. The community opposed to mining activities and sought the help of the government. A lot of commotion involving bullets, guns, and threats happened before the mining activity halted. A few weeks ago, I was able to visit the same barangay but for a different reason, the Tipan Cave.


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On our way to the entrance of Tipan Cave


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The Department of Tourism Region 9 accompanied by the Provincial Tourism Office of Zamboanga Sibugay recently made an assessment of the area. I had the chance to accompany them and write about Tipan Cave which provided me the perfect opportunity to test the Sandugo Eiger Trail Shoes. Honestly, I’m a sandal kind of guy and shoes aren’t really my thing. But we were required to wear shoes inside the cave to protect our feet from jagged rocks and the muddy river that runs through it.

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Barangay Captain Florita Orbinal and Mr Christopher Dinopol, the chief of their people’s organization who were very well versed with the caves and the its tourism potential welcomed us in Tipan. Hearing what they have to say, they seem to know a lot about environmental conservation, laws that govern the caves, and community based eco-tourism. Our group was ushered to a house where they distributed the gears and suits that we will wear for our adventure. It was my second time to go inside a cave but the gears in Tipan Cave are pretty legit! We were provided with jumpsuits, helmets, flash lights, and shoes (but our tour guide told me that the Eiger from Sandugo would do a better job inside the cave). Eiger is made of an open mesh upper material for easier airflow (and waterflow if it gets inside your shoes). I have relied on Sandugo sandals for slippery waterfall treks and they never let me down. I also wore the quick drying Limber shirt from Sandugo beneath my jumpsuit.

Everyone geared up and our tour guide who was trained by the Department of Tourism Region 9 gathered us for our orientation. Rey Sabanal is a local of Barangay Tipan and I’m impressed on how he oriented us like a pro who has been in the tour guiding business for years. The Do’s and Don’ts were explained very well and he underscored the responsibilities of responsible tourists. A fifteen-minute walk passing a hanging bridge led us to the entrance of Tipan Cave where we were welcomed by sharp rocks and the brown waters from inside the cave that had a slight scent of guano or bat droppings. It wasn’t hard for me as I stride on the mossy rocks, the rubber outsole of the Eiger gave me a good grip and made me feel secured with every step.

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I used to hate orange but the Eiger is a beaut in this color combination.
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Stalactites inside Tipan Cave, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay

Flashlights on and our valuables inside our dry bags, we entered the caves with our tour guides. I felt the water enter my Eiger shoes and it easily soaked my feet as we walked the waist-deep waters for a few steps. Little bits of sand and mud got inside my shoes but it did not feel uncomfortable. As we reached the dry parts of the cave, the mud and sand easily washed away without the need to remove my shoes. As we got deeper, we saw marvelous stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and bats. I am not a cave enthusiast but I did not experience any difficulty during the guided tour. There were parts where we needed to enter small openings but that was never a problem. Climbing and going down some steps was easy for me too because my feet stayed comfortable all the time. For less than 2,000.00 pesos, the Eiger definitely proved it is worth every penny.

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Shoefie with the Eiger in the middle of our trail

We ended up our tour by jumping into the river at the entrance of the cave. I checked my Eiger shoes and they were scot-free! I thought the mesh upper material will be torn by the rocks and the soles will dismantle because of the rugged terrain! But lo and behold, they are as good as new!  I am not really a cave expert/enthusiast and I will just let the photos tell you what is inside Tipan Cave. Photos are taken with the SJ6Legend from @sjcam_ph.

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The Eiger can be submerged in water and trek on muddy trails!

How to get there:

The Municipality of Naga is three hours away from Zamboanga City via a bus or van going to Pagadian City. It is also less than twenty minutes from the Municipality of Ipil which is the capital of Zamboanga Sibugay Province. A 20-minute habal habal ride from the town proper of Naga that would cost 70 pesos will take you to Barangay Tipan. Prior coordination is needed to secure the necessary permits. You will really have a hard time getting through the locals without a permit because they are well versed with the necessity of securing one. The fees will soon be institutionalized through a barangay resolution and it will surely be affordable but fair to the community. This cave will open to the public soon and I am confident that the people’s organization managing the tour will sustain the cave. Contact Mr Christopher Dinopol, President of Tipan Cacao Farmers Association for the tour at 0935-522-6334. There is no cellphone signal in Barangay Tipan but Mr Dinopol immediately replies whenever he has reception. A permit is needed from the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO), Ms Payja Roxas, 0936-7506-368. Coordination with the Municipal Tourism Officer is also needed, you can reach Ms Ivy Garnett Duran at 0936-627-3503.

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Not a single scratch on the Eiger! This amazing pair of shoes can definitely take anything!
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The Eiger, looking strong and sturdy after being beaten by the rough conditions inside the cave.

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