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VI. Tourist pilgrimages

[This is part of a collection of posts serializing the second chapter of Pasyon, Awit, Legend.]

Bonifacio’s trek to San Mateo could be situated within a history of ‘pilgrimage,’ but it would be a very different history from that which Pasyon and Revolution suggested. There was an established tradition of European tourists traveling to the cave of San Mateo in the nineteenth century.

In a separate section of his book, Gironiere writes of traveling to see the cave of San Mateo. He tells of going between two “monster mountains … equally alike and similar in height.”1 His story goes into great detail of the spelunking which he and Hamilton Lindsay undertook, through subterranean chambers and between enormous stalactites. He does not mention Tapuzi in the context of the cave of San Mateo, nor does he mention San Mateo in his journey to Tapuzi. At the time of his explorations the conflation of the two locations had not yet occurred.

Surveying the accounts written by foreigners visiting Luzon in the nineteenth century we almost always find a reference or two to the caves of San Mateo. It was a popular destination among the more bold adventurers to visit Manila.

The Scottish businessman, Robert MacMicking, wrote

Some miles beyond Mariquina, there is a most curious cave, of great extent, at the village of San Mateo, which is well worthy of a visit by the curious. Shortly after entering it, the height of the cavern rises to about fifty feet, although it varies continually, — so much so, that at some places there is scarcely height enough for a man to sit upright … The temperature within the cavern was 77\degree, and without, 86\degree, being a very considerable change, even in the cool of the evening, on coming out of it, just after sunset. I am afraid to give an estimate as to the extent of this immense cave; it requires, however, five or six hours to partially see its curiosities, and of course would take far more time to investigate it properly. The only living creatures met within it, [sic] appear to be bats, which are not very numerous.2

Joseph Stevens

Joseph Stevens from Yesterdays in the Philippines (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1898).

Joseph Stevens traveled to the cave in May, 1894, less than a year before the Katipunan visited the cave during Holy Week, 1895. He wrote,

After a jolly good bath, and a few preparations, our party of four, with the two boys and two guides, started up a steep valley in among lofty mountains to the so-called caves of Montalvan. [sic] One of our guides was the principal of a village school, who held sway over a group of little Indian girls under a big mango-tree, and he shut up shop to join our expedition. In about two hours and a half our caravan reached the narrower defile that pierced two mountains which came down hobnobbing together like a great gate, grand and picturesque. From a large, quiet pool just beneath the gates, we climbed almost straight up the mouth of the stalactite caves that run no one knows how far into the mountains, starting at a point about two hundred feet above the river.3

It was not just foreign travelers, but business also which was going to the caves of San Mateo. One year prior to Stevens’ journey, the San Pedro Mining Company petitioned for the right to collect guano in Pamitinan.4 Scientists studied the place. The German geologist Drasche wrote of a journey there. It is interesting to note that, despite the fact that his work was written entirely in German, Drasche refered to the cave as the “cueva de S. Mateo.” This would indicate that this had become the official name of the cave. This is the only aspect of Philippine geology which he treats in this fashion; all other geographical features were translated into German.5


  1. Gironiere, Twenty Years in the Philippines, 128.
  2. Robert MacMicking, Recollections of Manilla [sic] and the Philippines during 1848, 1849, and 1850 (London: Richard Bentley, 1851), 107-8.
  3. Stevens, Yesterdays in the Philippines, 89-90.
  4. Charles H. Burritt, Abstract of the Mining Laws in force in the Philippine Archipelago (Manila: Bureau
    of Public Printing, 1902), 113.
  5. Richard von Drasche, Fragmente zu einer Geologie der Insel Luzon (Philippinen) (Wien: Karl Gerold’s Sohn, 1878).
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