Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park
Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park is a protected area about 841 hectares in size, located in the town of Basey, Samar in the Eastern Visayas region in the Philippines. It is known for interesting geological formations, especially the Sohoton Natural Bridge and various caves, as well as for its picturesque scenery. It is the most popular ecotourism attraction in the entire region of Eastern Visayas.
The park is found in Basey, a rustic town in the province of Samar that is known for its woven mats and its historic monuments. It is close to Borongan, Eastern Samar, and is across the San Juanico Strait from Leyte. Other places of interest nearby include the Rawis and Saob Caves and the Balantak Falls.
The most famous feature of the park, for which it is named, is the natural stone bridge which connects two mountains. A stream flows under the bridge.
In the park can also be found several cathedral-like caves, the largest of which is Panhulugan Cave, actually a system consisting of two major chambers. Inside these caves are interesting limestone formations, including a flow area that is said to resemble the Banawe Rice Terraces and a curving formation said to look like the Great Wall of China. Other limestone formations look like the Chocolate Hills, elephants, organ pipes, or other objects. A view of the stone bridge can be seen from the two smaller caves, Sohoton and Bugasan. Sohoton cave has a 50-meter high arched entrance. Spike-shaped crystalline stalactites hang from its ceiling, and at its end is a small window and a balcony that overlooks a natural swimming pool.
The park also features rivers and waterfalls with clear waters. It is very green and is inhabited by various types of wildlife. The pristine Basey River emerges from underground through the side of the mountain.
The name of the bridge comes from the local word sohot, which means “to pass through.” Panhulugan and Sohotan caves were inhabited thousands of years ago, as suggested by archeological finds containing bones of early cave dwellers and their possessions, including pieces of pottery and ceramics that date back to the Ming and Sung Dynasties. Some of these items are in the collection of the Divine Word University Museum in Tacloban.
During the Philippine revolutions against the Spaniards and the Americans, rebel soldiers camped in the cliffs around Panhulugan. They hid among the cliffs and threw rocks and logs on their enemies as they approached.
Park visitors may explore the caves with the help of guides or go kayaking on the rivers.
When to go
It is best to visit Sohoton from March up to early August, as during the rainy season the rivers may become dangerously swift.
- Bautista, Ricky J. “New Developed 60-ft. Balantak Falls Lures Tourists.” In Samar News, May 8, 2006.
- De Villa, Jill Gale. Philippine Vacations and Explorations. Makati: Devcon, 1988.
- "Things to Do and see in Eastern Samar..." Wow Philippines Website.