Buntos Palos is one of the numerous waterfalls that abound in the province of Laguna. Easily accessible via public transport or private car, a trip to this area will reward you with a spectacular crashing waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation and rocky cliffs. The two to three hour travel from Manila and hour or two of trek from the jump-off point is well rewarded once you get a glimpse of this pristine natural wonder.
Taking Ortigas Avenue en route to Infanta Quezon, it took us around two hours to reach Barangay Balian in Pangil, Laguna. We spent a bit of a time looking for the exact location of the jump-off point in Barangay Balian – back and forth along the highway attempting to follow the directions from various locals. I had only noted the village’s name from the suggested itinerary before we left, hoping that the area would be quite popular among the locals and that we would be able to find the place easily by asking around once we got there. Unfortunately, my asking skills didn’t yield the exact info we were looking for, but eventually we made our way to the sitio of San Isidro where we found a guide for our trek.
There is an entrance fee of 25 pesos per person for day trippers and 30 pesos per person for overnight visitors, which is collected by Mang Domeng, the caretaker of the campsite. For a fee, you also can park your car near his house and use the bathroom/toilet before and after your trek. From here, we started our trek around 10 a.m. and reached the waterfalls an hour and fifteen minutes later.
I didn’t expect the trek to be that fast and easy. I was expecting it to be around 2-3 hours along a muddy and rocky trail based on the reading I had done before the trip. Perhaps it was because we were only on a day hike with lighter bags and the trail was very dry at this time of the year with the onset of the El Nino phenomenon. I would say the trail is on the easy to moderate side and involves a little bit of navigating over rocks and roots and a gradual elevation gain. It might be a bit of a challenge, however, during the rainy season due to mud and sections of slippery travel. But nothing too difficult in general except for the final descent to the waterfalls which is a bit steep and might require the assistance of a rope (which is already fixed in place) for some visitors.
Our journey towards the falls had its share of interesting diversions. Just 15 minutes from the jump-off point is a clearing where you can marvel at the lush rice paddies on the shores of the picturesque Laguna de Bay and the scenic mountain range looming in the distance. Donkeys carrying sacks of coal, raw materials of rattan and huge logs will greet you as you make your way to the top, along with the smell of the donkey’s dung spread on the trail. It was sad to see a frail-looking boy who was carrying a huge log twice or even thrice his weight on his shoulders back to the village.
Upon reaching the campsite, there is a 10-15 minute descent on a slightly steep slope to reach the banks of the river. From here, you can already hear the strong surge of the waterfalls and catch a glimpse of the falls through the forest canopy. The waterfall has a steep drop that fans out from a narrow width at the top to a larger base at the bottom. Based on Charlie’s 60 meter rope which we used for rappelling the falls, the major drop of Buntot Palos is around 40 meters and descends further in small cascades on its slippery rocks before reaching the catch basin.
We didn’t really have a fixed plan of what to do once we got there but we decided to bring a rope and a harness just in case the place was conducive for rappelling. Luckily it was only a 15-20 minute hike up to the top of the waterfalls and before we knew it, Charlie had already set-up the ropes on top and was trying to convince Wes and me to try it. I guess there’s always a first time for everything and it was about time that I tried rappelling! Surprisingly, I enjoyed it a lot and did it twice. I would have done it over and over again if only I don’t have to climb back to the top each time! We invited some of the locals to try it too and they were grateful in the end that they actually took the challenge.
Buntot Palos, also known as Hidden Falls, has its own unique charm and adventures to offer. Exploring further the river streams, Charlie discovered an area similar to the narrow and deep canyons of the Blue Mountains in Australia which he was dying to explore, except that he needed another skilled person accompany him for safety. The area is still pristine and known to mountaineers and a few visitors only. A trip to this place is a very worthwhile experience for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.