I lived in Laguna for five years but I never got the chance to visit this well-known falls located in the town of Cavinti in the province of Laguna. Besides Mayon Volcano and Chocolate Hills, Pagsanjan Falls has always been in the league of “Magagandang Tanawin sa Pilipinas” Beautiful Tourist Spots in the Philippines that I only get to see in our History grade school textbooks.I always have the impression that it is expensive, in dollar rates and caters mostly to foreign tourists; something an oatmeal and pancit canton-nourished student can’t afford yet back in her university days in Los Banos, Laguna.
The descent to the waterfalls starts in a nicely paved path of Pueblo El Salvador Picnic Grove.
The first steep metal railings on the way to the falls.
But as luck would have it, I found a cheaper, more adventurous and less stressful way to shoot the rapids of Pagsanjan. Thanks to my savvy backpacker friend Patrick who seemed to have a knack for creating really cheap DIY trips.
Pagsanjan Falls is usually accessible via Pagsanjan. From its town plaza, there are many “bankeros” boatmen that offer boat ride to the main falls and back. Many of the resorts and lodges in Pagsanjan also offer boat ride services that range from 700-1000 per person for the life vest, entrance/toll fees, bamboo raft ride, and round trip boat ride. There are also persistent flaggers that will trail your vehicles and if you are unlucky enough to avail their service, you will be overcharged and asked for ridiculous amount of tip.
Fortunately for us, we took the Cavinti route via Barangay Tibatib where Pueblo El Salvador Nature Park and Picnic Grove is located. It is the starting point for the descent to the falls. It was almost 2pm when we reached the town of Cavinti after visiting the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban. We got off at Junction and took a short tricycle ride to the park. For 150 pesos you can already trek down to the falls along their well-maintained park and see and experience waterfalls massage by riding a bamboo raft that goes under the falls. We opted for the 500 pesos package though since we wanted to experience shooting the rapids on our way back to Pagsanjan town instead of climbing back to the steep muscle-numbing ladders to the park.It included bamboo raft ride, boat ride back to Barangay Lagaslas, entrance and ladder fees and the use of life vest and harness.
We started to walk in a well-paved trail amidst the lush forest and well-manicured garden. Then, we went down on concrete steps with safety railings and descended on top of the majestic Nakulo Falls gracefully cascading like a wide curtain on a narrower basin. We continued our trek along the wet and thick rainforest where we saw another falls without a name yet until we reached the statue of El Salvador Del Mundo. Our guide asked us to wear our harness at this point and one by one we descended on a steep 90 degrees vertical metal ladder enclosed by spiral safety railings all the way to the bottom. Of course being lazy I mean adventurous that I am, I opted to rappel to make it faster and more fun. There was another steep ladder that we took before we were finally greeted by the colorful canoes and towering rock cliffs at the riverbanks.
The waterfall was a sight to behold but I guess I have always painted it in my mind way grander than it should be. I was expecting to be really awestricken as it was my childhood dream to see this place and I was expecting something more that keep many tourists raving about their exciting experience. The falls may be narrower compared to the other falls I have seen but it has strong relentless current that fills its inviting pools. One highly recommended way to enjoy its cool and refreshing water is to take the bamboo raft and go under it and get a back massage. One can also explore the Devil’s Cave behind it. I didn’t join anymore my friends in bamboo rafting since I didn’t bring extra clothes, I was unprepared for this extra adventure and getting wet was not an option at the moment. And I thought so!
After the last shot was taken, we rode one of the colorful canoes and finally I understood why going to Pagsanjan Falls is one exciting adventure you should not miss in your life. It was an exhilarating, wild ride that will keep you hanging to your seats as the skillful boatmen amazingly navigate through the narrow gaps of huge rocksjumping from one side of the boat to the other using their legs to push and pull through the rapids. I was more thrilled by this boat ride and more amazed by the “bankeros” than the waterfalls itself.
In between rapids, you get to appreciate the thick forest and the rock formations on both sides of the Bumbungan River as your boat glides in the calm waters. The scenery reminded me of the Big and Small lagoons in Palawan where towering limestone formations were very common.There were also interesting rock formations that our bankeros pointed to us like the “helicopter”, “heart” and “froggy” rock formations. We also saw a few small waterfalls cascading along the rock cliff. Finally we passed by the famous location of the now defunct TV show “Tabing Ilog” before we got off to Barangay Lagaslas. We paid extra 20 pesos for the Philippine Tourism Association (PTA) which wasn’t so bad after all we got to use their bathrooms and cottage before we headed back to the town proper.
Lakwatsera’s Travel Tips
a. It is advisable to arrange tickets with travel agencies, guest houses and resorts beforehand since most of them follow the standard rate. If it was a spur of the moment trip, you can just go directly to any of the numerous resorts and lodges and arrange it from there. Most of the resorts charge extra fees than the normal rate but you get to use their facilities like a clean shower rooms which is a must
b. The boat ride upstream is around an hour and a half while going back takes around 45 minutes. There is no need to book for an overnight accommodation if your intention is just to see the waterfalls and shoot the rapids. This can even be done in half day.
c. You will really get wet so a change of clothes is a must and a ziplock or other waterproofing materials will come handy in safeguarding your gadgets.
d. The Cavinti route is a cheaper alternative that offers extra activities like a short trek in a beautiful park, rappelling and a chance to see other waterfalls. It cost us 520 pesos only for this trip.
e. The best time to visit the falls is during the wet season from August to September when the river is at its highest level and shooting the rapids is even more thrilling.
f. It is best to visit the falls on weekdays as a huge number of tourists flocked this area on weekends.
g. Bring sun block, bottle of water and toiletries for showering