Tuesday, January 15, 2008


My cousin, Lilian together with her daughter, Sarah, arrived from Australia and were directly fetched to her newly bought three-floor townhouse somewhere in Las Pinas. They were joined by her mother, Tia Flor, her sister Jocelyn, and brother Ramon. My uncle, Tio Tony, was also present and me, happened to be there checking/fixing the electrical lightings and plumbing systems which were newly installed thereat.

After so many conversations --what happen to this?...what happen to those?..., where are these?... where are those?-- we arrived to Lilian's itinerary which includes going to Pagsanjan to see its famous waterfalls. Tio Tony suggested "Villa Escudero" or "Hidden Valley Resort" where many foreign tourists are now frequenting in view of the wonderful amenities and visitor's treats the resorts were offering.

It was decided that we first see Pagsanjan and others to follow.

Pagsanjan is situated southeast of Manila and ninety-kilometer distance, more or less. It takes two to two and a half hours drive to cover the stretch, depending on the mode of travel a tourist has to undertake. On the way, you will enjoy the rest areas along the South Expressway where you can take a snack at "Jollibee, McDonald, Max, Kentucky, and coffee at Starbucks." Or you can buy some stuffs at the "mini-malls" offering reasonable prices.

Exiting the expressway at Calamba, you will feel the breezes of the rustic Laguna countryside. You can pass-by the house of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, or the many hotspring resorts lined-up in Pansol, or view the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, and more on the flowering gardens of Bay, the healing sessions at Pila, the laying ducks of Victoria, the capital town of Sta. Cruz, and finally, the centuries-old "Arch of Pagsanjan.".

We arrived at Pagsanjan's Paradise Resort at lunch time and after taking some foods, we got ready for the boat-ride. We were offered a locker each for our things --as you have to pass by the wet areas or sprinkling waters from the falls--; a life vest; and a plastic sachet for camera, cellphone, etc.

As we stood-by the river bank, together with Rey, our cousin --he is a boatman leaving soon for Singapore-- and waiting for our group, a trail of small boats with beaming tourists and being towed by a motorboat passed-by ...leaving a row of waves splashing our face.... and this added to thrilling excitement and eagerness to reach the falls!

We were to ride on a canoe --two to three passengers can be accommodated depending on weight and is being paddled by two boatmen-- in going to the falls. We were instructed to set flat on the canoe floor, spread legs for balancing; and not to hold on the outer edge of the canoe --a holding bar is provided-- as you might injured your hands when pressed against the rocks or passing canoes from opposite directions being tended by the rushing currents.

"We are now on the middle of the trek to the shooting rapids. And we are seeing the splattering waters from the shallow river. The boatmen are getting ready ...touching their paddles to the protruding rocks... signaling the first stage of shooting the rapids," as I related this unfolding experience.

We passed the side cliffs, measuring some 40 meters height. On its cleavage, sturdy trees and long vines hanging, adorned the walls ...hiding the sun and only the rays penetrated us down. There were small waterfalls and those dried ones along the sides of the ravines and myriad of chirping bird species unseen in the dense woods. Spring waters were abundant where the natives availed their fresh drinking water.

"Another narrow waterways approaching, 2 to 3 feet width, just allowing the canoe, almost exactly, to pass in-betweens and the boatmen used their hands and feet to gain access and moved through against the cascading waters from the nearing main falls...!" I recalled.

Then, the quite spacious body of water, quiet but very deep, yet teaming with tourists and canoes. On the side is a wharf where the boatmen rest for awhile together with the visitors relaxing and stretching their waist and legs --preparing for the uphill rowing and pushing climb.

In a minute, we were again up in the battle with the rampaging blast of current. Rowings, pushings, and there were times the boatmen have to lift the canoe -passengers on- feet above the rocks. There were also blind curves where passers have to shout first not only to warn the canoes speeding down but also "to inform the unseen guard of the forest and as a sign of reverence, the native chieftain is requiring."

At the sharp curve and elevated by 3 feet, and the boulders filed along the waterways, the canoes have to stop. All the visitors have to alight and walk some 30 meters to the blind curve and ... there!!! the magnificent, marvelous, and mighty Falls!! almost instantly brought wide-opened our eyes! "The luster and sparkling droplets of water as it beams the rays of lights from in-betweens the leaves of trees some 50 meters high --gave more astounding and thrilling views, compounded by the rows of forming rainbows-- right in front of our glued and naked eye."

Tourists begun to take photos of the awe-inspiring views amidst the background of reverberating sounds as "the water is dancing as it falls ... bouncing on the rocks, growling its mighty voice."

And there in the platform below, awaits a raft made of green bamboo --big enough to accommodate 20 people-- for anyone who wants to go beyond, under the waterfall.

We tried it to experience the amazing wonders of nature, touching our bare skin ... and said to be a great and health boosting massage.

The raft was guided by four boatmen through a 30-meter rope securely tied on both ends from the platform to the cave where water actually fell.

And there we started again the grueling fun. As we approached the falls, another raft emerged from the concealing clouds of vapor, all were suffusely wet and overwhelmed with joy... And its our turn, we also submerged in the turbid clouds on the rims of the falls and momentarily stopped there as usually done by the boatmen...but we cannot open our eyes as too much pressure were negating us to do so, compounding our excitements, laughing, screaming, and other forms of expressions and feelings nobody can explain.

As we passed the falls and then... inside the cave...we experienced the incredible sound surround!!, the vibrating and impacting fall of tons of water! As if the whole mountain will crumble and gobble us alive! It is like a roaring and rumbling giant bodies (Jurassic monsters) in an enclosure; an impending catastrophe; and the wrath of nature, a sense no one can imagine.

And when we reemerged ...as if triumphantly defying death, felt victorious, and conqueror of the great falls.... all smile and raising our fists, I said proudly, "Mabuhay-hay-hay."

We disembarked from the raft and ...glanced once more that majestic and grumbling falls.... then back to the canoe.

We descended from that height at the speed as the rapids flow. We have seen the expert maneuvering of the boatmen: by pushing and jumping side by side, avoiding collision with the boulders of rocks blocking our way; shouting downstream forewarning the upcoming canoes to stay aside; the swerving and evading any obstructions along the way; and the perfect balancing they demonstrated -as we glided our way safely to the less turbulent stage that we have negotiated.

As we alighted from the canoe ...and looking back to the treacherous trek we have threaded, I silently uttered: "Pagsanjan Falls, you have instilled in me a new sense of awareness. I will tell the world the marvels of your existence."

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