Thursday, March 08, 2007

Laguna: Shooting the rapids in Pagsanjan

The sun was out today which was great since we were on our way to Pagsanjan, Laguna to check out the famous waterfalls. After having to deal with a drizzle yesterday morning, this was good news. The drive down south wasn't much of a hassle since we left after rush hour. It surprised me that the traffic in Calamba and Los Banos wasn't as heavy as I expected in to be.

We could have passed by the town of Pila on the way to Pagsanjan but we didn't have much time since it was nearing lunch. As we got into town, we saw large tarpaulin billboards from the LGU announcing that there was a standard rate for boat rides to the falls which was PHP660 per head. It also warned people to book their rides with resorts and inns. There were actually a lot of boatmen along the road pointing us towards the resorts. While taking photos at the Puerta Real of Pagsanjan, we were approached by several boatmen who pointed us towards a resort. Just like yesterday, they would board and accompany you there.

We paid PHP660 each, which included the boat, life vests, and a toll fee which is shared by the municipalities of Pagsanjan, Lumban and Cavinti. An additional PHP90 per head allowed you to ride a bamboo raft that would take you behind the falls and back. But a "hidden" charge which the LGU should try to curb (or include in the standard rate at the very least) are the "optional" tips for the boatmen which aren't optional at all! I ended up paying PHP200 each after the trip (This was the amount which my friend Rhea told me she paid which served as my basis since the boatmen were saying tourists gave them US$45 each and said they would settle for even just half. Nice try).

Anyway, the ride was fun. I have to give it to the boatmen, rowing the boat up the rapids of the Bumbungan River is indeed an art! It amazed me how the two boat men jumped out of the boat when the rapids came up and hopped from rock to rock pulling the small wooden boat upstream against the strong current. I would later learn that one must be licensed to do the job and a six-month training is needed before one can apply for a license. The trip upstream is about an hour while it takes 45 minutes to get back to Pagsanjan town.

The forest on either side of the Pagsanjan Gorge was surprisingly virgin with so much flora and fauna. You could spot monkeys occasionally high up in the trees. During the rainy season, there are at least nine waterfalls in the gorge. But during the summer months, many dry up and only two are left: Pagsanjan Falls and Talahib Falls which serves as a stopover point and rest area for the boatmen and passengers alike.

After taking a few photos, we were off. Several hundred meters away was the main falls which is more popularly known as Pagsanjan Falls. But its real name is Magdapio Falls. At the same time, it is located in the territorial jurisdiction of Cavinti and not Pagsanjan as most people would think.

We checked out the bamboo rafts and it turned out we were unprepared for the fun! I expected we were going to get wet on the raft. But I didn't expect it was equivalent to taking a cold shower with your clothes on! Had I known, we should have worn beach clothing instead. Anyway, we solved that slight problem and boarded the raft.

The experience was exhilarating since to enter Devil's Cave behind the falls, the raft was brought directly under the falls itself! The water was really cold and the experience made me feel like I was on a bamboo raft in the middle of a strong typhoon holding tightly to a rope so that I wouldn't fall off. Wow! Unless you are aquaphobic or claustrophobic, you should not miss the raft ride when in Pagsanjan!

Anyway, the ride back was equally exciting since it was downstream and riding the rapids was indeed fun! The day wasn't over since we decided to complete the Laguna loop (trip around Laguna de Bay) for the rest of the afternoon.
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