Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pagsanjan is it!

One of the perks of being a Mabuhay Guide is, of course, travelling domestically. Recently I was assigned to do a tour of the Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna; the first time that I have ever heard of that place was when I was living in South Korea, people I meet always say that they LOVE Pagsanjan Falls, and I’d just say: Yeah! It’s beautiful there, no? :)

I was 18, young and ignorant. Less than a decade after, I am a Mabuhay Guide –more aware than before but not as much as I would be in the future.

Laguna is such an ordinary place to go, “it’s just another city”, it’s famous for espasol and buko (coconut) pies, and OULET SHOPPING! The Laguna I know was Laguna Technopark, but other than that, I was just plain ignorant.

So when we got to Pagsanjan falls, I had no idea what to expect. For those who’ve been there, you’d find this entry to be stupid and outdated, but for those who are just like me, still a (semi)tourist in your own country, you’d be amazed.

We started out with a 3-hour drive from Manila to Laguna, it was a Saturday and traffic was to be expected. When we got to the River View Resort, it was nice. They had a bathroom with free lockers inside. You coordinate with the manager if you’re going to take the boat to the falls, then they’ll call the bangkeros to come fetch you at their port.

Each boat can carry maximum of 3 passengers (plus 2 bangkeros); from the resort to the falls take about an hour one way with a stretch of 8 kilometers. The first few minutes of the ride is quiet and serene, the boatman is going to paddle their way up stream then all the boats will be tied together like elephants and pulled by one single motored bangka (small boat) and then that’s where the magic begins!
The boatman will tackle 16 rapids, it is very difficult to explain what they do and how much energy they need to bring you from point A to point B, and so I will show you the video.

It was like a dance, jumping from one side to the other. It was an enjoyable ride except for the fact that you see the boatmen exhausted because they’re pulling you up stream through gorges! They’d be shouting HOOS and HAAHS, and you’ll feel kind of guilty sitting pretty making sure your camera doesn’t get wet haha. I’m not sure though if it was a tactic that they use to get more tips from you, but it sure worked for me! LOL.

The tour of Pagsanjan Falls is very organized, they’re a federation of all boat mean, I was told there were 900++ of them, each is assigned a number and their turns are rotated. The boat ride is P1000 per person. You might think that the price might be expensive, but I really think it’s worth it! The entry written on the latest edition of Lonely Planet isn’t updated, it still complains about the disorganization of the boat ride, noisy hawkers and overpricing but it is not at all like that anymore.

After all the 16 gorges, we were instructed by the boatman cum tour leader to head to the other side of the shore and there we saw the amazing falls. In the middle of it all, was a bamboo raft, the whole ambiance was a chaos, mix of different races trying to figure out what the boatmen are trying to instruct them, “sit down!”, “go there!” I was almost literally pushed to the bamboo raft with the rest of the tourists and we asked to sit down. A macho topless man is in front of the raft pulling a raft of around 25 people to the middle of it all, Pagsanjan Falls. When you get closer, you get more nervous what it’s going to feel like when you’re directly under the 300ft tall fall... alas, ahh… hydromassage!

It could be a bit scary feeling as though the raft was going to give in because there were so many of us, but it was part of the thrill, the excitement that lasted for about 5 minutes in comparison to the 1 hour journey through the gorges.

The saying goes that it is the journey and not the destination but in this case, the thrill was both in the journey and the destination! WOW PHILIPPINES.


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