Waterfall. Nothing can harm me at all. My worries seem so very small. With my waterfall. — Jimi Hendrix, May This Be Love
One of the places I would go to in a heartbeat is the waterfalls. There’s something about the flow and sound of the water falling that fascinates me, and the trip to get to the falls is always an opportunity for me to be at one with nature. Trekking to a falls is always a reward in itself. I could never get enough of it.
So last Sunday, we set out to explore Hulugan Falls at Luisiana. I’ve read about it in a blog and was immediately intrigued, as I loved the rugged outdoors and was in need of exercise.
D, my brother, cousin and I set off from Alabang at 530 in the morning and drove off to the south towards Luisiana – a municipality in Laguna also known as ‘the little Baguio’ because of the winding roads and the cooler temperature – averaging 26 degrees celsius througout the year. It’s about 110 kilometers from Manila, and approximately 2.5 hours away by car.
To get to Luisiana we took the South Superhighway through through Santo Tomas, Batangas so we would skip the traffic-proned Calamba and Los Banos. Then we drove past Pagsanjan, Laguna – which looked quite interesting because of the old houses that lined up the main road. I’m thinking of setting off to Pagsanjan sometime in the near future to explore these heritage houses. Pagsanjan is also known for its waterfalls, and I remember seeing photos of it in my elementary school textbooks decades ago.
Then we drove up to Cavinti where the winding roads began. We could see the Laguna Lake as we got higher up. Before we reached the Luisiana town center, we took a right turn following the road sign saying “Hulugan Falls”. We parked next to the registration center (for a fee of 30 pesos per vehicle). Each of us paid 30 pesos for the registration fee and our assigned tour guide conducted a brief orientation about Hulugan. I was pleased to see that Filipino was the language used for the orientation form, and the guide was readily able to answer questions and comments. There are about 120 local guides affiliated with the tour group in Luisiana, and it was good they all are given equal opportunity to be able to guide guests. Our guide, Joy, said that she usually gets, on an aversge, at least one guest per week. Her peak months are from April to May, the summer months, where she can have as many as 2 rounds per day on weekends. When she shared this information, I reflected on the simplicity of life at Luisiana, and how the people seemed happy and contented.
Some the things I remembered from the orientation are:
1. The trek would take 30 minutes one way, and we were to trek 95 meters downhill. The path is not cemented and the handrails are made of bamboo. It could get quite difficult during the rainy season when the soil is soft and muddy.
2. For safety purposes, children below 8 years old, and adults more than 60 years old are not permitted to trek to and from the falls. People with cardiovascular ailments are also not allowed to trek to the falls.
3. While there was no bathroom at the site of the falls, there was paid toilet and bath at the registration center.
After the orientation, we took a tricyle to the trek’s starting point, which was about 5 minutes’ drive. The cost of the tricycle ride was 50 pesos one way. I like how the local folks coordinated this type of transportation setup, because it regulates the flow of traffic, which is efficient because the roads were pretty narrow and I imagine could be hard to control if all guests were allowed to bring their cars to park near the dropoff. Plus, it also boosts the livelihood of the tricycle drivers of the municipality.
Ok so The Trek. Boy, was it intense. Going down is harder than climbing up. My thighs were literally shaking and begging me to rest. I realized that my 10,000 steps per day was not enough and clearly not all muscles were being worked out daily. This is the first time in a long time that I felt my thigh muscles sore. And until today, they’re still sore.
But the trek was all worth it. The Hulugan Falls was beautiful. There was a lot of trees and plants surrounding it and the area was clean. Flocks of swallows were flying about, and Joy said that in the summer months, families of monkeys would be seen playing up the trees. I was, once again, awestruck by the beauty of nature and its rawness. I felt blessed to have been able to see this beauty up close.
Next to the falls is an ancient tree that has withstood typhoons and flash floods. Nearby is a formation of rocks and caves. It was truly spectacular!
The water was cold and clear. Joy said that the community spends two days a week – Mondays and I cannot remember what the other day was – to clean the area. I like how the locals purposely decided not to put up rubbish bins in the area so as to make guests accountable in bringing their trash with them. I really wish the cleanliness and simplicity of the place can be maintained for the benefit of the generations yet to come.
On the way back, we made the mandatory stop on the bibingka kiosks along the highway to get ourselves not just the freshly-made warm tasty bibingka, but also the unlimited coconut water that the sellers give for free. The coconut water was sweet and refreshing, and this was the icing on the cake for this daytrip. I also appreciated the friendliness and happy smiles that our bibingka sellers gave us. These gestures simply warm the heart, and will definitely bring me back to Luisiana soon.