Be Benguet.

Whenever someone asks me which among the 76 Philippine provinces I have been is my favorite, I without batting an eyelash, would quip — Benguet. Bias as it may sound, but no one gets close to a place you call home.

Benguet is one of the 6 provinces that comprise the Cordillera Region. The province has 13 municipalities and 1 city. I have been to 9 of the 13 towns and it is quite a shame that I still have to set foot on 4 of them.

Anyhow, be amazed with its picturesque landscape, cool climate, and warm, friendly people — Beautiful Benguet. 🥰

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy.

Waterfalls of Kennon Road (Benguet, PH)

Many quiet rivers start from noisy waterfalls, but none of them jumps and does not foam up to the sea. But it is often a sign of great peace of mind, and hidden forces… — Mikhail Lermontov

Waterfalls have extraordinary power and beauty of nature… sparkling and splashing, breaking into a thousand rubble of mist.

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If you are making your way to Baguio City (via Kennon Road), there are several waterfalls you can visit. Two of which are very much accessible from the highway and the others require a little bit of sauntering.

BRIDAL VEIL FALLS:

Location: Camp 1 (Tabaan Sur), Tuba, Benguet.

The easiest, and most accessible to reach from among these waterfalls along Kennon Road is the Bridal Veil Falls. Just 2-3 kilometres away from the border of La Union – Benguet, this waterfall is visible from the road and could be easily spotted.

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The name is coined from what it looks like a veil of a woman who is going to marry. From a bird’s eye view, it really does resemble like that of a long, flowing veil from a firm rock wall. The water pours down from a towering height before it crashes into a shady catch basin enclosed by boulders.

While it is true that one may admire the waterfalls from afar, it is still best to come near it and experience its water. Getting to the base of the waterfalls is pretty a walk in the park. That is, if one is okay with crossing a quite daunting hanging foot bridge that is noticeably seen from the highway. Well, it isn’t really that difficult to cross the bridge (even if it screeches and swings a bit).

Generally, the waterfall was imposing. It was a tad difficult to take a photo of its entirety due to its stature. I got to 1st visit this waterfall in 2009, and the water falling wasn’t that full and strong. Yet, it was still a sight to see. I wonder how mighty and stunning it would be during the rainy season.

COLORADO FALLS

Location: Camp 2 (Twin Peaks), Tuba, Benguet.

From Bridal Veil, a good 5-10 minute ride and you’ll reach the jump-off of Colorado Falls. This waterfall has been a well-known attraction from among La Union and Benguet locals over the years for its refreshing cascades and natural pools (most specially during the summer months). According to locals, the falls’ catch basin is deep (some say it is only around 10 feet, others say it is as deep as 60 feet). Its popularity dwindled when an increasing number of drowning incidents happened in the area.

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The waterfall is just a short walk (5-minute walk) from the roadside. During my recent visit (February 2019), I have learned that it has been closed to the public for several months now. The closure is due to a recent drowning, and the place was hardly damaged by a typhoon last year wherein the cottages, and shower areas were destroyed. Hopefully, the local government will have financial aid to rebuild these so they could open up this natural wonder again to the public.

ARAN CAVE’S WATERFALLS

Location: Camp 3, Tuba, Benguet

Aran Cave is an emerging site in Tuba, Benguet. Since it is a cave, adventure junkie come here to explore the caverns and crevices of this natural attraction. It is said that there are 5 levels (corresponding to 5 waterfalls) inside the cave. So far, visitors are only allowed to visit up to the 3rd level (unless you are an expert spelunker).

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I have been to this cave twice (in 2009 and this year, 2019), and I could say that one, unique feature of are the waterfalls inside. They aren’t as tall as the other falls along Kennon Road but they are more exciting to me since you get to rappel alongside them inorder to reach the next portion of the cave. Also, the waterfalls have crystal clear, freezingly cold, natural pools one could swim around. (More of Aran Cave HERE).

HYDRO FALLS

Location: Camp 6, Tuba, Benguet.

While all the waterfalls I have visited along Kennon Road has their own charm, I find the Hydro Falls the most picturesque. It is also the nearest waterfall from Baguio City but the one that requires more walking (unlike Bridal Veil and Colorado). Going to the waterfalls will take around an hour to an hour and a half. From the jump off, one will get to pass by a hanging bridge that leads to a residential area at the other side of the Bued river.

From there, a narrow path leads you to a small basketball court and eventually towards a grassy trail along the river. The most exciting part of the trek going to the falls is passing through boulders and some river crossing. The time I went here, I actually brought with me my chow, Kabbage, who didnt want to get wet so I had to carry her while sauntering through the rocks. After passing by some natural pool along the river, one will arrive at the main catchbasin of the 3-tiered waterfall.

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We had a great time swimming and taking lots of photos during this getaway. We would have wanted to scale the 2nd tier of the waterfall but it seems that there were no established trails.

How to reach these waterfalls:
From Baguio City, one can ride a jeep bound for Camp 6 along Kennon Road. The jeepney terminal is located at Carantes Street corner T. Claudio Street (at the Back of Jollibee Harrison Road). Inform the driver that you want to go to the Hydro Falls (Hydro 2 area, which is located somewhere in between the Lion’s head and the Camp 6 Elementary School.

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For Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado Falls, Aran Cave’s falls, one could ride the jeepney going to Camp 2/3 located at Lakandula St. near Shoppers Lane (at the back of a Jollibee store). Just tell the driver which of these waterfalls you are visiting and you will be dropped by the jump off.

These waterfalls are great weekend getaways from Baguio City. They are all free of entrance fees (except Aran since you have to pay for the cave guides). Please note though that private vehicles are not allowed to pass by Kennon Road as of the moment due to on-going road and bridge constructions (so best option is to take the public jeepneys).

There is another waterfall that I wish to see (Ataki Falls) and hopefully would include in this write-up soon. I’ll keep you posted once I get to explore it. Take it easy and don’t be wasted souls, be “juan”derlust.

Aran Cave (Benguet, PH)

Spelunking or caving is about exhilarating exploration, discovering a furtive underground landscape of stalactites and stalagmites, caverns and crevices where seemingly creepy silence echoes. The ghostly feeling these concealed wonders, and all that it keeps like the delicate formations growing inside them and surprising finds like waterfalls and natural pools — are enthralling natural phenomenon.

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I trace my first caving experience wayback May of 2008 in Sagada. I can’t say it was love at first sight, but it definitely was one of a kind experience. The following year (January 2009), I got to explore the then unknown Aran or Tukang Cave. 10 years after, who would have thought I would get to explore this very same cave again. During the 1st time I went spelunking in Aran, I was with a good friend, Jelaine and some other new found Korean friends. We did some high-angle rappelling, rock climbing, river trekking and airsoft range shooting before we culminated our day then with a caving adventure. Those moments are still pretty vivid in my memory.

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Left photo was taken in january 2009 during my 1st Aran Cave exploration while the photo on the right was taken last February 03, 2019. A 10 year gap for these two captures! 

Last weekend (February 03, 2019), I joined a group (a big one) for an Aran Cave exploration at Camp 3, Tuba, Benguet. I was on tenterhooks the past days having come from a surgery a week ago. I was bound to resume work the following day following more than a week of bedrest. The required rest of just staying put at home made me bored and feeling uneasy. If you know me as a person, you will definitely say that staying put is a very challenging state for me. That is why during that weekend, I went on to search for an event I could join. Luckily, there is the Aran Cave trip.

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So how was the experience during this trip? I always have had a soft spot for extreme adventures. The adrenaline rush it gives me is just great and invigorating. Just like my previous caving experiences, it remains to be exciting. Caving in Aran is pretty unique since the cave boasts off several levels of waterfalls. During my 1st visit, we managed to go up to the 3rd level. This time though, due to the aftermath of a strong typhoon last year, some of the ropes going to the 3rd level were damaged hence visitors are only limited to visiting upto the 2nd waterfall. Nonetheless, the adventure inside is nothing short but amazing!

The moments I love the most during this experience includes the rappelling part, the worming-squeezing our way in and out of small crevices (really super exciting), and the freezingly cold dip into the cave’s natural pools. The part I most appreciate is when we reached a certain portion of the cave and our guide asked everyone to turn off their headlights. It was pitch black and the coldness inside felt a little colder. Kuya Arthur, our guide, shared some stories about the cave (like how the story of a giant named Aran lived inside these caverns). He also told us that the very narrow portion we had to go through was symbolical as we go out of the cave. It was like a form of rebirth.

That thought had me thinking. True enough, there are some experiences in life that would make us feel we are born again. Challenges in life (just like those we encounter inside the cave), will test our patience and determination. There are moments when we are close to giving up but we have no choice but to go on. And that if we do not endure these struggles, we will never know what would be instore for us at the end of the adventure.

This is the itinerary we followed during this trip:

0630: Call time at Jollibee, Lakandula near Shoppers Lane (here in Baguio City)
0700: Expected Time of Departure from Baguio to Camp 3
0730: Expected Time of Arrival at the Jump off of Aran Cave in Camp 3, Tuba (which is part of Benguet)
0730: Preparation and Registration of Payment.

A short orientation was also made wherein do’s and don’ts were given as reminders for everyone’s safety. Also, our group was divided into smaller group of 10 (since we were 40 something), guides were designated and a warm-up exercise was even initiated.

0800: Trekked our way to the Entrance of the Cave. Another short talk was given here wherein a bit of Aran Cave’s history was shared by one of the guides.

0815: 1st group entered the cave. I joined the 4th/ last group so we had to wait for a while. A 20-minute interval was given every after a group enters the cave (which is good so that it wouldn’t be too crowded inside). So this signaled the start of the spelunking adventure.

1100 The expected time of exit for the 1st group. I wasn’t sure if this was followed. Nonetheless, once the spelunking is over, the participants could shower back at the orientation area.

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1200: Lunch was supposed to be served but our group (the last group) managed to eat at around 14:00 since we were the last ones to exit the cave and arrive at the lunch place.

Side trips were made that included visiting two waterfalls along Kennon Road. These are the Colorado falls and the popular Bridal Veil waterfalls. It was a quick visit where we only took photos. I have a separate blog for these waterfalls along Kennon Road.

1630: We left Camp 4. A bit late than the original itinerary but it was fine. We arrived Baguio at around 17:30.

The trip costs Php650/ person and it included the following: transportation (back and forth), a really sumptuous lunch (pinikpikan, adobo, and the oh so delicious dinuguan + drinks), a deadlight and skull guard head cap were provided (which I so appreciate), entrance fee, tour guide fee, and environmental fee. No fees for the waterfalls.

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Activities like this usually require the following: the use of non-slippery footwear (whether shoes or slipper/sandals), the use of dri-fit clothes (preferably long-sleeved and maybe leggings since some of the rock formations inside are sharp), extra clothes, your own water/ energy drinks, some trail food, ziplock or dry bag for your valuables (since there are instances when you have to cross some pools inside), kneepad and gloves (since some parts require crawling and rappelling).

Life, as Helen Keller would say, is a daring adventure or nothing at all. The things we choose to do with it defines us and make living extra beautiful. So have the courage to squeeze your way through narrow caves, climb over slippery mountains and boulders, and explore all possible adventures out there. Along the way, you will get to learn more about life and the many things you are capable of.

***Grabbed some photos from Sir Clifford of IBenguetTourGuides2018.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy. Follow me on Instagram: @nojuanisanisland

 

Abseiling 101 (Kennon Road, Benguet, PH)

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. – Helen Keller, The Open Door

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Abseiling (from the German word abseilen, meaning “to rope down”), also called rappelling, is the controlled descent of a vertical drop, using a rope and a device to provide friction to control the descent. This entails a person to carefully and systematically examine, take time, set up the rappelling knots, harness, rappelling rope and equipment. This activity requires establishing protection as a back up before beginning the abseil, like setting up a belay or placing a Prusik knot above the descender on the rappelling rope. Henceforth, in doing such extreme/risky adventure, it is vital to get qualified individualized instruction, before rappelling.

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On the other side of the Baguio down to Kennon Road is the municipality of Tuba – a 30 to 45 minutes jeepney or PUV ride away from the city. A jagged town with tons of potential of becoming an adventure hub as it is now being established as a site for rappelling, bouldering, and rock climbing.

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In one of the towering bridges along Kennon Road, one may do abseiling. This extreme adventure is not for the feeble heart. But if you are an exploration enthusiast, the adrenaline this activity offers, will surely make you desire for more.
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You can check out http://baguioadventure.weebly.com/photos-and-video.html if you are interested in doing this activity and many more (ie bouldering, river trekking and spelunking).

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