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

 

Mantayupan Falls (Barili, Cebu, PH)

Just let go, and fall like a waterfall. — Bob Ross

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Mantayupan Falls, a waterfalls that is approximately 61 metres (200 ft) wonder, is one of main tourist attractions in the town of Barili in Cebu.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.

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Siniloan Waterfalls (Laguna, PH)

Waterfalls have certain charm that makes me want to explore more of them. So, one weekend, a few Instagram friends and I decided to explore some of the off-the-beaten path waterfalls of the easternmost town of Laguna province — Siniloan.

Although Sinoloan is primarily known for Mount Romelo and Buruwisan Falls, this town is actually home to innumerable, and not so well-known nature wonders that even locals are not aware of.

So here is a rundown of our itinerary:

05:00 — meet-up at Star Mall, Mandaluyong

05:30 — Van left Star Mall to Tanay, Rizal (we opted to take this route since we were quite unsure if the Raymund Buses at Legarda, Manila really leave on time. These buses go straight to Infanta, Quezon and would pass by Siniloan)

07:15 – Arrival in Tanay. We ate breakfast at Jollibee before going to the jeepney terminal.

08:30 – Jeepney left Tanay for Siniloan

09:15 – Arrival in Siniloan, Laguna (we took a tryke to the jeepney terminal going to Infanta)

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09:45 – Jeepney left Famy for Infanta. We asked the jeepney driver to drop us off at Km. 18, Brgy. Magsaysay in Siniloan (It is best to tell the driver that you be dropped off at TREKKERS. I think they all know this place).

10:15 – Arrived at TREKKERS. Enter the gate of an old house which serves as a registration site. The area is actually a private property. The lady owner of the house provided us 2 guides (one of them is Ka Laoyan, a native of Benguet).

10:30 – we started our trek. It was pretty easy at first until the trail becomes narrow and pretty challenging. Our first stop was Tulay na Bato Falls and an unnamed falls.

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After taking photos, we proceeded to the next falls, following a more challenging trail before we passed through Naga River). The river itself is picturesque. The river trek required us to pass through some large rocks, shallow and cool water. The trek gave us an opportunity to see another waterfall in the area (Hagdan na Bato Falls). We did exit a different route which was way easier than the trail we took earlier on.

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12:30 — We reached the highway, had merienda at a nearby store and off we went to our last waterfall in Brgy. Llavac, the last barangay of Siniloan before Infanta, Quezon.

13:30 — we continued on with our waterfalls chasing. We encountered some funny moments along the way. We had to stop and ask how exactly can we reach the waterfalls. We talked to several locals, each of which had a different thing to say (even their local leaders can’t give us a certain answer).

14:30 — Luckily, we found a person who knew about the waterfall we were talking about. So off we went to the hills of Llavac and see Kalawang Falls. The trail to the waterfall was relatively established and easy. After  20 minutes, we already reached the 4-tiered Kalawang Falls. To me this was the most beautiful waterfalls from among the falls we have explored. We quickly took photos before heading back to the national highway.

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15:30 – We headed back to the highway and waited for a bus bound for Manila. Fortunately, after only 15 minutes, a Raymond Bus passed by and so we were able to head back.

18:30 – We arrived in Ortigas, and we opted to eat dinner first at Robinson’s Place.

So there. For the budget breakdown:

Van to Tanay (from Starmall) — Php70

Jeepney from Tanay to Siniloan — Php 47

Tryke to Famy Jeep Terminal to Infanta — Php15

Jeepney to Trekkers, Brgy. Magsaysay — Php25

Guide fee per person (this is based on our discretion) – Php100

Bus from Llavac, Siniloan to Ortigas — Php140

Food – Php100

TOTAL — Php597.00

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

 

 

Tangadan Falls (La Union, PH)

“Behind the waterfall of love you’ll find me, hiding in a barrel.” — Jarod Kintz

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When you ask someone what should one do when in La Union, most often than not, that person will tell you to go to San Juan and surf. True enough, surfing at this coastal town is indeed the “it” thing to do in the Ilocandia’s smallest province. But, just like what I have mentioned in my previous “ElYu” blogs, there is more to La Union other than surfing.

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Slowly making abuzz among local travelers is LU’s well-kept secret (no more). A 40-plus feet picturesque and cascading waterfalls called Tangadan in the quiet and laidback town of San Gabriel. I, myself, have heard of this from a friend who hails from La Union.

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This natural beauty is located 3.5 kilometers from the boundary barangays of Duplas and Dagup in San Gabriel. Before trekking my way to this waterfall, I actually haven’t read anything that speaks about walking through some really luscious grounds and some bouldering and some knee-deep wading/river trekking. So there you go my friends, take that as part of the “expectation check”. So even before you decide to swim or jump off the pretty cliffs of Tangadan, make sure you are ready to get damp. Going to the waterfalls may take you an hour or so depending oin how muddy the terrain is and how good you are in maneuvering along the river banks. Nonetheless, once you reach the waterfalls, you will be mesmerized just like us.

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How To Reach Tangadan Falls:

From Manila, ride a Vigan or Laoag bound bus then inform the driver to drop you off at the San Juan municipal hall. In front of San Juan’s municipal Hall, there are jeepneys going to San Gabriel (this will take around 15-20 minutes). Once I San Gabriel, ride a tricycle going to the jump-off of Tangadan. Local guides are waiting there. If it is your first time to go to the waterfalls, I suggest that you take with you a local guide as the trail can be quite confusing.

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

Ulan-Ulan Waterfalls (Biliran, PH)

When we were young, there were times when my sister and I would storm our way out just to take a bath under the rain. And it was fun… it was a different feeling getting soaked, half-naked without any pretentions. Of course, we can no longer do that now that we are adults. I mean we still can if e want to minus the half-naked thing.

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The introduction I made has something to do with the rain. When I have visited the province Biliran, one particular sight I enjoyed the most was a visit to Ulan-Ulan Waterfalls in the town of Almeria. “Uan” in the local dialect means rain. It was named such because the water cascade appears to be rain shower – like.

The jump-off to the waterfalls is located in a barangay called Sampao. First, one would be required to ride a 20-minute habal-habal (motorcycle) and do a more or less 30-minute trek to reach the waterfalls. The trail is pretty easy except for some parts that could be really muddy when it rains.

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Upon reaching the falls, I was so excited to get wet by its flow. True to its name, it does look like a pretty heavy rain shower. The falls is about 90 feet high with a catch basin that is quite shallow. The verdant surroundings add up to the natural charm of the waterfall. I enjoyed taking a shower despite the freezing cold water. A lot of unusual frogs and dragonflies abound the area that made me happy taking photos.

Truly, Ulan-Ulan Falls is one of Biliran’s must-see nature secret. From here, there are other trek worthy waterfalls like Recoletos and Sampao Waterfalls.

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How to Get to Ulan-Ulan Falls:

From Manila, fly to Tacloban City in Leyte. From Tacloban, you have several options to get to Almeria, Biliran. The most frequent, and conducive way is to hire a van although there are also public transports like jeepney or taxi that will take you to the van terminal and get on a van to Naval (Biliran’s capital). Once in Naval, hire a habal-habal for a faster means of transport to Brgy. Sampao. There is a registration site where you can hire a guide. There are no standard fees for guide. The trek will also start from that area.

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

Pinsal Falls (Ilocos Sur, PH)

Pinsal Falls is one of Ilocos Sur’s surprisingly best-kept nature secret. This 85-foot waterfall is located in the town of Santa Maria, which is also the home of the UNESCO-inscribed Santa Maria Church.

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Pinsal Falls is considered as the entire Ilocandia’s largest waterfalls. Its flowing blanket of water runs into natural pools that forage the rivers of Sta. Maria. According to local myths, the biggest from among these pools is said to be the footprint of a giant named Angalo, who was in search of his wife. If one climbs to the top of the waterfalls, a spring with warm water can be found.

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Sometimes, the waterfalls look like a twin falls. There is also a secreted cave behind the main waterfall. And in order to appreciate more of its beauty, you can go and trek your way to the top where more natural pools can be found. There are carved steps on the hillside although one has to be extra careful as the trail can be quite challenging still. Indeed, Pinsal Falls has a charm that is difficult to resist for a swim or an afternoon picnic with family and friends.

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When I went on a solo trip to Pinsal Falls wayback 2011, the waterfall’s flow wasn’t strong due to the summer season. Nonetheless, it is still a beauty to behold.

How to Get to Pinsal Falls:

From Manila, local bus operators like as Partas, Philippine Rabbit and Viron have daily trips to Abra, Vigan and Laoag. All of which will pass by the town of Santa Maria. Inform the driver to drop you off at the town center.

Hire a tricycle that will take you to the waterfall which lies among the hills and mountains of Brgy. Balbalasioan. It is said that the waterfalls may also be reached on foot from the town of Pilar, Abra.

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

Vera Falls (Albay, PH)

Vera Falls is a refreshingly stunning cascade located in the municipality of Malinao, Albay. This 25-meter beauty have mini waterfalls coming out of the rocks at the side of the main falls. It’s very cold catch basin is about 2 meters deep and is really clear and clean. I commend the people who manage this waterfalls because it is well maintained.

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Being tucked within the outskirts of Albay, one will feel a sense of veiled utopia after an easy downhill sauntering (which obviously needs a pretty strenuous trek back). Nonetheless, I love Vera Falls’ charm. It was our last stop for our Bicol trip and we had to cut-short our stay. I wish to get back to this waterfalls the next time I am in Albay.

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Please note that there is a parking area (with a beautiful view of Mount Mayon) near the entrance going to Vera Falls. It is a good thing that no entrance fee is collected. However, there was a person asking for donation for the area’s maintenance. The trek from the parking area to the falls is just around 10 minutes via concrete stairs. A few cottages were constructed near the falls and a small store can be found just before the entrance to the waterfalls.

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How to Get to Vera Falls:

From Manila, the fastest way would be an airplane ride to Legazpi City in Albay. Then, from Legaspi City, one may either ride a jeepney, van, or bus plying the Legaspi City-Tabaco City route. The travel time is about 30 to 45 minutes. Once in Tabaco city, go to the plaza near City Hall where one will find motorcycles or habal habal bound for Vera Falls. The travel time from Tabaco City Hall to the falls is about 20 to 30 minutes through some unpaved terrain. Alternatively, one can ride a tricycle bound for Barangay Soa and then from Barangay Soa, ride a motorcycle to Vera Falls. The tricycle terminal for tricycles bound for Barangay Soa is near the Tabaco church.

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

Merloquet Falls (Zamboanga City)

I am in love with this world . . . I have climbed its mountains, roamed its forests, sailed its waters, felt the  the oppression of its heat, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings.  John Burroughs

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When we think about Zamboanga City, images of colorful vinta, Yakan-weaved products and historical vista like Fort Pilar usually comes to mind. But for the past years, the city government has been promoting Asia’s only Latin city as an eco-tourism hub.

Being the Philippines’ third largest city in terms of land area, Zamboanga seems to have several well-kept natural wonders that will sooner or later lure us nature-trippers. One natural treasure that is rapidly becoming a favorite attraction from among backpackers and visitors alike, is the magnificent Merloquet Falls.

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My second visit to this Chavacano-speaking city in Mindanao gave me an opportunity to see what Merloquet has to offer. Together with 2 friends from Laguna, a friend from Leyte, and an Ig friend from Zambooanga, we went on to see the white curtain-like water flows of Merloquet Falls in Barangay Sibulao in the east coast of the city.

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We were greeted by a heavy downpour once we rode a habal-habal on the way to the falls. But that did not stop us from wanting to see and experience this natural wonder. The heavens must have heard of our plea since the rain stopped when we arrived at the area. A 334-concrete stairs led us down to the waterfalls that is tucked inside a lush environ. True to the descriptions made by several bloggers, the cascade of Merloquet looked like a curtain.

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Merloquet Falls is a two-tiered beauty. The lower level is about 10 meters in height. This is where most visitors stay and get their body battered gently by the falls heaps. (Caution: The mosses that has grown on the rocks are really slippery so be extra careful). The higher tier requires making your way to the side of the falls’ lower level. A thick rope and some sturdy tree roots will help you as you saunter your way up. The fall’s upper tier is a succession of serrated rock formations with diagonal angle and is about five meters high. Just like the lower tier, it also has a catch basin that isn’t too deep, making it ideal for swimming safely. Again, the area is slippery.

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How to Get to Merloquet Falls:

From the town center, make your way to Sevilla Street where you can find the jeepneys (with a “Putik” signboard) going to Guiwan Terminal. You can also ride a tricycle and just tell the driver to take you to Guiwan Bus terminal. At the terminal, ride a bus bound for Pagadian City. Both air conditioned buses and ordinary buses are available. The travel time is around 1 hours and 30 minutes to 2 hours (including several stop-overs, and yes, that is how lengthy time travel is and you are going somewhere in the city). Inform the bus conductor to drop you off at Barangay Vitali. Once in Vitali, you will see alot of Habal-habal on the street which can take you directly to Merloquet Falls. Haggle with the driver. We gout ours Php130 per person, both ways (including their waiting hours). Some parts of the road is rough and really steep. Upon arrival at the area, an entrance fee! Of Php5 and a parking fee of P10/per motorcycle (P20/for cars and other vehicles) will be collected. And finally, a 15 to 30 minute trek through concrete stairs will lead you to the mesmerizing Merloquet Falls.

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

Cambugahay Falls (Siquijor, PH)

While most Filipinos have this negative image of Siquijor (because of some scary stories), Siquijor remains to be one of my favourite island provinces in the Philippines. The mystic and mystery the place is known for, has captured my interest and my senses. I first visited Siquijor in 2012, and from then on, I promised to go back.. and I did in January of 2015.

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The island called Isla del Fuego or Island of Fire, to me, is so under-rated. One really should visit this place to know what I am talking about. The entire island is an embodiment of loaded natural beauty – from pristine seascape to stunning landscape.

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One of the ideal natural spots to take pleasure in Siquijor is the multi-layered Cambugahay Falls. Being one of Siquijor’s main attraction drawers, Cambugahay is a frequented place. Its charming atmosphere is attributed to the cold, clear and clean cascading water that is believed to originate from natural springs, and rain water.

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Going to the area may not be a walk in the park as one will have to hurdle the leg-challenging stairs leading to the waterfall. The sauntering down requires about 135 steps. Nonetheless, one will feel as if nothing strenuous happened upon seeing the falls. All three layers are a sight to behold. The shallow waters are ideal for swimming. Indeed a relaxing way to cool off after a tiring walk.

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How to Cambugahay Falls:

The closest airport with commercial flights to Siquijor is the Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport. From Dumaguete City port, you can choose either a RoRo or a fast craft to the Siquijor. Fare is between ₱180 up to ₱220 depending on the vessel type.

From either the towns of Larena or Siquijor, you can rent a habal-habal to take you to Cambugahay Falls which is in the town of Lazi.

For schedule of boats/ferries/vessels going to Siquijor from Dumaguete City, check out http://www.siquijordirectory.com/ferryshipping.html

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

Kaangrian Falls (Ilocos Norte, PH)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

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The town of Burgos in Ilcoos Norte is often visited for two famous landmarks – Kapurpurawan Rock Formations and Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. And just for the past year, relatively new attractions like Palpalokada and Burgos’windmills are also gaining their momentum as must-visit places. Little would people know that the town also have noteworthy waterfalls. One of which is Kaangrian Falls (the other being Tanap Avis Falls which I will blog separately).

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The word “kaangrian “ came from the Ilocano term “naangri” which literally translates into “smelly or stinky” in English. If I haven’t seen photos of this waterfall prior to my visit and knowing that is the exact translation of its name, I may not have wanted to visit it. Hahaha.This multi-tiered waterfalls are located in an outskirt Barangay Paayas Burgos, Ilocos Norte. Reaching it requires going through a dirt path with farm land views, and some walking through narrow and quite steep terrain. (FYI: This waterfalls was discovered in 1998 when the local government was looking for a good water source).

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According to locals I have met, the best time to come visit Kaangrian is during the rainy season (July to November) to see it in its full glory. I went there one summer day in April. I was quite apprehensive at first since I know that I might not see anything wonderful. When I arrived at the place, the water flow wasn’t as cascading as what I have seen in photos but I was still happy to see it. I even spent some time dipping into its cold water. Surprisingly, a lot of people were also there having picnic and swimming.

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I promised to myself I will come back some time soon. Perhaps with friends and loved ones… and I will make sure I will see it in its over-flowing state.

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How to Reach Kaangrian Falls:

From Metro Manila, ride a bus bound for Claveria, Cagayan and inform your driver to drop you off at Burgos town proper. Since buses directly going to Cagayan is quite scarce, the more common way is via Laoag.. From Manila, ride any bus bound for Laoag, then from Laoag, you can either take a van or bus bound for Cagayan.

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Once in Burgos, pay a visit to the municipal hall. You have to sign up in the visitors list and they will give you a guide if you don’t have one. I went to Kaangrian and Tanap-Avis by hiring a tricycle.

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