Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Good Friday Getaway to Pagsanjan, Laguna

Summer heat is on and at its peak! Holy Thursday and Good Friday are public holidays in the Philippines so that means no work for us and it equates to a long dreaded weekend staying home during hot summer days that's why thousands plan of getting out of town or even out of the country to escape and beat the heat. Throngs flock the beaches like Boracay or Puerto Galera for a dip or the refreshing cool atmosphere up in the mountains in cities like Baguio and Tagaytay. Don't get me wrong here - these days are declared holidays as a time of reflection and fulfillment to religious obligations of the Christians but it is also one of the few scarce days in a year that families all get together complete for bonding time. I'm a firm believer that we can mix both serious matter and pleasure to make the most out of days like these.

While most families spend 3 or four days or even a week out, mine only had everyone available on Good Friday and Black Saturday. My eldest brother is working until Holy Thursday because his London-based company compelled him to do so while my second eldest brother is supposed to attend a whole day pre-wedding seminar with his fiancee on Easter Sunday. We initially didn't have any plans because of the tight schedule but the thought of having a long weekend heatstroke forced us to do so. :)

We planned to leave early Friday morning for a 2 hour drive from Manila to Pagsanjan, Laguna. This is more of a road trip and everyone welcomed this experience because we haven't done this for quite some time. Due to personal circumstances we left the house later than expected by around 7:00AM and because of this, we were caught up with heavy traffic as we get near Antipolo where a lot of church-goers to a famous church there are also on their way. We detoured a bit and passed by Taytay and was glad to know from the locals that there are pathways leading to the national highway where we plan to pass but on the way, we were caught up with heavier traffic - a reenactment of the carrying of the cross which caused clogging of the already skimpy streets.

In the Philippines, a lot of devotees do this reenactment, most of them even go to the extent of having themselves nailed to the cross and it crossed to my mind that this guy maybe one of them.

After bypassing the group, we finally reached the national highway, the same road that we used on a road trip to Pagbilao, Quezon with Jojo, and passed by the same picturesque view of the surroundings, greeneries, mountains and Laguna lake on our way to Pagsanjan, Laguna.

Somewhere in Laguna we saw two separate groups lashing themselves as their act of penitence, asking for forgiveness while they walk on the sidestreet. The first group's backs were already red, covered with blood because they had metals (probably nails) at the end of their whips hitting their body.

The second group are men in grass skirts who just started their parade.

Half past 10 in the morning and we reached the hotel where we'll be staying for the night - La Corona de Pagsanjan. When searching for hotels to stay, I usually check on sites such as Hotels Combined and check their rates for great deals whenever I travel.

There are six members in the family but we booked instead for a quadruple cottage room because the next bigger room is for 12 persons. The room is spacious, with four twin beds and a big empty space for our bags and things.

The left door obviously is the entrance to our room, the second door is the shower room and the third door is the toilet area. Covered by my younger sister and in the middle is a lavatory for washing.

Originally, we planned to go to Pagsanjan falls by 8:00AM if we have arrived earlier. Changing our plans, we dropped our things and decided to leave for Lucban, Quezon to have our lunch and drop by Kamay ni Hesus. While waiting for our car, these two baloneys (my younger sister and eldest brother) saw this beam and went for limbo rock!

We reached Lucban, Quezon by 12:30PM and looked for a place to have our lunch. We past by town proper and reached Kamay ni Hesus shrine. Traffic around the area is bad and we decided to turn back instead and go back to the town proper for lunch.

We saw Buddy's, a familiar restaurant originally from Lucban that we tried a couple of times back in Metro Manila serving native Filipino food and some dishes native to Lucban, Quezon.

I lodged our orders and stormed out to take pictures while others went to Eker & Ely store to buy Lucban longganisa (a native pork sausage). The food took a while because the place was jampacked so I took my time for snapshots around the area.

Walking furthermore to a sidestreet, I reached Lucban church, one of the oldest churches in Quezon. Looking closer, you will see a marker that states: "Church of Lucban - The first church built in 1595, was ruined in 1629. The second church was constructed between 1630 and 1640, but was seriously damaged by fire in 1733. The present church was completed in 1738 and the convent in 1743."

In front of Buddy's is Rizal Park where a picturesque monument of Jose Rizal, the country's national hero is erected. I previously blogged another monument of Rizal in the capital city of Manila.

When I came back to Buddy's restaurant, food wasn't ready yet and the others are still out for the longganisa shopping so I crossed the street to buy something to take home from Pavino's Broas. I left the store with a can of Broas (ladyfingers) and meringue.

We are sitting on a table in a covered street just outside Buddy's. My second brother and father are still waiting for our food to be served and were already bored when a vendor approached them selling this knife. After a few haggling, they agreed on a price and purchased it.

Alas, the food came after an hour and we were already starving. We had crispy buntot ng tangigue (crispy fish tail of tangigue), sizzling gambas (shrimps), sizzling squid, Pancit Lucban (sauteed noodles with seafood), lumpiang ubod and sinigang na tangigue (tangigue in tamarind soup). All we had were seafood and vegetables since it was Good Friday and we practice meat abstinence.

I love Buddy's crispy buntot ng tangigue. In fact, we ordered two and I finished almost the whole plate of it! It was yummy with a good consistency of crispy fish skin and tender meat. Served with a conction of soy sauce, vinegar and some spices, I was solved for that meal!

On our way back to Pagsanjan, Laguna, we passed by a bibingka vendor (rice cake) for snacks to go. It is best eaten while freshly cooked and served hot.

That afternoon, there's nothing else for us to do but to rest in our room so my brother and I took the knife and kinda played with it.

I explored the resort later that afternoon. My brother went here last year for their company's team building. I didn't know that they have a huge estate and had facilities for team building like logs, ropes and challenges for such activities. They also have a court for playing badminton/volleyball and another one for basketball.

Behind our room is the river leading to Pagsanjan falls. I can still see some boats that came from the falls on their way back.

There are also a couple of swimming pools in the resort. We dipped in these pools right before dinner time.

the whole family during dinner time

the cottages at night


Breakfast by 7:00AM the next day and booked for boats going to the falls by 8:00AM. This experience is fondly called as "shooting the rapids". It is a two-hour ride that starts in calm waters of the river. Each boat is paddled by two boatmen. We had two boats with three passengers each because one boat can up to three. We waited a bit and left a few minutes later, just when rain started to fall on us.

It was a wonderful experience going to Pagsanjan falls. Along the way you will be passing by some small waterfalls like this.

A few minutes the rain stopped and the sun started to shine again.

Although it is an exciting once-in-a-lifetime experience you shouldn't miss, there are some hiccups along the way. The boatmen will steer the banca upstream and at certain times, boatmen have to climb out and step on the boulders to push the boat going up the water, against the flow or to avoid collision when passing between boulders and rocks. Water also gets in the boat and has to be removed from time to time so we had to stop along the way.

Another thing is that there are a number of rocky areas along the way. The boatmen had to climb down, pull our boat or sometimes even have to carry it to get to the other side. What makes it harder is that we are going against the flow of water on our way to the falls.

We reached a resting area 20 minutes later, midway to the falls. We stopped to eat some grilled chicken and coconut while the boatmen take their rest.

Near the resting area is Talahib falls.

my family at Talahib falls

After around 20 more minutes, we finally reached the main waterfalls! Even if it was a great experience going there, I was stressed on the way. First it rained, and then the boat rocked left and right that I thought we're going to capsize a number of times. I was stressed because I don't know how to swim and the thought of the boat overturning scared me. The boats were so narrow that it's width is just enough to accomodate you while sitting and you cannot move around since it will outbalance. To make matters most, I have to protect my camera from rain water, water from the river that gets in the boat and from capsizing so I had to balance all these things! I should buy that underwater housing for my compact camera and bring that instead next time!

parked boats

pink grotto?

A minute-walk towards the falls and we finally reached what we came here for! Rafts were waiting to take tourists inside the cave just behind the falls.

the waterfalls and the raft

The real name of the waterfalls is Magdapio falls. It is commonly known as Pagsanjan falls just because of its where-sake.


Going back, the ride is smoother because it already stopped raining and the sun was shining brightly and the sky is blue. Our direction is going downstream so we are going with the flow. Some parts even felt like we're on a theme park ride.

view above our heads

As we get back to where we started, we see people started to come out and hear videoke machines playing loud music. I was told that the whole area is where "Tabing Ilog", a popular teen show back in the 90s were shot.

We also saw an influx of tourists on their way to the falls. We sure were glad that we left earlier so it wasn't as crowded. We expected a lot of people because it was holiday, a weekend and during peak season. We also saw this group of boatmen which made me think of rowing. I was told that they just had the 11th Pagsanjan Bangkero Festival the week before.

the family in our boats my mom and johann in one, and julie, jairus and dad on the other

We got back almost 11:00AM and went straight for the pool and checked out by around lunch time.

where to go in Laguna, posted in the lobby of the hotel

Somewhere in Laguna, on the way back to Manila, we passed by Kainan sa Manggahan. It is situated along the main highway and we saw a few cars turning here probably for lunch. There aren't a lot of restaurants around either and we were already hungry so we decided to follow.

It is actually more of a canteen eatery and the food were already pre-cooked. We locally call this "turo-turo" where you just point what you want and it will be plated for you ("turo" is a Filipino word for pointing). In front of us is a wide range of food choices and it made it hard for us to choose just a few dishes.

So these are all the items we had for lunch - pork binagoongan (pork with sauteed shrimp paste and coconut milk), menudo, lechon paksiw (roasted pork with vinegar), chopsuey (sauteed vegetables), ginataang tilapia (tilapia in coconut milk), chicken curry and additionally, chicharon (crispy pork rinds).

road outside the canteen with no passers-by

a farm near the canteen

On our way to Pagsanjan, we saw handicrafts and decided to stop by one of them on the way back. We initially thought of buying a big duyan (weaved hammock) for 450 pesos but we backed out when it came to our senses we don't have an area where to put it and tie it up. Johann was also looking at a sala set made from rattan and is considering to come back and buy it.

The whole trip turned out to be fantastic. Even if it was just a last minute decision, we were lucky to be able to book a hotel room to our liking during peak season. The experience of "shooting the rapids" and being able to finally come to Pagsanjan falls (or officially Magdapio falls as I was told) was great. Ever since I was child I've been wanting to come here because it is one of the most famous tourist spots we have studied in our civics and culture class and now I can finally say "been there, done that!".


ßrigida Ayson © Copyright said...

All I can say is WOW! You're having the time of your life. What a blast. I enjoy reading your post here. I never celebrated Good Friday and Black Saturday in teh Philippines. (Partly because I belong to the Church or Christ - a non-catholic religion). But I do respect these holidays.

Happy Easter to you. Oh BTW, what made you use the beam for limbo rock? That's funny. And I saw an Abu Sayyaf insurgent person behind you (with his machete), hahaha!

Check out my Easter Greetings to everybody :)

Shelyn said...

You really enjoy your life!

Water rafting is one of the sports that I want to try so badly.

mhel said...

Glad you had a great time with your family. I love the Lucban church. The "bolo knife" photos are absolutely hilarious.

Jasper said...

@bridge - happy easter!

@shelyn - i wanted to try the real water rafting too! maybe in cagayan

@the asian traveler - haha thanks! :)

The Islander said...

that was an awesome escapade!

im looking forward to experiencing the same fun in pagsanjan. this is one destination i am anticipating.

Crissy said...

Such a great vacation indeed.. BTW, the Abu Sayyaf pic is scary.. hehehe..

atto aryo said...

i am ashamed to admit that i haven't been to Pagsanjan. Promise, I'll visit when I get back. :-) btw, ex links?

Jasper said...

@crissy - thanks! by the way it's not an "abu sayyaf" pic or whatever specific group we're role playing here, we're just fooling around. :)

@r-yo - haha even i, it's ashame that it's just now that i went there knowing it's just 2 hours away from mnila lang pala

Oman said...

that was one extensive tour. i really enjoyed looking at the pics.

will visit more often here. thanks for droppin by my blog.

ßrigida Ayson © Copyright said...

Yes, vertigo. Thanks! I should think of a perfect excuse for this. I dont really read my blog entries after having them published. Next time I'll do. (Blush)

Hmm, could that be a typographical error? written in a rush? spelled out after the pronunciation? or maybe because I wrote this blog before I went to sleep, and published it a bit late this morning.

Hey, I really appreciate your concern. Thanks Jasper.

Anonymous said...

how much did it cost you per person?

Mark H said...

Great looking waterfall

Jasper said...

@tasteofbothworlds - it's 800 pesos per person for the ride to Pagsanjan and another 90 pesos to ride the raft

@mark h - thanks! :)

Lavern said...

Great post! Pagsanjan falls is really a must see place in the Philippines, keep it up men. Let us show the whole world how beautiful our country is...