A little more than three years ago, my friend C and I decided to explore Laguna. I was about to quit my call center job at that time and I thought of using up all my leave credits. C lives in Manila so I just met up with her there. The main reason we were going to Laguna was to see the Pagsanjan Falls. But just like in every trip, I wanted to make the most of our time. So we also got to visit other places. We didn’t hire tour guides and private vehicles. We just brought a map and made commuting and walking on foot fun for the both of us.
Seeing each other again several years after college
C picked me up from the airport. We then took the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) to get to Alabang (south of Manila). We took a bus from there to get to Laguna. It was already late and we didn’t have any reservations. When we reached Pagsanjan, we just asked a tricycle driver to take us to any good resort in the area. He took us to Pagsanjan Falls Lodge and Summer Resort. The only accommodation they had available for that night was this:
The boat house
And we could not complain. The boat house has two rooms. Our room cost 1500 php/ night. It was decent and quite stable for a boat house. Not that I have been on any other boat houses before.
We woke up early the next day for our trip to the falls. Reservations can be made with the resort. I think we paid a little less than a 1000 php for this trip.
The canoe can accommodate a maximum of five people- three tourists and two boatmen. In our case, we had a father- son tandem. The father was a bit chatty. He told us about participating in the boat racing contest during the Bangkero Festival. This is a festival held every first week of March in Pagsanjan, Laguna.
The view on the way to the falls is very enchanting.
The trip was quite long. We didn’t mind though. There were a lot of things to see, just like this life- size Lady of Guadalupe in front of a colorful house.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the town's patroness.
It was amazing how our boatmen maneuver the canoe against the strong current and the many rapids along the way as we pass through cliffs. It definitely requires some serious skills. They paddled, they pushed their feet against the rocks, and they carried the boat. Still, they managed to make it look so easy.
Mr. Boatman expertly maneuvering our way to the falls.
Our boatmen parked the canoe as we caught sight of the falls. We had to get on a raft to take us closer the falls. We paid about 15 php each. It was a good thing that we got their early. There weren’t a lot of tourists yet.
Behind the cascading waters is the Devil's cave
We stayed here for a while, just swimming and enjoying the cool waters as it hits our bodies angrily. It was really relaxing.
We then headed back to the resort to take some pictures before we checked out. The resort was big. It had a swimming with a long, winding slide.
The resort had a good view of the river.
From the resort, we went to explore more of Laguna. We saw old houses and churches. Most of the time we were walking or riding a tricycle to get to our destination.
Then we went to the Japanese Garden in Cavinti. We had quite a trouble finding this garden. For some reason, the locals whom we got to ask were not very familiar with it. But we did eventually find somebody to take us there.
It was very quiet when we got there and we hardly saw anybody. The silence was so deafening that I had to play some music from my phone, just so we won’t be scared out of our wits! I was thinking maybe it was because we visited during noon. We still continued to walk further. We then climbed the steep stairs.
Since this garden was created in memory of the Japanese soldiers who died during World War II, I wasn’t surprised to find tombs with Japanese inscriptions. But they surely added to the eerie feel of the place.
The steep stairs seemed endless. It had a landing every fifteen steps or so. But as you reach a landing, you will only be greeted by another set of stairs. And from each landing, you won’t really see what’s up ahead. You will just see the stairs meeting the sky. As much as we were hesitant to climb that next set of stairs, we were also curious of what lies ahead. We even heard voices that really made us reconsider our decision of continuing the plight of stairs.
Boy, were we glad we didn’t give up!
At the Japanese Garden with a view of Lake Caliraya
After that last step, we were greeted by the magnificent view of Lake Caliraya. And those voices, they actually belonged to a family who were there to have a picnic. We couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves! We were such scaredy cats! I couldn’t even stop laughing as I am writing this!
We took more pictures and spent some time just to take in the view. And of course, to rest a bit after that climb. When we headed back, we found some picnic huts on the lower level of the garden. By this time, there were more people in the garden as it was already about 4pm.
Entrance to the cemetery
Our last stop for this trip was the Underground Cemetery in Nagcarlan. There weren’t any tourists when we got there. We went inside and headed to the chapel. We saw a guy who introduced himself as the guide and caretaker of the place. We signed the guestbook and we started the tour. The guy was nice and he clearly knows what he was talking about.
No picture taking was allowed inside the cemetery. Most of the things we saw inside were really, really old. Some parts of the structure haven’t even been replaced yet. According to the guide, if there’s heavy rain, the whole underground will be filled with water that entered through the windows.
Outside the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery; the guy at the back was our tour guide
We were hoping to visit the house of Jose Rizal in Calamba but we were already pressed for time as we had to go back to Manila on that day.
Overall, it was really a fun experience.