WATCH: Shooting the rapids at Pagsanjan

Text by Fidea Encarnacion, images by Fernando G. Sepe, Jr.,

Posted at Apr 14 2014 05:10 PM | Updated as of Oct 11 2016 03:26 PM

A condensed video tour of the ride under the falls and the trip going down the Pagsanjan River.

MANILA -– If you’re looking for the perfect getaway this summer and don't have much time to spare, then consider a day trip to Pagsanjan, Laguna.

Pagsanjan Falls is perhaps the most known tourist destination in the province. Guests come to shoot the rapids on their trip to and from the mighty -- and cold -- waterfalls.

According to Ramon Cabela, a tourism officer from the Tourism, Culture & the Arts Development Office, a standard price of P1,250 per person for boat rides has been set by the local government to regulate the attraction and protect registered "bangkeros" or boatmen. This fee already covers the boat ride and rental of the life vest and seat cushion, as well as maintenance of the bamboo rafts that tourists take to get to the waterfall itself.

Take a pick among nearby resorts and get ready to strap in for the two-hour ride.

Two "bangkeros" are assigned per boat, one at the front and the other at the back. Passengers will be asked to sit at the center of the boat, strapped in with a life vest and a protective helmet.

The ride starts with a motor boat pulling the banca to the main starting point of the trip. After the boatman hands the payment receipt or ticket to the tourism officer at the station, the boat will be positioned before the first uphill rapids.

The boatman in front will start by going in and out of the boat, pulling it while he kicks against big rocks by the stream. The boatman at the back does the same, making sure that the boat stays upright throughout the ride.

Locals explained that the ride up the river is harder because the "bangkeros" have to pull the boat upstream, against bamboo poles or just bare rocks.

The main attraction is not just the waterfalls but the entire trip itself as the view during the ride is simply magnificent as the river runs between mountains, while gray rocks in different sizes dot the course.

Look up to see clouds hanging low near the mountain tops. If you’re lucky, you might even catch fireflies gliding through the water as birds fly overhead.

Passengers will pass by seven different falls and a number of short rapids before reaching their main destination. They will be then asked to transfer to a bamboo raft, which will pass through the Pagsanjan Falls and into the Devil’s Cave.

Tourists are allowed to stay inside the cave and rest there before heading back.

The trip back is actually more exciting, which locals consider the real rapids ride.

Anyone can shoot the rapids, making a trip to Pagsanjan an ideal family trip or an excursion with friends during the summer.

Where to dine

After shooting the rapids, surely the next item on the itinerary will be to grab a bite to eat. Being a small town, it wouldn’t be hard to find a place for lunch or snacks at Pagsanjan.

Calle Arco, an ancestral house-turned-restaurant which also offers its old rooms for tourists who opt to stay overnight, offers classic Filipino dishes, such as binagoonang crispy pata and sinigang na baka.

If you're looking to cool down, check out Aling Taleng’s Halo-Halo, a quaint restaurant that also sells souvenir food and items. A local favorite, they claim its recipe hasn’t been changed since the business started back in 1933. Apart from this summer treat, Aling Taleng's also serve meals and other "kakanin" or rice cakes.

For those who would want to stay overnight, resorts in the area offer rooms from P1,500 to P5,000, depending on capacity and amenities.

How to get there

Total travel time from Manila to Pagsanjan is around three hours with normal traffic.

If commuting from Manila, hop on a bus heading to Sta. Cruz, Laguna. You may take either HM Transport in Cubao, Quezon City or Green Star near LRT Buendia/Taft.

Once you get off at Sta. Cruz, take a jeep for Pagsanjan or other towns like Siniloan, Paete, Lumban and Caliraya, which will pass by Pagsanjan town.

By car, there are two options to get to Pagsanjan. One is to take South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), then exit at Calamba, turning right at the Calamba junction. Pagsanjan will be the town after Sta. Cruz.

The second option is going east. Take the Ortigas Avenue Extension until you to get to Antipolo City. Continue driving to Teresa and other neighboring towns of Rizal, until you get to Laguna.

Upon arriving at Pagsanjan, tourists are advised to go to the municipal or tourism office for basic briefing on the attractions and rules. This is located right in the center of the town, and can be seen immediately after passing by the Pagsanjan arc.

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