I started planning a trip with my college friends back in late 2015. Originally, we were supposed to explore Minalungao National Park in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, but a few weeks from our planned date, we decided to go to Hulugan Falls instead.
We met on the morning of January 23, 2016 at Cubao bus terminal and rode a bus bound to Sta. Cruz, Laguna. There were four of us for that trip: Me, Ciarra, Ella and Chian. It was quite a long ride and we had time to catch up while on the bus. We haven’t seen each other for quite some time so there really are a lot to catch up to.
When the bus reached Sta. Cruz, we found a 7/11 store and when on to eat brunch, because well, since we came from Bulacan and we left at dawn. Then after that, we were supposed to ride a jeep to Bgry. San Salvador in Luisiana, Laguna. But then when we exited 7/11, there were tricycle drivers who offered to take us there. Well, you know we didn’t even tell them where we were going but they just know. (Look at us! Four friends with big backpacks who look like we’re hungry for an adventure.)They told us that if we ride a jeep, we’ll still have to walk a little farther to reach Kapitan’s house, which also serves as the registration area. They offered it for 300 for the four of us (that’ll be Php 75.00 each) and we took it.
Our Php 75.00 didn’t go to waste since it was worth it enough because the tricycle ride took almost an hour (or was it just 30 minutes?) There were lots of curve and winding road and we seemed to be going us a hill, which is both scary and exciting at the same time.
When we reached Kapitan’s house, there were already a number of vehicles outside, so we figured there were lots of people who are visiting the falls (damn, why did we decide to go on a Saturday?!).
In a table set right outside Kapitan’s house, there was a group eating their lunch. And since we just ate brunch, we went on to the registration. We paid Php 30.00 each for the registration fee and they assigned us a guide. We went to ready ourselves for the trek and we went on with our guide straight to Talay Falls.
I don’t really have an expectation for this trip. It was just a day tour and I just wanted to be with my friends. I’m not even fit for trekking. I have really low stamina and I haven’t read enough about Talay and Hulugan Falls to know how hard the trek will be for a beginner like me. But I went on anyway. Sometime, when you’re most unprepared, that’s when you can surprise yourself. And for someone like me who’s scared of the unknown, for the first time, I wanted myself to be surprised.
At first, we walked through a constructed road, then we turned and entered the woods (cue: Taylor Swift’s Out of the Woods). We passed through a clearing, but no, we’re out of the woods yet. We’re actually in the center of the woods. It was more like nature tripping and I’m really enjoying it. We took lots of photo, documenting the experience.
It was the easy stuff first, just walking, woods, swamp, trees, and then suddenly it became hills, rocks, lots of rocks, and more hills. But we still got lots of energy to complain and we were buzzing with excitement.
But after an hour of walking, I was already losing my energy and panting really hard. We stopped for a water break then started walking again. Not to mention how heavy my backpack is. (Why was it that heavy for a day trip anyway?)
When we reached the lower level of Talay falls, there were a few groups eating their lunch at the bamboo tables below.
We climbed to the center of the area to get a better view of the falls. The rocks were wet and slippery and I instantly regret wearing my old, battered cheap snickers instead of proper trekking footwear.
And since I’m the clumsiest traveller out there, I managed to almost slip through that rocky mount. Thank God I didn’t actually slip down because if I did, I might’ve never written this post.
We took couple of photos and stare at Talay Falls. It was covered in shadows of the hills and trees around it, almost hiding its beauty. Just like some of the most beautiful things around us. Just hidden behind the shadows, waiting for someone to appreciate it and be mesmerized.
Then our guide told us to get going if we wanted to reach Hulugan Falls and get back before the day ends. He told us we’re going to see the upper level of Talay Falls. There were big rocks along the way, and lots of greens. So much greens.
But what our guide failed to tell us is that in able to see the upper level of Talay Falls, we needed to do real life rappelling. Okay, we did that when we were in college. And it was higher. AND we were wearing harnesses. I was seriously freaked out when I saw that we have to us a rope to move forward and that there wasn’t any other way around. There was a group who went before us and their guide helped our guide to help us climb up. They first taught us how to do it. Keep your legs strong and tight. Hold the knots on the rope. Never let go. Then pull your body up.
Never let go. Ha! When you’re done with it, of course you can let go. When it’s all over, there’s no other choice but to let go. That’s how you move forward.
But literally speaking, I almost let go even before it’s over and I almost fell. God, I was so scared. I cursed myself for being so clumsy AF.
The upper level of Talay falls is barely just half of the size of the lower level falls. It was smaller, but it was more exposed. I noticed something with the two Talay Falls.
There weren’t really people who swim in the waters. Our guide told us it’s because the water were deep, and a little dangerous. So it has just become a side trip to Hulugan Falls.
We sat in quite just looking at the falls and contemplating life. Or maybe it was just me contemplating life. I almost contemplate life anyway.
The viewing area was not as inviting since there was only a room for fewer people and you can’t even get near the actual falls. One wrong step and you’ll fall. Mind you, I mean that literally and figuratively.
After a few more minutes, we decided to go back on the woods and find the way to Hulugan Falls. And I dreaded that we have to rappel down. I almost asked if they could just catch me if I decided to just jump down. I asked our guide (several times) if there will be another rappelling because I am seriously backing out (Kidding. Okay, half).
There were no rappelling as guaranteed, but (why is there always a but?) there were lots of hill climbing. Another 30 minutes passed and my legs were wobbly already. I feel them shaking and I’m quite freaked out. What if I don’t make it to Hulugan Falls? What if I fall down this hill? What if I faint?
A few more minutes and we can almost see Hulugan Falls. That was the time I almost want to jump in joy.
At last! But (there it was again!) I was wrong. We still have to climb down the hill to reach the foot of the falls.
There were constant complains already and questions of “Malayo pa ba?” (mostly from me).
Then there we were, standing at the foot of Hulugan Falls. And that’s when I let myself fall in love with it. It was beautiful. Even though there were already lots of day trippers, the beauty of Hulugan Falls still shines and I was left in awe.
That was the best surprise: the mesmerizing beauty of Hulugan Falls. I didn’t expect to actually feel like how I felt that moment. I already saw pictures of the falls when I was looking for travel ideas, but I never meant to be that amazed of how perfect it was.
Suddenly I forgot contemplating about life and just enjoyed being with my friends in that amazing place that nature has gifted us. This was the first trip I had with these friends since we graduated college 3 years ago. So I guess it was really worth it.
There were lots of people swimming at the waters below the falls and some were having waterfall showers. We saw locals and foreigners around, enjoying their times like we do. Thankfully, I bought a waterproof phone pouch for this trip and we were able to take pictures.
Down the falls, it feels like it was raining since the water was falling from a really high level above. And the sun was scorching hot since it was almost 3 in the afternoon. But we just wanted to have fun so, we told the sun, hell we don’t care!
We took our time enjoying the waters and enjoying each other’s stories and watching people around. It was refreshing to do that, having a stressful office jobs. The life we chose wasn’t easy. We’re (or was it just me?) struggling, but we’re working on it. I hope I was working on it.
Then when I thought the surprises were over, we noticed something in the middle of conversation. Uy may rainbow! Nasan? Ayun oh. Nasan, di ko naman nakikita. Ayun nga, tingnan mo oh!
We’ve read posts about Hulugan Falls that there really is a rainbow that appears at the bottom of the falls. And we even hoped to see it. But I never thought we’d actually see it. From where we were sitting, we saw a faded curve of colors. But it wasn’t very visible.
Then we moved to the center and we saw it in full. The rainbow! There it was in its glory. My first close distance rainbow encounter. I was tempted to look for the pot of gold, though I didn’t see any.
I was so satisfied that at the end of that exhausting way to get there, there was that rainbow. You know, a rainbow after the rain? That after all that trekking and sweating and leg cracking, we went to see this amazing rainbow, literally. And it was worth every drop of sweat.
We decided to head back to Kapitan’s house around 3:30, knowing that we’ve got another hour or so to walk.
But the way back, in my opinion is more steep that the way getting there. My wall climbing experience starts and stops in a team building activity when I was in college. It was a battle of me and my stamina.
We gave our guide a generous fee as well as the kid that was with him. Then we took a quick bath in the side of Kapitan’s house. We also bought their bibingka (with coconut strips) in a cute little bayong that costs Php 100.00 for three pieces.
Then we went home with all our wet clothes and some pasalubong that we bought along the way. We arrived at Cubao station around 10 in the evening already and I was home by 12 midnight.
It has been a tough, tiring and long day, but the adventure that we just had makes up for it. Though there were rather unpleasant repercussions of body pain and, bruised and swelling leg for the next few days.
But for whatever its worth, if I’ll be given a chance to do it again, I will. I definitely will.
— Sahara 🙂