In Silent Grandeur – Hulugan Falls and Aliw Falls

While browsing through my facebook newsfeed, I came across a status post from a friend about their hometown of Luisiana,Laguna and it includes pictures of pristine waterfalls that I am not familiar with. The province known for Pagsanjan, Buruwisan, and other named falls, has another set of hidden gems awaiting to be discovered. I also found out that for quite some time now, the said attractions named Hulugan and Aliw Falls, is still not in the must visit places in Laguna, which, apparently, is a good thing to start with.


The Little Baguio of Laguna
Without any further hesitation, I immediately messaged my friend and asked how to visit Luisiana since blog posts/entries involving the falls, is little to none. After a week, we decided to give it a visit. At 6:30am we rode a Greenstar Bus in Buendia going to Sta. Cruz, Laguna, the trip took 2hrs before we reached Brgy. Pagsawitan, where we alighted and rode another jeepney that goes to Lucban, Quezon.

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This monster jeepneys passes through Pagsanjan and Cavinti before reaching Brgy. San Salvador, Luisiana, in 45mins.

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Luisiana, Laguna, is oftentimes regarded as the “Little Baguio of Laguna” owing to the cold climate of the municipality almost all year round, most especially in the morning.

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Upon reaching their barangay, we were asked by the locals to register at the Barangay Captain’s house which is another 10min walk from the main road. All of the people at the registration outpost that day is at the falls, cleaning and preparing the area due to a television network that will be visiting the following day to feature it on their show. Registration fee is 10php and guide fee depends on how much you can pay since there is still no fixed rates.

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Hulugan Falls
After some final preparations, we started the hike. The once grassy trails leading to the falls is now being converted to a concrete road so that it will be accessible to vehicles in the near future. The trek at the road took 15mins under the scorching heat of the sun and ends at the forest area, there were two trails, and we took the easier way down since the other one can be a little hard when descending.

Initial part of the forest trail involves river crossing which happens to be the upper part of the falls and is the downstream part of the Dapi River that directly feeds Hulugan Falls.

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After passing the river, a gradual and easy hike down to the falls will take you 15mins. The sound of water gushing down into the catchbasin is really imminent, and after 45mins of relaxed pacing (30mins at moderate pacing), we are at the Hulugan Falls.

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Words are not enough to describe how beautiful this pristine waterfall is, it is surrounded by verdant plants and mossy rocks, and as the water hits a large rock almost a third of its height down, it causes it to break and cascade down into a curtain of white water that gravitates down into a deep catch basin, while causing misty gusts of wind around the place, that results into little rainbows.

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The falls, according to the Luisiana Ecotourism Facebook page, is the highest falls in the jurisdiction of Luisiana and is approximately 25meters wide and 70meters tall, and pours down to the Balanac River that goes to Magdalena, Laguna.

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Time flew so fast while we enjoyed ourselves inside this grand environment, that we didn’t realized that 2hrs has already passed. We decided to go back at Kapitan’s house and visit another waterfall which is only a heartbeat away from the latter. After 40mins we were back at the registration place, and had our bellies refilled.

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Aliw Falls
At around 2pm, we started the trek to Aliw Falls, which is at Brgy. San Jose, which is adjacent to Brgy. San Salvador. Before reaching the Mountain Homes Subdivision, you will be passing by some Bibingka (Rice Cakes) stands along the highway and make sure to give it a try!.

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Upon reaching the subdivision, which is an unfinished one due to some issues with the contractor, we turned left at the end of the road and passed by some coconut plantations, that is used to produce Lambanog (fermented coconut juice that is processed to become wine).

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The trail is really easy, but still requires a guide since getting lost is still a factor, and also due to forks made by locals who plants and harvests crops around. After 45mins, at relaxed pacing again, we were welcomed by the sight of the Aliw Falls. Aliw is a filipino term for entertaining, which really makes you smile as you appreciate the several tierred waterfalls, with the river water gushing down into cascading dark rocks as it feeds down into a wide basin.

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A waterfalls with an approximate height of 25 meters and a width of 30 meters. Upstream/headwater of Dapi River going to Balanac River of Magdalena, Laguna. (Luisiana Ecotourism)

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We spent only a small amount of time in the area for us to catch the last trip of the jeepneys going back to Sta. Cruz by 5:30pm. By 3:30pm we were back at the highway and took a quick rest and took a shower at our guide’s house, and by 4:30pm we were already back at the highway.

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Travel Beyond Tourism
One thing that really caught my attention is that these natural attractions is relatively new and the influx of people visiting the place has only increased this year. And given its accessibility from Manila, this will be a sure hit. And with it is the development of the place; it breeds into numerous detrimental factors to the once quiet municipality of Luisiana.

Number of trees had been cut down to give way to the concrete road, that will shorten trek time from 45mins down to 15mins. Hoping the seedlings at the barangay will soon be planted to provide the once existing tree covering in the place.

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The scheme of guide fees and environmental fees will eventually evolve into fixed rates, but hoping that this won’t be another story of extortionist locals and skyrocketing fees, but of reasonable fees that aims to earn by promoting the place and keeping its sanctity into its natural balance.

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Some of those who come to visit this kinds of attractions doesn’t even respect the place and leaves their litter around. Reduce impact and travel beyond tourism, have “malasakit” (compassion and care) and treat the outdoors as a temple.

Hulugan Falls and Aliw Falls Daytrip
Brgy. San Salvador, Luisiana, Laguna

0630  –  ETD Buendia, take Greenstar Bus bound to Sta. Cruz, Laguna
0830  –  ETA Brgy. Pagsawitan, Sta. Cruz, Laguna
0845  –  ETD take jeep bound to Lucban
0930  –  ETA Brgy. San Salvador, Luisiana, Laguna, register, prepare.
0945  –  Start Trek
1030  –  ETA Hulugan Falls, eat, swim,take pictures
1230  –  Descend back to Brgy. Hall
1315  –  Arrival at Brgy. Hall, rest
1400  –  Start trek to Aliw Falls
1440  –  ETA Aliw Falls
1530  –  Back at Luisiana highway, rest, bathe
1630  –  Take jeep back to Brgy. Pagsawitan
1715  –  ETA Sta. Cruz, take bus bound to Manila
2000  –  Manila

Expenses
Transportation:
Bus – 280php (Manila-Laguna-Manila)
Jeep – 60php (Sta. Cruz-Luisiana-Sta.Cruz)
Registration: 10php
Guide Fee: 100php/pax
Hulugan Falls: 400php/7pax
Aliw Falls: 300php/7pax
Food: 150php

Total Damage: 600php/pax

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Hiking should be accompanied with an appreciation that is the first step towards advocacy.” – Gideon Lasco

Go, Carve That Niche,

Rex

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