After visiting Bataraza’s Gangub Cave on Friday afternoon, our escapade continued on Saturday when we’re scheduled to hike up a mountain in Barangay Malihud where the splendid Lalatuan Falls is located.
We’re supposed to leave the town proper exactly 8 a.m. but we had to wait for my two high school friends who travelled all the way from Puerto Princesa City to join the tour. They arrived an hour late, though. Finally, when the group was already complete, Bataraza’s very accommodating tourism officer, Sir Junaide “Jun” Dawili, then drove us south of Bataraza.
After around 15 minutes of plying the national highway, we turned right and traversed Malpot Road. It’s nice to see the cementing of this road nears completion as it makes travelling convenient for visitors than before.
Some 10 to 15 minutes later we reached the jump-off point that offers sweeping views of the Sulu Sea. There, cheerful local guide welcomed us. It’s around 9:30 a.m. when we began trekking into the forest.
Seeing shrubs and towering trees along the trail, I felt my stress levels going down. I don’t know about you, but forest bathing has a calming effect on me, maybe because I’m a nemophile who finds delight in listening to the chirping of birds and in watching trees dancing in the wind.
It was 10 a.m. when we reached a Pala’wan community’s settlement where the log keeper resides in. After registering, most of us in the group seated under a Rambutan tree doing the Millennial thing — snapping selfies and groupies. Some played basketball with the native people. We rested there for some 15 minutes before we continued trekking.
In the next few minutes we had found ourselves deeper in the forests. The slope was getting steeper that I almost had to crawl up while gasping! Meanwhile, one of my friends fainted because aside from she’s not used to hiking, she also lacked sleep the night before this adventure. And so we stopped several times to take quick rests and water breaks.
On our way up, my forearm had repeatedly gotten in contact with shrubs. Too bad I have a sensitive skin, so it was itchy and I can’t help myself but to scratch it many times, leaving tiny cuts in my skin. Here’s the lesson: wear long sleeves when you walk through underbrush.
The most adrenaline-filled part of the trek was when we went down a gully that’s more or less 10 meters deep. We had to descend one by one while holding on to vines to avoid slipping. Those who had managed to get to the bottom were also extra cautious by being on the lookout for falling stones.
And then we heard a cascade to the right that initially made us think it was Lalatuan Falls. The guide said it’s Hidden Falls. Although only a few meters away from the established trail you can’t get a full view of this falls as it’s obstructed by medium-sized trees, hence the name. Hidden Falls signals you’re in the final stride toward Lalatuan Falls. After three hours of strenuous hike uphill, we finally arrived in our destination at around 12 noon.
Lalatuan Falls is a piece of heaven on earth tucked in a dense forest. The falls is 32 meters high that drops down to a turquoise pool-like basin, enclosed by rocks which I suspected had been pushed down from the mountain through time. Sir Jun estimated that the swimming area is 27 meters wide and can accommodate up to 80 people at a time. But due to its remoteness, it’s rare to see the falls jam-packed with throngs of tourists, thus making it an ideal place for retreat.
Among the group, it was only I who had fully taken advantage of its cold, pristine waters. I told myself that my Lalatuan Falls experience won’t be complete without having a refreshing dip. If you’re planning to swim when here, wear something light and stretchable so you can navigate the waters with ease. I intended to go near the falls’ base but swimming was hard since I was sporting a tight cargo shorts.
You might ask: Why it’s named Lalatuan? According to Pala’wan folklore, their ancestors prayed to the goddesses to let them grow sea grapes (“lato” in Filipino) in the area since they’re far from the sea. And it was granted. So they called the place Lalatuan where they were harvesting sea grapes from.
However, the abundance of “lato” in the area had caused them to enviously check on each other so much so that it ruined their good relationship. Unhappy seeing the native people quarreling, the goddesses sent downpours, washing out the sea grapes from the basin. Despite the deluge, Lalatuan Falls has managed to maintain its beauty.
With no other people around except us, I’d found our one hour stay in Lalatuan Falls short yet pleasurable. The cool mountain breeze, the relaxing roar of waterfalls, the melodious singing of birds – these had all left me feeling recharged. Just a piece of advice, though: if you want to spend more time in Lalatuan Falls, it’s better to start the journey around 7 or 8 a.m.
After eating cupcakes, biscuits and chips for lunch, we had ensured to leave the place without trash before we trekked downhill to Kapangyan Falls, which is less than an hour away from Lalatuan Falls.
Bataraza town is a 4.5-hour drive from Puerto Princesa City. It’s accessible by public utility vehicles like shuttle van and bus which leave San Jose Terminal almost every hour. You may ride a van bound for Bataraza (P350). At the town proper, you can hire a tricycle for around P500, roundtrip. There are no entrance and environmental fees being collected in town yet. For tour guide arrangement, contact the municipal tourism office at 0918 780 3985 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. This article has also appeared on Palawan Daily News.