I wanted to stay longer – at least an hour more – in Lalatuan Falls, but it’s time to leave, said our tour leader, Bataraza tourism officer Junaide “Jun” Dawili. Time check: 1 p.m. Sir Jun told us we needed to start trekking downhill toward our final destination, Kapangyan Falls.
Still we’re in the mountains covered by Barangay Malihud in Bataraza. In our journey to Kapangyan Falls, we didn’t go back and take the same route but followed instead the river fed by Lalatuan Falls.
All I thought the descent would be easier. But a few minutes since we headed down, we had found ourselves carefully navigating over and around rocks, which some were covered by moss, making them more slippery. And since I didn’t wear a hiking shoes, plus I was carrying a backpack with my friend’s camera lens inside, I had to plant my feet securely with each step to avoid slipping.
There were also portions dotted with boulders, and instead of trying hard to cross over them, we resorted to the safer and time-efficient option, which was to climb up the riverside lined by thick vegetation. I must say the struggle was indeed real! But if you’re used to hiking, I think you’ll likely find the going easy. Thankfully, inexperienced ones like us had this river trekking on a sunny Saturday. Imagine how trickier it could have been if we did it on a rainy day, right?
Meanwhile, much of our time we had spent in wading our way across portions of the river that required ankle to knee-high immersion. If you’ve got more time to spare, you can freshen up by taking a quick dip in deeper parts as you go along.
Despite most of the group had been well ahead of me, I didn’t pressure myself to stride or even run so I could keep pace with them. I just wanted to savor this alone time, leisurely walking while gawking at the greenery and blue sky all unfolding before my eyes. Doing so helped me reflect how far I have come and how far I have to go, literally and figuratively speaking.
It was when I realized we sometimes feel stressed out, because we keep on chasing people and things that are not meant for us. Thinking they could add value to our life even they’re actually not, we stupidly run after them even if it means forgetting to enjoy ourselves and the here and now in the process. I think it is in slowing down we get to appreciate life once again, despite most of the time it drives us crazy and all we want is to quit the journey.
The past few weeks had been overwhelming for me, and so being in the midst of a dense tropical forest, where I heard nothing but the chirping of birds and crickets harmoniously blending in with the rushing sound of the river, was quite a therapeutic experience. I don’t know about you, but just like other travelers, whenever I feel on the verge of mental breakdown, I always go back to nature and turn to its Creator for renewed strength and sense of purpose in life.
Okay, enough of being sentimental.
This river trekking allows you to see some four minor falls within the area, and I think that’s what makes this activity appealing. Of these four, my favorites are Shower Falls and Tutuntunan Falls.
So we passed by what locals call Shower Falls, a three-story-high waterfall gushing out of a rock wall and into its base where you can literally take a shower. And that’s exactly what I did!
Halfway through the trek, meanwhile, you will be greeted by Tutuntunan Falls, which I estimated to be less than two-story-high. I asked our guide why it’s named “Tutuntunan” but in excitement my mind was fixated on the falls itself that I forgot to pay attention to his explanation. My bad.
Though it wasn’t the highlight of the trip, Tutuntunan deserves a visit. Its emerald plunge pool was inviting! And you got it right – I wasted no time and jumped into the cascading flow of water! While I and my two joiner friends were enjoying our time swimming, our newfound friends from the tourism office found large rocks to sit down on and chill. We had stayed there for more or less 20 minutes before we continued trekking.
On our final strides to Kapangyan Falls, I noticed the trail was littered with plastic food wrappers and bottles, and the environmentalist in me can’t help but pick them up. That’s the disgusting, if not the enraging part of the trip. In fairness to the municipal government, they installed signage along the trail, reminding excursionists to take responsibility of their trash. So I don’t understand why it’s seemingly hard for other people to bring their trash back and not to leave them scattered in the place. I hope its future visitors would realize how plastics – which take hundreds to a thousand year to decompose – contaminate our environment and kill all of us in the long run.
I was silently fuming in anger not until it was pacified when Kapangyan Falls came into sight. One of Bataraza’s best-kept secrets, this cascade waterfalls is endowed with breathtaking beauty that’s truly alluring. Kapangyan Falls plummets around 25 meters into an aquamarine plunge pool, smaller and shallower than Tutuntunan and Lalatuan Falls.
Here’s another trivia: According to Pala’wan folklore, the place was frequented by a lovely maiden named Pangyan, a daughter of a renowned panglima or chieftain of the tribe dwelling in Malihud’s hilly area. With her retinue in tow, Pangyan used to take her bath at the falls’ plunge pool. When the maiden died, the place was named Kapangyan in her honor.
Natives say Kapangyan Falls has healing powers. It’s a place where they bring recuperating family members for a soothing bath that promises quick recovery. Meanwhile, those who had a chance of bathing in Kapangyan’s refreshing waters attest to its curing effect (or should I say placebo effect?). Too bad we don’t have the luxury of time to immerse so we can experience it for ourselves.
It also didn’t rain days before we visited Kapangyan Falls so we hadn’t seen it in all its awesome glory. Nonetheless, for me it’s well worth the arduous river trek. While some rested on a wooden bench on an elevated ground at the right side, I walked towards the falls and stood on a slab of rock enclosing the plunge pool. When I looked up and glued my eyes on waters gently flowing over rocks, I felt a sense of calmness slowly enveloping me. Then I closed my eyes and listened to the soothing sound it created. It was truly relaxing!
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). To get to the jump-off point in Bgy. Malihud, 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.