By Christian Jayson Narciso
The Philippines has many natural destinations that draw local and foreign tourists alike. Some are more famous than others, but all are equally spectacular. With 7,641 islands, it is not surprising to discover yet another hidden attraction in a far-flung area with very few inhabitants. However, to find one in Bongabon, a municipality in Nueva Ecija that is a couple of hours away from Manila, is a little bit unusual.
That was precisely what happened though. Aside from its popular destinations–Mt. Kemalugong, Minalungao River, Pantabangan Dam, Pinsal falls and Mt. 387–another enchanting, flabbergasting, dumbfounding and mesmerizing group of falls is clamoring to notice its majestic and secluded beauty.
Hidden in the mountains and valleys surrounding the province lie the mysteries and surprises of the unknown wonder of nature that has unique feature from each other of both extraordinary beauty and charm that is to discover yet.
Bongabon is a second-class municipality in the province of Nueva Ecija, a landlocked province located in the Central Luzon region which stands on the foot of unnamed mountains. Its terrain begins with the southwestern marshes near the Pampanga border. It levels off and then gradually increases in elevation to rolling hills as it approaches the mountains of Sierra Madre in the east, and the Caraballo and Cordillera Central ranges in the north. The municipality of Bongabon is the leading producer of onion in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. They celebrate Sibuyas (Onion) festival every April of the year.
Having said and going back, it is not surprising precisely that the province has still quite few unrevealed and undiscovered great hidden gems. One of it is the newly discovered group of waterfalls thru the initiative of Nueva Ecija Backpackers Mountaineers Community (NEBMC). Yes you heard it right, it is a “GROUP OF WATERFALLS”.
If you’re looking for a serene and relaxing ambiance and a close encounter with Mother Nature, this is the perfect place to be. Its campsite has no phone signal, no electricity and no Wi-Fi, so it will be just you, yourself, your company, stars, moon, sound of the stream of river collides with the sounds of crickets at the stillness off the night and the nature. No access from the world you used to be. No timelines, no deadlines, passwords, notifications, friend requests, city lights and traffic. Great for spending time alone, gathering your thoughts, analyze your own life and change things that need to be changed (lols). Great for unplugging from the busy metro life.
Our Hammock party courtesy of OFF THE GRID. (CLICK the photo for the better quality)
However, the way to this 7 wonder falls is not to be trifled with. To get there, be prepared to indulge the scorching heat of the sun. You will be trudging an exhilarating mixture of bumpy and paved roads, a series of river crossing and bouldering on slippery steep rocks. Bringing a 30-meters heavy and strong rope for some rope-assisting trail is highly suggested. The water level of the river as you go along the trail is unpredictable. The first group who discovered these falls had experienced a 4 feet deep water river crossing.
Series of River crossing along the way (CLICK the photo for the better quality)
Along the trail, you will notice numerous chainsaw cut-down trees evidencing rampant illegal logging within the area. As a result of these illicit activities in nature, we experienced some eroding soil as we stride our feet on some trails along the way. It melts our hearts seeing that scene as we consider mountain as source of life.
Nevertheless, you will also observe a sign of good wildlife condition of the area. There were several Ceratocentron fesselii orchids which are endemic in the province. These orchids are considered to be the most critically endangered orchid species in the entire Southeast Asian region. According to the
locals, Philippine deer, Philippine warty pig, cloud rats, and other indigenous mouse species can also be seen along the trail. I was also able to see a Philippine Eagle flying on its natural habitat. Snakes, lizards, and various amphibian species are also present, especially in wetter months so don’t be surprised if you will encounter some along the trail. If you see one, please, don’t pick or catch one. Let us preserve and protect the present for the sake of the future generations.
Complete Itinerary, How – tos, Cost and Contacts:
0045 Cubao 5 Star Terminal
0445 Cabanatuan City Terminal
0515 Bongabon Public Market/ Bfast / Secure Gears, Participants, Food
0545 ETD going to Brgy. Labi
0625 ETA at Brgy. Labi
0655 ETD Kapitan House (JOP)
0729 ETA First Falls Entrance/Junction
0810 ETA Falls 1/Photo Ops
0834 ETD going back to Junction
0851 ETA Junction
0856 ETD going to Falls 2
0957 ETA at Falls 2/Photo Ops
1003 ETD going to Campsite
1010 ETA Campsite/Pitch Tent/ Prepare foods for Lunch
1200 ETD going to Deesap Falls
1235 ETA Deesap Falls
1240 Photo Ops/Documentation
1347 ETD going back to Campsite
1438 ETA Campsite/Rest
1453 ETD going to Silangan Falls
1505 ETA to Silangan Falls/Photo Ops/Going up to Upper Silangan Falls
1642 ETD going back to Campsite
1705 Campsite/Prepare Dinner
2100 Lights OFF
0600 Wake up Call
0615 Prepare Breakfast
0700 Breakfast Time
0800 Break Camp
0905 ETD going back to Brgy. Labi’s Community Area
1045 ETA to Kapitan House
1100 Early Lunch
1200 ETD going back to Bongabon’s Municipal Hall
1240 ETA to Municipal Hall
1400 ETA to Cabanatuan Terminal
Tourism Officer Che: 0998-594-6026
Tourism Officer Shaina: 0905-746-7199
Tourism Officer Larry: 0930-165-8777
We want to express our deep gratitude to Bongabon Mayor Ricardo Padilla, Brgy. Labi Captain Amang Reyes and to 703rd Infantry (Agila) Brigade, Philippine Army for the support for the Fund and security for the documentation of this exploration. We thank you for your interest, and the time you spent meeting with us to discuss this important work. We look forward to working together in the future.
If some of your concerns are not addressed on this blog, we are more than glad to hear from you. Message us at our official Nueva Ecija Backpackers & Mountaineers Community Facebook Page. It would be our pleasure to answer and help you!!!
(Click the photo for better quality)