Monday, August 27, 2012

My Lulugayan Adventure

Here is the long story I promised in the previous post! I won’t do this again! Not because I do not like the destination, but I intend to be wiser next time! There is, and there will be a better way. I know that now, and lucky you, am already telling you! Yes you!

Where on earth is this Lulugayan Falls anyway?
It’s in some remote barangay in the town of Calbiga, Samar. Some 14 kilometers off the Maharlika Highway amidst hills, valleys, plains… on a dirt-road good for just a single four wheeled vehicle to pass, with nothing but views of beautiful mountains as far as your eyes can see. We hear that some locals actually walk the distance if and when they have a need to travel to town and back. You can do that too of course, but the usual way in and out now is via motorbikes called habal-habal.

14 kilometers?
This is the first tricky thing! It’s just like traveling from Monumento in Caloocan down to Shaw Blvd. in Mandaluyong. Plus the 739 meter walking trail which is just like walking from the MRT’s Shaw Station down to its Boni Ave. Station. Not far, right? But when this distance is on a dirt road with loose gravel (rocks?), some the size of my fist (or even bigger) amidst nothing but wilderness, grass, trees, creeks, steep climbs and descents… ah, listen to me… it felt like we were going to some point of no return in the land of the definitely lost hahaha!

This is the next tricky thing! We heard the way there was via habal-habal. But we each had our own, so we went rolling on our own. I now declare, this was wrong on three counts! One, oh dear poor street bike… sorry baby hehe! Sorry owner, your darling bike took some real beating hehe! Two, loose gravel is no easy road to negotiate with your motorbike made for city streets, especially that there are very steep climbs and descents. So all eyes were on the road. We never got to savor the otherwise grand views of mountains and plains beyond. Three, on reaching the place, all hands and bodies were shaking as if we just finished drilling ground with a jack-hammer! Well, we thought it was just fine, since the relaxing effect of being there and swimming in the cool waters of Lulugayan Falls was soothing enough. But what about the return trip? Argh!

If you wanna go to Lulugayan, a better way would be to ride the habal-habal since there are a lot anyway. Can’t miss them. They’re all parked and waiting at a shed on that corner of the highway and that little road that goes to Barangay Literon.just off that big Calbiga bridge with steel braces (whatever those are called). It costs just P50. Yes, fifty pesos! But there’s a catch – minimum 4 pax per motorcycle! Whahehehe! Yes, FOUR EXLUDING THE DRIVER! So if you wanna go alone saddled at the back of the driver, it’s P200. Actually! Okay okay, those are the old big bikes, so 2 of you riding behind the driver will be comfy enough, I think!

Just like that? No. There is more…

Reaching the end of the 14km road, amidst signage that you cannot miss, you go to a place where you write your names on a logbook and pay for the entrance fee. Yes there is. Just P30. Thirty pesos only! But there’s another catch. You also have to pay P500 as some kind of a registration fee whatever. That is correct sangkay, FIVE HUNDRED PESOS! Alarmed, aghast and appalled, we started calling some numbers to wail about this P500. When one finally explained that it was “per group” and we seemed pacified, another of those we called was faster and have already made his own calls.

In the end, we did not pay anything (shhh, that’s a secret hehe) except the P200 for the guide.

There’s a guide and a fee?
Yes, two hundred pesosesoses per guide! He walks you the 379 meter walking path, answer any questions you may have and also tell you where not to go and what not to do. Each usually has a “sundang” – yep, a bolo like what Andres Bonifacio carries in all his monuments, and it comes helpful in many instances, so don’t say your last prayer yet. They’re friendly and helpful – even uniformed!

When during the walk I begged for a friend to carry my backpack for a little while so I can take pictures comfortably, the guide came and volunteered to lug the thing. It was heavy as it contained everything I brought to this 6-day Samar trip – and that included dress shoes, dress pants, long sleeved shirts, tie, etc hehe! Had to bring all, I was already on my way to Tacloban to fly back home. The friend sarcastically remarked “pwede naman pala” re the guide lugging my backpack, but I hushed him to shut-up. This kid had a sundang, remember?!

Halfway during the walk, it was midmorning (almost noon actually) on a sunny one (while metro manila was still being inundated, come to think of it), I couldn’t anymore keep secret my thirst. I asked if there was some store somewhere so I could grab a bottle. The answer: NONE! But guide did not seem any worried. As if on queue, a few meters forward, we met a man lugging firewood on his basket of a backpack. We saw him exchange a few words with our guide and offered a stick of sugarcane to him. Guide declined but motioned for him to give it to me!

I almost jumped with relief as the manong expertly peeled the “tubo” – yes, the sugarcane stick with his “sundang”. But yeah, very deliciously sweet that just a few munches into the thing, I seemed to be a little more thirsty. Guide told me they usually drink water flowing from the falls. My eyes grew a bit wild, but, I think I have seen this on TV. I just told myself, what living thing could be defecating upstream anyway when this place is about a kilometer away from the last little civilization that we saw. When the guide scooped water with his hands to drink, I followed suit! Now it should be obvious to you that am still alive and kicking, with the usual energy to write my notes. Aight?! So fret not, mi amigos!

The falls, OMG the waterfalls! It’s, it’s, it’s… ah am groping for superlatives!

It’s wide! Must be more than 50 meters wide, but probably less than a hundred. Yep, that wide! To say that water is ‘cascading’ will be a gross understatement. Especially to the right when facing the falls, water is like crashing unto earth. It creates such a noise and you quaver a bit (at least once) at how fast and strong the thing is. Ah I don't’ know how many thousand gallons would that be per minute. But OMG what a wonderful sight! At times, if you keep staring, its as if a big tsunami is about to devour you hehe. Probably because the waterfalls is not that high. Maybe just the equivalent of 2 or 3 storey buildings. So it looks like a big wave about to crash and crush you into oblivion!

Height? You are not allowed to jump from there – even if you can. That’s what the guide told us, and that’s part of why they are there for. He said its dangerous as there could be things floating like trunks, twigs or bamboo strips when you land, and that the water runs deep at some portions, and that there is always a big whirlpool that could suck you down. Not hard to understand. We could see proof of what the guide was telling us. So?

Oh well, don’t be dismayed yet, its a big wide thing, remember? There is a portion where everyone can dip, swim – and shout – due to the cold water hahaha! We could even dive! The guide just had to point to us areas where there was enough depth and so on – this is left side of the deep waters when you face the waterfall. It was fun, really fun, and we stayed there for quite a bit. Until we naturally backed out (without anyone asking) – napagod ang matatanda hehe!

Hey there are 2 open bamboo huts that can be rented just like at many beach areas where the ugly hotel urbanities have not yet penetrated! They’re cozy, and we found one of us was not actually swimming but snoozing in there! We sat there for a while looking at each other hehe. But my wits came forward! I remembered a dear friend gave me (as usual) packs of Catbalogan delicacies to bring home. So I fished a full bag of Charito’s Hopia De Pili. And we all devoured it like we have not seen food in weeks!

After the ‘hopia de pili’ (“special curioso”), none but me and the guide felt thirsty. So off to the middle of the water again, for a sip of bare nature! When we came back, another friend remarked that we could actually pick at least one coconut and drink the water, if indeed we were very thirsty. My eyes swelled again this time and all I could mutter was “animal ka, bakit ngayon mo lang sinabi yan eh tapos ko nang higupin ang sapa”! Come to think of it, why did I not remember that? Hello Boy Scouts of the Philippines, hello Subic JEST Camp, hello Cuc Phuong, hello Sarawak, hello Sabah, hello the many episodes of McGyver! How could I have forgotten the simple “buko”! Gosh! Nakalimutan ko ang simpleng “lubi, lubi, lubi… lubi lingkuranay”! Yes, “the coconut nut is a giant nut..”!

Anyway, no one else felt thirsty, so no one had to climb the “lubi”! Or maybe no one wanted to climb, so they “didn’t” feel thirsty. Whatever! Hey there is even a new building with two rooms named “Ladies” and “Gents”! But those were closed, and none of us saw a need for them anyway! Take note folks: while we slithered to get going (back), our guide picked some of the plastic “hopia de pili“ wrappings that one of us carelessly left on the table and blown by the wind. Oist, alam ko sino nag-iwan nun! Shame on us, but nice of them guides to have also been trained about the environment! And now another catch…

After enjoying the coolness of the pool of water just below and where the falls mightily perennially dropped water wherever it came from… you have to walk the 739 meters back to civilization. Argh! And believe me, you’ll feel lazy, with everything including your very own footwear seeming to be 3 times heavier. After the enjoyment, there you go perspiring again. Its just about 2 rounds of a track oval actually, and there is a clear fine path. But after enjoying the wonderfully mesmerizing Lulugayan Falls? Ah, you’d wish teleporting was already possible!

Oh that path!
Yep, the 739 meter walking path! As adults, we were more of irritated by those rectangular concrete slabs. They’re supposed to be beautiful with every other slab even embedded with a ceramic tile of butterfly design. But they’re spaced too close to each other it hampers the natural pace of an adult. You skip a slab and it is too far you strain your thighs, You follow the slabs and you are like a kabuki walking along the streets of Okinawa! For the most part of this 739 meters? Haruuuy! I opted to walk on the sides of the path (when I can) instead! Muddy at times, but that solved it!

Hey, one of the friends commented there is a simple solution (since I was harping they should have either concreted the whole thing or left it bare earth that it is). The friend says those concrete slabs should be pressed (embedded) more unto the ground so that its a plane level path. BRIGHT! Uhuh, he should be… he is one of the best engineering and architectural contractors there is in Region 8 and Metro Manila at the moment – and soon the whole country. So folks, if you know any of the high and mighty in charge of Calbiga or Lulugayan, please tell what my friend suggests! Mano Joni, yes please tell them so, so that you can bike that path with ease too!

Hep hep hep… am not yet done with my story, so keep reading folks! Okay, back at Barangay Literon, where the motorbikes were parked, I found a little sari-sari store with a smiling young lady manning it. We were still meters away and I was already asking for bottled water. And it readily came... ice-cold! Oh ha?! I finished two of the small bottles (they seemed too small this time) plus a bottle of coke 8oz And when I looked my companions did the same. Imagine, after those drinks, there were only four of us plus the guide, But we consumed 2 bottles of Coke, 2 bottles of Sparkle, 1 bottle of Sprite and 6 bottles of bottled water. Hehehe, what was that, noontime cocktails?!

We stayed a bit at Barangay Literon, talking to the guide, the store lady and some locals who passed by. We learned there is going to be a new construction some meters from where we sat. It is going to be a new building by/of/for the Department of Tourism, for whatever purpose they may deem necessary hehehe! And the friend was quick to remark again… “they should build the 14km road first as the building will be of no use if local and foreign visitors won’t come since the the roadway is grueling”! Agree again! That road is dangerously “luxurious” – that means lukso nang lukso ang sasakyan mo!

And we went off fording the 14km gravel road again going back to Calbiga! Haruuuuy! But it did not seem that long this time. Though I know some bikes’ front wheels attempted to fly into the air not once, not twice but thrice as we negotiated the pile of crushed rocks for a road!

Now that was adventure!

And reaching Calbiga, I had to commandeer for everyone to agree going back to that little restaurant on the side of the highway for a round of “Native Manok Tinola”! Yumm, but that’s another story coming up next!

Okay done and let’s recap folks!

If you’re going there, take a 4WD or a van. I think you can rent/hire from Grand Tours, Duptours or Vanvan’s for this special trip. They have offices in Catbalogan and Tacloban and their vans come zooming via Calbiga both ways in intervals of no longer than 15mins. Especially Grand Tours, they have collectively the best and cleanest vans all over this country. Take it from me, I have been to all provinces of this archipelago. (Dirtiest and konkiest are, come to think of it, in Metro Manila)!

Bring drinking water, lots of it – if you don’t wanna sip the river like I did! At least you now know you can have them at Barangay Literon just before the 739 meter walk! Bring food, even if you’re going to stay for just a while. The walk will surely drain your energies! Now I wonder how you will lug those heavy stuff off the 739 meter walk along a path where you pace the kabuki way! Hmm, I think, perhaps, the guides, are also there for that. I’m just guessing, otherwise, you’ll have to huff and puff your way – May The Force Be With You if that’s the case hahaha!

Bottomline: it is the most wonderful waterfalls I have ever seen in this country. And the easiest with any camera! No need to twist and turn. Just your simple landscape shot will already cover the whole thing!

Go go go!


  1. Sounds like an exciting adventure! Can a female in her 50's do this trek? How long was the hike? Is it part of the fee for the guide to carry a backpack or would it be safer to hire another just for that service?

  2. Heidi,
    Yep, 50s or 60s would be fine with that hike. Its a nice path - those concrete slabs may even have been with that age group in mind :) they're just too close to each other they hampered my normal walk!

    I just learned lately, carrying the backpack is part of the guide's 'courtesy duties' so he will/should carry it for you!

    The walk, inclusive of the many pauses and poses for the camera, took us 12 minutes. Would have been faster if not for those slabs :)

  3. Wow!I believe there are more beautiful spot in Philippines that are not so popular but so amazing!