A few weekends ago we had our ‘Saturday Adventure Day’. The day we pack up the car and the kids and hit the road. I was keen to get back down to Laguna and SB had specifically requested falls and since the two go hand in hand I knew it would be a great day. I did some research as I didn’t want to do the ‘usual’ thing. I set us a plan to visit two sites, in the end though we ran out of time so only got to one.
There are two ways of getting down to Laguna which sits south of Manila. You can take the expressway which offers a straight, relatively uninspiring drive, but it can be quick and it is easy. Or, you can go through the province of Rizal. For this trip we went through Rizal because either way was about the same distance. The roads take you out through Antipolo and into the mountains, essentially driving around the other side of Laguna de Bay. A giant W shaped lake that sits between Rizal, Cavite and Laguna Provinces.
Rizal is mountainous and it is absolutely gorgeous. The drive was reminiscent of our trip into the mountains up North, very windy, twisty and turney (is that even a word? It is now…) Very soon I was getting very travel sick and very concerned that FB was going to start heaving. We both did very well holding our breakfast in but my goodness I felt sick. Feeling car sick kind of takes the pleasantries out of driving through mountains and rain forest. When I wasn’t fixated on how sick I felt, I was gazing out of the car windows enjoying the ride. Small villages lay dispersed along the way and the streets were alive with trikes, sari-sari’s and farm animals lazily grazing along the road side.
We stopped in Pagsanjan for lunch, finding a quaint and very popular restaurant that was bursting at the seams with families eating banquets. The walls were covered in photographs of faces with no names, but by the looks of it, this is a place that celebrates community and family. This is what was represented on the walls. An old piano sat in the corner with a dusty sign saying it was 115 years old. I was curious how in tune it was and how rich a sound it made when played well.
Pagsanjan is the location of some famous falls – the Pagsanjan falls and a few others. We were not going there on this day as heading to the falls involved raft rides and getting wet. The children were recovering from our latest round of chest infections so I wanted to keep them dry and warm.
The old church in Majayjay
After lunch we drove further down into the province until we got to Majayjay (pro. Ma-hi-hi). This is just the sweetest little town with tiny streets up high steep hills. Colourful houses, clean roads and bikes all over the place. SB commented that this town reminded him of one of the villages we went to in Switzerland with its narrow streets and tall buildings. There was an ancient church in the middle of it. Tall and looking so stately in its surrounds, yet there was fragility with its broken stone walls covered in ivy and its overgrown garden. I noticed a fresh sign and a light inside the doors. This church was still being used, and that made me feel relief. A beauty like this should not be left on her own to rot.
We took a few wrong turns, I-Bug stopping to ask for directions several times, but we finally made it to the TayTay (pro. Tye-Tye) falls.
Driving into the area where the falls were, it felt like we were entering some sort of camping ground. It turned out we were. Where the car park was we found what looked like small rooms for hire to sleep in. The perimeter was filled with sari-saris’s selling foods, wares and souvenirs.
Finding our way to the TayTay Falls
We passed these stalls and found a stone, mossy stairway taking us down into a mountain valley. The air was cool, clean and fresh. I could feel the water drops on my face and it was such a fresh relief to the sweat I normally have running down my temples. Moss covered trees, roots and rocks filled the spaces around the path we walked. We all delighted in the sounds of nature, the shriek of native birds, the hum of insects and the sounds of distant water falling into itself.
We walked around rocky cliffs and soon found the path alongside some sort of giant drain filled with clean cool water flowing at a great speed. This was connected to the main falls and ran the water further down into the valley we were in. There were a reasonable number of people passing us by both ways and when we eventually found the falls we could see why. The first thing you notice is down to your left, the very rocky ground is covered in small tents. It was some sort of camp site. This was a river bed that was currently low, just a trickle of the water flowing down its center. Groups had open fires and were cooking meals on the rocky ground. Others were hanging out on the wet rocks, having enjoyed the comfort of the water already. As we walked along the pathway opened to a large pool with a giant fall crashing into it. Ferns and vines hung effortlessly off the boulders and trees that created this hidden gem. A religious statue was standing snuggly in a rocky grotto to the left and a rocky incline to the right provided additional seating for the hoards of people who had filled this space. People swam in the waters which overflowed down a bank controlling the water flowing down into the valley.
Despite the crowds, this place was lovely. There is something special about the sound of water crashing over rocks and into itself. When you are surrounded by tall mountainous cliff faces covered in sweeping ferns, vines and trees you feel transported into another world free of the chaos of today’s life.
It was getting late in the day by the time we walked back to the carpark. We brought our obligatory key chains, a ritual we have as a reminder of all of the places we visit. Then we took the expressway home. The other falls will have to wait for another day.