Buntot Palos Falls: Pangil, Laguna’s Hidden Gem
PANGIL, LAGUNA—Although Pinoy Mountaineer categorizes it as a level 1 climb requiring only 2-3 hours of trekking time, I was a bit daunted of Buntot Palos Falls because our scheduled hike was met by a heavy downpour. For a mountaineer I think double troubles come when it’s raining and you are scheduled on a night trek. But anyway I was with a reliable company of seasoned mountaineers: Kuya Rei and Kuya Ronald (EcoWaste Coalition), Tata Leo (UP Lakay), Kuya Albert (Greenpeace), Mark (UP Mountaineers), and EJ, Joey, and Janea (EARTH-UST).
My understanding of the term “palos” is that it literally translates to madulas or slippery. Locals of Pangil, Laguna dubbed the falls “Buntot Palos” which means “Eel’s Tail” certainly for a reason. And the name already gave me an idea of how slippery the trail would be. Indeed it was. Tata Leo slipped twice, while I fell hard on my butt once. And the general trekking rule of always keeping to your right did not apply here, because on both sides of the trail were ravines.
It was also not easy to put up tents at the campsite because the ground was uneven. While the rest slept, I was worried that my tent would slide towards the ravine because the ground had become too muddy and slippery. I was also aware that the Falls were just nearby because I could hear the loud sound of the cascading waters, much like the sound of an airplane taking off from the ramp.
The next morning I discovered that our campsite was actually on a cliff, and that the Falls were below us. So after a quick breakfast courtesy of Kuya Rei, Janea, and Tata Leo, some of us started our trek downwards while the others were left at the camp to keep an eye on our belongings.
Joey and Janea, both registered nurses dutifully brought first aid kits with them. It was a short descent, and from afar and despite the slippery rock where I perched myself on, I was able to take a sneak picture of the majestic Falls. Kuya Rei was the first one to reach the basin. I had to hold on to the huge rocks because the current was too strong.
The Buntot Palos Falls. The cascade of the waters is 80 meters tall originating from a cliff similar to that where we set up our tents. The water descended to a big and deep catchbasin, and when it overflowed, it formed strong currents that passed through the sharp rocks called “kawa-kawa.” Kuya Rei discouraged us from diving from the cliff because he feared that we might get hit by the dead logs that the Falls sometimes carried with them.
Crossing the water was not easy because it was deep and the rocks were too huge and too slippery. I even fell once and was almost carried by the raging current. This was the kind of adventure I always enjoyed.
Kuya Albert of Greenpeace got samples of flora in the area. The rest of us refilled our containers with fresh water collected from the falls. There were also other campers swimming in the basin, but we’re not too crowded.
Camp was broken shortly after lunch. Of course it was imperative that we check the area for the smallest amount of garbage we may have overlooked. I thought the trek back to the jump-off point was easier because it was no longer raining and we had hoped the trail had dried. But it was still muddy, and there was horse dung almost everywhere. I thought it was the worst trail I had ever traversed, but it really didn’t matter now, especially because of where that trail led me.
We discovered a small resort along the jump-off point where we paid an amount of less than PhP100 for a cabin. Kuya Rei, Kuya Albert, and Tata Leo did not like swimming pools (that’s what the caretaker thought we’re after); we’re really only after the bathrooms.