A Thrilling Experience of a Lifetime


Shooting the Rapids of Pagsanjan Falls




A BALIK-LAKBAY to the Philippines is incomplete without visiting Pagsanjan in the province of Laguna and shooting the rapids of Pagsanjan Falls.


Dubbed as the tourism capital of Laguna, Pagsanjan is less than two-hour drive from Manila passing through the Luzon South Expressway, the historic town of Calamba (Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s birthplace), scenic Los Banos, and Santa Curz, the province’s capital. The local tourism officials estimate that 700 to 1,000 foreign and local visitors come to Pagsanjan daily.


Getting to Pagsanjan Falls begins from the town proper by hiring a banca to take the visitors upstream. These bancas are manned by two skilled Pagsanjeno bangkeros or boatmen. We did shooting the rapids twice. First, when were filming a documentary on Laguna during pre-martial law days and second on our first balik-lakbay to the Philippines in 2001. Shooting the rapids, as many would attest, is an experience of a lifetime.


Although popularly known as Pagsanjan Falls, the falls was used to be called Magdapio Falls. The waters of the Falls start from the town of Cavinti and ends in the town of Magdapio which is about three kilometers from Pagsanjan. The waters of the falls flow down to Pagsanjan, thus, its name was changed to Pagsanjan Falls.


The thrill starts when you reach the narrow gorge bounded by boulders and rocks along the zigzagging river. At times the bangkeros have to drag the banca upstream to get through the rocks and boulders. Every now and then the bangkeros jump out of the banca manually pushing it upstream until it reaches a deeper part of the river to continue paddling. The trip upstream takes an hour and a half as the bangkeros paddle against the strong currents while the return trip takes over thirty minutes.


On our first trip to the Falls, we had to do shooting the rapids twice, one in the morning and another in the afternoon to get a good shot of the rapids with currents of an express train. The gorge to Pagsanjan Falls is hemmed in by rocky cliffs with tropical vegetation of wild orchids, ferns and vines. There are as many as 19 falls during the rainy season along the gorge but some of these are not seen during the summer. The first of this mini-falls on the way upstream is Talahib Falls. Farther on are the Kaluykuy Falls and the misty Bridal Veil Falls.


After more than an hour of struggle upstream, the gorgeous Pagsanjan Falls came into view—a fitting reward to our curiosity as to how Pagsanjan Falls really looks like. The illustrious Philippine historian Dr. Gregorio Zaide, a true-blooded Pagsanjeno himself, describes the Falls as “enchanting whose booming waters cascade down a 300-foot high rock cliff in full splendor. The echoes of the falling waters fill the air with symphonic thunder like the crash of Wagnerian opera.”


On reaching the Falls, our cameraman and this writer, took a cool, cool swim on the clean waters below the Falls. From behind the cascading waters, we took a glimpse of the mysterious Devil’s Cave. It is so named because its opening looks like the profile of a devil’s face.


The trip down the river is the most thrilling part of shooting the rapids. For one who has not ridden a banca in his life, he will find the ride quite scary as the boat narrowly misses hitting the boulders. There are 14 roaring rapids that the boatmen have to navigate through. How these bangkeros navigate through the narrow stream with huge boulders on its sides is a tribute to the skills of the Pagsanjan boatmen.


During our first ride we never had an accident not even a minor one except for a few bumps as the banca hit some stones along the rapids which we consider a part of the thrilling boat ride. Thus, we were emboldened to take a second shooting the rapids for the thrill and excitement of going through the treacherous gorge.


Read More





The welcome arch to the town of Pagsanjan.

The way upstream to Pagsanjan Falls.

Full shot of the majestic Pagsanjan Falls.

Text Box:         Kumusta! ONLINE  <> www.e-kumusta.com  ■  March-April 2006 Issue

Kumusta! Internet Edition—March-April 2006 Issue

Published bimonthly by the Labrador Creative Group of Van Nuys, California, USA






Boracay: Sun-Lovers Island Paradise in the Land of the Ati-Atihans


Shooting the Rapids of Pagsanjan Falls


Taal Lake: Lake Within a Lake


From Boxing to Dancing, Pinoy is Tops


Battle of Mactan Marks Start of Filipino Resistance Against Foreign Invaders


7 Filipinos Make It To Forbes’ 40 Richest Men in SE Asia


Tagaytay City’s Convent of Divine Mercy


Whirlwind Travelogue to Mactan, Cebu and Bohol