Hidden Treasures of the North: Payangapang Falls

Quotidian Habit

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Time nowadays we spend most on browsing different things over the internet, mostly through social networking sites. From photos, videos, articles, and the like that millions of people share each day, it is not quite strange that we get hooked up to it. There are those that fascinates us while there are some that are rather lackluster. Then came a time when I was scrolling over my news feed that a single picture caught my attention. It was beautiful. The place was just distinctive in its own way. So I tried to scour for more details about it and unfortunately, there were just a few hits with no information at all on how one could actually go to that specific place. The only thing I know of is that it is in Bauko, Mountain Province and it is called Payangapang Falls. As I was eager to go there, I messaged my friends who were from the said municipality. Sadly, none of them has ever been there. Insistent I was, I asked them a favor of asking locals who might know of the place. So I waited. And I waited for a long time until I forgot about it. But then, the same picture popped out in my news feed again after a year or so and it made me remember. This time, I was even more decided to go there that I started thinking about other people I could possibly contact. Foolish I was, I forgot I have cousins living there. Luckily, some of them have been there. While they were sharing what they could, I also thought there must be a Facebook page managed by the Bauko Tourism Office. So I searched for it and fortunately, they have one. With hopes not so high, I sent them a message asking if they know of any tour guide which they could recommend. After how many hours, they did respond and it was then I thought that things are now in my favor. Somehow, I am getting pretty much all the information I would need to push through with the trip.

Sketching the Blueprint

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As I was bound to go home to the province on my mom’s birthday, I might as well maximize my stay there I thought. Since her birthday is on the 12th of May, I decided to plan my trip for Payangapang Falls the next day. As I was chatting with my cousin Ervin before, he said that he is more than willing to guide me going there. At content I already was, the only thing I have to do now is wait for the D-day. Then, I remembered. Maybe having some friends along would make it even more exciting. So I did post on Facebook and two of my classmates from elementary responded that they would like to come. Days before the planned date, another two of my classmates from high school also said they too are interested. Proactive I am, I asked my cousin Ervin again if he would be really available by the day I told him earlier. And so in an apologetic way he said he would not be able to accompany us since he has to finish the orders requested by his clients. By good fortune though, the tourism office did recommend a tour guide I could contact. As I do not want the trip to get easily cancelled after all efforts, I immediately sent the tour guide a text message. He called shortly after and we then had some discussions. After a while, we came into an agreement and had the schedule finalized which was set for May 13. So then, I relayed the necessary information to my friends about how the trip will be.

Painting on the Canvas

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Now, it is just a day before the trip.  Due to an unfortunate event that needs the involvement of my classmates from high school, I already had the presumption that they would not be able to come. Crossing them out, I messaged one of my classmates from elementary, Thyranny, if they would still be able to come. She said she’s having some doubts if she could do it because the trek going to the falls might be difficult given the time it will take to get there which is around two to three hours or even half a day as said by those I asked. Additionally, the other one, Karl, she said might not be able to arrive early in the morning as he would still be traveling to Bontoc by night time. Given this, I already had the impression that I would be doing this on my own together with the tour guide. All that is left for me to clear up is the agreed schedule with the tour guide. So late in the evening I messaged him that we will push through the following day but I might be the only one to come I said. There was no response and perhaps it was because he was already sleeping. With that, I just decided to sleep and thought of calling him the next day.

Moment of Truth

And the long wait is finally over. After how many years of just contemplating about the said place, I am finally going. The first thing I did was to contact the tour guide. I started out by sending a text message to tell him that I would be coming. Still after several minutes there was no response so I decided to call him. Even so, he did not pick up the phone. Thoughts about cancelling the trip already came in. Yet there is a certain impetus that is driving me to go there no matter what. So I messaged my cousin Ervin and asked him if the trail is easy to follow and one can do it alone. He said yes. All  I need to do is to follow the made up path he added. I asked him then just one little favor of showing me where the jump off point is. He agreed and said to just drop by the place where he works. So with the affirmation that was received, bravehearted I said to myself “I am doing this alone!”

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It was a quarter before nine when I arrived at Bauko to see my cousin. After some chitchat we rode using his motorcycle. The jump off starts along the road in Poblacion going to Sitio Cotcot, with a nearby stream where most of the residents fetch water as one of the landmarks. Arriving there, Ervin pointed out where the falls is and where should I walk based from what we can see from our view. I followed his instructions and started with the trek at almost 9:00.

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Going to the base of the mountain, I passed by a small village and some paddy fields first. My cousin however said that I can just skip this part since at the other end of the village  there is a road where vehicles could pass by. But on my part, I thought it would be invigorating and an additional challenge.

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Reaching the other end, I started following the unpaved road with some parts being muddy from the afternoon rains.

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Now the question is, until where should I follow the road? From where I already was, I feel like I am going far from where the falls is as one can view it from afar. Panning over the landscape, I can see two farmers on the paddy field. I went to where they are and asked them where is the way going up to the falls. They thought for a while and said I passed over it already. One of them said I should go back to where the mango tree stands and follow the path from there. I then followed her instructions and near it, there is a small shelter. To make sure I am on the right way, I asked the person in there whether I am on the right track. He responded and said yes. I just have to follow the path to my left. Since the falls is on the left side of the mountain, he said I must keep left on my way up. I heed his advice and went on my way.

Following the path before me, I have passed by several junctures that are of vein like structure either leading me to a dead-end or another path. It was in there that I’ve had several thoughts like “What am I actually doing here?”, “Should I still go on?”, “Can I really do this?” and the like. But I was already there I thought. It would be of such waste if I would back out now. So I opened my Compass app again in my phone and see where the falls is located. I continued scouring the wilderness until I found a well made path. I followed it and there was already this feeling in me that I am heading towards the right direction. The path was continuous and no diversions along the way. I continued walking and I can see that I am at a higher elevation meaning I went pass the base of the mountain already. Then, I decided to take a rest first.

IMG20180513094002 (2)The view was great with rice terraces from afar and tall verdant trees covering the whole mountain was just beyond words. I also took the liberty of taking some pictures. Knowing that I was just alone, taking a picture of the landscape with me in it was more difficult than the trek itself.

After gaining enough strength, I continued with my trek and along the way I met a lumberjack. She asked if where was I headed for and to it I replied “by the falls.” Then she continued by asking if I know how to get there with which I said what the man by the shelter said to me i.e., just to keep left. With that, she said that I should just take care as the path now is slippery and went her way. Minutes after walking, I started running into two way paths. Remembering what the man said by the shelter, I should never go right. However, looking at the path to my left seems not a usual route that everyone walks into. It was confusing. Should I still go left or follow my instinct? To resolve it, I did both. I went first with going towards the path to my left. Yet along the trail it becomes even narrow further that I would need to crawl under the long creeping vines, fodder canes, and other weeds that grow there. That was then the sign I took to go back to the main path again and follow it. There were more than four times I encountered two-way paths but I just decided to follow the well made path.

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After some time, the sound of water falling from afar sure was a good indication I am not yet lost. I took several stops and rest for a minute and eventually, after almost an hour and a half, I was able to reach the falls.

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At first glance I was wonder-struck. Truly, the effort alone of going up has its own fruits and one of it is seeing such a beauty. Once there, I took delight into what nature has to offer. The best part? I have it all for myself. From the top of the basin of water where the water is flowing, there is also a small area where one could immerse into as the one below is deep. Now some might ask about the basin of water itself. I for one wanted to go there but I cannot really see any easy way going there. One option I saw was walking by the side of the mountain at the left. However, the path is covered in dried pine needles making it slippery to walk on. And it is not just that. The path is barely made so holding on to the ground is a must. As my safety was more important, I decided to just stay at the top as no one would really be there to rescue me if such thing happens. While I was there, I kept myself busy there taking pictures and videos, simply contemplating at the landscape before me, or laying by the rocks where the water flows. It was indeed nirvana.

*Other pics and videos can be found here.

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After spending more than an hour at the falls, I decided to return back as the rain comes early in the afternoon. Going down, it took me only around 45 minutes via the same trail.

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Reaching back to where I started, I then messaged Ervin to come pick me up again. And so that ends my trip going to Payangapang Falls.


Other useful information

  • If you are coming from Manila, you can reach Bauko either of the following routes:
    • Manila – Baguio – Bauko
      • Ride a bus going to Baguio either with Victory Liner or Genesis. Travel time is around 5 to 6 hours during the night and 6 to 7.5 hours during the day.
      • From Baguio, there are vans bound for Bauko located at Upper Magsaysay Road near the La Trinidad Jeepney Terminal. Travel time is roughly around 6 hours.
    • Manila – Bontoc – Bauko
      • Ride a bus going to Bontoc with Coda Lines. Travel time is approximately 10 hours.
      • From Bontoc, there is a terminal for vans bound for Bauko near PNB. Travel time usually takes about an hour.
  • There is also another spot just near the falls named as Layaan Cave. You may also want to try and explore the area as it is in the same mountain range.
  • You can contact Bauko Tourism Office for other information here.
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  1. Liked the way the story was conveyed. A step out of the more standard narrative form. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I admire your persistence in finding this beautiful location after only seeing a photo online. What beautiful photos, it looks like all the hard work was worth it. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed your writing style.


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