Saturday, May 27, 2017

TRAVEL | Samboan's Aguinid Falls: A fun experience in 5 levels

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Frosty hand.

Samboan in South Cebu is blessed with a number of waterfalls. I wanted to see them all, or two of them at least, but concerns over my medical condition forced us to pick just one. And we ended up with the town's most popular and most accessible, Aguinid Falls.

The jump-off is fairly close to the highway, very accessible indeed. After parking and making some pre-arrangements for lunch, we immediately set on foot. The dirt road is lined with eateries, stores selling dry bags and waterproof cell phone pouches, and pay-for-use restrooms and shower rooms.

We presented ourselves at a small hut to register. There's a Php 20 entrance fee per person and another Php 20 as environmental fee, which come with an official government receipt. The amount is about double for foreigners, something I can never ever comprehend. I know many of us fantasize of just going about freely to any of these natural wonders but when the number of people visiting a spot increases, controls have to be set in place, so I perfectly understand the fees because those controls also cost money. The only question is if we really see anything from these fees.

Good thing for Aguinid, though, because I find them well-organized. There's a quick orientation prior to the trek, which includes info on how tall a particular waterfall is, how deep a pool is and whether or not jumping is allowed, and a couple of other dos and don'ts. For one bringing of food is not allowed, as it only encourages littering. Water is okay, of course. They also told us that we're definitely going to get wet and so we had to leave some of our stuff at the registration center.

For safety reasons they also require a guide for every person since it involves not just trekking but climbing over rocks and even over waterfalls. I just don't know if you can negotiate when you're a big group since it can be heavy on the pocket (but I think you can). The guides are designated but the fees are not defined and you're left to determine how much you should pay, probably the only thing that's not organized with Aguinid.

Aguinid is a multi-tier waterfall that's still quite friendly to the average tourist despite requiring trekking and climbing. Officially it's five levels although you can always go further up to what some have called Levels 6 to 8. Still, the main waterfall is the 5th.

halfwhiteboy - aguinid falls, samboan, cebu 02
Level 1, particularly the one on top that's partially blocked by a rock. There's a pool where you can swim.

Level 1
Okay, so there's a starting point called Level 0, which really means nothing to me. From here you'll be walking along the riverbank, negotiating with boulders, getting into the river, and even scaling a waterfall.

Anyway, just a few steps into the trek, the first level already offers quite the fun. It's not a particularly spectacular waterfall but it has probably the second largest pool of all five levels, perfect for a cool dip. The water here, as in the rest of the other levels, has a nice light blue color that reminds me of Kawasan Falls in Badian.

halfwhiteboy - aguinid falls, samboan, cebu 03
Visitors enjoying the natural pool by the first of Aguinid's five waterfall levels.

Level 2
Only a few meters away from the first waterfall is Level 2, where water cascades down a limestone boulder at about a 45º angle. But because it was summer, the water wasn't gushing like mad. Nevertheless, this is where you're expected to get wet because you need to climb over the waterfall itself to get to the next tier.

Not to worry, though, since they've carved hand and footholds on the rock to make it a lot easier for tourists. There's also a rope to hold on to now. Purists may balk at this but I can tell you that the hand and footholds are barely noticeable. Save for the rope, it still looks as natural as it can be. But you know what, you really can just go without that rope or those footholds because the rock isn't slippery at all, especially when there's lots of water flowing over it, more so when you're going barefoot.

There can be a bottleneck here at times, something we experienced on our way back when there was a large group going up and another large group about to descend. Since there can only be a single file of people on the waterfall at any given time, whether going up or down, the guides took charge of directing traffic.

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Level 2. Ready to go up?

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A big group preparing to scale the waterfall.

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Traffic. Whether going up or down, there can only be a single file of people at any given time.

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One of the mini-cascades along the way to the next waterfall level. Notice the markings on the rocks.

Level 3
This is where you can take a shower. Yeah, taking a shower from a waterfall while wearing a multicolored shirt, I did just that.

The waterfall itself is quite small but the limestone rock formations are beautiful. There's a slight overhang, so there's a space where you can conveniently get behind the waterfall. I liked this spot a lot.

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Somehow I see a monster baby head of sorts in the limestone rock formations.

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Enjoying a water massage with Kwittiegirl.

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Seriously, isn't it like a baby's head or something?

Level 4
Just right above the previous waterfall, this one doesn't look much but has a small pool with varying depths from just perfect for wading to just about right for jumping off a rock. Because of the pool's size, any activity immediately causes a disturbance among the limestone silt, affecting the water's clarity. But I daresay the water's still clean.

halfwhiteboy - aguinid falls, samboan, cebu 11
Yes, you can jump off that rock. The water right below it is about 6 feet deep, our guide says.

Level 5
And we get to Aguinid's main waterfall, which I find unique because of its oddly shaped and protruding limestone rock formation. I don't know how strong the water can get outside summer but when we were there it carefully caressed every crevice and bump of the limestone, producing soft curtains as it fell. And with the midday sun falling directly over it, it looked like a frosty hand or something. It was beautiful!

The natural pool formed at the waterfall's base is rather small and shallow--only waist-deep, so definitely no jumping here. The rocks are fairly easy to climb. Facing the falls, I scaled a bit of its right side just for the heck of it. The left is where you go to get to Level 6, where a natural infinity pool is formed. I didn't go there anymore, although looking back I think I should have. Regrets don't come beforehand after all.

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Oddly shaped and beautiful, Aguinid's main waterfall.

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I needed another shower, so I went up.

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Happiness etched on my face.

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Goodbye for now, frosty hand.

We gorged on native chicken tinola right upon making it back to base. While eating we saw this group of youngsters getting ready to board a pickup truck. It was Holy Week then, and the kids were dressed as apostles, off to some church-related activity on the run-up to Easter. Then we freshened up, changed clothes, and went off to see Samboan's trio of heritage sites.

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Forget about seat belts and safety because this is so common in the Philippines. Now which one of you is Judas?

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GETTING THERE:

Coming from Cebu City, head to the South Bus Terminal to catch a bus bound for Bato via Barili (not via Oslob, which is on the opposite side of the island). Just tell the bus driver or conductor to let you off at Samboan. It's a 3-hour bus ride, more or less, and the fare is a little over Php 100. Once in town, you can hire a tricycle or habal-habal (motorcycle) to take you to the Aguinid Falls jump-off.

If you happen to take the Bato via Oslob bus, you get off at Bato and take another bus bound for Cebu City via Barili (not the same bus route of course) or the ones headed for Moalboal or Badian. Get off at Samboan.

Or you can simply hire a van if you're willing to pay for convenience.

As for us, our base for this trip was Boljoon, and we made arrangements with Jaynet Ocean View Resort for a multi-town tour that included Samboan.

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