Romance of the Falls

The author in front of Engkanto Falls, fifth level (Photo courtesy of Excel Dyquiangco)

The author in front of Engkanto Falls, fifth level (Photo courtesy of Excel Dyquiangco)

Naga in Camarines Sur, the Bicol Region, is really not known for anything romantic. In fact, when you take that eight-hour drive from Metro Manila, you’ll be greeted by nothing spectacular: monuments and structures that depict the courage, bravery and valor of its people, museums and churches filled with religious artifacts and Magsaysay Avenue, where you can choose from a whole gamut of restaurants and taste specialties that can be very spicy and sweet and sizzling hot.

However, if you are the type who’d like to try out something different, why not go on a unique road trip, one that would take you beyond the outskirts of the city to somewhere wild, natural and unexplored? This is not only for the adventurers, but also for couples who want to renew their vows and go all-out on a new journey.

The Trek and the Sights

Engkanto Falls is so named because it is believed that there are spirits roaming the area. It is also believed that those who try to climb the falls never go back to civilization. But who would believe such claims when we were able to return safe and sound?

The sojourn starts with a thirty-minute-to-an-hour’s drive from Naga City, which will take you all the way to Barangay Bikal in the municipality of Libmanan. Bring a change clothes with you. Make sure that you wear slippers; there would be times when you could slip, lose your footing or have to remove your footwear when you trek. The path is so slippery (especially when it rains or even when it just drizzles) that the mud gets really thick. I, for one, slipped once and almost fell into the mire before someone caught me. There were also moments when my feet got stuck in the mud and it took all my strength to pull them out. 

The author's trek to Engkanto Falls (Photo courtesy of Excel Dyquiangco)

The author's trek to Engkanto Falls (Photo courtesy of Excel Dyquiangco)

The good news is that the hike is easy enough. You’ll come across all types of platforms: a flight of stairs that enables you to reach a clearing with a majestic view of fields and plains, a small bridge to cross to get to the other side of the mountain and a small hut that serves as a resting area. Eat some coconut meat and drink its juice while you are resting here. You’ll know you’re near your destination when you hear the raging waters. When you finally get to the base of the waterfall, it’s really a sight to behold. Amid the sheltering trees and shrubberies, the waters rush past you. The water swirls quite fiercely, which makes this trek more exciting. There are huge boulders and rocks – one on top of the other – through which the water flows ferociously.

Now on to the climb: It really takes a romantic to see that the ascent is worthwhile.

The Journey Up Engkanto

Don’t get me wrong, but there are waterfalls that you just view at the base and there are waterfalls that you climb. This one, you have to climb, and for someone like me who’d rather swim or just do some gazing, it’s a challenge. If you are the adventurer type, then this won’t faze you a bit. For the laidback type, the trek may be a bit unnerving at first, but when you get started you’d want to climb the entire seven-level waterfalls. Oh, and I was just informed that we could only climb up to the fifth level as the paths to the sixth and seventh levels haven’t been discovered yet.

Engkanto Falls is so named because it is believed that there are spirits roaming the area.

It’s a mystifying climb. Just be forewarned that there are slick mosses growing on the rocks. In some parts, you need to take off your slippers so your feet would have a better grip. Since you need all of your limbs to climb to the top, when you get rid of your footwear, hang them around your arms. There are also some portions where you need to crawl so you won’t fall down.

Engkanto Falls is not that steep. There are some ledges in which you can rest on. Sit down and just gaze at the water swirling around you, sometimes gushing peacefully, sometimes surging brutally. The edges of the waterfalls are also filled with branches and vines sticking right in your path that you can use to scramble up.

Once you have finally reached the top, the view gets even more intense. It is immaculate, pristine; perfect for couples who want to rendezvous at the summit. The base of the fifth level is not actually good for swimming since it’s not that deep, but you can be deliciously massaged by the flowing water. This is for those who want to have their first dates but also want to “sweat it out first.” Engkanto Falls is kind to the faint of heart and those who want to relive their romance over and over again.  

The author under the rushing gush of waters (Photo courtesy of Excel Dyquiangco)

The author under the rushing gush of waters (Photo courtesy of Excel Dyquiangco)

How to get to there:

Hop on a bus that would get you to Naga City. In Araneta Center in Cubao, you can either take the Isarog Bus Lines, the DLTB Bus Company or the Peñafrancia Bus Lines. Rates start at P600 ($16) (ordinary seats) up to P1,000 ($24) (sleeper bus) one-way. The journey takes around eight to ten hours. If you are in a rush, you can also take the plane. Rates are estimated at around P3,000 ($85) one-way.

Once in Naga, hail a jeep bound for Naga-Sipocot (P60) ($1.50) at the terminal. Tell the driver to drop you off at Barangay Bikal bridge. As of now, there is no entrance fee to Engkanto Falls and you can talk with any of the locals to accompany you on the climb. Just give them a small tip. 

Excel Dyquiangco

Excel Dyquiangco

Excel V. Dyquiangco describes himself as a "dreamer, an adventurer and a mentor." Between working free-lance for magazines and surfing the Internet, he inspires, encourages and builds “passion for some people who have lost theirs along the way.”

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