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Beyond level 5, Aguinid Falls is unspoiled, green

onthego-icon A regular climb to Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu entails going up the pathway created by the flowing water as it makes its way down from the fifth level to the sea.

Beyond the fifth tier, however, the falls go up three levels more. There, beyond the reach of the regular climbers, nature is raw, untouched, and green.

We discovered the rest of Aguinid during our second visit on a Black Saturday of the recent Holy Week break.

Our first climb up to the fifth level in 2014 was a thrilling experience, but the second trip was even more exceptional. Considering the number of people out to get a taste of Aguinid Falls that day, it could have gone the other way.

Aguinid Falls Level 7
ALL TO OURSELVES. We went past the crowded lower levels to enjoy a dip in level 7 of Aguinid Falls.

Thanks to our competent and extraordinary guide Natsky Rocamora, one of the Aguinid Falls community tour pioneers, we made it to the very top and quite enjoyed our visit.

Samboan waterfalls

When we arrived, there were no fewer than 20 people at the entrance kiosk waiting for their turn to go up Aguinid Falls. Several more people had gone ahead and were scattered throughout the stretch of the waterfalls.

Natzky felt we wouldn’t be able to enjoy this visit as much as we did the last one and suggested we climb beyond the fifth level to the source of the beautiful Samboan falls.

Aguinid Falls
WAY UP. Our guide Natsky Rocamora had to haul us up a steep climb one by one. Take note of the plastic bottles that Natsky gathered on our way up. These were left behind by irresponsible tourists .

Difficult climb

The way to the top is precarious and difficult and something that shouldn’t be done without special equipment or someone like Natzky, who is very strong and knows every nook and cranny in Aguinid. We didn’t have climbing gear so he had to pull us through the really steep vertical paths.

Aguinid Falls
LEVEL 6. The upper levels of Aguinid Falls are mostly untouched.
Aguinid Falls
ON 6TH LOOKING TO 7TH. This is the deep part of level 6, before the challenging climb to level 7.

Climbers and even the community guides rarely make it beyond the fifth falls so this stretch is mostly left untouched. Driftwood and fallen branches by the sides, insects along and on the water, and green foliage everywhere.

For the sake of preserving Aguinid Falls, the higher levels should be left alone. Samboan shouldn’t make any improvements to make it easy for people to go beyond the fifth tier. Visitors shouldn’t be allowed to bring food or drinks in the climb. As it is, our guide had to pick up empty water bottles discarded by irresponsible climbers along the falls.

Aguinid Falls
LEVEL 8. This is the highest point in Aguinid Falls.
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Feature Places

Aguinid Falls offers a different kind of thrill

Going up Aguinid Falls was a climb of many thrills: wading in the flow or swimming where the water pools, stepping from rock to rock, climbing alongside that falling sheet of liquid or meeting it head-on, pausing to take a shower.

Cebu has many waterfalls and they’re all, to a varying degree, spectacular, but Aguinid Falls in the southern Cebu town of Samboan gives you a different kind of experience.

Including level zero, Aguinid is made up of six interconnected waterfalls flowing into one another along the mountainside.

You can choose to stay and swim at the first level, go up some, or conquer all by proceeding to the topmost part. At the last level, the falling current is stronger and the pounding water more painful especially if you choose to go up and take your shower on the rock protrusions.

Aguinid Falls Level Zero Samboan Cebu
AGUINID FALLS. Level Zero of Aguinid Falls is closed to swimming because it is muddy and tends to get murky.

 

Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu
LEVEL ZERO for no swimming. The path leading up Aguinid Falls.

 

Aguinid Falls Level 1 Samboan Cebu
TO FIRST LEVEL. The section leading to Level One. Starting in this part of Aguinid Falls, people can swim in the waters.

 

Aguinid Falls exploration

The limestone rocks over which the water of Aguinid Falls flows make navigating to the top possible even on a pair of slippers. The rocks are not slippery since moss does not grow on them.

Still, take a local guide with you because they know the best route to the top. They’re particularly helpful when you reach the second level where the only way up is braving that flowing water. The second waterfalls is high and you are able to climb it by using the shallow notches that the local community carved on the rocky surface.

Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu.
LEVEL ONE. The first of the 5 levels of Aguinid Falls. The solid rock to the right is where you clamber up to go to the upper levels.

 

CLIMB UP. At level 3, you need to climb up the waterfalls face through notches carved on the solid rock. It only looks scary, it’s really quite easy to go up.
CLIMB. At level 2, you need to climb up the face of the waterfalls through notches carved on the solid rock. It only looks scary, it’s really quite easy to go up.

 

Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu
GET READY TO CLIMB. This is the section you need to climb to go to levels 3, 4 and 5 of Aguinid. You go up through cavities carved on the waterfalls’ solid rock face.

 

Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu
BACK DOWN AGAIN. Guides say going down level 2 is so much easier than climbing it. We were skeptical at first but it’s actually easier. This is why you should hire a local guide to show you how to traverse the different levels of Aguinid.

 

If you listen to the guide and follow their instructions, going up Aguinid Falls is safe enough. As we made our way to the top, we met a group coming down at the third level and they had with them a young boy who was probably not older than 10 years old.

Our guide also took our photos. If you don’t have a waterproof camera, bring your mobile phones but make sure you place them in airtight plastic casings. You can buy ahead or at stores near Aguinid which sells them for P120 to P150.

Remember that there is no way you wouldn’t get soaked in the climb so wear the appropriate outfit. Take into consideration that you will be taking large steps up and down rocks and a bikini might be too revealing. When it comes to footwear, a better alternative to slippers would be water shoes.

Aguinid Falls 4th level in Samboan, Cebu
FOURTH LEVEL. This part is deep enough for diving and guides typically tell you to only stay here if you really know how to swim.

 

Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu
STILL CLIMBING. You will again need to climb up this part to head to Level 5 of Aguinid. Don’t be a wuss, a kid could do it.

 

Aguinid Falls in Samboan
TOPMOST SECTION. Level 5 is the topmost level and is the most beautiful and scenic. It is also the best area for swimming and taking a waterfalls shower. You can still climb up but you need special gear and your guide has to be with you at all times.

 

Entrance, guide rates

Exploring Aguinid and bathing in its cool waters will only cost you P20 in entrance fee and a tip for the guide. When it comes to tipping, please be generous since it’s how the 70 or so community guides earn a living.

The earliest time that visitors are allowed inside the falls is at seven in the morning. Since it gets dark early on, the town has set 5:30 p.m. as the cut-off time for visits.

Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu
NEAR THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY. The entrance to Aguinid Falls is on the national highway leading to Samboan. If you’re driving to the place, this is one of the parking areas near the falls.

 

Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu
ENTRANCE FEE, GUIDES. This is where you pay your P20 entrance fee and hire a local guide. To get the most out of your Aguinid visit, you must get a local tour guide who can show you how to safely traverse the different levels of the waterfalls.

 

Aguinid Falls, Samboan, Cebu
WATERPROOF BAG FOR YOUR GADGETS. You will get drenched in Aguinid so make sure you have a waterproof pouch for your phone and other gadgets. If you forgot to bring one, you can buy from the stalls leading to the falls. You can also buy a pair of slippers here, which you will need in going up.

 

Aguinid Falls is located in Barangay Tangbo, Samboan. The village is just close to the town center. From the coastal highway, Aguinid Falls is an easy 10-minute walk.

There are private parking spaces close to the falls, but they charge P50 per hour. If you’re taking the bus from the South Bus Terminal in N. Bacalso Avenue in Cebu City, ask the driver to drop you off at the spot nearest Aguinid Falls. A big billboard marks the way in.

From the town center, the place is a tricycle or habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) ride away.

For more about Samboan, read our previous stories: “19 Samboan attractions that make it a top Cebu destination” or “Samboan is home to natural, heritage attractions.” To get a portable Guide To Samboan, install the Android app Samboan Guide.

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Places

19 Samboan attractions that make it a top Cebu destination

With several waterfalls thriving in the hills and forested areas of Samboan, no doubt a journey to this humble town begins and ends with a splash.

It’s not always about the quantity, of course, but talk about flowing waters — from loud, shallow currents to inviting hushed cascades — it’s on these God-given gifts that Samboan’s strength as a travel destination rests.

Aguinid Falls in Samboan
The fourth of the five-tier Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu.

Complementing these natural wonders are heritage structures that can magically transport visitors to colonial times. As one of Cebu’s oldest settlement grounds, Samboan plays host to various heritage sites echoing its glorious past.

Water abounds in Samboan, and it’s something one can not only drink but experience.

Fresh, salty, brackish, easy-flowing, challenging, buried in the woods or stretched by the roadside, water is ubiquitous in this resource-laden town.

Hidden Falls
Triple Drop Falls (also known as Binalayan Falls or Hidden Falls).

Here’s a list of Samboan attractions – from waterfalls and other nature spots to heritage monuments – that makes a visit to this town a worthwhile experience. For a handy, mobile guide to travel in the town, with details on getting to its different attractions, download the Samboan Guide at Google Play.

Samboan attractions

Waterfalls

1. Aguinid Falls

In fact, what greets a weary traveler from an energy-draining ride from the metro is water, specifically the waters of Aguinid Falls in Barangay Tangbo, conveniently situated 200 meters from the national highway.

Aguinid Falls
First of the five tiers of Aguinid Falls.

Aguinid Falls is composed of five different tiers along the Tangbo River, with each level having a unique cascade. One can only reach the other falls by passing and climbing the limestone paths of the flowing waters up to the highest level.

This is why Aguinid is described as the kind of falls that get a visitor really wet, with its shallow waterbeds that also serve as the only pathway up, rocky terrain, and fast-flowing waters.

Going up the falls to the water source, according to a hotel and travel magazine, is like climbing Rapunzel’s long, long hair

Guess what you’ll find in the waterway’s surrounding canopies if you’re lucky enough. Iguanas! (Read more about Aguinid Falls)

2. Da-o Falls

The tallest waterfall in Samboan, if not the whole of Cebu, is the one in Barangay Suba. Da-o Falls is a 90 feet vertical drop of water in lush surroundings of endemic and other tree and plant species.

Da-o Falls
Da-o Falls is Samboan’s tallest waterfalls.

It’s a long trek on a narrow and winding trail to Da-o Falls but the sight of the cascade that flows unbroken from a very high point set amid an untouched environment is quite breathtaking.

The journey to Da-o begins with a walk on a hill followed by a trek that traverses the riverside. The way is not very easy, especially as it involves a steep ascent along a narrow walkway by the slopes holding on to makeshift bamboo railings.

Da-o Falls require endurance and those with fear of heights may find the way difficult.

The flowing water of Da-o drops into a wide pool that’s perfect for a dip on a hot and humid day.

3. Hidden Falls (also called Triple Drop Falls and Binalayan Falls)

Just a 10-minute ride from Tangbo, which hosts Aguinid Falls, is the Barangay of Bonbon. It is in Bonbon that the Hidden Falls is located. The journey to the cascade requires a 15-minute walk along a difficult terrain and a stream crossing.

Aguinid Falls
The fifth or highest level of the five-tier Aguinid Falls in Samboan, Cebu.

The path down to the 47 feet-tall waterfalls is narrow and slippery and located alongside a cliff. Like the other falls of Samboan, the one in Bonbon has kept its pristine and unspoiled beauty.

4. Candayvic Falls

A product of wordplay, the name Candayvic is coined from “Kang Inday Marivic,” the falls being named after the wife of the town’s incumbent mayor.

Candayvic is perched on a hill in Cañorong, a barangay adjacent to Suba. Since the area is remote, it can be reached by motorcycles for hire for a fare of P20. Visitors who plan to visit Candayvic should bring food and water supplies as there are no stores in the vicinity.

Aside from its much deeper dive spots, Candayvic serves another very important purpose: it’s the source of the water that flows down all the way to the 90-foot Da-o Falls.

Samboan coast
The Samboan coast with its unobstructed view of Tañon Strait and Negros Island.

5. Balay’g Sawa Falls

It’s not clear how the waterfall got its name, but Balay’g Sawa – which means “python’s nest” – is another beautiful waterform in Samboan where visitors can plunge into the cool and clean water.

Balay’g Sawa is nestled in the woody portions of Sitio Calin-ay in Barangay Poblacion. It’s small but its lagoon is wide and perfect for a swim.

To make the way to Balay’g Sawa more accessible, the town of Samboan has recently placed makeshift railings to facilitate going up and down the slopes leading to the area.

St. Michael the Archangel Church in Samboan
Samboan’s St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church dates back to Spanish times.

6. Tabon Falls

This waterfall is located in the boundary of Tangbo and Bonbon so they called it Tabon after the first syllables of the barangays’ names. Like the others, getting to this cascade also requires a ride on a motorcycle for hire or what the locals call habal-habal and a trek along a footpath in the woods.

7. Mini Falls

The town is also home to several other waterfalls with still undeveloped pathways, making a trip to these natural marvels quite a challenge. These include the mini-falls in the barangays of Calatagan (Kang Minggay), Jumangpas (Trabon), and Cambigong (Kanciahan). A journey to these places requires a guide and will be quite an adventure in itself.

Marine sanctuary

8. Colase Marine Sanctuary

There’s no better proof to Samboan’s effort to protect and preserve its marine resources than the Colase Marine Sanctuary in Barangay Colase. It is being managed by the municipality in partnership with a fisherfolk organization.

To snorkel or dive at the marine sanctuary is to experience the town’s unsullied marine ecosystem. Sharks, dolphins, and whales would often swim close to shore at the marine sanctuary, according to town officials.

Diving and snorkeling activities are allowed at Colase for a certain fee.

Aside from Colase, other coastal barangays in Samboan include San Sebastian (Bato), Dalahikan, Tangbo, Bonbon, Suba and Poblacion.

Campanario de Antigua
A restored watchtower and belfry at the Samboan town center. It has the best views of the town and surrounding islands.

Lake

9. Ponong Lake

Within the town center, there is a lagoon that is about a hectare wide and up to three meters deep. It is named Ponong, after the sitio in Barangay Poblacion where it is located.

More lagoon than lake, the water in Ponong is brackish. What makes it interesting, according to locals, is the way the manolong bird dives into its waters to escape hunters.

Spring

10. Kang Yup-ot Spring

In Barangay Calatagan, there is a cold water spring that’s perfect for a dip on a hot sunny day. The main mode of transport to the spring is the ubiquitous motorcycles for hire or habal-habal in the town. Habal-habal drivers are familiar with the area and can take visitors to the spring for a fee.

Samboan’s natural wonders are not limited to water forms, they take the shape of mountains and caves as well.

escala de jacob
The Escala de Jacob is a set of stone steps that provide coastal residents access to the Samboan Church in olden times.

Mountain

11. Mt. Bartolina

In fact, the highest peak in Southern Cebu is located in Samboan. It’s called Mt. Bartolina.

The mountain sits on Barangays Bulangsuran in Samboan and Barangay Canang in Oslob. One can see both sides of the narrow island of Cebu, Bohol Strait on the east and Tañon Strait on the west, from the apex of Mt. Bartolina.

The way is not for the fainthearted but it is possible to scale the mountaintop within 15 minutes using a motorcycle-for-hire or what locals call habal-habal. Be warned though that the motorcycle path sometimes narrows to foot-wide trails alongside sheer drops.

Caves

Spelunking is also a top to-do list in the town. Like its waterfalls, the way to the town’s unspoiled caves can sometimes border on the difficult to the challenging. Many of the town’s caves are rarely explored natural marvels.

12. Calatagan Caves

Two of these caverns – Kang Berol and Kang Nancia – are located in Barangay Calatagan. One will have to crawl to get inside the caves since the entrance is quite small but their interiors are huge and host bats, small snakes, and streams.

13. Kang Porning Cave

In Jumangpas, getting to Kang Porning is a short 10-minute walk from the main road.

Heritage buildings

Samboan also boasts of a rich and colorful past and nowhere is this best seen than in the town center where centuries-old Spanish structures dating back to colonial times still stand.

During Spanish times, the central unit of the settlement of Samboan was built on a plateau about 65 meters above sea level.

Within this perch, Spanish authorities constructed the church, municipal hall, rectory and plaza.

14. St. Michael Archangel Church

Of these buildings that were central to Spanish administration of the towns, the church still remains and continues to be used today. Construction of the St. Michael Archangel Church dates back to 1842 under the stewardship of Fr. Romualdo Avila.

The Cebu Archdiocese book Balaanong Bahandi said the church, made of hardwood and coral stones, underwent reconstruction in 1915 but it wasn’t clear what alterations were carried out in the structure.

15. Jacob’s Ladder (Escala de Jacob)

To make it easy for parishioners from the coastal communities to go to church, Fr. Torebio Gerzon had a staircase built on the side of the hill leading to the church in 1878. These steps number 147 and are made of manunggol stones. The stairway is still the best path down to the town’s coastal area.

16. Campanario de Antigua (Ancient Watchtower)

Made from cut coral stones, the tower is three storeys high and was used in olden times to watch out for and give warning of incoming pirate raiders.

The best views of the seas, surrounding islands, and picturesque town plaza are from the campanario’s vantage point.

17. Samboan Museum

Still within the town center is the Samboan Museum with its galleries that display the paintings of local artists as well as stoneware and pottery, wooden implements and tools, religious artifacts and ceramics.

18. Boluntaryo Monument (World War II Volunteers Monument)

Found at the national highway in the center of the town, the monument pays tribute to the many volunteers who fought for freedom during the war.

19. Stone walls

Old walls of coral stones can be found in Barangay Basak and San Sebastian. The stone walls or old stone structures are located just near the San Sebastian Parish Church. This may be the reason why this barangay is popularly known as “Bato,” meaning “stone.”

In Basak, locals believe the stone structure is what remains of the old cemetery fence since a graveyard used to exist on the other side of the wall.

To get a handy guide to the town, download the Samboan mobile app guide at Google Play.

(Photos provided by Smart Communications, Inc. and Irwin Gamallo of Samboan.)