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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It looks like a suman or budbod because of the way it is wrapped in leaves but that’s just one of two similarities the local delicacy known as palagsing shares with the more popular merienda mainstays. The palagsing is sweeter and offers a more intense flavor than the suman or budbod and, like the two, goes well with afternoon coffee, preferably black or brewed from roasted corn grits.
The palagsing is made through a laborious process that involves extracting starch from the trunk of a mature saksak palm, which is bountiful along the Samboan coastline, especially near the Aguinid Falls area, said the town’s first lady and tourism dynamo Marivic Calderon. It is a process similar to the one that produces sago.
Calderon said it sustained local residents who scampered to the mountains for safety during World War II.
The palagsing is wrapped in woven saksak palm – which is also in demand for being a sturdier and better alternative to nipa for roofing.
On weekdays, palagsing can be bought only on order basis because its makers depend on the availability of a mature saksak, said Samboan disaster risk reduction and management officer Irwin Gamallo, who also helps the town’s tourism program and once served as barangay captain of Tangbo, where Aguinid Falls is located.
Fiesta dessert, Sunday fare
On Sundays, however, the palagsing is sold at the town’s public market. It is also available in the next town of Ginatilan during its market day every Tuesday.
Calderon served the delicacy in her buffet spread on the eve of the Samboan town fiesta. She ordered it at 3 pieces for P10. You might be able to buy it at that price in the market but at times it is sold at P5 apiece, she said.
While the palagsing isn’t as readily available today, that may soon change. Samboan is experiencing a tourism surge and the municipal government is looking into how to capitalize on the influx of visitors by spreading the economic benefits of tourism. One of the things they are looking into, Calderon said, is boosting the capability of local micro-entrepreneurs to produce goods and provide services for tourists.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
Once upon a long drive to Cebu’s southernmost towns of Santander and Samboan, we found ourselves stopping for lunch at the Bodos Bamboo Bar Resort in Alcoy.
The BBB Resort in Alcoy has a restaurant on top of a hill that offers a panorama of sea, sky, and mountain.
Since it is made of wooden materials, with wide open windows and a lanai roofed with nipa shingles, the interior is cool and airy. Diners can choose to eat inside the restaurant or on the patio, where the view is even better.
The food, although not exceptional, is reasonably priced. Since there are not too many dining facilities the farther one gets from the center that is Cebu City, the BBB Resort Restaurant in Alcoy serves as a welcome respite from a long drive.
Bodos Bamboo Bar Resort
The Bodos Bamboo Bar Resort also offers affordable accommodations for those who wish to stay overnight. BBB Resort has rooms with or without air-conditioning. Room rates range from P1,600 to P2,700.
It is located along Triple B Road in Pasol, Alcoy. For inquiries or reservation, the BBB Resort contact number is +63-32-4839119.
The town of Alcoy is a fifth class municipality that is around 90 kilometers from Cebu City. It comes after Dalaguete and before Boljoon. It has a wide coastline called Tingko Beach with fine golden brown sand.
As one of the few towns located at the southernmost tip of Cebu, Samboan is an unspoiled gem of natural wonders and ancient stone monuments.
It is home to rivers, springs, waterfalls, caves and clean coastlines as well as structures that are hundreds of years old and bear silent witness to Samboan’s early years. Here are Samboan town attractions you can visit and instructions on how to get there.
The town center is perched atop hill and forms a landscape that offers a panoramic view of the Tañon Strait and neighboring islands like Negros.
Town officials explain the name Samboan as coming from “sinamboang,” a method of fishing once commonly used by local fishers.
The story goes that during the early Spanish period years, the Spaniards who were the first to reach the town asked a fisherman for the name of the place. The fisherman, who didn’t understand a word of Spanish, thought they wanted to know what he was doing and so he answered “sinamboang.”
For reasons of simplicity and brevity, the name was shortened to Samboang which later on became Samboan.
Located shorly before the very tip of the island, Samboan is one of the oldest towns in Cebu.
Historical accounts state the town was spotted by combatants of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi while they were doing reconnaissance of the island from March 15 to April 22, 1565, during the first few months of their arrival in Cebu.
The tranquil place started out as the Encomienda Canamucan and became one of the visitas of the Parroquia de Barili de Santa Ana (parish of Barili) in the 1600s. As a visita, it was under the jurisdiction of the parish priest of Barili who made scheduled visits to hold masses and other religious activities.
Samboan was made an independent parish on November 3, 1784 under the patronage of San Miguel Arcangel (St. Michael Archangel), with Ginatilan, Malabuyoc and Alegria under its territorial jurisdiction. Its first parish priest was Romualdo Avila, a Franciscano Decalzo.
One of the priests that came after him was the great Fray Melchor de Vera, a Jesuit priest that was credited with having built the Spanish fortifications that served as protection against pirate raids.
Life in Samboan, which is 140 kilometers or four hours of travel by bus from the central city of Cebu, is rustic and simple. For visitors who want to stay for a few days to truly enjoy what the town has to offer, there are a few facilities offering accommodations in Samboan.
The town has progressed with the times while preserving the old ways, evidenced by the extant centuries-old structures and collection of rare items that offer glimpses into Samboan’s distant past. The ubiquitous tricycle and motorcycles for hire (what locals call habal-habal) are still the best way of getting around Samboan.
People still live on the bounties of the water and the soil.
They seek to preserve the seas that provide them with an abundant catch by creating marine sanctuaries and the land that yield a plentiful harvest by keeping the forests untouched and the waterways clean.
As a result, they’ve created a people’s paradise for everyone to enjoy, in the form of unspoiled waterfalls, rivers, and seas.
Classification: 5th class municipality
Population: 18,140 (2010 census)
Land Area: 4,500 hectares
No. of barangay: 15 barangays Basak Bonbon, Bulangsuran, Calatagan, Cambigong, Camburoy, Cañorong, Colase, Dalahikan, Jumangpas, Monteverde, Poblacion, San Sebastian, Suba and Tangbo
Distance from Cebu City: 140 km, southwest of Cebu City
Estimated time of arrival from Cebu: 4 hours via public transport
Means of transportation from Cebu: Bus
Livelihood: Farming and fishing
If you’re planning a Cebu trip during the Holy Week break and feel that the holiday island of Bantayan will be too crowded, you might want to consider Boljoon and its neighboring towns in your travel itinerary.
Many tourists now consider Boljoon as an alternative Cebu destination during the Lenten season, Mayor Merlou Derama said.
It is not difficult to see why. Boljoon sits, like a postcard picture, on a narrow strip of land between the towering green mountainsides and bright blue seas.
Travelers come across Boljoon when the coastal road makes a sharp turn along a colossal promontory that hides the town from view. Boljoanons consider this natural rock formation one of the town’s landmarks and call it Ili Rock.
I’ve been to Boljoon several times but I’m never tired of the sight that greets me when our vehicle completes that bend in the road. From that spot some distance away from the town center, Boljoon is laid out in a picturesque marriage of land, sea, and mountain.
The town is also a jump-off point for travel to the nearby towns of Oslob with its whale shark watching attraction as well as Samboan and Santander, which are the last two towns south of Cebu island.
This southeastern town was a prime target of Moro attacks in the early 17th up to the 19th century possibly in retaliation to Spain’s attempt to conquer and subjugate Mindanao, according to Paul Gerschwiler in his book “Bolhoon: A Cultural Sketch”.
He said one destructive raid that occurred in 1782 reduced the town to ashes – its houses and church burned – and prompted a Spanish priest assigned to the parish in 1802 to organize a proper defense system against the Moros.
The priest’s name was Fr. Julian Bermejo and he was behind many of the Spanish colonial structures that have become major Boljoon travel attractions.
These centuries-old buildings, located within the Parish Complex, are enclosed by almost intact ancient stone fortifications and include the Patrocinio de Maria Church, El Gran Baluarte, and rectory. Also worth visiting are the old cemetery walls and gate, American era edifice called Escuela Catolica, Plaza Bermejo, and museum.
Farther away from the town center, there are 19th century houses, an old spring called Baño sa Poblacion, and baluartes (watchtowers).
For more information about the town and its many attractions, we have a mobile web guide to the town as boljoon.myguide.ph.
When it comes to accommodations, the town has a choice of seaside resorts and inns as well mountain retreats.
Many of these places are just by the sea or near it. They are affordable and easily accessed from the coastal road that runs through Boljoon.
Club Fort Med is nestled between the mountain and the sea. It is a combination of fine white sand, lush gardens, and quaint cottages on a hectare of seaside land. There is also the Granada beach house, which is an eight-bedroom rustic property set atop a cliff with a 180-degree view of Boljoon’s seas.
Since the beach is located about a kilometer from the main road and reached through a narrow winding road, it is secluded and very private.
Noordzee Hostel offers both budget rooms that appeal to backpackers. On its rooftop is the Noordzee Restobar which serves Dutch cuisine.
Palanas Farm and Resort distinguishes itself by its location, which is not by the seaboard but in a tranquil valley of the rural town. Getting to this mountain retreat is through a well-paved mountain road. For a list of more places to stay in Boljoon and what they have to offer, go to boljoon.myguide.ph.