If you’re a weekend warrior looking for an adventurous trek with a breathtaking hundred-meter waterfall waiting for you at the end of the trail, here’s a hidden gem in the city that you should definitely include in your next itinerary: Tibag Falls in Bacungan.
The mention of ‘Puerto Princesa’ often brings images of the world-famous Underground River or tourist-favorite collections of white-sand beaches. It’s not a stretch to say ‘waterfalls’ often land on the lower end of the list. Yet, the city is actually home to some stunning waterfalls that are within anyone’s reach, many of them merely thirty to forty-five minutes away from the city proper (or bayan as we locals call it), such as Tibag Falls.
A Challenging But Rewarding Climb
Located in the rural barangay of Bacungan, Tibag is a hiker’s delight—a challenging but generously rewarding trek into Sitio San Carlos. After two hours of walking, five inquiries about how close the destination was, with sweat and mud endlessly clinging to our clothes (we spent a good deal of time brushing dirt off us, yes) we’re rewarded in the end with around a hundred-meter-high cascade of clear mountain waters.
A view of falls chasing into each other is not the end of it, however. Aiming for maximum enjoyment, we climbed a good distance of around 50 meters, past slippery-ish and ‘kaka-nerbyos’ rocks, to get to the middle section of the falls where you can take Instagram-perfect pictures and have a free back massage from the torrent of cold waters. After that moderately challenging climb, the sound of water languidly kissing the dark-colored rocks was the most relaxing sound to our ears.
Of course, we have to climb the top waterfall, competitive as we are. If you want to try it too, you can take the rightmost portion of the rock formation for an easier and safer climb. At the top, you can shout your lungs out, ala ‘That Thing Called Tadhana” scene. You can talk about forgetting the past and your plans for the future, and no one will judge you (unless you brought judgmental friends, of course). Or you can just sit quietly and appreciate how blessed you are to witness the beauty of Puerto Princesa sprawled before you, and hope that the next generation can appreciate it too.
So, since we’ve had such a great experience, we’re sharing here some essential information that other weekend warriors might find helpful too in visiting Tibag Falls.
How to Get There
The jump-off point for reaching Tibag Falls is at the bridge just after Kilometre 23 north of Puerto Princesa City proper. It can be easily reached in about 30-45 minutes via vans, buses (these cost around P20 to P50) or private vehicles. The earliest bus, San Isidro, leaves San Jose Terminal at around 6:00 to 6:30 a.m.
When to Visit
The earlier you visit, the better, as you can catch a glimpse of the magnificent sunrise atop Sitio San Carlos. Aside from this, Mother Earth is much more beautiful in the morning, and it’s better to see the falls in a clear and sunny day, from 6:00 am to 12:00 noon. Check the weather, of course. It’s a bit chilly there, but feeling the cold morning dewdrops as they clung to the wild rich vegetation, plus the sound of birds chirping along as you make your way through the trail, are worth it. Also, a morning visit will give you a sense of exclusivity to the trek and the cascades.
Our visit was made most enjoyable because there were just eight of us that time, virtually having the verdant but foggy mountain by ourselves. By 10:00 a.m., when we decided to start our descent, almost around 50 trekkers suddenly arrived. We also met almost 30 late-comers along the way, some with multi-colored bruises on their knees (reminder: don’t brave biking!). It’s also so much better to visit the falls with a guide. (You can contact our guide, Cris, at 09469835459, he’s available on weekends).
What to Wear and What to Bring
Stay protected: If you don’t want to have scratches all over your arms and legs, I advise that you wear long-sleeves and baggy comfortable pants during the trek – you can take them off when you arrive at the waterfalls. Depending on which you are most comfortable with, you can wear slippers or easy-dry hiking shoes.
Stay covered: Pack light and only bring what’s needed. You will need a liter of drinking water, snacks, packed lunch, extra clothes and a camera (because, bes, we are the millennials, yes?). Of course, bring a friend who’ll help you up if you slip – yes a friend will do, ‘di mo naman kelangan yayain si crush sa bundok, oki?
I slipped. The trek, though with an average difficulty level for regular walkers like us, is slippery, especially the last 45 minutes as you approach the final cascades.
It will start at the first of three river crossings. You have the option to take the bamboo bridge or to just enjoy the shallow, cool water below. Ragged feeder road crossing along the ultramafic forest will lead you the next river. There, the larger road to the left will take you to White Castle Falls – another attraction; I heard that they have an entrance fee of P50.00, while the smaller path to the right will take you to Tibag Falls. From there, you will take another hour of hike into a newly paved narrower path along the brooks passable by one person at a time – this, my friend, needs patience. FAIR WARNING: there is a barbed wire in a forested area of the trek in the last 45 minutes of the hike. Watch out! It almost ripped down my mole.
Cleaning is Caring
Lastly, bes, please, clean as you go and pick the litter along the way even though it’s not yours.
Well, have you been to Tibag Falls too? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author: Karen Madarcos is a weekend warrior from Puerto Princesa. If you can’t find her in her daily walks around Sta. Monica, she’s either chasing a waterfall, floating in a nearby beach, getting lost in an unpaved trek, eating, getting bruises from hiking, blogging about all of these, reading her book of the week or most likely, working in a Research and Development Consortium to save for her upcoming weekends. Follow her instagram account at @shinakaren and see her website at wanderingkaren.com.
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