Contributed by Turista Trails
Pasukulan Falls at almost 200 feet
Bataan is historic even in its remote spaces. It’s the site of one natural attraction that bears the name of a defender’s grit and an invader’s foolish resolve known as Pasukulan Falls in the hamlet of the same name. The new generation of Filipinos may not consider it to be significant beyond the beauty that it holds in West Abucay, but it is a fitting remnant of a paradise that was once a witness to the surrender of an imperial army. The yield continues to reverberate from the mid-’40s and I was compelled to follow the sound that it makes in the forested valley of Mt. Natib one pleasant weekend.
The wilderness beckoned
Booked at Orani’s newly-opened Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park for two nights, I decided to explore the idyllic woodland view from my sybaritic spot at its cliff-side swimming pool. More than mesmerised to comfortably gaze at it, I was lured to put on my pair of Columbia Ventrailia hiking shoes to stand where they stand. I was also ready to get dirty. My travel buddy deemed it rather foolish to step out of our bespoke getaway, but the seduction of the outdoors prevailed. I really didn’t care for horse dung and hunger pangs as long as the wilderness was teeming with stories.
View of Morong, Bataan from the Pinagbutasan Trail
The hiking trail called Pinagbutasan that’s roughly an hour away from the resort gave me enough reason to get up and walk. The dirt road trek starts from the DENR outpost of Barangay Tala (next to the resort) where I registered myself and my contributing photographer for ₱70 each. We hired a guide for ₱800 to lead us on the 12-hour day hike that we commenced at 7am after a delicious breakfast of chicharon-topped lomi. From the breezy viewing deck where the trail officially begins at the Bataan Natural Park, fog blanketed scenic views providing a surge of mystery to our adventure. The trail would bend in different directions as the terrain showed a steady ascent. I especially enjoyed the opened grasslands as surprising breaks from the gloomy woodlands.
Flowers, Aetas, raspberries and more
The hike itself was a treat because it led us to view various flowers, see aetas on board a motorcycle (which is a departure from their known lifestyle of long walks), and gormandize on saccharine raspberries called Sampinit. Although it was apparent that the trail had no water source, it has tibig trees that indicate the presence of water that may be close to the surface. To my delight, some spots of the trail were accentuated with the dangling fern of a pakong buwaya which is known to thrive in high altitude terrain and is good for rheumatic problems. We were advised by our guide to stay away from the usual hiking caveat — the lipa plant that causes skin irritation and the kalmot pusa that’s thorn-studded on its stem.
Our guide and his dog Aguiluz
(left) With Aguiluz the dog; (top right) View of Morong, Bataan; (bottom right) Grassland
Our guide himself was a cause for interest. He started being one at the young age of 14 under the tutelage of his late father who was also a guide in the area. He has a young aspin tag-along named Aguiluz and has a twin brother who’s also a guide. We had the chance to meet the latter at the viewing deck of the trail on his way back to Barangay Tala with his own group of hikers from Manila.
Two more hours from the bifurcation
The base camp of Mt. Natib is an indication for those tackling the summit that the upward assault is close by. In our case, it meant that we had to make the necessary detour to our target destination which is Pasukulan Falls. From there, it was a couple of hours more of walking in sloping terrain, most of which almost didn’t appear to have an obvious trail because of the lush vegetation in the area. A glance at an open cliff offered me a distant view of my booked resort which looked so small from how I originally saw it the first time during check-in.
The more we advanced in the trail, the less the midday sun hit our faces because of old trees. Their spooky appearance did not only cover the space above in an immense blanket of age-old leaves and branches. It also extended on the ground with their roots that resemble tentacles which made it a must to exaggerate our gait most of the time.
Steep descent before the falls
By the time we crossed a few shallow rivers (the same one that crisscrosses in the forest and leads to the waterfalls), we were already parched and not excited to reach the culmination of our hike. For inspiration, I fixed my gaze during the entire time at Aguiluz which did not show any sign of exhaustion. And when I thought that the worst was over, the challenging 10-minute descent came. It was a steep ridge that had to be tackled to eventually reach the site of the waterfalls and something that we had to finish. With just enough energy to spare, I dragged myself down that descent and made the most awful grunts that reminded me of cheap porn.
Wild raspberries called Sampinit
Behold the waterfalls
As soon as the descent was over, Pasukulan Falls magnificently showed herself in the distance partially shrouded by trees. A few more steps and the pool was fully visible. Looking up, I finally saw the natural attraction in all its almost-200 feet glory. With lush green accentuating its vertical walls, it gracefully released its narrow cascading water that plunged into a catch basin creating a deep pool. It was a signal for me to take a much-needed nap as my head was throbbing from the combination of hunger and weariness. With my body reclined on a rock, I closed my eyes to feel the mist on my eyelids from the pouring hustle.
The snake-interrupted hike back to Tala
The hike back to the base camp and Barangay Tala seemed unremarkable already as my body was prepared to shut down. It was the presence of a black snake that slithered past our hike row which jolted me back to the reality that I should still keep my eyes wide open. Because we were already exhausted after 11 hours of walking (with a few random stopovers), nighttime caught up with us and we had to tackle the last dirt road back to the resort in a dark environment. Thankfully, we were armed with a flashlight. In retrospect, I never walked so desperate for dinner in my entire life until that night.
As the fog descended that evening on the sloping terrain of Orani where my booked resort is located, I knew that I had it coming — that moment when one mulls about one’s decision.
My time of contemplation might have climaxed in bliss with the sight of Pasukulan Falls and culminated in regret over exhaustion, but both stages of the experience made me appreciate more the mesmerising woodland view of Bataan that I had at the comfort of my booked resort. I finally stood where they stand which is something worth surrendering to.
Photography by Josua Chan and Karl Ace
Special Thanks to Bataan Tourism
Trail: Pinagbutasan of Orani, Bataan
DENR Contact for Guides: Darwin (Mobile # 0998-862-3106)
Where to Stay: Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park