23 February 2006

Return to Majayjay, Laguna

How long has it been since I last visited Majayjay (pronounced ma-high-high)? Seven, eight years ago? I was with officemates then. Before, you had to do a couple of hours' hike to reach Taytay falls through dense vegetation. But when we did our trek back then (it was just for an afternoon's visit), something huge was abrew. A path wide enough for a car and a half had just been freshly carved out of the wooded floor from the town proper to the stairs going down the falls. Our rented van stopped where the cemented road ended and we started our hike on the freshly-dug dirt road.

Seeing the place again brought back these memories, but it was radically different now. The road has been cemented, and there are signs of habitation on both sides of the road. with the road came amenities such as the parking space, and within these premises a sari-sari store, some rooms you can rent for the night, and a canteen. The hike has also been cut short to a mere half an hour. Whether this development is ok or not is really up to the visitor's outlook. As for me, I have been here before so I kind of missed the walk and the fact that it was rarely visited then so we had the place pretty much to ourselves (and a couple of campers). It was like our secret place that we'd love to tell stories about to whoever asks, "where's that?"

But that initial feeling relatively dissolved as we made our way down to the river. The familiar cemented, narrow walkway, the wide channel of flowing water to the left, and the lush vegetation at our right is just the way I remembered it years ago. When we reached the vicinity of Taytay falls, we were greeted by a view of a small community of tents. There was quite a number staying for the weekend. We picked a place to set-up camp (beside a bigger group's place, whose couple of members dropped by where we rested, made small talk, and one of them even helped us with the setting up of our shade. It's a camaraderie amongst campers that's ever present.)

Surprisingly, the place has been well-maintained. The community of Majayjay has gotten into the act to ensure that the campers are safe (there are locals who would occasionally patrol the area) and the surroundings clean (there is even a garbage collector). It is likewise comforting to know that there is a comfort room nearby. :-). Butterflies would occasionally flutter by and hop from one flower to another. The river runs into the valley, so even when the sun shines, there is always a shaded area. But it's not likely that you'll want to stay away from the sun. There's intermittent drizzling which you wouldn't mind anymore once you get soaked. Unless you're cooking.

We had sandwiches at mid-morning (complete with tomatoes, greens, dressing, tuna. It's camping with style! All thanks to Marimar who took care of our food as her birthday treat to us. Belated Happy Birthday Marimar!), and a generous helping of fried fish, rice and veggies for lunch. We spent the rest of the day taking a dip in the cold waters (yes, it was c...c...cold! But once you submerge, you get accustomed to it. Quite relaxing, actually.) and singing some songs accompanied by a guitar. That's me at the photo; the guitar is just a prop! I just do some of the singing. If you can call it that. :-)

The night was enveloped with sounds of crickets and chirping birds and rushing waters. We lit the lamp and did some more singing. I think that's what attracted these mosquito-like huge insects. The night sky was black as ink, as it was still overcast.

The following day brought more excitement because that was the time all of us would be going to the falls! We marched back to the path and crossed many tents and campers along the way. Excitement filled everyone as we caught sight of the raging waters. We finally reached the pool and sat by the side. It was c...c...cold! Colder than the river below. But soon everyone was wading and swimming. We went to the back of the falls where there is a cavern and had a ball clinging on to the roof while the waterfall nearby created incessant waves that attempted to throw us off-balance.

To the left of the falls was a man-made structure that looked like a grotto ... and a path going up to where the falls originated. Wait ... there appears to be a sign right beside the grotto. What does it say? We can't read it from all the mist in the air and water in our eyes! So let's go up! And climb we did, navigating gnarled roots and rocks criss-crossing the steep mountain side.
We were rewarded with a most amazing pool of deep blue! The water worked its way at the right side into the falls, while at the left side the water was relatively peaceful. Some campers were there as well. I guess they found it difficult to read the sign too. We lingered for a while (the pond was quite deep in the middle) then proceeded to descend and stayed on at the falls.

We had lunch and left mid-afternoon. Amazingly, the sun started to shine like it was tempting us to stay on for another day. But back to the urban jungle we have to go. Thanks guys for the wonderful adventure!

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