I found myself sitting on the muddy ground with barely any recollection of how I ended up there. It happened in a flash, like when you’re a holding a balloon one moment and the next you’re left with just the string.
I heard one of the people behind me joke that because I fell, I was eliminated from the pageant. I laughed it off and with a bit of a struggle, stood back up on my feet and continued the trek. If you are not careful, this may happen to you too because the mud-spattered trail to this famous waterfall is slippery at best.
But if you just keep your patience, coupled with balancing skills, and wear the right footwear, your labor will be rewarded with the sight of one of the most splendid falls in the country, Hulugan Falls.
Getting to Hulugan Falls
Hulugan Falls is situated in San Salvador, a quiet village in Luisiana, Laguna. It would take you about three hours on the road to get there from Metro Manila. You can either take a bus from Cubao or as in our case, from Buendia. Take the one that goes to Sta. Cruz, the bus fare is ₱140 ($2.99). Your next step is to hire either a tricycle or ride a jeep going to Lucban. Either way, you should get off at Barangay San Salvador.
Because we couldn’t find a jeep that plies the route, we squeezed ourselves inside a tricycle that took us on a 45-minute ride to San Salvador. We paid a total of ₱400 ($8.54).
When you reach the village, you have to pay the ₱15 ($0.32) environmental fee and register at the house of the barangay captain. I was taken aback by the number of people hanging out at the front yard — some were eating their lunch while others were waiting for their turn to write their names on the log book.
I realized that Hulugan Falls has become so famous, it is now always teeming with tourists especially on weekends.
There are locals who volunteer to lead the way for the tourists. But the trail is rather established and there are so many tourists aiming to go there that the chances of you getting lost would be next to none.
Hiring a guide is not necessary, however, hiring them is mandatory. You would see them wearing a special pair of boots that can only be bought locally. It’s designed in a way that it allows more grip on the slippery trail. Our group hired a skinny lad named Arnold and for his service we paid him ₱500 ($10.68).
Depending on your speed and balancing skills, you can reach Hulugan Falls in less than an hour. In the case of my group, it took us 1 hour to finally see the waterfalls. The muddy trail posed a real challenge which made me realize why they require guests to be accompanied by the guides.
There were many parts in the trek that entailed assistance especially when walking over the slippery tracks. Sometimes, the mud is so heavy it would suck your feet in. Many times, I saw people pulling their foot from the ground without their flip flops or shoes on because they got stuck in mud.
Many times I’d hear a sudden yelp from someone who lost his or her balance and fell flat on the ground. Indeed, it’s the struggle to walk through the mud that slowed everyone down. Most probably, the time spent for trekking would be shorter if the ground is dry.
When I finally heard the sound of the gushing water, I felt the tension leaving my body. I looked on and from a distance, saw the fruit of our labor, the Hulugan Falls in all its glory. The best word I can use to describe it is “majestic.”
So what makes it all worth it?
It is big and splendid, a beauty that was even highlighted by a rainbow. I knew that it’s lovely from all the photos that I’ve seen. What I didn’t know is that the pictures are nothing compared to the real thing.
The water is dark but they say it is not because it is dirty, but from the fact that the soil under the water is disturbed by the force of the falls. Our group went for a quick dip in the ice cold water. Some parts of the water are shallow, some parts are deep.
Beneath the water you can feel some big stones, sturdy enough to hold your weight to help you get closer to the falls. Being close to the falls feels like you are standing in the middle of a typhoon due to the force of the water. Nevertheless, it was a fun experience.
Hulugan Falls Survival Tips
Everything about Hulugan Falls is beautiful save for the number of tourists. They were literally everywhere that it was impossible to take a solo picture.
I heard it’s better to go there on weekdays when there are less people, but if you can’t do that it’s best to come early. Most of the guides are ready to start touring as early as 6AM.
Also, it’s advisable that you wear shoes designed for the muddy trail. I heard you can buy the boots that the guides are wearing from town. Best to ask some people in the area.
After the muddy trek, you can take a shower at the barangay captain’s house for only ₱15 ($0.32), but if there are too many people in there, you can shower in the other houses in the neighborhood. Most people there offer their shower areas to the tourists for only ₱15.
Before you head back home, be sure to try the Hulugan bibingka and the pancit. You can see several stalls lining up the street, selling them. The best pancit however is served by Ate Ganda. You can ask the locals about her, she owns a fairly big eatery (carinderia) on the side of the street.
Breakdown of Expenses
|Bus fare from Manila to Sta. Cruz||₱140|
|Jeepney fare from Sta. Cruz to San Salvador||₱400 (good for 5 pax)|
|Guide Fee||₱500 (good for 5 pax)|
|Pancit (optional)||₱100 (good for 4 pax)|
|Total Cost||₱475 ($10.16)|