It’s really a challenge to go to places not really on everyone’s radar. Atimonan isn’t really a tourist hot spot. It has a few known sights like the Pinagbanderahan, Quezon Memorial Park and its Zigzag road known as Bitukang Manok. Aside from that, it is mainly a transit town often passed by. I did some further research and found some sites of interest like the Bantakay Falls, since I always like to incorporate nature elements in my trips. Good thing I got a hold the number of Atimonan’s tourism officer, Cecile and were able to ask directions on the phone.
Done with the market, the Atimonan Church and the Iskong Bantay Watchtower I was ready to find this Bantakay waterfalls. My big brother decided to tag along with me on the search for this falls. Our destination is in Sta Catalina, Atimonan along the new diversion road. One wrong advise I got from my cousin is that the tryke can take use there. But a tricycle driver we hailed told us it’s too far and we need to take a bus at the terminal. Enough of speculative advice, I’ll try to follow Cecille’s direction.
At the terminal, we asked around which buses pass by the jump-off to the Bantakay Falls at Sta Catalina. Most dispatchers and drivers are not familiar with the said falls so I just asked which bus passes by Sta Catalina and we’ll take it from there. And the tricycle driver was indeed right. It’s a long way from town and borders closely to Pagbilao already along the National Diversion road. It took around 30 minutes before we were alighted after the Barangay Hall at Sta Catalina. We took a very short walk and lo and behold, we saw the signage along the road. It’s really hard to notice the signage coming from the Atimonan side.
A small sari-sari store was there to for visitor registration. Before we went to the falls, we decided to take lunch first since it’s way past noon already. When we got back, the neighbor Iyo, a boy probably in his early 20s stepped in as our guide since the other guide is already with another group ahead of us. There were no registration fees and no specific guide fee. Iyo told us just to give what we thought would suffice after.
The first 10 minutes of the trail was fairly easy. I was able to chat with Iyo who told us that typically on a dry season the hike to the falls would only take 1 hour on regular pace. But since it’s been raining for the past few days, he warned us that the trail could be muddy and slippery. And boy he wasn’t kidding. And damn this is one of the hardest treks I’ve been to simply because of the mud. The supposedly 1 hour hike turned to at least 2 hours and we were barefoot 80-90% of the time because the foot wear couldn’t handle the slippery mud trail and there are numerous instances where my leg would sink up to the knee. Midway through this muddy trail I swear I’ll never go back here after the rains.
At least two hours of arduous hike up and down the trail while hoping it wouldn’t rain since the sky had heavy clouds hovering above us, we caught up with the young group ahead of us who got lost and just got back on the trail to the falls. In my mind, I thought this falls should better be worth all this trouble and it definitely didn’t disappoint. At first I saw the lower cascades and thought that was it? But Iyo said we still have to go up the cascades the up the roots and there it was. The magnificent Bantakay Falls!
What I liked about this falls are the numerous layers of cascades and the the curtain-like rock formations. The main falls is said to be about 80 feet in height from the upper pool. It’s one of the nicest falls I’ve seen for some time. I went to the upper pool and it was spraying heavily there which makes it hard to take photos. I enjoyed going through the cool shallow waters of the lower pools before we made our way back. I didn’t want to linger that long as darkness may catch us on the trail.
It was getting late and dark already with the rains still threatening to fall. I was a lot more worried for my brother whose not really used to this kind of treks. As soon as we picked up a signal in the middle of the trail we called back at our relatives at Barangay Buhangin to pick us up. The rain did drop making our ascents a lot difficult. Iyo diverted us to a different trail which runs along a stream to avoid the mud. Soon we emerged on the highway before it got really dark. We made it in time.
This was a really memorable hike as I came home with more than 5 cuts at the soles of my feet one longer that an inch. But I didn’t regret looking for Bantakay Waterfalls. I wouldn’t mind going back there to explore the caves as well this time. But I’ll make sure the ground is dry this time.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.