“Duck!” I heard our boatman up front yell, as our raft headed under a cluster of low-lying bamboo stalks leaning close to the waters of Bugang River. Another boatman was in chest-deep water behind the raft, tugging the rope at the back and fighting the current to somehow steer our fragile bamboo raft to a safer direction. Could this raft hold? I heard they just assemble it when they need it. We cleared the bamboo trees unscathed and found ourselves in tamer waters opening to a surreal landscape of age-old trees standing tall amidst the turquoise waters, strong and defiant of the currents.
Bugang River, honored as the greenest and cleanest inland body of water in the country by Gawad Pangulo ng Kapaligiran (GPK) and the main water source for Panay Island is located in the municipality of Pandan, Antique. Found northwest of Panay Island, Pandan is easily accessible via a 45-minute bus and tricycle ride from Caticlan or an hour’s drive from Kalibo, Aklan. Bounded by the Panay Cordillera Mountains in the east and Sulu Sea in the west, Pandan is rich in biodiversity and natural wonders that nature lovers and adventurers would surely enjoy.
At the source of the 6km Bugang River stretching to the sea is the Malumpati Health Spring and Tourist Resort. Fondly named after the vernacular for “Malukso (to jump)” and “Talumpati (to announce)”, it’s a place where Atis, the indigenous settlers of Panay Island, enjoy jumping into the waters to cool off. It’s a practice that the locals still enjoy aside from holding picnics on the idyllic banks.
The cool waters of Malumpati Spring are believed to be healthy to drink. Despite people swimming at the spring, I was surprised to see locals still fetching water from the running streams. I was told the plants on the riverbed are keeping the river clean. It was amazing the water didn’t become muddy even with the rains. There are no lodging facility by the river, only a few huts.
Malumpati is also the starting point for the Bugang River Rafting, an exciting hour-long journey along the clean river where one can appreciate the diverse flora and fauna flourishing in this rich ecosystem. There were several arguments that says the word Bugang came from a tree of the same name or from an edible fruit found on the river bank trees.
Halfway the river stretch, our raft rode the raging waters and while our boatmen masterfully maneuver along the currents. It was exhilarating as we dodged through branches along the way. As the current tamed down, the water was still with the ambient sound of nature was stripped to its barest left is the sound from the gentle rush of water, the birds, the rustling leaves and unseen insects signaling the late afternoon rain.
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.