It’s funny how naming conventions of tourist sites go as far as El Nido is concerned. When island hopping its amusing when people would say they’ll be going to a “Secret Beach” (which I won’t tell where because it’s supposed to be a secret) or the “Big and Small Lagoon” in Miniloc Island to name the sites based on size description. Now my new favorite waterfalls in El Nido, the less-visted Bulalacao Falls in Pasadeña, will also get the same treatment as the Miniloc Lagoon. Welcome to the Big and Small Bulalacao Falls, personally the most beautiful waterfalls in El Nido.
Enter Sitio Bulalacao
I’ve known about Bulalacao Falls (some spelled as Bulalakaw Falls) for some time now but it is not really as accessible as the popular Nagkalit-kalit Falls. Having stayed in El Nido for months already, I got some reliable contacts on transpo already and information about other places. On a weekend, accompanied by a fellow adventurer, we hired a tricycle to Pasadeña Town this time to the road leading to New Ibajay. Midway this route, about 15km from town is Sitio Bulalacao, the district where the name of the falls came from and the jump-off to an exciting hike.
A Lady Guide and a Dog
A guide is a definite must when visiting Bulalacao Falls especially when the aim is the Big Falls which is a 1.5-2 hours hike through a virgin forest. The best place to get a guide is at the signpost by the road where the family that owns the land resides. We met the couple Cynthia and Danny who have lived in the area for more than 30 years.
Cynthia was our guide. For her age, she looks very fit as she holds her machete on one hand. She tells me she goes up this forest everyday. Our other companion was Spike, a black mongrel that’s really swift on his feet, he’s also there to chase of any wild pigs in the area.
Hike Through a Virgin Forest
A large part of Palawan still have good forest cover and this area, the central part of El Nido is a good example. The hike up to Bulalacao Falls has moderate difficulty. Even in the first part of the hike, we were already climbing steep trails passing, heavily vegetated areas and wonderful collection of towering trees like Ipil, balete and kamagong. It was actually a delight to enter this very rich forest. To see unusual mushrooms and flowers from rock moss.
With this forest teeming with life expect some nasty creatures like leeches in the heavily moist environment, especially on the trail near the falls. The leeches here are bigger thin-bodied ones which were different from the usual worm-like thin ones I’ve seen. These leeches could spring at you anytime without ones awareness. Leeches are plenty especially during rainy season which not recommended season to hike as the trail can get really muddy as well.
The Big Falls
Standing about 70-feet high, the Big Falls pours a thin veil of water yet thick enough to run a powerful stream as it hits the ground and create interesting levels of cascade as it travels downward. This waterfalls never run out of water, says Cynthia, even if it may not be as strong as during the rainy season. In fact, El Nido made some survey in utilizing this falls as the main water system throughout the town. A project which can cost about Php 60 million.
The Small Falls
The 1.5-2 hours hike to the Big Falls may be too much for some people to handle, but for some who only wants to hike for a half the time or less for a waterfall, the lower Small Falls of Bulalacao Falls is a lot accessible, more serene and swimmable even. Descending from the Big Falls we took a different route past mid-way the trail.
Coming from the immense presence of the Big Falls, the Small Falls was surprisingly calm, serene and inviting. It has 4 accessible levels. The 1st and lowest has a large pool that people can jump into the deep 3-meter plunge or wade on the shallow sides of the pool. The upper levels is easy to reach and visitors would be rewarded with a beautiful low cascade that can also be enjoyed.
Bulalacao Falls Essential Info
I can definitely say, Bulalacao Falls is now one of my favorite places here in El Nido (and there are many). It is the most majestic falls in the area. I wouldn’t mind going back there. Now for the essentials:
- Sitio Bulalacao in Pasadeña is 15km from El Nido town
- One can rent a motorbike or hire a tricycle (about P800-1000 depending on your haggling skills), ride is about 45 minutes.
- It is recommended to hire a guide since it is easy to get lost. Guides can cost Php200-400. Look for husband and wife Cynthia and Danilo.
- Hike up to the Big Falls is about 2-hours
- Hike up to the Small Falls is about 30-minutes
- Bring packed lunch or snacks since there are no food in the area
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.