Often times the more challenging path yields to richer rewards. In Sta Ana, Cagayan, we ventured to the foothills of Sierra Madre mountains to explore one of the recently developed and opened tourism site in the municipality – the Buwacag Falls. This multi-tiered falls have a fun and challenging trail amidst lush forest leading to several wonderful cascades.
At the Foothills of Sierra Madres
The Buwacag Falls is located at Baranggay Sta Clara in Sta, Cagayan. About 17.3 km away from the Municipal Hall and 5.6km away from the baranggay proper. We could feel the elevation rice as our vehicle traverse the uphill road. We arrived at the visitors area is already established. A pavilion with attached clean restrooms is already in place.
I love the denseness of the forest. The light rain lending a thin misty veil. The sound of the nearby stream where there are wooden picnic tables and benches can be heard. There’s a number of birds seeking solace from the rain. Flying from one branch to another. I spotted an elegant sunbird, a Philippine bulbul and usual maria capras. Too bad I have no time for birding on this trip.
At the start of the trail there are information boards for “do’s and don’ts”, fees and a little history about the falls.
A couple of negritos, namely Maplit Ortega and Manolo Tugawen, discovered the falls in 1921 at the southeaster mountain slopes of Barangay Sta Clara.. Being the respected elders and leaders of their tribe, they named the falls “Buwacag”.
Buwacag means the thundering sound of flowing waters from a high-level streams falling over a cliff in steps to a bedrock.
Trail to the Falls
A series of concrete stairs starts the trail to the falls. The concrete stairs make up 1/4 of the trail. The rest can be quite challenging (and fun) depending on your level of fitness. Crossing streams and a little bouldering is required. There are already ropes to help hikers along. It rained during our visit so the trail was extra slick. Your footwear will get wet definitely so a sturdy sandals with good traction is recommended.
Buwacag Falls have several levels. The 3rd and 4th level is where most tourist spend time and turn back. There are actually upper levels but people are only allowed until the 4th. The 3rd level have a nice wade basin for swimming. But if you can still muster some energy and adventure to go up to 4th, it’s where a scenic curtain-like cascade can be found. I also like that the waters here didn’t get murky despite some rain.
The falls isn’t really as majestic as other falls. It won’t impress you with height and power but the whole experience was fun for me. The duration of the hike isn’t long. Probably less than an hour on an easy pace. The hike distance I would estimate from 3-5km. The falls has wonderful cascades ideal for dips and swimming. This is a great side-trip or a nature escape if ever one is in Sta Ana Cagayan Valley.
Buwacag Falls is maintained and managed by Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) and Buwacag Eco-Tourism Association (BETA) of the LGU. The following fees are implemented to help the upkeep of the site.
- Ecosystem Fee – P20/pax
- Tour Guide Fee – P300 (1 guide to 4 guests ratio)
- Personal Floating Device (PFD) – P25/piece
- Cottage rental – P300 (Maximum of 10pax)
- Tables under the trees – P100
- Parking Fees (Single Motor – P10; Tricycle/Sidecar – P15; Van/Car – P20; Dump truck – P50)
Important details to know before visiting the falls:
- Children below 10 years old are not allowed to enter Buwacag Falls
- Falls access is from 6:00am to 5:00pm
- Bringing food, beverage and liquor is not allowed. Only water bottles/container with water is allowed.
- No smoking.
- Loud music and noise are discouraged to avoid driving away the birds and animals in the area.
- To preserve the pristine condition of the falls, forest and surrounding areas, visitors are only allowed to stay up to 3 hours. A charge of P50 for every excess hour will be imposed.
For more information and assistance on tours, feel free to contact Cagayan Turismo at their Facebook Page.
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.