A few minutes after 5pm on Saturday, March 7, we boarded a Duptours van from Guiuan bound for Tacloban. Lawaan is just on the way so we were just going to alight there. We still paid the P160 flat rate fare even though we were just going down in Lawaan. There are buses available on that route but I think the people of Eastern Visayas prefer these vans.
A week before this trip, I contacted Sir Bobby Baldo of the Lawaan Tourism Office at 09464140501. I got his number from the former tourism officer of Lawaan, whom I got in contact with after reading the travel guide at akrosdayunibers.com. He was the one who arranged the tour guides for us. Since there were four of us (originally five), they required two guides for us because as Sir Bobby explained, it was for our own safety in case anything untoward happened. They charge P300 per guide so we paid a total of P600.
The travel guide I read suggested to stay at Baybay Inn. But earlier in the day, Ge Ann contacted her friend who lives in Lawaan and told us that Baybay Inn was far from the town proper and we would find it difficult to get transportation from there, so Ge Ann’s friend arranged a room for us at Mana Ede’s place. If you contact Sir Bobby, he can also arrange accommodation for you.
Unfortunately, Ge Ann had to go back to Tacloban so she didn’t come with us to Lawaan. When we got down at the town proper, we looked for Mana Ede’s place and found it a few minutes after. It’s located in Brgy. 3. There was however a misunderstanding when we got there because the person at the place, who we got to know after as Mana Susan (Mana Ede’s sister), was not aware of our reservation. Thankfully, however, the room (they only have one for guests) was still available.
We learned later on that Mana Ede received our reservation but wasn’t able to reach Mana Susan right away. Mana Susan told us that their place is usually just reserved for the guests of the mayor or those who are visiting their town during official events. But they welcomed us and made us feel at home. The room only had one bed so someone had to sleep in the living room which was actually more comfortable because there was an airconditioner there. I’m not telling who was sleeping where for some reason.
Anyway, we paid P300 per person per night. I’m not sure the family would want to commercialize their place but Mana Susan gave me her number anyway – 09087234470.
Emma and Simon bought some food earlier in Guiuan which we ate for dinner. We just bought barbecue and some more food at a nearby carinderia. I never expected to be comfortable but I really had a good night sleep despite not having alcohol.
We all woke up around 4:30am the next day. I told Sir Bobby through text the day before that we would be ready by 6am and around 5:45am, he came. The guides, Kuya Joel and Kuya Jingjing, came a few minutes after.
Mana Ede was too concerned about the three of us just wearing slippers, so he let Emma and Simon borrow hiking shoes and me a pair of outdoor sandals. Jao already had his own aqua shoes.
We then took two habal-habals to get to Brgy. Guinob-an. We paid each habal-habal P50. As soon as we got there, we realized we left our food at Mana Ede’s place. Geez, another hiccup. I remember taking responsibility for bringing the bag of food but then forgot about it. I should probably eat more memory-boosting vegetables. Fortunately, Kuya Jingjing had his own motorcycle so he went back to get the food.
While waiting for Kuya Jingjing, Kuya Joel took us to their office for registration. Some good information about the waterfalls was posted inside the office. Unfortunately, we could only go to Amandaraga and Pangi falls for now. Amanjuray is usually not accessible and the trail going to Ban-awan was destroyed by typhoons Yolanda and Ruby. According to Kuya Joel, it could still be accessed after a four-hour hike, time that we didn’t have. But we could still see Amanjuray and Ban-awan from afar while on the way to Amandaraga.
When Kuya Jingjing got back, we immediately started the hike. Kuya Joel explained during the hike that they were still in the process of clearing the trails. They had to prioritize the trail going to Amandaraga so at least tourists could still see at least one waterfalls.
Wildlife was also thriving. We saw several giant millipedes on the trail. By giant, I mean about just five inches long, they’re not scary but they’re several times bigger than the millipedes I see at home. There were also several colored dragonflies. I only usually see those with transparent wings but I saw dragonflies with red wings and also with blue wings. Kuya Joel also said the dogs caught a wild boar once.
It was after about 45 minutes that we reached the spot where we could see Amanjuray and Ban-awan. Both falls just looked gorgeous. Ban-awan most especially looked magnificent even from afar. Looking at close-up pictures of Ban-awan before Yolanda hit, I know it is just beautiful. I wanted to go brave the difficult trail but no one wanted to be with me.
Ban-awan is the highest of the four waterfalls, while Amanjuray is the second highest. I didn’t want to leave the spot but I didn’t want to stay either. I just wanted to go to both falls, something that I couldn’t do. Dang!
After about another 15 minutes, we reached Amandaraga. Thankfully, Amandaraga was beautiful too! At least I was happy now.
I immediately went into the water when we got there. I was scared to slip at first because I wasn’t too confident with the sandals I was wearing as they weren’t mine. But the rocks were fine. The water was shallow enough but there was a part that I was too scared to put my feet on. Kuya Joel said the water was about three meters deep near the drop.
We then had a little breakfast with the food we almost didn’t have thanks to me. After eating, we immediately went back to the water.
Of course, we each had our selfies with the falls as the background.
We stayed for over an hour in Amandaraga. It rained for a little while but the sun came back up while we were leaving.
We had to go back halfway down the trail to hike a different trail going to Pangi Falls. Kuya Joel warned us that if we were to proceed to Pangi, we will only be able to go back by 1pm as it was already 10am. I told him it was fine. Our original itinerary anyway indicated we would leave Lawaan by 3pm. We only had to move it to 12noon so we could still stop over Emma’s house in Tacloban before leaving for Ormoc.
With Kuya Joel’s warning in mind, I thought it would take us another hour to reach Pangi but it only took us less than 30 minutes. The trail was not totally cleared yet though. Kuya Joel had to cut the overgrown grasses along the path so we could pass through. Well, isn’t that the true essence of hiking?
Pangi is the smallest of the four waterfalls in Lawaan. It is on a different river system from the three other falls.
When we got there, Kuya Jingjing jumped into the water to see how deep it was. It was deep alright so I didn’t dare get past the fallen tree trunk. I simply waded in the shallower part of the water.
Jao was urging me to jump from a cliff on the other side of the falls. He jumped several times himself and Simon once before I was persuaded to jump. I wasn’t too confident because I only have done cliff diving once with a life jacket waiting for me and on seawater (I can easily float at sea but find it very difficult to float in freshwater). Jao assured me he’d pull me though so I jumped. I have a video of my jumping in Jao’s GoPro and I looked like I was going through hell!
A little after 11:30am, we started going back. We reached the highway before 12:30pm. We said goodbye to our guides and went back to Mana Ede’s place to get our bags. After checking out, we went to eat at a carenderia and hailed a bus going to Tacloban. Goodbye Lawaan! Goodbye Samar! We will miss you!