By Excel V. Dyquiangco
Photos By Mike Ventura
When it comes to religious celebrations and cultural homage, Naga in Bicol Region has always been the prime destination. But over the past years this city in the south of Luzon has taken on a much-needed revamping due to the diversity of tourists coming to the area. Aside from showcasing the many churches, museums and monuments, and a popular festival known as the Penafrancia Festival happening every September, Naga now boasts of attractions that lure even the heart of seasoned outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
Known as Naga X or Naga Excursions, this rebranding seeks to reconnect family and friends to the cultivating and nurturing environment prevalent in the outskirts of the city. You’d get a foretaste of striking and quaint waterfalls, humongous rock formations and scenic beaches you’d want to visit over and over again.
An Air of Enchantment
There are of course waterfalls that you’d see from afar and then there are those that you’d just be raring to trek. Engkanto Falls in the municipality of Libmanan is just one of them. This natural tourist attraction, so-named because apparently celestial beings and mischievous spirits roam the area, is described as a challenge.
The trek starts along the foot of a highway at Libmanan Bridge through a short flight of stairs, muddy slopes with a stunning view of fields and greeneries, a short bamboo ledge that you have to cross and a small hut where you can rest for a bit. Good news as there is an abundance of coconut trees in the area, you’d want to have a drink of coconut juice – straight from the husk – to quench your thirst.
After a few minutes of trudging through the trees, the famous seven-layered waterfall comes into full view with its cascading waters that flow and gush with such immensity and propensity. At the foot, the sight is really quite astounding and magical with trees and shrubberies and with the intense rays of the sun reflecting a fairly faint glow to the core of waters at the bottom, truly royal. What is remarkable about Engkanto Falls is that it is not that sharp that you can’t saunter up the steps. Without the feel of any vines rousing up in your path or shrubs and trees sticking from anywhere else, the first stride may be a little bit frightening considering that the waters around you are rushing past but this is what makes this climb truly unique. Take comfort, though as the waterfalls is composed of huge boulders stacked one on top of the other which provides a firm grip to your soles. According to the tourist guides in the area, rambling up the steps is called “river trekking”, and they advise you to step on rocks which are not laddered with mosses as these tend to be slick and slippery.
When you have finally reached the fifth level of the waterfalls, nothing can really match up to the valuable moments of basking underneath its strong and glorious rush of the waters. The trek is indeed ideal for those who want to take a dip after what seemed to be a thirty-minute climb.
Relaxing in the Beaches and the Rock Formations
If you are ogling for a different kind of adventure, head on to the municipality of Minalabac which is just a few minutes away from Libmanan. Here you can find a host of tourist spots where you can soak your aching feet and take in the mesmerizing view.
First is Bagolatao Beach, also known as Pebble Beach, because the place is littered with – what else – peebles which offer different sizes and shapes. Many of the locals view this as their own version of the Valugan Beach in Batanes but instead of huge boulders, rocks clutter the sands. Interestingly, the name Bagolatao comes from a rock formation not too far out into the sea which when the tide rises, covers up this formation, revealing only a part of it (litaw in Tagalog) that looks like a coconut husk or a bao in the Vernacular language. Bagolatao then originates from these two words: bao and litaw.
The beach in itself possesses a calm spirit with waves smoothly flowing and gliding. Huts are available for rent for P500 and P400 during the summer season and the rainy months respectively which allows you to stay here for some time. Rent a cottage for an overnight stay with your family and friends for P800 which can fit around ten people.
Second is the Bagaposo Rock Formation which looks like a cone out in the middle of the sea. Just a few minutes away from Bagolatao Beach via motorboat or bangka, this stellar rock formation stands out like a stairway into the heavens because you can easily climb to the top by grasping protruding ledges. At the peak, a panoramic view of the riveting, serene and enchanting waters below give you a shufti of liberty. Plus the smothering feel of the cool mist and the frail winds across your skin can give you a different kind of peace and tranquillity.
To get to this rock formation, rent a sagwan or boat or a motorboat for P20 and P300 respectively. The latter is perfect and good for around 30 people.
A Laidback Adventure
Those who’d probably want to laze around but still want to make a good adventure out of their stint in Naga City can go for an adventurous ride at Panicuason Hot Spring Resort and Nature Adventure Park which is located in the municipality of Panicuason, around an hour’s drive from the city proper.
Since the name suggests of Hot Springs, Panicuason offers that and so much more. There are four pools with a varied temperature of 29 C, 35 C, 39 C and 22 C that can ache and soothe – and even heal – your tired muscles. You can also start your adventure by climbing the 356 steps to get to the Zipline and the Burma Bridge, a stretch of rope tied from one mountain ledge to another in which you are required to cross. As for the Zipline, what makes this different from all the others is that it lets you fall down in a vertical slide within thirteen seconds, that fast and quick. Some of the tourists and the locals have labelled this as a “knee-shaker” because when you have finally reached below your knees will definitely shake.
You can also have a waterball adventure or camp out here. Entrance at the Panicuason Hot Springs fee is P200 per person (day rate) and P250 (night rate).
If ever you drop by at Metro Naga, it’s indeed a magical and momentous time for you and your family.