“Tikang gud kamu ha Pinipisakan Falls, dai? Mayda man mga NPA heto ngadto!”
(Are you sure you went to Pinipisakan Falls? There are NPA’s (communists) up there!)
Those were the words uttered by the lady at the convenience store near the highway.
I couldn’t blame her. Almost every remote area in the Philippines just happens to be the home of this communist organization. With horrendous reports of terrorism all over the country, I couldn’t blame some people who would rather stay in their homes than explore the thick and seemingly unpenetrable mountain areas of the Philippines. Samar happens to have a lot of those mountain areas.
I have heard the story of the first time Joni of Trexplore The Adventures went to this paradise in the middle of the thick jungle of San Jorge, Samar. He had to gain the trust of the locals that he was there to help them have a livelihood. If more tourists would want to explore their beautiful home, then they will have additional income for their families. Since then, the people up in those mountains are open to welcome more people.
Defying difficult logistics to reach Pinipisakan Falls
Traveling to this hidden gem is not easy. It was, by far, one of the most remote places I have been to in this country. We left Joni’s Homestay in Catabalogan City early in the morning so we can catch a bus bound for San Jorge, Samar. The bus ride took about an hour before we arrived at this junction where we waited for our designated habal-habal. After that, it took another 30-40 minutes of a bumpy habal-habal ride. After a quick lunch at a nearby resort, we proceeded to the docking area to get into our respective boats.
The boat ride is definitely one of the highlights of this adventure. Some of the areas of the river were shallow so our motorboat couldn’t pass those waters unless it’s lifted. So we have to disembark the boat every now and then. The view looks pristine, it reminded me of my torpedo boat ride experience in Paranas, Samar. It took about almost two hours before we reached the far end side of the river. I forgot to bring my cap during this adventure so I was really exposed to the searing heat of the sun the whole time.
When we finally arrived at the docking area at the far end side of the river, we proceeded to wear our trekking shoes because we still have to trek the verdant jungle ahead. I could hear the soothing sound of birds chirping and the swaying of trees. I could even smell the forest ahead – damp earth and old fallen leaves. This earthy smell just has this instinctive calming effect on us, don’t you think?
We trekked the jungle for one hour until we finally reached the camping site. The locals made a small open hut in the middle of the jungle with makeshift beds and a small table. It was one of the best camping sites I have ever been to so far.
Swimming to Pinipisakan Falls
But the adventure was far from over. After taking a quick and well-deserved rest, we then had to wear wetsuits so we can proceed to Pinipisakan Falls. The water in Pinipisakan Falls as well as inside Sulpan cave is quite chilly. While we were still at the campsite, Joni told us that it can get very cold inside the cave and can potentially cause hypothermia if we were not careful. He advised us to inform the others if we can no longer take it so we won’t have to proceed towards the end of the cave where the water of the underground lake is far too cold. I’m glad we all survived the whole ordeal.
Before you can reach the beautiful waterfalls ahead, you are going to have to swim the river and trek a little. Before we crossed to the other side, I could already see a portion of Pinipisakan Falls and couldn’t hide my anticipation.
Crossing the river was definitely a big challenge for me. I am small in stature and I do not know how to swim so I have to rely on others if it gets too hard to wade through the waters. We were also swimming against the current and with zero skills in swimming, I had to ask them to grab me all the time. Hah!
The riverbank is filled with enormous boulders. We had to climb some of them in order to cross to the other side. After a few minutes of mixed swimming and trekking, we finally arrived at the roaring cascades of Pinipisakan Falls.
I couldn’t describe my joy. I guess it was more like the feeling of seeing an oasis after days of walking in a dry, parched desert. After all the bus, habal-habal, boat rides, and laborious trek, I have finally seen the one thing I have always wanted to see. It was more than I expected.
It was all worth it.
Climbing to the highest tier – the mouth of Sulpan Cave
We still had to climb to the highest tier of Pinipisakan Falls in order to reach the mouth of Sulpan cave. Pinipisakan Falls has several tiers and cascades. In order to reach the second tier, we had to climb gigantic rocks and thick tree roots. I have climbed a lot of waterfalls in the past but this one is far more magical. Upon arriving at the top of the first tier of Pinipisakan Falls, I could see other smaller cascades in every corner. It was like entering a whole new world.
At some point, we had to climb a tree and in order for us to get to the other side, we had to jump from that tree. We were laughing and giggling like little Tarzans in the jungle!
We continued climbing to the upper levels of Pinipisakan Falls until we finally reached the last tier. Right at the top of the highest tier of this waterfall lies the enormous and dark entrance of Sulpan Cave. I definitely agree with Joni when he said that this cave has the most dramatic entrance among all the other caves in Samar.
It was almost night time when we reached the last tier of Pinipisakan Falls. It was getting darker and we have yet to explore the mysterious world of Sulpan Cave. The water was getting colder as we swam towards the last tier. We had to rappel in order to reach the top. Looking around, it was like being inside the world of Pandora in the movie Avatar. The surroundings were so blue because of the reflection of the water.
Pinipisakan Falls is one of the magnificent waterfalls I have ever encountered. Such beauty and purity at its finest!
I was reminded of this adventure of what I would do to explore the hidden gems of the Philippines. I can never say no when it comes to exploring new places and I have yet to explore a lot of places in Samar. Visiting Pinipisakan Falls ignited a spark in me to get to know my country more and meet more people.
You will never know what’s on the other side if you don’t go ahead.
Also read Part 1 of my Sulpan-Pinipisakan Falls story: Sulpan Cave: The Things I Would Do for an Adventure of a Lifetime
How to get there:
Getting to Pinipisakan Falls and Sulpan Cave requires a professional guide since it is one of the remote destinations in Samar. I highly recommend contacting Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore the Adventures. No one knows better in navigating these areas. With over 18 years of experience and having been trained by top Italian and French speleologists, you can be guaranteed of a highly skilled and experience cave master to guide you in this adventure. You may contact him on these numbers: +63 055 251 2301 ; +63 919 294 3865
You can also reach them through their official Facebook page.
1-Day Pinipisakan Falls Tour – PHP 5,000
Transportation (Bus, habal-habal, and boat)
Food (breakfast and lunch)
Guides and porters
2-Day Pinipisakan Falls and Sulpan Cave Tour – PHP 10,000
Transportation (Bus, habal-habal, and boat)
Complete Gears, caving and camping equipment
Food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
Guides and porters
A minimum of two persons is required to organize the caving and waterfalls trip. Anyone above 8 years old so long as they are physically and mentally fit can do this adventure. In case of bad weather or unfortunate situations, the organizer has the right to cancel or reschedule or for safety reasons.
Please note that the rates stated above are subject to change without prior notice. For updated rates and a detailed itinerary, you can visit trexplore.ph.