Shooting the Rapids at Pagsanjan Falls (Pagsanjan and Cavinti, Laguna)

Pagsanjan Falls (see video)

The next day, after breakfast at our apartel, Jessica, Desiree, Ann, Joy, Jandy and I, with our guide Mr. Ramon Cabelo (retired municipal tourism officer), made our way to boat landing at Casa Chiesa for our “shooting the rapids” boat trip to Pagsanjan Falls, the star attraction of Laguna province. The site is under the supervision of the Parks and Wildlife Office of the Bureau of Forest Development.

Waiting for our boat ride at Casa Chiesa. L-R: the author, son Jandy Layug, Ms. Jessica Bez, Ms. Joy Tenedero, Ms. Julie Ann Zafe and Ms. Desiree Benitez

The falls is actually located at the rugged highlands of Brgy. Anglas in Cavinti, 3 miles outside Pagsanjan town, where it is called Magdapio Falls.  However, the only passable route to it is the Bumbungan River of Pagsanjan. Pagsanjan Falls drops water from Cavinti River which is crossed by the overflow spillway on the road going to Lumot.  Facing upstream, the left bank of the river belongs to Lumban and the right bank belongs to Cavinti.

The legend of Pagsanjan Falls:

According to legend, there was only the river and no falls.  There were two brothers, Balubad and Magadapio, who lived by the river.  One day, the river dried up, the land dried up and plants and trees died.  Balubad, the weaker of the two brothers, eventually died.  He was buried near the mouth of the lake at the foot of the mountain (now called Balubad).  In his thirst, Magdapio went up the gorge with his bamboo stick to survey the area.  Finding it dry, he cried out in anger, hurling the stick at the rocks.  Water soon gushed from where the stick struck the ground and soon flowed in a torrent forming the falls. Magdapio fell on his knees and thanked the Lord.  He drank the cool waters and regained his strength.

The first written account of a trip to the falls was written by American trader Joseph E. Stevens from Boston who made the trip on March 22, 1894, Holy Thursday.

The boat landing

We decided to “shoot the rapids” early morning to avoid the rush of excursionists from Manila. The boat ride fee comes up PhP1,250 per passenger (includes personal injury insurance, hospitalization insurance, expenses for the helmet, life jacket, seat cushion, and a Cavinti entrance fee of P250 which entails a bamboo raft ride), with a maximum of three passengers per boat.

All suited up and raring to go

We were all required to wear life vests and a sports helmet or hard hat as the boat sometimes moves close to big rocks which your head might hit.  Also, falling objects, such as small stones, may fall down from atop the gorge.  Our boats were provided with seat cushions for our seating comfort. The boat had no outrigger so getting into our boat required balance.

On our way ……

Joy, Jessica and Ann rode on the first boat, with bankeros (boatmen) Russel Abary and Jeffrey Leron, while Jandy, Desiree and I rode the second with Antolin Penaloza and Roderick Equiz.  The four were among 1,974 registered bankeros in the town.  To be certified, every boatman must undergo rigorous training of at least one month. Our boatman already had 20 years experience behind him.

Picnic huts along the riverbank near first rapids

Our rather slow river journey upstream to the falls started from Brgy. Pinagsanjan, near Magdapio Bridge. Our long fiberglass bancas were initially towed by a motorized banca to the first set of rapids.

The rapids of the Bumbungan River

Our journey upstream was to last more than an hour. Our two boatmen had to paddle against the current to push the boat or use their feet to kick the rocks and propel the boat.  We were constantly reminded to keep you hands inside the boat as you could easily lose a finger here.

Negotiating the rapids (see video)

At places where the rocks were too many and the water too shallow, our boat slid over steel pipes placed at proper intervals.  Along the way, we made a stopover at Talahib Falls in Sitio Talahib, Brgy. Caliraya (Lumban), about 900 m. downstream of Pagsanjan Falls, to admire its natural beauty.

Our journey made easier by steel pipes

Talahib Falls is also called First Falls while the Pagsanjan Falls is called Main Falls. Before reaching the gorge and Pagsanjan Falls, our boatmen had to to negotiate the extremely deep waters of a broad bend or curve of a river locally called Kawa-Kawa.

The legend of Kawa-Kawa:

According to legend, the muddy bottom of Kawa-Kawa contains a giant bell whose thunderous peals frightened little children and pregnant women many years ago.

Talahib Falls

The author and son Jandy

The deep, magnificent gorge, hemmed by rocky cliffs 300 foot high, has lush tropical vegetation of vines, wild orchids and ferns. Its huge, natural swimming pool is clean, deep and very cold.  The impressive 91-m. high falls is actually a series of five falls, one after the other in magnificent gradation.  Two of them are close to each other and the last of the quintet is at the base.

On board our bamboo raft at Pagsanjan Falls

Behind the falls is the dark and mysterious Devil’s Cave or “Cave of the Demons” (so named because of the opening’s devil-like face profile).  To get behind the falls, we all boarded a bamboo raft were raftsmen pulled on a series of ropes laid across the lagoon. Once at the far end, we had a glimpse of another cascade on top of the Main Falls. Another rope guided the raft behind and underneath the falls to the Devil’s Cave.

Inside Devil’s Cave

The 5-km./2-hour “shooting the rapids,” the climax of the visit, is the actually the thrilling downstream return trip.  Our boat wound through boulders as we passe the 14 relatively safe but roaring rapids of the Bumbungan River.

The bankeros skillfully maneuvered our boats between rocks, alternately using their paddle or their feet. After the last set of rapids, our bancas  now joined a convoy towed by a motorized banca back to the Casa Chiesa boat landing.

Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Pagsanjan, Laguna)

Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

This church was first built in bamboo, wood and nipa by Father Agustin de la Magdalena in 1687 using forced labor. In 1690, it was replaced by a larger and more solid adobe church with a red-tiled roof with the help of Chinese Miguel Guan-Co and Aguacil Mayor Alfonso Garcia.  From 1847 to 1853, it was improved by Father Joaquin de Coria, who engineered the stone belfry and Romanesque dome. and its transept added in 1872 by Fathers Serafin Linares and Cipriano Bac.

PHC Plaque

On March 15, 1945, during World War II, the church was heavily damaged by American bombing.  After the war, it was reconstructed, without the original dome, with the help of Pagsanjenos from Manila under the leadership of Engr. German Yia and Dr. Rosendo Llamas. In 1965, it was again restored under Lipa Archbishop Alejandro Olalia and, on April 6, 1969, Bishop Pedro Bantigue blessed the rebuilt church and consecrated the main altar.

Plaque with Decree of Erection as a Diocesan Shrine

In 2012, the church was declared as the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe by the Diocese of San Pablo. From 2013 to the present, further renovations were carried out, including the church patio and construction of the choir loft and church gate.

Author’s notes:     

The church’s three-level Early Renaissance facade has a semicircular arched main entrance with portico flanked by square pilasters and semicircular arched windows at the first level; a row of three semicircular arched choir loft windows at the second level; and a triangular pediment with semicircular arched statued niche at the tympanum flanked by rounded Tuscan columns and crowned by a triangular canopy (above which is an oculus).  On its left is a three-storey, square bell tower with open semicircular arched openings and topped with a dome.

The church interior

The church houses the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The original image, a gift from Mexico, was stored in the main altar on December 12, 1688 but was destroyed during the American bombing.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1958, Mexican Catholics donated a life-size image of the Virgin made by Ramon Barreto, a noted sculptor from Toluca.  Another image, sculpted by prominent Manila sculptor Maximo Vicente, is housed on the main altar.

Capilla del Tilma de Guadalupe

The Capilla del Tilma de Guadalupe, a side chapel near the altar, houses an image of San Juan Diego, a replica of the tilma of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and a stone relic from Tepeyac HillMexico City, the site of the 1531 apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The chapel also has a mini-museum containing liturgical vestments of Pagsanjeño priests.

Liturgical vestments of Pagsanjeño priests

Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe: National Highway, Pagsanjan, Laguna. Tel: (049) 808-4121.  Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: December 12.

How to Get There: Pagsanjan is located 102 kms. from Manila and six kms. from Santa Cruz.

Arch of Guadalupe (Pagsanjan, Laguna)

Arch of Guadalupe: western facade

The Arch of Guadalupe, also called Arco Real or Puerto Real, is the imposing town gate.   To express gratitude to their patroness, the Our Lady of Guadalupe, from protecting the town from bandits in 1877, the people of Pagsanjan built this arch, through forced labor or polo y servicio, from 1878 to 1880 under the supervision of Franciscan Fr. Cipriano Bas and Don Manuel de Yriarte.

Eastern facade

With permission from the National Historic Institute (now National Historical Commission of the Philippines), the arch was restored under the supervision of Engr. Tito Rivera and was completed on May 25, 1975.

The word “Pagsanjan” with “1878-1880” below it. Above it are two Castillan lions and the royal coat-of-arms of Spain

Made with adobe stone, lime and carabao milk, it has three Roman arches, the taller central arch flanked by paired (single at the ends) Tuscan pilasters (on the western facade only), and is topped by two Castillan lions guarding Spain’s royal coat-of-arms (or escutcheon). The word “Pagsanjan” and “1878–1880,” the years of its construction, are written below it on the upper part of the gate’s western facade.

PHC PLaque

Arch of Guadalupe: National Highway, Pagsanjan, Laguna

How to Get There: the arch is located along the National Highway to Sta. Cruz, at the western entrance of the town, leading to Rizal Street (formerly Calle Real).

Church of St. John the Baptist (Calamba City, Laguna)

Church of St. John the Baptist

The Church of St. John the Baptist was originally built in 1859.  Its original altar (as well as original baptismal records and canonical books) was burned on September 28, 1862  but was immediately rebuilt by Fr. Leoncio Lopez.

The author with son Jandy

On February 12, 1945, during World War II, the church was burned by the Japanese. After the war, it was rebuilt by Fr. Eliseo Dimaculangan.

The 3-level Baroque facade

Author’s notes:

The 3-level Baroque façade has a semicircular arched main entrance flanked by fluted pilasters, semicircular arched stain glass windows (St. Dominic and St. Lorenzo Ruiz) and twin, 4-storey (square in the first two storeys and hexagonal for the upper two) bell towers topped by a dome. The choir loft level has a small circular, stained glass window while the broken pediment’s raking cornice has undulating lines.

The church interior

The retablo and main altar

Jose Rizal was baptized at its baptistery on June 22, 1861 by Fr. Rufino Collantes and his godfather Fr. Pedro Casanas.

The baptismal font

The original baptismal font, recognized as a National Historical Landmark (Level 1), including original church items and reliquaries during Rizal’s time, have been preserved and refurbished.

PHC Plaque

Displayed on the left side of the baptistery entrance is a transcript of Rizal’s existing baptismal record issued by Fr. Leoncio Lopez.

Transcript of Rizal’s existing baptismal record

At the right side of the church, facing the entrance, is the Garden of Gethsemane, a small garden with sculpted, life-size images of the Stations of the Cross and a Well of Repentance (Balon ng Pagbabalik Loob).

Garden of Gethsemane

Church of St. John the Baptist: J.P. Rizal cor. Mercado St., ‎ Poblacion 5. Tel: (049) 545-1565.  Feast of St. John the Baptist: June 24.

How to Get There: Calamba City is located 53.3 kms. (a 1.25-hour drive) from Manila and 46.5 kms. (a 1-hour drive) from Santa Cruz. The church is located across the plaza and adjacent to Rizal Shrine.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar (Imus City, Cavite)

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar was started by Fr. Nicolás Becerra (parish priest from 1821 to 1840) in 1825 using forced labor, the cathedral, belfry and the convent took more half a century to finish. On April 29, 1962, when Imus Diocese was erected, the convent became the bishop’s residence.

NHI Plaque

On November 13, 2006, the cathedral was designated as a Marked Structure (of Historical Significance) by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

The cathedral’s Baroque facade

This 18th century church, located at the boundary of Bayan Luma and Bucandala, has three naves.  The cathedral is 61 m. (200 ft.) long, 40 m. (130 ft.) wide, 30 m. (100 ft.) high and has 27 m. (90 ft.) wide nave.

The 3-storey bell tower

Its imposing, two-level stone and brick Baroque facade, with its dark and subdued colors, has a segmental arch main entrance flanked by rectangular and semicircular arch windows and superpositioned flat columns in pairs. The pediment, with its statued niche, flows down into scrolls. Latin inscriptions accentuate the arches.

The cathedral interior

The three-storey square bell tower, on the church’s right, is topped by a dome. Inside are tall stained glass windows and a unique rendition of the Stations of the Cross using wooden carvings showing the hands of Christ.

The altar retablo

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar: Gen. Castaneda St., Brgy. IV-A, Imus City, Cavite. Tel: (046) 471-4839. Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar: October 12.

How to Get There: Imus City is located 44.7 kms. (a 1.5-hr. drive) from Manila and 24 kms. (a 45-min. drive) from Trece Martires City.

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Dasmarinas City, Cavite)

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception was the site of a bloody battle where Spanish troops defeated Filipino troops led by Captain Placido Campos and Francisco Barzaga on February 25, 1897.  On December 17, 1944, during the Japanese occupation in World War II, many of the town’s residents were imprisoned here and 17 were executed and buried in a common grave.

NHI Plaque

During the Spanish era, the convent was once the seat of the civil government.  In 1986, it was designated as a Marked Historical Structure by the National Historical Institute.

The church’s Neo-Classical facade

The present church has a three-storey Neo-Classical facade with a portico covering the semicircular arched main entrance door of the church. The upper levels, flanked by flat pilasters, have semicircular arched windows, of various sizes, and a projecting statued niche.  The triangular pediment has a small circular window.  The church is 55 meters (180 feet) long, 24 meters (80 feet) wide and has a 16 meter (52 feet) wide nave.

One of the 4-storey bell towers

The façade is flanked on both sides by four-storey (the first two square and the upper two octagonal) bell towers with two old bells. The small bell has the inscription “Perez Dasmariñas año 1867 approx. 14 libras.

The church interior

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception: P. Campos Avenue. Tel: (046) 416 1295  and (046) 416-0797.  Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception: December 8.

How to Get There: Dasmariñas City is located 50.1 kilometers (a 1.5-hour drive) from Manila and 11.6 kilometers (a 30-minute drive) from Trece Martires City.

Church of St. Gregory the Great (Indang, Cavite)

Church of St. Gregory the Great

A huge part of this stone church, started during the term of Fr. Luis Morales (1672 to 1676), was finished on 1710. In 1869, its roof was replaced with galvanized iron (one of the first churches in Cavite to use such). During the Philippine revolution, the church was burned but it was restored under the auspices of Msgr. Mauro de Leon in 1953 and Fr. Cornelio Matanguihan in 1987.

Author’s Notes:

Its 3-level Baroque façade has a semicircular arched main entrance with portico, above which is a semicircular arched window with balustrade.  Both are flanked by semicircular arched statued niches, single superpositioned Tuscan columns and massive piers topped by urn-like finials. The triangular pediment has a semicircular arched statued niche at the tympanum.

The church’s Baroque-style facade

The 3-storey, octagonal bell tower, on the church’s left, has semicircular arched window openings with balustrades and is topped by a pointed roof.

The 3-storey bell tower

Inside are elegantly carved doors, impressive carvings on the choir loft balcony and elegant and impressive rose-colored trompe l’oil paintings (done during the 18th century) on its ceiling. The walls and pillars of the church also have several commemorative gravestones.

The church’s interior

The retablo has three levels of niches for images of saints, with the central niche reserved for the image of St. Gregory the Great, the town’s patron.

The main altar and retablo

At the right side of the altar is a painting of St. Michael and the Archangels. The church pulpit has the Jesuit monogram surmounted by the image of the Christ child, a sign of its being a parish under the Jesuits before the suppression of 1768.


The adjacent old convent has wide windows and wrought iron work along the sides.

Left side retablo

Right side retablo

Church of St. Gregory the Great: Brgy. Tres, Indang 4122, Cavite. Tel: (046) 415-0211. Feast of St. Gregory the Great: Second Sunday of May.

How to Get There: Indang is located 66 kms. from Manila, 12 kms. from Trece Martires City and 8.9 kms. from Mendez.

Bonifacio Trial Museum (Maragondon, Cavite)

This two-storey bahay-na-bato (stone house) was the site where Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were court martialed by a military court presided by Gen. Mariano Noriel from May 5 to 6, 1897. The court  found the two accused guilty of treason and recommended execution.

Bonifacio Trial Museum

Built by Teodorico Reyes in 1889, this house was formerly known as the Roderico Reyes House (which was the name of the former owner). The house now belongs to Mr. Jose Angeles.  In 1999, it was fully restored and declared as a National Heritage Site. Today, this stone, brick and wood ancestral house has been converted into a museum called the Museo ng Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio or Bonifacio Trial Museum. It was formally inaugurated on November 28, 2014.

The house has capiz sliding windows, ventanillas and calado woodwork on the eaves

The museum has five galleries.  Gallery 1 (Maypagasa) provides a short background on Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan; Gallery 2 (Pagsalubong) focuses on the conflict between the two Katipunan factions in Cavite, the Magdalo and Magdiwang; Gallery 3 (Pagdakip) narrates the events leading to Bonifacio’s arrest; Gallery 4 (Ang Paglilitis) re-enacts the Bonifacio brothers’ court martial through a light and sound presentation; and Gallery 5 (Kadakilaan) recounts the anguish of Bonifacio’s widow, Gregoria de Jesus, in learning of her husband’s death.

National Historical Institute (NHI) Plaque

The museum also has an audio-visual corner offering a brief documentary about the trial and death of Andres Bonifacio and an e-learning room for online lessons on the history of the Philippines. The shrine is administered and managed the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (formerly the National Historical Institute).

Philippine Historical Committee (PHC) Plaque

Bonifacio Trial Museum: Col. Crisostomo Riel St., Brgy. Poblacion 1-A, Maragondon, Cavite. Mobile number: (0917) 553-7375 (Mr. Melanio Guevarra – museum curator). E-mail: Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8 AM – 5 PM. Admission is free.

Church of the Assumption of Our Lady (Maragondon, Cavite)

Church of the Assumption of Our Lady

The best preserved church complex in the province, the Church of the Assumption of our Lady was first built in 1618 by the Jesuits, established as a parish church in 1627 and enlarged from 1630-1633. In 1649, during the Spanish-Dutch War, the church was destroyed for fear of becoming a Dutch fort.

Massive buttresses at the side of the church

In 1650, the church was rebuilt by the Jesuits using wood. The renovation of the church, from wood to stone, was completed in 1714. On June 30, 2001, the church was listed by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure.

NHI Plaque

Much of the church’s unique, narrow but tall and not squatty façade (chastely ornamented with the pilasters tapering upwards), the lower portion of large convent and the old watchtower were built with irregular river stones from the Maragondon River (Pinagsanhan area), an indication of the early level of technology at that time, and layered with stucco.

The church’s facade

The ornate interior

The church’s ornate interior has intricately-carved, brightly polychromed retablos.  The main retablo is decorated with salomonica columns, foliage and angels with trumpets.

The main (at center) an two side retablos

It has an image of the Assumption of Mary in the main niche flanked by images of San Luis Gonzaga (Saint Aloysius Gonzaga) and a balding and somewhat rotund San Ignacio. The side retablos have lost their original statuary, with newer ones replacing those that had been lost.

The octagonal pulpit

At the right side of the nave  is a octagonal pulpit, also polychromed in red, blue, gold and green, with monograms of the names of Jesus and Mary decorating the panels whose borders are flanked by Salomonica columns. The bottom of the pulpit is decorated with swirling foliage that ends up in an inverted pineapple. Augustinian Recollects installed the unusual horseshoe-shaped communion rail with inlaid wood flooring of various colors.

Carved galleon at door

The ornate, antique door, leading from sanctuary to sacristy, is divided into boxes and has intricately carved galleons, castle turrets and sinuous flora of different shapes.

Carved sinuous flora

The huge, exposed main roof beams that crosses the nave, added by Secular priests,  are emblazoned with Biblical and commemorative captions. Over the nave are phrases in praise of Mary while those above the choir refer to singing as praise.

Exposed wooden roof beams

The quadrilateral, 5-storey bell tower, on the church’s left, has no clear divisions between the stories. It tapers upwards, ending with finials at the four corners, and is topped by a rounded roof.

The 5-storey bell tower

Near the church’s main entrance is a cross, dated 1712. The convent, built from 1666-1672, was where Bonifacio and his brother were imprisoned prior to their execution.  Bonifacio’s cell is now a pre-school classroom.  The older part of the convent, with its elegant staircase of stone and tile, is made of rubble while the newer part is cut stone brick.  A newer sacristy was added. The quadrangle formed by the church and convent is surrounded by the remains of an old defensive wall and a blockhouse.

The convent where the Bonifacio brothers were imprisoned

Church of the Assumption of Our Lady: Brgy. Poblacion 1-A, Maragonon, Cavite.  Tel: (046) 412-0784. Feast o the Assumption of Our Lady: August 14-15.

How to Get There: Maragondon is located 54 kms. from Manila and 25 kms. (a 40-min. drive) from Trece Martires City

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Naic, Cavite)

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was first constructed in the 1800s with wood and cogon grass. Six years after its initial construction, a kopa, a pair of cruets and ornamentation was added. In 1835, the construction of a new stone church was started by Don Pedro Florentino. Its bell tower was completed in 1892.

The church convent

After the Tejeros Convention of March 22, 1897, the the church convent was used as the headquarters of Andres Bonifacio and the Naic Conference was held there. In this conference, the old Tagalog letter of the flag was replaced by the “Sun of Liberty,” with two eyes, a nose and a mouth and its symbolic eight rays.

The church interior

Before World War II, the church was one of the tallest (about 5 storeys high) and the longest (almost 10 blocks long) churches in Cavite. In width, it was second to the Imus Cathedral. On November 17, 1996, it was made into a Diocesan Shrine.

The church’s Neo-Gothic facade

Author’s notes:

The church’s three-level Neo-Gothic façade, the only one of its kind in Cavite, has a pointed, lancet-like arched main entrance flanked by square pilasters and similarly pointed arched windows.

The 4-storey bell tower

The second level has three pointed arched windows while the triangular pediment, with inverted traceries below the eaves, has a circular window at the tympanum.  The central pilasters rise up to the pediment and end up in pinnacles, dividing the façade into 3 vertical sections. The sides of the church are reinforced by thick buttresses.

The thick buttresses

The 4-storey, square bell tower, on the church’s left, has alternating circular and pointed arched windows and is topped by a pyramidal roof.

The main altar

Its interior has 3 major and 2 minor Gothic-style altars with the Very Venerated Image of the Immaculate Concepcion, Patron Lady of Naic, in the main altar.

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Capt. Ciriaco Nazareno St., Poblacion, Naic 4110, Cavite. Tel: (046) 412-0456. Feast of the Immaculate Conception: December 8.

How to Get There: Naic is located 47 kms. from Manila, 13.3 kms. from Trece Martires City, 12.9 kms. from Maragondon and 12.8 kms. from Tanza.