4th of July – Pagsanjan Falls

Pagsanjan Falls

Each town has their own claim to fame. That one thing they do better than most places around them. Growing up in Snyder, Texas, our notoriety comes from the 4th of July festivities that brings in many friends, family, and vendors for the multi day celebration. They go all out for our national anniversary and do an amazing job. There is a parade with lots of free candy, and I am sure there are some good floats as well but let's be honest, the candy is why I showed up every year.

Carnival rides and fireworks were staples along with family cookouts. 4th of July was that big event that marked the middle of summer for me; however, this year I did not spend the 4th in Snyder like I usually do. Instead, I was halfway around the globe in the small town of Pagsanjan, Philippines.

While Snyder is known for its 4th of July celebration, Pagsanjan is known for two things that could not be further apart from each other. On one hand it is the child sex trade capital of the Philippines and some would argue the world, on the other it is home to pristine natural beauty such as the Pagsanjan Falls which have been featured in films such as the 1979 Oscar-winning movie "Apocalypse Now".

My day started by navigating the back roads to reach the secluded town of Pagsanjan. In the United States, the roads are clearly marked with arrows pointing towards different towns, landmarks, and tourist attractions. This isn't the case in some areas of the Philippines, but by asking a few of the locals, we were able to reach the city.

Due to the 1,500 foot cliffs on either side of the river, the only way to reach the falls is by canoe. We set out from the backside of a hotel with 2 local men who would take on the responsibility of directing us up the river to the waterfall. They would get out at many points along the way to direct the canoe over and around stones that filled the riverbed. At some spots they effortlessly leapt from stone to stone like monkeys swinging from trees.

Upon reaching the falls, you shift from canoes to bamboo rafts to enter the cave that rests behind the waterfall. Getting to the cave means that you must first pass through the tremendous pressure of the waterfall, but the flow of the water serves as a hard massage rather than a discomfort. The view from inside the cave looks like a scene from postcard or screensaver. It is picturesque and peaceful. The rest of the world seems to be shut off from this one site. The effect of the falls makes you want to stay there forever and just relax, but that was not an option for since we had to start our journey back down the river.

On the way down, you are shooting the rapids at a brisk pace. At points I felt like the canoe was playing bumper bowl with the rocks since we seemed to just glide from one to the next.

Pictures cannot do justice to the journey or the experience that I was able to have in Pagsanjan. It is one of those places that I could visit each and every day and never get tired of seeing it.

Bryan Clifton

Oklahoma City, OK