Pagsanjan Falls, Laguna Province

Some sixty kilometers south-east from Manila as the crow flies or about 100 kilometers if you are confined to terrestrial transport lies the town of Pagsanjan. Pagsanjan has long been a favored destination of both local and foreign tourists alike. The town calls itself the "tourist capital of Laguna province" and it is a well-deserved title. There is much to see and it is all well organized.

Pagsanjan Falls
Pagsanjan is named as the tourist capital of Laguna and one of the popular world class tourist destination of the Philippines because of its natural wonders and enchanted scenic views. The main tourist attraction in Pagsanjan is the Pagsanjan Falls. The ‘bangkeros’ are tour guides that steer the tourists’ bancas, they are called the boatmen who shoot the rapids all the way to the world-famous Pagsanjan Falls.

Pagsanjan is most famous for its falls. The town itself dates from early Spanish times and lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Balanac and the Bumbungan. Indeed legend has it that the name of the town derives from the Tagalog word "Pinagsangahan" meaning 'juncture.'

Founded in 1578 by a Spanish Franciscan friar, the town quickly became a center for local trade because of its strategic location. In 1668 the Governor of the Philippines formalized the status of "town" and the newly created parish chose Mexico's Our Lady of Guadeloupe as the town's patroness. It must be remembered that Governance of the Philippines by Spain was indirect and in fact the local Spanish authorities reported to Mexico which was the principal trade route to Europe at that time.

As a commercial center - from 1688 until 1858, Pagsanjan was the capital of Laguna province - Pagsanjan prospered and that long period of prosperity remains in evidence wherever one looks in this town. The town gate, Puerta Real, at the western entrance to the town was constructed originally in the period 1878 - 1880 and was restored in the mid nineteen-seventies. Within the town itself are many fine examples of colonial architecture - from private houses to magnificent churches.

In 1975, Pagsanjan was thrust into the limelight when it was chosen as the location for much of the filming of Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now." Since that time the town has enjoyed something of a renaissance.

The lower part of the river is slow and meandering with homes and palms crowding the banks. It doesn't take long before the river valley turns into a deep gorge, with a rainforest canopy, and the quiet waters become cascading rapids. The paddlers often jump out of the boat to manhandle it between boulders while dodging other canoes on their way down. This provides almost as much entertainment as the iridescent birds and butterflies flitting overhead. After a couple of hours, a dead-end box canyon is reached where Pagsanjan Falls tumbles over. Here you can take a raft-ferry across the plunge pool to the base of the falls.
Pagsanjan Falls, Laguna Province.
There is the stark natural beauty of the Pagsanjan River, the spectacular "Pagsanjan Falls" with the beautiful gorge, and the thrill and excitement of "Shooting the rapids", the centuries-old Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church, ancestral houses, traditional fine arts, music, customs and even fine cuisine.

Indeed it is the Falls and the journey taken to reach them - the boat ride along the Pagsanjan River and shooting the rapids along the journey - that provide the main attraction to visitors. While popularly known as the Pagsanjan Falls, locally they are "Magdapio Falls since their actual location is not in Pagsanjan at all but in the adjacent town of Cavinti.

A ride to the falls is the highlight of any trip to the town. Most hotels along the river provide both secure parking and experienced boatmen equipped for the journey. Each boat consists of two boatmen and (usually) two passengers. Unlike in other areas where haggling is the norm, prices are fixed and posted all over town. You must also have a lifevest - and if you do not bring one then that is an extra charge and a cushion for the boat is an optional extra that is worth the few extra pesos. You will be in the boat for much of the day!

The standard rate was P580 per person for a two-passenger banca or P1080 for a single passenger banca. For the lifevest add P50 and the cushion will cost you a further P30.

The journey begins along the tranquil headwaters of the river that skirts the town but the pace soon quickens as you leave behind the houses and farms to "shoot the rapids." The river quickens as it passes through magnificent scenery that combines tropical gorges with rainforest and river wildlife. The journey itself takes between two to three hours and watching the dexterity of the boatmen as they navigate the boulders as well as the other boats is entertainment in itself.

Eventually the river comes to an abrupt end in the form of a horseshoe canyon with the waters tumbling 300 feet at one end. Here you can rest for a while and swim in the pool at the base of the falls.

The boatmen usually only manage one trip a day and so you are free to linger. The trip back to Pagsanjan, in which you are traveling with the river, takes only half the time.

You can do the whole journey to and from Manila with a trip to the falls within a single day but if you have the time it is well worth it to stay over and take the time to savor the other joys of the town. Hotels are clean and comfortable and moderately priced and there are a number of fine restaurants from which to choose and which offer a combination of Filipino and Spanish food as well as international dishes. Since the town can receive up to 1,000 visitors a day during summer months, if you plan to stay it is wise to book ahead.

It is interesting to note how the boatmen can manuever through narrow crevices between rocks. They know where every rock is located with uncanny precision. It is also admirable how they can push the boat with its passenger load through these crevices. All these reveal the wealth of its glorious and well-preserved past, an extraordinary culture of tourism, with lots of sun, fresh air and warm, friendly people. The Pagsanjan experience gives the tourist an opportunity to feel the rythms of the country without venturing too far from Manila. Pagsanjan, the tourist capital of the province of Laguna and one of the premiere world-class tourist destinations in the Philippines, is gifted with natural wonders and scenic views!

Travelling to Pagsanjan

You can join a guided tour but it is probably just as easy to travel by private car or you can hire a car with driver for around P1500 per day.

From Manila, head south along the Southern Expressway past Alabang and to the Calambra Exit. From there follow the National Highway along the Laguna de Bay passing through the towns of San Pedro and Los Baños. The road is picturesque and depending on the time of year it may be worth stopping at one or more of the roadside flower shops to be found along the way.

Fiestas and Festivals

The town is geared for carnivals and the carnivals are geared for the tourists. March is the season for Pagsanjan's Bankero Festival while in May (ahead of the rainy season) there is Fiesta De San Isidoro (Feast of San Isidoro), the Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) and the Santacruzen (Search for the Cross). On December 12 the whole town comes together for the town fiesta which honors the Feast of our Lady of Guadeloupe.

Pagsanjan Bangkero Festival

The "PAGSANJAN BANGKERO FESTIVAL", which is annually held in the month of April, is fast becoming popular with its colorful and impressive line-up of events on land and on the river. These include a vibrant variety of competitions like the traditional boat race (regatta), marathon, land and fluvial float parades bundled with street dancing, ddrum and lyre band competitions, trade fairs, cookfest, concert, sports events and triathlon olympics, "Palarong Bangkero", Cultural Night with the Festival of Folk Dances", the annual search for "Ginoong Bangkero" and "Lakan at Binibining Pagsanjan" and other sporting and special events to spice up the celebration

The five-day celebration is inspired by Pagsanjan beloved and miraculous Patroness Our Lady of Guadalupe and dedicated to all the "Bangkeros" of Pagsanjan. "Bangkero" is the tagalog word for the desterous and skilled "Boatman". They are the natural navigators and tour guides who expertly paddle, and bodily lift a "banca" or "canoe" upstream against the strong current between the gorge and canyon walls, and then maneuver downstream through the rapids and rocks at breathtaking speed; which makes it truly an exciting two-hour boatride experience of a lifetime, beginning from either the Bumbungan River or the Balanac River going towards the magnificent and globally famous Pagsanjan Falls.

Sikada Cultural Dance Troupe of Pagsanjan (Sining Katutubo Dance Assembly)

Sikada is the Official Cultural Dance Troupe of the Municipality of Pagsanjan, Laguna, Philippines. This dance group, which is composed of young performers all from Pagsanjan, was founded by Hon. Mayor Jeorge (E.R.) Ejercito Estregan on January 29, 2002 as cultural awareness outrearch program for today's new generation. It was formally organized to preserve Filipino tradition and share to everyone its rich cultural heritage through the language of dance and song and by playing musical instruments.

Tourist Guide To Pagsanjan

The tourist's guide to Pagsanjan serves as a handy reference for every tourist who needs and wants to know what to do, where to go, sleep, stay and shop; and also what to see, eat and buy in Pagsanjan. With the quality and updated information it offers, it is truly an indespensable tool to anybody who wishes to explore the beauty of our town. The map of "Shooting the rapids" going to the majestic "Pagsanjan Falls" is a first in our town by which we extend a welcoming hand and greeting to our lovely and beautiful town.

With the dexterity and skill of boatmen who have spent their whole lives on the river, a navigator and a pilot will safely guide your "banca" on an exciting two-hour journey. At times, you will be skimming through the gorge with walls of rock mass formations and vines that rise up over a hundred meters. There will also be times when you will be be tossed and twisted through the rapids as you speed downstream to the two towering waterfalls. Depending on the water's height, there are a total of 12 to 16 rapids altogether. Upon reaching the last major waterfalls, you can transfer from the "banca" to a "balsa" or "bamboo raft" that will take you through the cascading water to a hidden cave (which looks like the profile of a devil) formed by the walls of the gorge.

Pagsanjan Falls Day Tour Package

Since the boat ride going to the big falls commences at the municipality of Pagsanjan, visitors conveniently call it as Pagsanjan Falls. The boat ride consists of a 17 kilometer trip in a banca (local canoe), shooting 16 rapids, and passing through gorges over a hundred feet high, all the while guided by two banceros strategically placed at each end of the banca.
For further details:
Pagsanjan Falls Day Tour Package
Le Gran Condominium, 45 Eisenhower St., Greenhills, San Juan City, Philippines
Email address: trip...@gmail.com
Landline: (+632) 392-2006
Cellphone: (+63)9179037672

Essential Contact Info Visiting Pagsanjan, Laguna Province:

  • Goverment and Related Services:
    • Municipal Governent of Pagsanjan
      The Tourist Capital of Laguna, Philippines

      Phone: (0063-49) 808-4057
      Fax: (0063-49) 8085143
    • Office of the Mayor: (049) 808-4057 / 821-7950
    • Tourism, Culture & the Arts Dev't Office: (049) 808-3544
    • Pagsanjan Police Station: (049) 808-4054 / 821-0422
    • Pagsanjan Fire Station: (049) 808-4520
    • Pagsanjan Municipal Health Office: (049) 808-3183
    • Pagsanjan Medical Clinic, Inc.: (049) 808-4228
    • Christian General Hospital: (049) 808-4051
    • Dr. Guillermo Chin Medical Clinic: (049) 808-4812
    • Pagsanjan Water District (PAGWAD): (049) 808-4321 / 808-4298
    • First Laguna Electric Co. (FLECO): (049) 808-4478
    • Government Service Insurance System (GSIS): (049) 808-1211
    • Our Lady of Guadalupe Shell Station: (049) 808-3004 / 821-0038
    • A. H. Castro Caltex Staton: (049) 808-3835
    • Petron Rapids Service Center: (049) 808-2363
    • R. O. Shell Gasoline Station: (049) 808-4135
    • Rural Bank of Pagsanjan: (049) 808-4342 / 808-4213
    • Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.: (049) 808-0088 / 808-0192
    • Areza Commercial Complex: (049) 821-0613 / 808-4213
    • BINGO Pagsanjan: (049) 808-5345
    • Centerpoint Home Depot; (049) 821-0655
    • Mercury Drug: (049) 808-5122 / 808-512
  • Hotels / Resorts / Lodging Houses / Inns
    • Pagsanjan Rapids Hotel: (049) 808-4258 / 808-4180
    • La Corona de Pagsanjan Resort Hotel: (049) 808-1753 / 808-1793
    • Pagsanjan Falls Lodge & Summer Resort: (049) 808-4251 / 808-4209
    • Pagsanjan Garden Resort: (049) 808-4451
    • Tropical Inn & Restaurant: (049) 501-4841 / 501-5677
    • Pagsanjan Paradise Resort: (049) 808-5494 / 808-5493
    • La Vista Pagsanjan Resort & Landing Area: (049) 808-1229
    • Magdapio Hotel & Restaurant: (049) 808-4128
    • Kamalig Food & Boatride: (049) 808-4954
    • Camino Real Lodging House: (049) 821-0051
    • Bonanza Landing Area & Restaurant: (049) 821-0409
    • Yokohama Hotel: (049) 808-6463
    • 818 Lodging House: (049) 808-4778
    • Fresh & Green Lodging Inn: (049) 808-4498 / 821-0051
    • Wendy's Resort: (049) 821-0283
    • Villa Elmz Private Orchard & Garden Resort: (049) 808-1442
    • Residencia del Rio: (049) 821-0066
    • Pagsanjan Palm Resort: (049) 821-0084
    • Montevel Resort & Restaurant: (049) 808-6403
    • Riverbend Christian Fellowship Center: (049) 500-6183
  • Restaurants / Food Stores / Pasalubong Stalls
    • JOLLIBEE: (049) 808-6681
    • CALLE ARCO Restaurant: (049) 808-4584
    • Andok's: (049) 808-9228
    • BINALOT SA DAHON Bar & Restaurant: (049) 821-0227
    • Pansitan sa PLAZA Restaurant: (049) 808-4673
    • DURA·FE Restaurant: (049) 808-4256
    • Aling Taleng's HALO-HALO Since 1933: (049) 821-0416
    • HANA Japanese Restaurant: (049) 808-4553
    • YELLOWBELL Deco's Bar Grill & Restaurant: (049) 808-6107
    • Barrio Ihaw-Ihaw Restaurant & Videoke: (049) 821-0404
    • Hidden Garden Restaurant: (049) 821-0027
    • NINGNING'S Fastfood Bulalohan: (049) 808-5411
    • Emma's Kakanin: (049) 808-6403
    • Step-Rite: (049) 808-4176
    • 7-11: (049) 821-0832
  • Calling to and From Pagsanjan, Laguna
    • To Pagsanjan, Laguna (Domestic Local Call): Dial 0 + 49 + Local Number (Access Code + Area Code + Local Number)
    • To Pagsanjan, Laguna (International Call): Dial 63 + 49 + Local Number (Country Code + Area Code + Local Number), Dial 0 + 2 + Local Number (Access Code + Manila Area Code + Tel. No.)
    • From Pagsanjan, Laguna (International Call): Dial Access Code (00 - PLDT) + Country Code + Area Code + Telephone Number
    • For Operator - Assisted Calls: Dial 109 - National / Domestic Dial 108 - International

Useful Links:
Official website of the Municipality of Pagsanjan the tourist capital of Laguna: http://www.pagsanjan.gov.ph/
Official website of the Provincial Government of Laguna: http://www.laguna.gov.ph/
Pagsanjan Falls Day Tour Package: Website: http://pagsanjantour.blogspot.com/
Pagsanjan Community Website: http://www.pagsanjan.org/
Pagsanjan Club International, Inc.: http://www.pagsanjanclubinternational.org/