I had three main goals in coming back to Sagada and of them was to go to Pongas Falls, one of the newest discoveries by the Saggas. Since I’ve been to the Big Falls already and was a little bit disappointed with it last year, I made it a point that we get to see this latest addition to the Sagada wonders. When we went there, the site has only been opened for three months.
The road leading to Pongas Falls is at the other side of Sagada opposite the Big Falls. The rate for hiring a guide is also the same at P600 for a maximum number of 10 people in a group, while the standard vehicle hire rate is at P550. Hiring a jeep going there and back is imperative as the place is a bit far, like maybe 30-45 minutes away. But you’ll get to have a great view of different rice terraces on the way so it’s all good.
We were actually supposed to go to Bomod-Ok Falls that day but there were some screw ups with the guides and everything which I will expound on next time. But if it weren’t for that mix-up, we wouldn’t have the chance to experience a buwis-buhay… wait for it… night trek on the mountains from Pongas!
During ordinary days where tourists would come earlier in the day, it would usually be a 1km trek to the village and another kilometer hiking by the river, said our guide. However, since we arrived late in the afternoon due to some change in plans, our route was to go through side of the mountains instead of hiking up the river, which made me a little disappointed because it would’ve been a pretty cool experience.
Our guide shared that Ankileng is the warmest place in Sagada and it’s the only place where you will find coconut trees growing. Share ko lang din.
After a good hour of walking through rice paddies and lush vegetation, we arrived at the village of Ankileng. I noticed that on the way, our guide would stop and talk to some villagers which sort of annoyed me because we are already pressed with time and don’t wanna miss out on the falls because of the darkness if we get there late. But then I realized later on that the reason he was chatting with the locals is because he was asking to borrow some headlights, already anticipating that we might have to come down the mountains in pitch darkness.
After passing by the village and acquiring 6 headlights, it was a muddy and slippery slope through the mountains. We just barely survived the Cave Connection the previous day and a surprise strenuous climb at the Echo Valley that morning, now we are pushing our leg muscles to the limit by climbing again!
Our guide noticed all of us grasping for air so he shared another good tip about breathing properly during a hike. Breathe in through the nose, breathe out through your mouth. Or was it the other way around? Wahahaha. Regardless, focusing on our breathing helped us take off our minds from the challenging climb and we soon found our way inching closer to the falls.
After a couple of hours we finally saw the river! Which only means the waterfall is near. Even though we were tired from all the climb, we felt invigorated after seeing a preview of what lies ahead. I saw photos of Pongas Falls online and I was ready to be amazed. It really was one of the reasons I wanted to go back. But after some step, our guide warned us that in front of us is the most difficult and dangerous part of all…
This is where it started getting a little tricky. After going through the woods and hearing the water rushing through the river, we were faced with a much harder obstacle of walking through a narrow path beside the cliff where a deep ravine is just right next to us. The stone steps were barely a feet wide and there were moments where we had to kneel down and crawl our way through if we wanted to avoid falling.
Jerome and myself were trailing the group and we found it challenging to cross some of these parts because the guide was already far in front of us helping the girls. The only thing that kept us going is the promise of Pongas’ beauty ahead. I was genuinely scared for my life.
After climbing some more rocks, our guide told us to leave our shoes and other valuables near a huge boulder so the rest of the trek to the falls were done barefooted. We were the only ones there so we had the view all to ourselves-part of the perks of going there late in the afternoon.
The view of the falls was AMAZING! I took a couple of minutes to to let the beauty set in and just look at what’s around me. It was all worth it. While continuing to hike up the falls, I started thinking about how this site was only recently discovered by the SAGGAS. It made me wonder how much beauty there is in the world that is left for us to discover. So much more for my eyes to see. And at that moment, I felt really blessed and thanked Him for that oppportunity.
I was a bit frustrated cause no matter what I did, my camera couldn’t capture the entire scope because of its limitations. I just decided to leave to my friends who brought their DSLRs with them while I enjoyed the majestic view. But even just by looking at these photos, I knew that nothing can give it proper justice. I’ve only seen very few waterfalls in my lifetime but I would already decalre that this was one of the best ones.
I looked at the time on my phone and realized that night time was fast approaching. Our guide told us that can no longer rappel to the top because it would be really dangerous since there are no lights in the area. Had we arrived earlier, we would’ve been able to reach it’s basin and marvel at an awesome view form the top.
By 5:30 PM, the guide said we should pack up and make our way back to the pick-up point, a long way back! The worst of all is that it got dark pretty quickly and we had to back the same death-defying trek that we took on our way here. Holy moley.
The trek back was obviously a lot more dangerous because it was pitch dark and we only had to rely on our headlight to get through the mountain. Because there were only 6 lights, our guide gave everyone a piece except for me! As in I know he deliberately skipped me while handing out the headlights! But I took it as a big compliment that he thought I was capable of handling the trek back without any lights. Charaan! I felt so manly that day.
But the night trek was really scary and it’s probably the most dangerous thing I’ve done in my lifetime. Our guide even said that no one in their right minds would want to go through what we did of going back through the slippery trails and cliffs that we went through. What’s worse it that it started drizzling midway through! Another thing to be thankful for is that some villagers from Ankileng, went out to look for us and guided us on our way back.
The adventure to Pongas Falls was a test of trust, courage, and endurance and we were all pretty tired after but the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. Would I want to go through that again, maybe not. But if there was no other choice, at least I know that I am mentally and physically capable of finishing the task. One never realizes how much strength and courage he has until the need for it arises. =)