The sky was perfectly clear. The blinding-white clouds formed interesting figures and were moving at slow pace. It provided a minute shade every time it hovered above our smoothly-moving fast craft. The sea, on the other hand, was completely placid, reflecting the exact copies of the figures above it. The minor distortions created by the surface swimmers are very evident – I could see the finest ripple.
It was our fast craft’s horn that woke me from that real daydream. We were approaching Liloan Pier in Santander, so I had to get myself ready. In a moment, we were all allowed to disembark. I alighted last to avoid troublesome passengers rushing their way out of the boat.
When I stepped on the port, the squeaky-clean water below reminded me of my fantasies when I was still sitting near the captain. Then I thought, it was too early to return to the city, so why not spend a good time nearby.
Waterfalls in Samboan: Dao Falls, Aguinid Falls, and Binalayan Hidden Falls
Samboan suddenly came to mind. I heard they had a lot of great waterfalls. Without any hesitation, I rented a habal-habal to Bato Terminal. From Bato, I boarded a Cebu-bound bus with via Barili route to Samboan.
I reached Samboan town proper in less than 30 minutes. I was walking under the scorch when Kuya Arnold approached me and offered a ride to 4 waterfalls including Ponong Lake for ₱500. I asked other drivers too, and it seemed that they had standardized the rate. That wasn’t a bad price. The downside however is, I was alone. It would be perfect if I have someone with me to share the fee [and the experience] with.
Dao Falls Experience
I went back to Kuya Arnold and started our ride to Dao Falls.
We still had to travel more than 10 minutes from the highway to reach the drop off point of Dao Falls. Caretakers asked ₱20 for entrance fee and assigned every guests a mandatory guide. I asked if it would be fine if I don’t get a guide, however, they insisted that I should get one.
Since I got no other option, I accepted the guide who was assigned to me. I did not let him carry my backpack – I knew I could not give him a decent amount. I just followed him in a very obvious pathway. Kuya Arnold, by the way, was left in the drop off point.
We crossed a river, trekked along a muddy slope, and shook our way across a bamboo-made hanging bridge.
I was completely awed when I finally had the glimpse of the waterfalls. The water slides peacefully through the slanting ravine, thus the plunge pool is shallow and calm. There wasn’t enough flat space for picnickers, however, with just a little tactic, then you’re all good.
After taking some photos, getting a quick dip, and munching for a snack, I headed to my next stop
A Tough Trek Against Aguinid Falls
We headed to Aguinid Falls next. Locals boasted about five waterfalls. Falls number 1 isn’t actually a waterfall, falls number 2 is quite nice, falls number 3 is up for a challenge, falls number 4 features an interesting drop and small caverns, while falls number 5 is pretty cool for a photo shoot backdrop.
You need a little work out at falls number 3. You have to climbed against the rolling waters to get to falls number 4. Since this is a one-way climbed, you have to wait until a batch of those going either down [if you’re going up] is done.
Entrance at Aguinid Falls for locals is also ₱20 and the guide, again, depends on how much you can shell out.
Finding our Way to Binalayan Hidden Falls
After Aguinid, Kuya Arnold brought me to Binalayan Hidden Falls. I paid the standard ₱20 entrance fee and followed my lady guide to the falls.
Before reaching the main cascade of Binalayan Falls, a not-so-high falls greeted us.
The was water was cold as expected. The breezy surrounding complimented well and gave me a gooseflesh.
Similar to that of Dao Falls, the plunge pool of Binalayan Hidden Falls is also not that deep, so be extra careful when doing an undaunting stunt. I almost broke my heel bone here when I jumped.
A Noteworthy Moment at Ponong Lake
We had some relaxing snack at the floating hut in Ponong lake. The caretakers collect ₱20 but it was good deal since that includes a use of paddle boat and free stay at the floating hut. You can also bring some snacks to share with.
Fare: Bus ride from Cebu City to Samboan costs around ₱160 per way. Double it for a two-way fare.
Habal-habal (Motorcycle Rental with driver): You can rent a motorcycle to bring you to all the four waterfalls including Ponong Lake. It will cost you ₱500 for the entire day and that is good for two individuals. Make sure that you don’t travel alone to save. Learn from me.
Entrance Fees: You have to shell out ₱20 as entry fee to every waterfalls. There are four, so you need to allocate ₱80 in total. They will issue official receipts.
Guide Fees: For safety purposes, the local government assigns a mandatory guide to every visitor. Again, if you travel alone, you are not excused of getting one. If you travel in a group, you can divide the guide fee and then pay less. There is no fixed guide rate so make sure you give a reasonable amount. For a solo and quickie traveler like me, ₱70 is acceptable. For a group of 5 or less, ₱100 would be great.
Tips, Notes, and Reminders
- There are no ATMs in the town so make sure you bring enough cash for the entire trip.
- Bring swimming attires to experience the cold and pampering pool below the cascades.
- Mobile signal reception is acceptable in the town proper but is poor in remote areas like the waterfalls’ vicinity.
- To fully explore Aguinid Falls, you need to climb against some steep rocks with running water. Make sure that you always follow your guides direction.
- You can do picnic at the floating raft in Ponong Lake. Bring foods to share.
- Waterproof your gadgets.
- Travel in group to save on transport and guide fees.
- Closest accommodations are available at Oslob.
04:00AM Leave Cebu City. Take a Bato-bound bus with via-Barili route at Cebu South Terminal.
07:30AM Arrival in Samboan town proper and then breakfast.
08:30AM Proceed with waterfalling or waterfall-chasing. You may start at Dao Falls, then Agunid Falls, and then Binalayan Hidden Falls.
12:00PM Packed Lunch. You can bring your own lunch or buy something at the town. You can have your lunch at any waterfall you feel to. Just don’t leave your trash.
02:00PM Proceed to Bonbon Falls
03:00PM Rest or relax at the floating cottage at Ponong Lake
04:30PM Bus back to Cebu.