(Wilter Sunico and Louise Almelor)
Are you annoyed with the smoggy smokes and the long queue of cars caused by traffic jam in a busy city? Are you stressed out because of your hectic schedule? Do you want to dip your body in a deep turquoise water but not thinking of the beach as your choice? Or have you already visited all the famed tourist spots in your locality and want to try something new and wondrous? Then, add Pandan, Antique to your bucket list!
Pandan is one of the 18 municipalities in Antique which is a part of Panay Island. It is bounded by Cuyo East Pass as part of Sulu Sea on the west; by Libertad on the north and northwest; by Aklan province on the east and northeast; and Sebaste on the south. It is the home for 34 barangays and welcoming Pandanons with its diverse culture matches the unparalleled bounty of nature.
Everything started when we and the students gathered at exactly 9:00 A.M. at the dormitory. We headed to Cagban port thereafter and waited for the ferry boat to take us to Caticlan where our kitsch-decorated jeepney was waiting. From Caticlan, we headed straight to Pandan where Naranjo is. Some students cozily rested inside while others enjoyed the idyllic views as they challenged themselves to sit on top of the jeepney. As in, on the roof.
First stop – Naranjo waterpark. It took us almost 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Naranjo, a part of Bugang River (honored as the cleanest inland body of water in the Philippines for three consecutive years by Gawad Pangulo ng Kapaligiran). Students were veritably flabbergasted by the lanky, but low-lying mangroves as they just kept quiet while they were making themselves busy with the exhilarating natural landscape, not realizing that we hadn’t filled our stomachs yet. Not until we decided to call them to check the menu for lunch. The funny thing was, we ordered the same meals, which were: Tapsilog, Longsilog, Tosilog, and all the other logs. Haha.
After lunch, we tried our first ride which was paddleboat. We were so worn-out paddling when we decided to halt and rest for a moment. Other students also tried different rides which were the thrilling kayaking (propelled by means of a double-bladed paddle) and exciting water zorbing.
The last part – a voyage along Bugang River. After having tired ourselves out with the different rides, we finally gathered to try the last ride: the River Cruise. We pampered ourselves with the tranquil water, the gush of wind seeping into our being, the rustling healthy green foliage kissing the fresh and calm water creating whirl pools as our boatman gently maneuvered along the way. It’s as if we’re in Utopia. So amazingly perfect. The ride ended with the students feeling elated with what they’d experienced.
It was already 2:30 P.M and students were in jest as we transported ourselves from Naranjo Water Park to our next destination, Malumpati Cold Spring. After more or less than 15-minute ride thru the newly built road, we arrived at a post where a 40-peso entrance fee per head had to be paid. Students were all panicking and seemed like they wanted to jump off the jeepney and ran into the seductive cold water.
Malumpati Cold Spring nestles near the head spring of the Bugang River. The bluish cold water which vividly reflects the vast blue skies complements the verdant forests adorned with towering tropical trees and various flora and fauna. Malumpati boasts the tranquil atmosphere which exaggerates its serene collaboration between nature’s eye filling wonders and the whispers of soulful sounds of winds.
Having paid 300-pesos for the cottage, students geared up and hurried up the diving board to try jumping off and let the cold water embrace their nearly tired bodies. Others found their way to some stalls selling sweetened pork barbeques and few Filipino delicacies such as chicharon, salted peanuts, and fish crackers while some busied themselves taking endless perfect selfies with the blue water and green natural vegetation as their proud backdrop for Instagram and Facebook feeds. Everyone was exuberant and enthusiastic as we looked after the students who were like children being deprived to get out of their abodes for a long time.
AUTHENTIC WATER TUBING EXPERIENCE
It’s time! Time for Water Tubing- having paid 200-peso per head, 15 of us (other students preferred to stay and Louise was there to keep an eye on them) walked through the narrow way for 15 minutes from the vicinity of the place to the Blue Lagoon (Head Spring of Bugang River) escorted with our individual well-trained Water Tubers. The sky was quite gloomy and sad but it never discouraged us, instead all of us maintained boisterous and jovial while imagining the fun we were about to experience. Before we effortlessly started floating on the rough water riding our comfy water tubes, the head of the Water Tubers reminded us with few safety precautions and instructions like how to sit into the water tubes, what to do if any emergencies arise, feel safe with our guides (we were individually introduced and paired to our guides for safety reasons), and of course, have fun!
As we were about to start, the Blue Lagoon was first introduced to us. It was magnificently striking for it marveled our naked eyes with its incomparable beauty. Its crystal clear water rich with silica houses some marine species and supports life to wild water lilies and old trees. According to one of the Tubers, there’s no exact measurement how deep it is, because no single diver has ever been in the bottom of the head spring due to precarious trail underneath. So with its endowed beauty lies a query, a mystery!
Going back, we all now settled and one by one sat on our inflated tubes then formed into a big circle. Tubers said to me that a gigantic crocodile would appear in the middle which I translated to foreign students in verbatim. I know, it was just an old prank meant to inject massive fright in our system but what happened next was hilariously unexpected, they splashed all over us water which literally made us shiver to death. Students squeaked out of their lungs as they froze in too much coldness. Then, we freely began venturing down the river back to Malumpati as the river current carried us all the way back. Along the way, we wandered our eyes to the relaxing view which we freely enjoy. We even saw two mid-sized wild snakes twirling tightly on a branch as they slept and let the sun kiss their scales. It was indeed a thrilling and mind blowing experience. I saw on students’ faces the mark of contentment and fun.
As we were near Malumpati, we queued like a train and Tubers again splashed water which made some students shouted wildly. I thought, we thought, it was the end of our exclusive water tubing experience but it wasn’t. We then formed a circle, and some Tubers hurriedly ran to the diving board and began jumping in the middle of the circle we made. It was ecstatic; we never thought the activity would end with a surprise, with a big bang! Other Tubers even hastily climbed like monkeys on the top of a tree and dived smoothly into the water which caused our jaws dropped and lost our breath for a moment. A well-deserved ovation was only our response for the superb yet risky exhibition.
The sun had already settled in the east, crickets started to sing their songs and people vacated the place, so we also decided to pack our things and leave Malumpati Cold Spring at around 5:30 P.M. Students were dog tired for no one tried to make a single noise as we led back to the island. Some were quietly sleeping while others were looking at the pictures they took with painted smiles on their weary yet satisfied faces.
Indeed, I can say that It was an indelible experience, we would surely treasure for the rest of our lives. Memoirs that would suffice as they reminisce our Pandan’s prodigious Saturday Activity. The memories they created, laughter and squeaked they shared would probably linger in their minds that once in their lives, they ventured a majestic and a hidden jewel in the Philippines aside from the powdery coasts and enticing water of the so called well-known paradise- Boracay.
Photo Credits: Hsin-Ying Wang