|Kabigan Falls on broad daylight|
Part of the North Pagudpud tour is a 30-minute walk to Kabigan Falls. I knew I would spend quite some time there since it would already take an hour getting to the falls and back. Add to that the time it would take to just commune with the surroundings and take some photos. But I didn’t mind because waterfalls are the ones I really look forward to visiting whenever I go out on a trip.
My driver-cum-tour guide Kuya Jose and I arrived at the Kabigan Falls reception/tourist center at around 11am. I paid 10 pesos for the environmental fee and another 100 pesos for the guide fee. From the receipt issued to me, I learned that a multipurpose cooperative manages and maintains the falls. Anyway, let’s get back to the guide fee. For someone who sets out on a tight budget (like me), this question might just pop out: Why not place markers and signs on the way to the falls so that there would no longer be a need for a guide? That 100 bucks I would pay could already be spent on a meal or bus fare. I have come to know and understand this concern as my guide, Ruby, and I started our walk towards the falls.
|Magnificent view of rice fields and mountains|
At the start of the year, I promised myself to talk more whenever I meet new people in my trips. So along the way, I asked Ruby a few questions which are basically just the trivial questions. I asked how old she is, how many siblings she has, and what her parents do for a living. When I finally asked about her educational attainment, that’s when I started to learn why there are guides on the way to Kabigan Falls.
|More rice fields|
Ruby was able to finish only until high school due to financial constraints. Her parents could not afford to send her to college. As a result, she ended up tilling up farm lands together with her father and her siblings. When the opportunity to become a guide knocked on her door, she immediately grabbed it so that, besides farming, she may earn a little on the side. She told me that all in all, there are 86 guides working in the cooperative. These guides are being assigned on rotation to tourists wanting to visit the falls. Meaning, if there are 87 groups visiting within the day, everyone will have a group to guide, and the first guide would be assigned to tour the 87th group. The 2nd guide will be assigned to the first group of tourists the next day. For every group they will guide, they will receive the entire 100 pesos paid at the center.
Ruby walks to and from the falls almost every single day, usually under the midday heat, for the sake of that 100 pesos. By the way, a one-way trip is about 1.8 kilometers. I thought to myself, If I am a tourist who can afford to go almost anywhere I want to go, what is 100 pesos? That’s when I realized that whenever I travel, I do not only get personal satisfaction out of seeing all of these beautiful places, I am also able to share the blessings I receive to other people. That amount is very significant for some people like Ruby, who literally lives for the day. She told me that there are seasons when she is not being assigned a group to guide for a day or two, hence, no income on those days.
I’ve recounted several occasions during my past trips when I would complain about having to pay for this and that. I’ve realized that, with the exception of some opportunists that really do exist, the money I shell out is payment for the services people render for me. And I would like to believe that they perform their jobs out of good intentions.
I also realized how blessed I was because as Ruby gets tired of walking along the same path everyday just to earn 100 bucks, I on the other hand spend thousands to get myself tired of walking along different paths to explore different provinces.
Ruby was very cheerful and friendly. Maybe she has already developed her communication skills from her many years of experience as a guide. She would ask me sensible questions from time to time, making sure I did not get bored during the long walk. She even offered to carry my backpack and tripod, saying that it is part of her job as a guide. I politely declined and told her I could not imagine letting a woman carry my things for me. After about over 30 minutes of walking and taking pictures along the way (the view of the rice fields set on a background of lush mountains was really amazing, by the way), we reached the falls. It was not as spectacular as the other falls I have visited in the past – just a stream of cold water falling from over a hundred feet into a small basin. The area was a bit dark, since the waterfall is tucked in a small cove, though the sun was peeking directly from above since it was almost noon then. What I liked about the waterfall is the icy air that it gave off which was perfect for cooling down after the long walk.
|Posing with the falls. hehe|
We didn’t stay long in the area. I just took several shots, asked her to take photos of me and soon enough we were already on our way back to the reception. I commented that her community is blessed because the rice fields have natural irrigation coming from the waterfalls. She explained to me that the waterfall was named Kabigan, meaning “source” (or something synonymous), because it provides water to a vast area of farm lands.
|Long exposure shot didn't work out quite well|
On the way back I took several other photographs as she told me some more stories about her community. Shortly after we were back at the reception center. I thanked her for doing her job well and for sharing some stories and bid her and the other guides in the center goodbye. So, you might be wondering how Ruby looks like. Oh well, I wasn’t able to take a photo of her as this article was thought about after my visit to the falls. :)