Sunday, November 25, 2018

Kilangin Falls/Bukal Falls (Liliw, Laguna)

At the lowest tier of Kilangin Falls

Turquoise blue, ice cold water from the springs at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, thick and verdant forest cover and the relative ease of reaching the falls are what draws people from all over to this little piece of paradise tucked away in a remote corner of Liliw, Laguna. Known by two names depending on who you ask, the people of Liliw refers to this place as Kilangin Falls, said to be derived from the word dalangin as the falls were said to be a former pilgrimage site where devotees of the virgin Mary would offer their prayers. On the other side of the fence, people from the neighboring town of Majayjay refers to it as Bukal Falls, named after barangay Bukal in the municipality. As such, the falls can be reached either via Brgy. Novaliches in Liliw or Brgy. Bukal in Majayjay.

Based on my own observations, the specs of the hike to Kilangin Falls via the Novaliches Trail are as follows: Minor hike, difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1-2; days required/hours to the falls 1 day/1-1.5 hours; Features: multi-tiered waterfalls, ice cold, clear blue waters, thick forest cover; Coordinates: 14°6'10.16"N, 121°28'25.99"E

Swimming at the highest tier of the falls under pouring rain!

Having been to Taytay Falls of Majayjay, Laguna before via the Sta. Cruz route, I decided to try reaching the falls via Liliw, Laguna, knowing for a fact that the trip via Sta. Cruz would take longer and cost more (and also since I've read that the trail from Liliw is much more challenging). Together with two friends from the office, we set out to our destination from Pasay city at around 4:00 AM. In less than 2 hours we reached San Pablo city where we took a ride to Liliw, passing by the jump-off to Mt. Mabilog and Lake Pandin in San Pablo and through the municipalities of Rizal (where Tayak Hill is located) and Nagcarlan (home to Bunga Falls and the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery).

Welcome Banner outside the registration area

Bluish icy cold water

Light drizzle started falling as soon as we reached Nagcarlan, which started to get heavier as we reached Liliw. A short reprieve from the rain as we reached the jump-off at Brgy. Novaliches gave me a bit of hope that we will have a smooth hike. As the rains had been pouring since the previous night, our guide tells me to expect the trail to be muddy and slippery. After a cup of hot steaming coffee we set out to reach the falls around 7:28 AM. The initial portion of the trail runs on a concrete road under construction with farms and Mt. Banahaw as backdrop. After about less than a kilometer and a half from the jump-off is where the forest trail starts, marked by a local store.

A very runnable initial portion of the trail

Cloud-smothered summit and slopes of Mt. Banahaw

Store at end of the concrete road marking the start of the forest trail

The remaining less than 2 kilometers of the way runs on a forested trail with a few patches of vegetable gardens and views of Laguna Lake and the Jalajala Peninsula of Rizal, with Mt. Sembrano prominent in the background. The trail in this part is characterized by mild slopes and a few ascents and descents which are quite easy. However since we hiked on a rainy day, the entire trail is wet with mud, making it a bit more difficult than it should be. After about an hour an a half of leisurely hiking, we finally reached the waterfalls, just as a heavy downpour of rain started.

Start of the forest trail

Bamboo bridge crossing

Faint silhouette of Mt. Sembrano and Laguna Lake 

Store at the camping grounds 10-15 minutes away from the falls

Final steep descent towards the falls

First glimpse of the falls in a heavy downpour

In spite of the heavy rains and cold weather, hikers, trail runners and tourists alike still flocked to the falls. After a few minutes rest we decided to start exploring the falls. The first tier has the tallest cascade and the deepest catch basin, although the water cascading into the basin is quite feeble at the time. The main highlight of the falls is of course the clear bluish, icy cold water reaching up to 14 feet deep. Taking advantage of the fact that there were only just a handful of people in the area at the time, I went ahead and swim to the cascade to have my photos taken. It was such a letdown though that my photos were all too exposed.

Impressive height and blue waters of Kilangin Falls

At the cascades of the main falls

Group pic

Swimming in bluish icy cold water






As the area started to get more and more crowded, we decided to explore the lower portion of the falls. The middle tier was also quite occupied so we proceeded to the lowest level where we took our time to swim and have our photos snapped. After having had our fill of swimming and picture taking in icy cold water, we went back to the resting area to have our lunch. After lunch, I decided to have a last dip at the middle tier of the waterfalls and have some more pictures snapped. Just as we started to return to our resting site, another heavy downpour started again. Seeing that the resting area is getting more and more crowded as tourists keep on arriving, we decided it was time to trek back to the jump-off.

Groupie at the lowest tier



At the second tier



The hike back to the jump-off was actually a lot harder, as it was raining heavily all throughout, soaking everything, from the muddy trail to our bags and stuff. The water also created several potholes of watery mud which can be very slippery. After about an hour of hike through the forest, I decided to run the last kilometer of way which is on a concrete road to loosen up of my leg muscles. It was such a great feeling running under pouring rain after an hour of careful trudging in the mud. I reached the registration site a few minutes before 2:00 PM, and my hike mates following suit a few minutes after, completing the dayhike.

At the second tier with the cascade of the main falls in the background

Bad weather aside, the hike to Kilangin/Bukal Falls via the Novaliches trail is quite easy and enjoyable. With such a gem hidden in the forests at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, the effort is well worth it!


Useful Information:

Trail Maps: (based on Strava, for illustrative purposes only)
Trail Map to Kilangin Falls

Below is the Relive video of the hike:



Actual Itinerary:
4:00 AM - Departure for San Pablo city from LRT Buendia
5:49 AM - Arrival at San Pablo city proper, jeep ride to Liliw
6:42 AM - Arrival at Liliw Municipal Hall, tricycle ride to Brgy. Novaliches jump-off
7:10 AM - Arrival at the jump-off, register, get guide, hot coffee
7:28 AM - Start hike
7:48 AM - Store marking the start of the forest trail
8:35 AM - Camp grounds for overnight campers at a local store
8:53 AM - Arrival at the falls, rest, explore falls, pictures
11:20 AM - Lunch break, rest
11:47 AM - Last dip and photos
12:25 PM - Start hike back to jump-off
01:40 PM - Back at the jump-off, rest, coffee, wash tidy up
02:45 PM - Tricycle ride back to municipal hall
03:30 PM - Ride back to San Pablo
04:26 PM - Ride Back to LRT Buendia
07:21 PM - Back in LRT Buendia

Mandatory Fees: (as of November 2018, subject to change without notice)
Entrance Fee - Php. 10.00 per person
Guide Fee: Php. 350 per group of 5-6 persons
Optional lifevest rental: Php. 50.00 each

How to get there: (fares as of November 2018, subject to change without notice)
From LRT Buendia, ride a bus bound for Lucena and get off at SM San Pablo (Php. 127.00). Ride a jeep with Bayan signboard and get off at the end of the line near San Pablo Cathedral (Php. 10.00). Ride a jeep bound for Liliw near the Fire Station and get off at Liliw Municipal Hall (Php. 32.00). Ride a tricycle and ask the driver to drop you off at the registration site to Kilangin Falls at Brgy. Novaliches (Php. 40.00 per person).

For guide services, you may contact Arman Arvesu (local trail guide) at 09068223486 or the Liliw Tourism Office at 09551000710 for more information.


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