We have low expectations.
I and my sister arrived fifteen minutes late from the call time of 5:30 AM. The sun has risen but it’s hiding behind the buildings surrounding the meeting place. We were not excited by the thought that our destination is just 30 minutes away from our hometown and to add, the place was never heard before. Packed with our low hopes, we thought we can give it a shot since it will also save us from staycation on the other hand. But we never realized that we’ve already committed mistakes this early.
Together with our four colleagues, we rode a tricycle from San Jose City, Nueva Ecija going to Carranglan to meet our friend and guide. The concrete road was easy and smooth at first but for the last half, we can hear our vehicle struggling to climb up. This is where I started feeling the cold morning fog suspended in the air and smelling the fresh breeze coming from the trees planted alongside the road. We saw folks outside. Some were doing their everyday chores and some were just enjoying a hot cup of coffee under the shade of a tree. It’s been always a nice scenario to observe the locals and appreciate how their daily lives bring meaning to their current setting.
Pain demands to be felt.
The vehicle halted in front of Sir Oscar’s house. Breakfast was done an hour before we arrived. We shared a brimming casserole of arrozcaldo, a Filipino dish made with rice and other ingredients along with Majoy’s boiled chicken eggs. A few minutes later, we’re off to set our foot to the underrated falls we’ve come to discover.
Turning left at the entrance of the bridge with Aloha Falls signage, took ninja skills to slide down to get to the rocky path we have walked on. We were welcomed by the scorching heat from the sun and the dried mud under our sandals. We could feel our feet aching as we step on the spiky rocks scattered along the way. There’s no way to step on a flat surface since there was none. We never knew that the sun would strike this hot at this early hour. Aware that arriving late was the first mistake, we endured the heat and pain.
Our eyes reached the mountainous horizon as our guide continued walking. We, along with Sir Oscar and my sister, Zyrene walked briskly to reach the mountainside while the four girls were walking and laughing far behind us. We could hear them telling jokes. One even said that we were in a role-playing scenario where the guide and my sister were co-directors and me, carrying my tripod, was a cameraman. They echoed in laughter as we walked through the spiky rocks. Soon, we arrived at the shadier part of the journey. However, the rocks turned to boulders and the mud turned to the river. Plants were scattered in all four, shrubs and trees in various flora.
An hour has passed and we couldn’t see the falls yet. We followed the river against its flow, searching where the water came from. Trees growing alongside the desired path made the journey more exciting as the branches hinder the path. Some shrubs pricked our skins leaving scratches. There were boulders that we climbed and rivers that we crossed making our thighs wet. We never stopped walking as we searched for this hidden treasure. Others jokingly wanted to go back to where we started while our guide pointed to us a false fall, a sewer-like flow of water on the side of the mountain. It was fun as we laughed at our jokes while the birds and insects were seemingly joining us.
The greatest mistake.
A few minutes later, I could hear a loud splash coming from the other side of the corner. We hurriedly jumped into excitement as we were very sure that this is the moment we’ve waited for and I never realized how I mistakenly underestimated this beauty hiding from our province. Hello, Aloha Falls!
I was deeply shocked in amazement by how my eyes could see. I reached for the cold water flowing from the river coming from the falls. There was a cold breeze brushing against my face while I could smell the freshwater. The coldness reached my veins and it flowed through my system. Our hardships were already paid off. How could I not be excited and then underestimated this place, while it took me into another dimension just a few minutes just by looking at it? I felt guilty.
Aloha Falls is embraced by the mountains hiding the spot from the sun. So, bathing would be fun in the morning. The place is perfectly located in the mountain, hiding from the bustle of people, yet remains accessible for those who are hungry for nature appreciation.
Since the place was not familiar to some that even I, a resident of Nueva Ecija for 19 years didn’t know it until just recently, visitors don’t come frequently. When we got there, we found no one except for the biodegradable pieces of food they left.
Sir Oscar, on the other hand, is a resident of Carranglan along with his parents. He said that the falls were wider before, as one could notice a space on the right side. For whatever reasons, however, folks decided to carve the left side lower than the other to create a single stream of water. Then the current washes the tiny rocks along the shore before leaving to the river.
I dipped in reluctantly for I felt the chill in my spine and walked against the pressure. Seven meters away from the shore, I could still feel the pebbly ground against my feet. If I walk further, Sir Oscar warned, I could drown myself by the depth of it added by its pulling pressure. Maybe five meters more, I could reach the opposite side. We’re lucky to arrive at the right season because, during summer, the stream of water isn’t strong enough to boast its majestic fall.
Children used to play there during the olden times even though cliff diving wasn’t mainstream before. They climbed to the top of sturdy rocks and then plunge deep into the water. I climbed on the side, a meter high above the surface and then sat there for a few minutes. Sir Oscar even tried to reminisce about his childhood by climbing high enough but resisted halfway. Instead, he jumped right from the spot he stopped and then yelled his lungs out. We laughed. We ate our packed lunch cooked by my father which is, I would like to emphasize, delicious. Then, we took another dip for the last time. We played as if we’re building a team, even though I only met the four of them just this once.
The sun gained its momentum and ascended above the surrounding mountains. Its rays lightened the place giving another color to the surrounding. We left the falls at 11:30 seemingly untouched by travelers – still flowing proudly.
Nueva Ecija has a lot to offer other than its famous wide plains. Known for its rice plantations extending to the horizons, one could simply be amazed by how some gems are hidden just around the corner. We just have to possess the right curiosity to uncover those treasures
A Chemist fond of doing things not just related to his profession. Loves travelling, photography, mobile games and caffeine. Usually found unbonded (alone) in a chemical laboratory doing chemistry stuff, but his mind is wandering somewhere else. Pet’s cuddle buddy. An introvert playing an extrovert’s game.