Some sixty kilometers south-east from Manila as the crow flies or about 100 kilometers if you are confined to terrestrial transport lies the town of Pagsanjan. Pagsanjan has long been a favored destination of both local and foreign tourists alike. The town calls itself the “tourist capital of Laguna province” and it is a well-deserved title. There is much to see and it is all well organized. Pagsanjan is named as the tourist capital of Laguna and one of the popular world class tourist destination of the Philippines because of its natural wonders and enchanted scenic views. The main tourist attraction in Pagsanjan is the Pagsanjan Falls. The ‘bangkeros’ are tour guides that steer the tourists’ bancas, they are called the boatmen who shoot the rapids all the way to the world-famous Pagsanjan Falls.
Pagsanjan is most famous for its falls. The town itself dates from early Spanish times and lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Balanac and the Bumbungan. Indeed legend has it that the name of the town derives from the Tagalog word “Pinagsangahan” meaning ‘juncture.’ The lower part of the river is slow and meandering with homes and palms crowding the banks. It doesn’t take long before the river valley turns into a deep gorge, with a rainforest canopy, and the quiet waters become cascading rapids. The paddlers often jump out of the boat to manhandle it between boulders while dodging other canoes on their way down. This provides almost as much entertainment as the iridescent birds and butterflies flitting overhead. After a couple of hours, a dead-end box canyon is reached where Pagsanjan Falls tumbles over. Here you can take a raft-ferry across the plunge pool to the base of the falls.
There is the stark natural beauty of the Pagsanjan River, the spectacular “Pagsanjan Falls” with the beautiful gorge, and the thrill and excitement of “Shooting the rapids”, the centuries-old Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church, ancestral houses, traditional fine arts, music, customs and even fine cuisine.
Indeed it is the Falls and the journey taken to reach them – the boat ride along the Pagsanjan River and shooting the rapids along the journey – that provide the main attraction to visitors. While popularly known as the Pagsanjan Falls, locally they are “Magdapio Falls since their actual location is not in Pagsanjan at all but in the adjacent town of Cavinti.