It’s really funny. There are places in my country that even the local residents don’t know of. Thanks to available online resources that I was able to see one natural attraction of Mayantoc in Tarlac, which has been hidden to many people. Kalaw falls may not be as big as Ubod Falls which is also in Tarlac, but it offers a refreshing bath to its visitors after their short trek from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) center for reforestation in the area.
Mayantoc is said to have the last forest reserve in Tarlac. If not for the efforts of DENR and the residents of baranggay Kalaw, the fields of western Tarlac would be easily enundated by floods and landslides. It boasts of tall and thick paper trees, acacia, narra and mahogany. Aside from hardwood, the forest is also rich of big fruit bearing trees and a variety of bamboo.
We started our trek from the DENR center, where there are only two or three families of the same kin live. Our guide told us that most of the forest area are titled to their family. Mang Melencio who introduced himself to be 52 is still agile and was very accomodating to us. He walked with us through the river with cold ankle deep water under the roof of trees.
The trek took us 30 minutes or so. Along the river are the huge trees and big boulders of solid rocks covered by top soil. Lime and granite stones abound in the area. Seeing the granite rocks, I understand the place came to be as result of volcanic eruption. The soil is really rich for the variety of trees to grow. Trekkers are welcomed by the melodies of chirping birds and the colorful butterflies that hang on mossy drift woods by the river. Dragon flies and cicadas also add to its fauna.
The river trail which is a picturesque to behold, is an easy trek. There are very few instances that we climbed over boulders of rocks. Since the falls is hidden even to the knowledge of the locals, getting there is not easy. I learned of Kalaw falls from the Internet which said that it was in Bgy. San Jose. However, we learned after getting lost that it is located in Bgy. Caoayan.
Getting to Caoayan is possible only with a private vehicle or by hiring a tricycle from the town of Mayantoc, which is some kilometers away from the highway. Some roads are well-paved and new, but the rest of the road going to Kalaw is raw dirt. The scenery is like that of the inspirations of Amorsolo – vast land and farm fields.
From Camiling it took us an hour and a half to get to the place. But, that includes our stop to fill a sludge with some rocks so our vehicle could get through. Only to find out that the soil under water is hard enough for us to pass through, it was just our driver who didn’t have the courage to try. To find our way, we needed to ask several locals. The best scheme that works here, is that when three or more people agree in thier directions, that is sure to go.
We were enveloped by nature as walked through the river trail. No vehicular noise and we didn’t find anyone else going to or coming from the falls, except for the two local farmers who harvested some ginger from the mountains. It was just the songs of the birds and the rhythm of the stream and our own noise that we could hear. After a turn, the falls awaits in a short distance.
The water of Kalaw falls drapes the black and gray granite rock that stands 30 feet high more or less. The water from its base is shallow since the storm Kiel filled it is rock and wood debris. Mang Melencio told me, the water used to be deep at the base, as deep as tall coconut tree. He warned us though to be careful if we would like to climb up the granite rock to explore the water source on top.
From below, it seems to be impossible to climb that granite wall. But, I was wrong, after taking some pictures, my friend Wally was up there already. I tried it too, right before we had our lunch (bucket meal of fried chicken). What gave me courage was that two locals, one with a sack of ginger, and the other holding two bunches of crops with both hands were able to go down that wall, from the mountains.
I have the interest for adventures, but safety comes first in my mind. I know my skills for rock climbing is limited, so I was not able to get to where the water of Kalaw falls drop. Right, I got scared (that’s it), but at least I tried. I wouldn’t if Wally was not there, since he was able to do it, I tried it too. The climb was a thrill, but more than that we had the fun of our lives just getting wet and massaged by the waters of Kalaw Falls.
We spent hours bathing under Kalaw’s waters, alone, just the four us in the middle of the forest. This, I think is the best part of it to be really secluded from others, far away from anyone and anything else, in a non-commercialized natural attraction. Since Mang Melencio did not wait for us, and that the trek is easy, we traversed the river back to the center on our own. After washing up with the pozzo water just near the center, we dressed up for a pilgrim’s trip to Monasterio De Tarlac.