%049 / Pop 42,164

The town of Pagsanjan (pag-san-han), in Laguna Province 100km southeast of Manila, is best known for the popular canoe trips up the Pagsanjan River to Pagsanjan (Magdapio) Falls. It’s a long way to come for a canoe trip, but if you’re exploring the Mt Banahaw region it’s an essential detour.

The town benefits from its pleasant riverside location but, apart from the impressive Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, there’s not a lot to see.



Pagsanjan FallsCANOEING

(Magdapio Falls; GOOGLE MAP )

The sole reason to come to Pagsanjan is for the river trip to Pagsanjan Falls, where some of the final scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now were filmed. Two hard-working bangcero (boaters) paddle you upriver for 1½ hours through a dramatic gorge hemmed by towering cliffs and vegetation to the small but powerful falls.

At the top, the bangcero will take you under the 10m-high falls on a bamboo raft into the ‘Devil’s Cave’, an exhilarating and unnerving moment as you pass directly through its high-pressure cascade.

On the return journey you let the water do the work on the fast and exciting downstream adventure. The height of the wet season (August to October) is the best time to ride the rapids. Timing is everything: towards the end of the dry season the low water level means there’s more dragging over boulders than riding rapids; if the water level is too high, you may not be able to go all the way to the falls. At any time of year it’s best to avoid weekends, as half of Manila seems to descend on Pagsanjan. Bring a plastic bag for your camera, and prepare to get wet.

To arrange your falls trip, secure a canoe (P1250 per person) from the tourist office in the centre of town next to the plaza. A minimum of two people is required (boats fit three passengers); if you’re travelling solo the tourist office will do its best to pair you with another (or you can pay double). Only bangcero licensed and employed by the town government are allowed to operate boats, so be wary of the touts that stand along the highway offering boat trips to arriving tourists. Riverside guesthouses and resorts such as La Vista will also organise a boat for you for an extra fee, with the advantage that they’ll pick you up.

It’s customary and expected to tip your bangcero; P100 per person is suggested.

4Sleeping & Eating



( GOOGLE MAP ; %049-501 1229; 2 Garcia St; d P950; aW)

Right on the river in town, 150m west of the bridge, friendly, family-run La Vista has five clean air-con doubles and loungey common areas, and is the best budget choice. It caters to short stayers coming for the waterfall trip with a 12-hour rate (P450) and a three-hour rate (P350) in a house across the street.

Willy Flores GuesthouseGUESTHOUSE$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0948 601 2086; Garcia St; r with fan P500)

More a homestay than guesthouse, this very basic place is cheap and run by an affable family with knowledge of the area. Breakfast is P60 extra. It’s 400m west of the bridge in the centre of town.

oAling Taleng’s Halo HaloFILIPINO$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %0916-309 3683; 169 General Luna St; halo-halo P110, mains P120-370; h9am-8pm; W)

This restaurant-bar right by the bridge has been making its signature halo-halo – that iconic icy Filipino dessert – since 1933, and is locally famous for it. It’s also an excellent place for a meal of the usual Filipino classics or an evening cocktail.

Emin & MilasFILIPINO$

( GOOGLE MAP ; Rizal St; mains P70-160; h10am-10pm)

This simple canteen is the place for cheap, filling and authentic Filipino dishes.

oCalle ArcoFILIPINO$$

( GOOGLE MAP ; %049-501 4584; 57 Rizal St; mains P170-300; h10am-10pm; a)

Easily the best restaurant in town, atmospheric Calle Arco adds uniquely Pagsanjan touches to Filipino fare, along with pizza and pasta. Try the chicken sisig (spicy and sour grilled meat) fajitas. There’s an attached Parisian-themed cafe and a breezy alfresco dining area to complement the more formal restaurant.



Pagsanjan Tourist Office ( GOOGLE MAP ; %049-501 3544;; General Taino St; h8am-5pm) Opposite the church, this is the place to organise boat trips and pick up local information.

8Getting There & Away


There are no direct buses to Pagsanjan, but regular DLTB and Greenstar buses link Manila (P140, 2½ hours) with nearby Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz bus terminal is on the highway about 5km west of Pagsanjan; frequent jeepneys run to/from Pagsanjan (P10).

Pick up jeepneys to Lucena and Lucban heading east along the main road in Pagsanjan.

Originally posted 2021-05-05 22:08:36.