WE FOLLOWED the wrong route on our trek to Atnayan Falls. Instead of heading straight to Atnayan, we were sidetracked to Malbato and Pinagturan one fateful afternoon.
When we realized that we were headed nowhere and when we saw the water turn slowly into the color of chocolate, our pathfinders Jun2x and Batman resolved to climb up the cliff, hoping that once we have successfully hurdled it, we would be able to figure out the direction.
We were very lucky to have climbed up the rocks before the flood came rushing down the creek. Had our leaders not been quick to resolve to change our direction, we would have been swallowed by the flood.
Wading through tall grasses, with mud thickening under our sandals and shoes, and the heavy rain decreasing the visibility of the surroundings, we were in a dire situation. Fortunately, we saw an abandoned shed not very far from where we were. We decided to stay there until the rain stops and to discuss how we could find our way to Atnayan from there.
We were also worrying about two of our companions, Mickey and Ading, who went ahead of us. Did they go home with the members of Magu? Did they stay in Atnayan? We had no idea, and there is terror in not knowing.
It was only half past one o’clock in the afternoon but it looked like the sun has already set. Dark clouds filled the sky and it seemed like rain fell in buckets and not droplets. There was no sign that the rain would stop anytime soon, so we decided to proceed after a quick lunch.
We spent just a few minutes in the shed. Jun2x and Batman did not waste a second. They went on finding a way out of the area. When they came back, they told us that they have found a way, and we started walking again. The path is steeper this time, and we had better be sure of our footing, else, we would fall off the ravine.
A ray of hope shone on our faces when, at a distance, we found a hut and several men protecting a cornfield from flood by creating a canal to divert the water.
We asked them for directions and they were more than willing to help us. In fact, one of the men accompanied us to the Sitio of Pinagturan, where we met the Purok Chairman. From Pinagturan, we then walked for one more hour to Canaan.
Like a series of unfortunate events, we had to cross one river in order to reach New Canaan, and it was flooding when we reached its bank. We spent a few more minutes there before Mardy found out that it was safe to cross the river.
After crossing the river, we passed by a village. We decided to ask the locals for directions. Before we were able to utter a word, an old woman spoke to us, “Your companions are here.”
It was a relief to hear it. There were fourteen people who went ahead of us.
“There are two of them here, ” the woman said. I was sure they were Mickey and Ading. “The others already took their way home,” she added. But by the looks of it, we were sure, it would be impossible for the members of Magu to reach home that afternoon.
We asked what the name of the village was and we learned that we were already in Atnayan. The Purok Chairman of Atnayan, Romeo Yatot, offered his home to us but we said, we were leaving for Canaan as per instruction of the Barangay Captain. We thanked the village for their hospitality and walked to New Canaan.
It was already dark when we reached New Canaan. It was not hard to find the home of Pedro Salway, our host there, as everybody knows everyone in the village. They prepared coffee for us and someone gave a chicken and a duck. The hospitality of B’laans, the local tribe, is admirable.
Hot chicken stew filled our stomachs and stories from the local men satiated our curiosity of the place.
We spent the night in New Canaan Integrated High School. The PTA president of the school, Romeo Domato, offered that we sleep in the class-dorm, but we insisted that we would just build a camp, so we pitched our tents there and saved our energy for another trekking the next day.
We woke up the next morning filled with excitement to see what we went there for. We left after breakfast, which Ading prepared. Jun2x prepared a dish from the the duck, which we packed for our lunch at Atnayan Falls.
We bid farewell and said thank you to our gracious hosts in New Canaan. Before heading to Atnayan falls, we passed by Atnayan village to notify the Purok Chairman. His son served as our guide to the waterfall.
Thirty minutes from the village, we trekked the river that originates from the Atnayan Falls. Similar to Malbato, there were several cascades to cross before reaching the waterfalls.
As went deeper into the jungle, the wind became cooler. My excitement peaked when I started to hear the sound of a large volume of water falling from a height. “Finally, we’ve reached Atnayan,” I sighed.
I have learned from one of the locals that there are plans of building a mini-hydroelectic power plant that will harness the potential energy of the falling water in producing electricity.
I imagined, a dam has to be built in the area in order to realize the plan of building the power plant. In other words, the natural beauty of Atnayan falls will no longer be seen. I am glad that before it happens, I was able to gaze at its majestic grandeur and bath in its pool of cool waters.
We walked with our hearts filled with joy and our memories with meaningful encounters with culture and nature.