Posts Tagged ‘Libagon’

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Despite the unrelenting summer heat there are places on Earth where rain never ceases to fall. One of them is in a gorge at the municipality of Libagon in Southern Leyte. The place is called the Uwan-uwanan Gorge (‘uwan’ means rain in the dialect, and a ‘gorge’ is like a mini-Grand Canyon) named after the place’s enchanting quality of making rain-like experience from  fresh water dropping from above the cliffs. Rain literally last forever here. And that alone is one damn good reason to visit!

I’ve been to the Uwan-uwanan Gorge three years ago. However, I did not explore the whole area because we were in a big group and we just love to enjoy the place. This weekend, however, me and my life-long pal Ramil Melano who is on a summer vacation from Manila, decided to check out the ‘rumored’ exhilarating challenge the place offers. We had no idea what challenge we were really up against…

Reminders:

Uwan-uwanan is no walk in the park. It’s ‘canyoneering’ one of the most dangerous (and painful) summer adventure you’ll ever experience. It’s best to bring the following appropriate stuff: Comfortable or compression clothing. Durable Islander sandals or aqua/trail shoes. Helmets and vests are not provided but I really recommend to Challengers to bring their own (see below photo). Foods, lunch is good but you’ll need light carbohydrates rich foods. Water tumblers (water is fresh there). Money for the tour guides at P250 each, and environmental fees at P10. GoPro or any action cams (make sure it wont get wet). Dry bags are a must to store the stuff you don’t want to get wet. And lastly a huge dose of spirit of adventure!

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The Uwan-uwanan Challenge!

The challenge turned out to be an epic adventures filled with bruises, busted muscles, death-defying climbs, but ultimately rewarding with drop-dead gorgeous scenes. It’s a challenge unlike any others we experienced before. For a quick statistics its a four kilometer trek from the starting point to the grand finale, you get to become  frenemies with five waterfalls (yes five!),  climb on four of them,  cliff jump on three and we finished the challenge in 5+ hours. Uwan-uwanan Challenge is definitely not for the faint hearted and the weak. It was survival at its core. So #buwisbuhay mode on and GoPro out!

First Challenge: The Trek – Like almost all journeys it always starts with a single stride repeated a million times. From the starting area at the Brgy. Kawayan, Libagon the challengers must walk a 2-3 kilometer trail of rough roads, bushes, and river crossings. There’s no elevation gains and the river crossings are not a problem.  It’s only  foreplay, the easiest part of the challenge. Survival rate is 100%.

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Second Challenge: Hodor – As of this writing we already learned of the meaning of ‘Hodor’ in Game of Thrones, so there’s no proper way to name this small but very meaningful part of the challenge. After the long trek the challengers will see in a river bank and on its wall are the words “Welcome Uwan-uwanan Gorge”. It basically means Welcome to the main challenge you idiots! This is the passageway to suffering and fun. It is highly recommended to take selfies and full body group shots  in this area (while you’re still whole and fresh and innocent bwahaha). Hold the door and take your selfies.

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Third Challenge: Aqua Extremis – By the time you came out of Hodor only then you’ll realize what kind of challenge you have signed in for: a wet and wild adventure date with nature. And its real. From here on out the trek is purely a long and dangerous climb. Every inch of your body will be wet, every strides are potentially dangerous, every muscle of your body pulled out and yes every climb is non-negotiable! Remember this is a five-waterfall challenge with increasing climbing difficulty  and we ain’t got choppers. So man up and hold the door este the ropes.

WaterFall #1 – The first one’s the easiest one to climb. Just a mere 20 feet with ropes and old tires in the right side of the falls to maneuver. Just a left-foot up, right-foot up then push, and you’re there! After conquering this fall you’ll immediately see the second waterfall and a perfect resting place.

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WaterFall #2 – Let it be known that by the time the Challengers get to this point, chances are people are hungry and tired. At the bank of this waterfall is flat surface where everyone can relax and eat. The water is cold and deep, so swim to your heart’s desires!

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To climb this waterfall, the challengers must maneuver at the right side of the fall’s rocky wall. There are ropes tied like nets or spider webs so climbing should be a bit of a challenge ala Spider-man. But make sure to hold on to the ropes and not look down haha. Once you get over this part, remember This is the point of no turning back.

WaterFall #3 – Now this particular waterfall is a thing of beauty to behold… and a stuff of nightmare when you realize that YOU HAVE TO CLIMB THAT BIG BAD THINGY. To be honest I froze like a white-walker when I saw and analyzed my predicament. Yes its a beautiful body of water, quite high, at least 50 feet but then how in the world will I find the courage to climb it? To climb it using the spider ropes and old tires is definitely nuts. Under normal circumstances that is already beyond my fear threshold, but hey I got a willing soul in Ram.  And besides a group of four (three girls and a guy) was already ahead of  us and climbing it. So what the heck. Kat-kat!

This particular climb is absolutely one of the craziest thing I’ve done in my life. It just that scary and having no helmet, vest or climbing gears doesn’t help ease out the misery. Pro tip: just trust your feet. Make sure to step securely on the ropes in every strides. And savor that moment when you reached the top! High five!

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WaterFall #4 – This one looks noticeably smaller than #3 but make no mistake this is one tough waterfall to climb. In terms of climbing difficulty, this one is the hardest part of the Uwan-uwanan Challenge. Like WF#3, your life and success depends on the spider ropes. This time you are facing against the falling waters. Out there it’s Man vs Wild (vs The Ropes). What makes this climb difficult is not the height but on how you pull yourself to the top. The ropes are difficult to climb in because it tends to dance sideways and backwards. Balance has never been this precious. The Challengers must be ready to drain the living souls of their upper body muscles. They must climb with a strong arm and a strong pair of legs. May the Force be with them. Because me, I almost gave up on this one. Too tough, too hard, too tired. I guess it comes in handy to have pride and determination.

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WaterFall #5 – The Hallelujah Waterfall – after the punishing waterfalls in #3 and #4 behold this awesome sight, the Grand Finale! A grand waterfall probably at least a 100ft high that not even a camera can handle its beauty and grace. This is exactly what you came for. Just being there is a trophy moment already. No more climbing, only swimming, selfies and praises to up above. The Challengers must pay their respect and surrender theme selves to nature’s awesome beauty and raise their hands. Hallelujah.

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This is what the goPro can take. A good shot. But the real thing is divine!

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and we met new friends at the gorge finale!

(Note: The guides say there’s still a waterfall beyond, but sadly it’s not for tourists to climb, yet)

Fourth Challenge: Cliff Jump – When the Challengers have their energies refilled and selfies taken at the grand finale they must trace back the exact route towards the starting line. But home is still a long road ahead. Folks we’re not out of the woods, er rivers, yet.  And going downstairs might be faster but it doesn’t necessarily mean easier. Climbing down the waterfalls is actually scary because you can see how high you’re at and how far is your katagakan. But I have one pro tip to offer: cliff jump! All of the waterfalls packed in deep waters below. So jumping is a must try! I jumped at WFs at #4, #3 and #2! Jumping is an exhilarating and liberating experience to let go of the recent painful memories and celebrate thy conquests. And its way faster and more badass. (I almost give our tourguide a heart attack in every jump)

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from 2013. Last weekend I jumped more and higher!

End Game

Now that everything has been said and done it is very important to preserve and promote the Uwan-uwanan Gorge. I know its not going to be for everyone because of its physical requirements but for a Challenger to another please come, test yourself, and have a GoPro worthy good time. You will be challenged, and you will have fun. That I can promise.

There’s still a lot to be done in the area. The Libagon LGU must step in to promote by inviting travel bloggers (*coughs*), instagramers, prints and TV crews etc to take the Challenge.  That’s the easy part. The hard part is developing the area.  Challengers must register and be provided with safety gears. Safety ladders or tighter ropes should be installed in the climbing parts. Of course that entail costs, that’s why its the hard part.

But despite the inherent danger, nobody ever got seriously hurt in the area. Like, never, as what our guide Glenn Toledo assured us. Maybe the guides are good (which they are, so pay them good too), or perhaps in the recess of our civilization, someone or something is looking after the Challengers and the place. I did not have the courage to ask the guides, but Uwan-uwanan is really off-the-charts ‘enchanted’. It’s hard to explain, but I felt there is something beautiful, kind and paranormal in the area. But that’s for another discussion. Whatever it is I am grateful.

Peace Y'all!

Peace Y’all!

How to get there:

The Uwan Gorge is located in Brgy. Kawayan in the town of Libagon, Southern Leyte.

By Air: It can be reached from Manila through a flight to Tacloban City. Then from Tacloban hop in a van to the town of Sogod at P150. Travel time is 2.5 hours.  Then from Sogod hop in a multi-cab or a bus going to Libagon, make sure to ask the driver to drop off at Brgy. Kawayan Elementary School. You should reach the village in 20 mins.

By Sea: From Cebu you may take a ship to Hilongos, Leyte. Then from the Hilongos Port ride a bus to Sogod for an hour’s travel for P80. Then from Sogod catch a multi-cab to Brgy. Kawayan, Libagon.

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The List

I’ve been to places, and I’m lucky enough to have worked in a few cities like Manila, Cebu and Boracay. One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received from friends and workmates after hearing where I’m from is this one: “Anong maganda dun sa (Southern) Leyte? (What’s good out there?)” Sometimes, I found the answers harder to explain because for one thing they’re not even aware there is a Southern Leyte. I love to answer jokingly to them that there a lot of wonderful and good-looking people (ehmm like me) out there in my province! Unconsciously, I think  I failed my province (Oliver Queen/Greet Arrow can you shoot me now?). It deserves more introduction than a cheap joke.

The truth is Southern Leyte is one treasure trove of wonderful places. When I was in the town of San Juan last Tuesday for a funeral, I made this list of places, of tourist spots and places of historic importance here in our Province. I made two columns; one for the places I’ve been to, and one for the places I haven’t been. I came up with a long list, in both columns. My God! All these years, I’ve been like sitting duck under a pile of gems and I never bothered to notice! So to celebrate the founding month of Southern Leyte let me at least offer this travelogue of the wonderful places the province can offer.

This is the SoLey Travelogue. For the whole month of July, and maybe until August I’m going to feature the places on that List. And yes, I’ll be travelling during weekends in the Province. So if you have any places you want me to cover. Just drop by your suggestions in the comments section. 🙂

The Uwan-uwanan Gorge

To start off the series of travel blogs featuring Southern Leyte, let me take you to this captivating place called the Uwan-uwanan Gorge. It’s not just a waterfall, it’s actually a series of waterfalls along a hard and treacherous trek located in barangay Kawayan of the Libagon municipality. I was able to visit this place before summer with my friends and colleagues from BCCI , as a send-off adventure for me. And the whole experience from the roadtrip to Libagon, the challenging trek, the wipe-outs by the river, the falls and the bonding with friend under this Mother Nature’s truly hidden gem completely blew my expectations away.

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These guys really have no idea what they were up to. hihi

It was amazing out there. And that place needs some serious promotional effort to attract the young and wild-at-hearts to visit.

So how to get there? If you’re from Tacloban ride van or bus to Sogod town. Don’t ride a trip to Hinunangan since there’s already a new highway that takes on a different route straight to the Pacific towns. From Sogod hire a multicab to Kawayan, Libagon and stop at the Kawayan Elementary School. Then look for the Barangay Hall nearby, they will provide you with the guides and a quick briefing of what’s really ahead: Adventure! So Keep Calm and Pay Your Dues, but not much though.

So we head off  in search for this hidden adventure. And here’s my step by step advice on how to maximize you journey. Trust me, this is based on experience.

Step 1. Traverse the kalibunan and try to make good friends with the river. Easy huh? It’s just a good 30-45 minute trek on foot and safety is really no guarantee. Expect the slides and the wipeouts (which I proudly did! haha) for the stones are wet . This is no walk in the park and you’ll be crossing the same river a few times.  Word of advice: Have mercy on your Havaianas. Just bring a good pair of tsinelas or a pair of mountain shoes. Quality over style.

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Step 2. Get wet. The term Uwan-uwanan is derived from the word “uwan” which means rain. And it’s not called Uwan-uwanan for no reason at all. Because it really rains non-stop in some parts of the trek. Well not literally rain from the sky, but the gorge is surrounded by falls and cliffs that spreads down waters to create the raining effects. Amazing.

It's raining in middle of summer.

It’s raining (and always will) in the middle of summer.

Step 3. Pack up. You should know upfront that you’re in for a really wet adventure. And I mean completely wet, before you even reach the finish line. Fake rains will inevitably fall into you, you will have to swim your way accross, and you will literally climb waterfalls to claim that eternal glory of conquering the gorge. So please bring lots of plastics to secure and seal up your clothes, your foods, your cameras and your other gadgets.

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Wet. And I mean this wet. We are not even there yet.

Step 4. Trust your tourguides. Because they take you to the place, carry your bags, your foods and even yourself if you want them to. By the way,  right after swimming across a river ledge, you will climb up a waterfall – literally (see pics below). Don’t worry the guides will take good care of you. And for Pete’s sake pakan-a ug bayri  tawn na sila! Give them food and pay them good.

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Oh scary! Nyahahaha

Step 5. Bring a camera. Okay, this the no-brainer part. Of course, every adventure needs a little something to remember just make sure to secure it from the waters. This blogpost is completely impossible without the trusted underwater camera  and an SLR from my beloved friends brought along. There’s no way I’m writing this without those stuffs. I love you guys.

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“Oo na, kayo na ang may camera” – ang nakaDSLR

Step 6. Swim! You’ll get there eventually to the place where there’s a beautiful waterfall and a very relaxing natural swimming pool with matching colossal rocks by the side shielding you from the sun. In another words, amazing place. Your hurts and bumps will all eventually pay off once you get there. So relax, and swim like a mad man once you get there.

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Step 7. Cliff Jump. Yup we are not done yet, you see there’s a cliff by the side and it’s climable and it’s very very very enticing. I heard it say climb up, so I did it. I heard it again saying don’t fall, and I jumped. Don’t worry the water is very deep and please it doesn’t kill.

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I said to my cameraman I will jump on the count of three. But I jumped at “1”. Can’t help it, I was excited. Thus this awkward looking shot of an idiot (tsk tsk). Hahaha.

Step 8. Eat and Shoot like there’s no tomorrow!

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Step 9. Explore the Beyond! There are still a few sceneries and falls awaiting on top of the gorge that were not taken by the camera. It was a dangerous additional trek but really worth it. It was a killer view. Just see it for yourself when you get there. It’s a bonus.

I hope you guys gets to visit this wonderful place. 🙂 It’s more fun in Southern Leyte!