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Falling for the falls: Marilag’s tourism bid

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY ROEHL NIÑO BAUTISTA, GMA NEWS April 13, 2012 1:56pm
Deviating from the usually crowded beach getaway and planning a waterfalls escape might seem far-fetched. Pinoy netizens, for one, have decried the apparent demise of Antipolo’s Hinulugang Taktak, arguably the most famous of its kind since its folk song immortalization. Although water still flows from the famous falls, visitors can no longer take a dip in its spring like the song suggests, perhaps shelving any craving for a strong, cold shower courtesy of nature.
But for the locals of Sta. Maria, Laguna, a venue for such respite can be found in their town.
In an attempt to build a golden road toward tourism sustainability, the fourth-class municipality has recently developed its own eco-park, highlighted by a 30-minute hike to a literally-named Three Falls.

This recently-made bamboo bridge makes the hike to Three Falls shorter and easier.
The hike to Marilag’s (a contraction of Sta. Maria and Laguna) “virgin pride” was made easy by concrete steps, a recent development according to locals. Three months ago, they had to climb on rocks and tree roots to reach the falls. A bamboo bridge supported by steel cables also closed a deep chasm’s gap which locals used to cross by climbing down the muddy slope and up the rocky mountainside.
But the path to the falls was not entirely paved: visitors still get to cross streams with rocky steps, where being complacent can get you wet ahead of schedule. Old trees keep huge boulders from falling, under which hikers take a breather.

A boy wades through the Three Falls’ stream, which can be knee to waist deep at its shallow parts.
Reaching Three Falls for the first time can be a bit anti-climactic: it is smaller than what is usually imagined of waterfalls. But seeing kids on top of the falls revealed the hike’s real challenge: reaching the upper falls.
Masakit kapag naka-paa,” warned a local. But with footwear removed and pants rolled up, crossing the cold stream is easy for those already-initiated to the outdoors. Carrying photography gear along, however, gave no room for error.

Going barefoot is helpful in traversing the slippery side of Three Falls.
The untouched path was as raw as locals shared: climbing meant dealing with unstable rock and mud, relying on tree roots to keep going. But 10 minutes of dirt and close calls is rewarded by another waterfall, where the waters are just as cold but the ascent more rewarding. Going barefoot was also a good decision.

More kids opt to bathe in the upper levels of Three Falls, which is more challenging to reach.
The local government of Sta. Maria, Laguna expects its recently-developed eco-park to be at the forefront of its attempt in putting the town on the country’s tourism map. Launched together with its first Marilag Festival on Tuesday, Three Falls banks on its barely touched beauty to attract visitors.
Nilagyan namin ng concrete trail, mga steps, kasi ayaw naming maapektuhan ang nature,” Mayor Antonio Carolino told GMA News Online. “Gusto namin ma-enjoy ang nature nang hindi nasisira.”
The tourism bid is backed by the town’s attempt to promote its rice products, since they are considered as Laguna’s rice granary.

Marilag’s best bibingka is sold during the festival’s trade fair.
Gusto rin natin makilala sa Sta. Maria na ang delicacies ay made of rice,” said local DTI representative Arnel Magpili, who told GMA News Online that the municipality has diverted its efforts from citrus to rice. Aside from bibingka, they have sinukmani, suman, pinaltok, and kalamay.
But will food and nature be enough to attract tourists? That waits to be seen as Three Falls aims for a Hinulugang Taktak fame. –KG, GMA News 
See the original article here:
For more info about Sta. Maria Laguna, please visit http://www.santamarialaguna.gov.ph/.
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