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The Mag-aso Falls is one of Bohol’s natural treasures. With a height of 25 feet, the twin falls is picturesque against a backdrop of tall trees, wild plants including giant ferns, and deep ravines. Once on the site, while bathing and surrounded by the natural landscape, one feels immersed in a middle of a jungle with the sound of the interminable chirping of the birds and the rush of flowing waters playing music to your ears.
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Carved out under the cascading waters is a pool, naturally deep under the falls and shallower at the rim with a deep ravine at one side and the other side a bit developed with concrete steps and shelters.
Though the concrete steps may be disappointing to some nature seekers, it was deemed necessary for those who do not have the energy and capacity to traverse slippery trails. The shelters would have been more apt if they were made with thatched roofing and wood materials to go with the surroundings. Yet the cement seats and tables are convenient enough.
Trekkers, who love a rough and challenging terrain can avoid the steps, enjoy a slippery descent and do an exhilarating climb with the use of shrubs and stones as foothold and vines and other plants to pull one up. But rainy season will surely make this feat an ordeal in itself.
There are 197 steps with metal handrails leading towards the falls from the clearing, which is a few minutes ride away from the Poblacion of Antequera. Way down the steps, at a sudden twist of the trail, is a stone seat where one can rest. There are intervals where the steps are wider to allow one to rest wobbly knees and painful muscles.
Yes, if one is not used to going up and down steep slopes, even granting very good steps, one will experience painful cramps. Visitors are advised to take the steps slowly and leisurely. Enjoy the natural surroundings. Listen to the chirping of the birds and observe butterflies and countless dragonflies dart in and out from the dense foliage. Slowly! Only thus will you make it to the falls and up back to the clearing.
The slow and often painful descent is well worth it. At the point where you hear the roaring of the waters as they go over the ravine, one feels the tiredness leave as if by magic. Excitement takes over. You quicken your steps . . . and in a jiffy, you are at the foot of the trail. Behold for yourself the magnificent twin falls, often obscured by fine mist that appears smoke-like. Thus, Mag-aso falls got its name. “Aso”, in the local dialect means “smoke”.
Feeling hot and sticky, the humid atmosphere not helping, the very cool and refreshing water is a sure relief. Go take a dip! For swimmers, try the deepest point near the falls but for the non-swimmers, just content yourself on swimming at the water’s edge and do avoid the water outlet! The current from the falls to its outlet is strong. And beware the moss-covered stones, too. They are slippery!
Go climb up and see how it feels to be above the falls. See the winding narrow stream that feeds the falls and watch the water fall down the rock boulders to the lagoon below. If you are daring enough, climb the rocks from below and under the waterfall and seek the small cave under it. It is a secret nook of local boys.
The top of the boulders, where the water flow over as they go out from the lagoon, looks flat and shiny. Looking almost white with centuries of being battered with the flowing water, the stones are carved out in some points making that part look green and dark. The stream looks so inviting. I can imagine myself lying on the flat stone (at the shallow part, of course!) and feel the rushing water go over my body. Wow, that would be nice!
Going down towards the stream is made easy with steps carved out from the stone sides. Way off down the stream is a deep part where one can enjoy swimming. One has to be a strong swimmer though for the current here is strong. The stream flows down thru dense foliage and snakes thru rugged terrain to its river outlet.
The Mag-aso Falls is located in the barrio of Mag-aso in the town of Antequera, Bohol, Philippines. It is about 20 kilometers from Tagbilaran City, roughly a 30 minutes ride away. The falls is a major attraction of the town together with karst caves such as the Buhong Tiawan, Hagakgak, Inambacan, and Antequera.
Antequera is an inland town situated in the western part of Bohol and composed of 21 barangays. With good roads, the town is bounded in the west by the municipality of Calape & Loon, the municipality of San Isidro in the northeast, and the municipality of Maribojoc in the southwest; in the southeast by the municipality of Cortes and in the east by the municipality of Balilihan.
Aside from being blessed with rolling & rugged terrains interspersed with rivers, streams and brooks, the town is also known as the basket capital of Bohol. Sundays, Antequera’s market day, is the day when baskets of different sizes and shapes are displayed in the local market and traders from out of town, hailing from Cebu and far-off Manila come to buy their products for export to other countries throughout the world.
Mag-aso Falls is one of the main attractions of Bohol but rarely included in day tour itineraries since it is relatively out of the way. Situated inland, it does not lie in the pathway towards Loboc town, the Loboc river cruise, tarsier viewing, and on towards Bilar’s mahogany man-made forest and the Chocolate Hills, Bohol’s main attraction.
Travelers who have come to know about the twin falls in advance often request tour operators to include it in their itinerary but usually dole out an additional fee to cover gas consumption. Yet if you have contacts in Bohol and can get a private ride, visiting the falls will not be a problem.
The town may be so out of the way, yet travelers who make the trip find it worthwhile. Intermittent verdant rice fields with hilly backdrops are stunning to look at aside from the picturesque ancestral homes that dot the way.
For the adventuresome spirits who want to visit the falls in their own pace and time, and likewise avoiding the high prices of tour agencies, the area where the falls is located is very accessible. Buses and jeepneys ply the route to the town from Tagbilaran City. Disembarking in the town proper, tricycles and motorcycles are available to bring one to the falls.
(by: ellen marie o. buno)