Awesome Aw-Asen Falls
Situated in the mountainous regions of Ilocos Sur, the Aw-Asen falls is the province’s hidden gem. While just going to the town of Sigay where it is located is already an adventure of its own, it’s perhaps much more if the beauty of the falls is to be personally seen.
JOYRIDE TO SIGAY
It’s six in the morning when we reached the town of Candon. From here we were guided by the tricycle driver of the terminal going to Sigay. We learned that in a single day, there is only a single journey available by jeepney, and the jeepney will be arriving at 10 am. So we were suggested to go to the house of the mayor (of Sigay) which is only nearby to ask for assistance. By phone, we were met with Bal, a personnel of the Mayor’s office in Sigay and assisted us. He also suggested that we can use our van during our trip (which we later regretted).
Exactly 7 am, after taking our breakfast we started on our journey. We passed by the towns of Banayoyo, Lidlidda until we reached the mountainous parts of San Emilio, Del Pilar and Sigay. Most of the roads here are one way and some segments are still dirt roads. Expect to meet steep climbs, steep descents, and sharp turns. Taking this journey is literally a pain in the ass because of the deep pits along the road. It’s no wonder why most jeeps taking this route have higher suspensions.
At the other side, the trip is very rewarding, as you will be seeing the beauty of the mountains, rice terraces, and streams as you travel by. Because we have traveled early we can still feel the cool fresh air coming through us. After two hours of a bumpy ride, we finally reached the small town of Sigay.
Upon arrival at the town, we immediately went to the municipal hall where we were greeted by Bal. We both surprised and awed by the warmth of their hospitality given to us. We were served with snacks and also their own Sigay coffee, which they were proud of and had already won a nationwide competition. As the town lacked hotels, one office room was turned into a guest room to accommodate visiting tourists. After a small chit-chat, we quickly went toward the falls.
TREK TO THE FALLS
Because the falls are located Sigay’s remotest barangay, Santo Rosario, we have to take a long trip going here. The main road is closed and we have to take another route through the mountains, where the road seemed to be freshly flattened by a bulldozer. I felt pity for our poor vehicle which had to endure the muds and deep pits. It is a six-kilometer rough ride before we reached the drop-off point, and from here we have to continue our journey by foot.
From the drop-off point, we have to walk for another 4.6 kilometers or so before reaching the waterfalls. The route includes the need to cross the river, whose flow leads to the Aw-Asen. The river’s waters are clear and on its deeper portions, we noticed one local spearfishing tilapia.
After crossing the river, we faced yet another challenge – the need to climb and descend as we traveled through the mountain. Because we are at the top of the falls we have to go down to see it. I can say this trek is similar to that in Hulugan Falls but only higher. Because of the burdensome journey needed to reach it, the site has not yet been much developed.
AWESTRUCK AT AW-AWSEN
After a thirty minute hike, we finally stumbled on the beauty of Aw-Awsen. In reality, I didn’t expect very much because I was told by Bal beforehand that there are not much waters because of lack of rains (like our experience in Abang Falls). But then we were awed by what we saw. You can capture the beauty of the falls at any angle. But it is said that we went on a very good timing: during the rainy season, the river current is so strong that it’s almost impossible for it to be crossed. Aside from a single newly-built cottage, there aren’t any cottages or rafts available because it is often being damaged.
The falls has a height of 142 feet (43 meters) and the deepest part of the basin has a depth of 8 meters. The cloudy skies prevented us from seeing the rainbow. Nonetheless, we were still awestruck.
As our knees were already shaking due to exhaustion from our challenging trek we immediately feasted on the meals prepared by Bal (also courtesy of the Mayor’s office, I told you that’s how hospitable they are). After eating we dived into its clear waters. There aren’t any people aside from us so we can really feel like communicating with Nature.
Bal has no idea how Aw-Asen got its name. Aside from the locals, the regular visitors of this falls are the residents of Suyo and from other nearby places in the lowlands. Summer is the peak season of visitors. And because of its exposure in television and social media, visitorship is slowly gaining ground. Most of the visitors tend to stay overnight. And because it’s raining and nearing disk, we decided to return to the town proper. We were warned that it would be difficult if we were caught by rains or twilight unless if staying overnight. And while it’s already challenging to descend to the falls, the return trip is more challenging because it’s more on an ascent.
I overheard our Ilocano companions saying “Amin nga immay ditoy, aan da nga nagsublin” or “all those who come here never returned”. I cannot blame them, the journey going here is arduous. But for now it’s for the better, at least visitorship can be regulated, and thus overcrowding and overdevelopment (and possible commercialization) can be averted. But I told Bal that we shall return once the road is paved.
Take the road going to Santiago, Ilocos Sur. Before reaching the Santiago bridge, turn right going to Banayoyo. Before reaching San Emilio, descend to Barangay Paltoc. Go straight until you passed by the town of Gregorio del Pilar. From here is a thirty-minute climb going to the town. From the town, coordinate with the municipal government going to the falls.
Note: The place mostly lacks signages so it’s better to ask the locals while traveling. And take caution as most roads are one-way.
Alternate Route: Take the Suyo-Cervantes road until reaching the bridge in Barangay Urzadan. From here take this road (Suyo-Sigay Road) until reaching Barangay Sto. Rosario.
Note: You will be passing by a creek so it’s advisable to avoid going here during strong rains.
The terminal can be found in Candon, only several blocks from the church. There is only a single trip per day and the jeepney leaves at 1 pm. The fare costs PhP70.
(0927) 675 4613 – Bacardi Quitor (Bal)
Office of the Mayor, Sigay Engineering Office
Please coordinate with the Municipal Office