San Luis: Revisiting Ditumabo Falls
When we had the opportunity to visit the province of Aurora, I wasted no opportunity to recommend to the flock the waterfalls Aurorans are proud of — the Ditumabo Falls. It is found in Brgy. Ditumabo (obviously) in the town of San Luis and it is more known as the Mother Falls.
Ditumabo Falls, 14 Years Ago
It has been a long time since my visit here (2002), but the experience of my trip is still fresh in my mind. It has been my first nature trekking and it’s also the first time I had an accident (only a minor one) when I slipped off the rocks, but it is nothing when I saw the beauty of the famed waterfalls on my journey.
I first learned about the falls from a signage that we spotted while traveling along the Bongabon-Aurora road. From the highway I am thinking about how to get there, fortunately, I met an elderly (I forgot his name) who volunteered to guide me. From the neighborhood along the highway, we went through the wild trail leading to the waterfalls. We are like playing patintero with the rocks as we followed the upstream, trying to trace the water’s source.
After about two hours of trekking, we stumbled upon the beauty of the falls. The downward water flow is so strong you can feel the splash even in the distance. It also made taking its photos burdensome, especially for me who is still new to photography at that time (digital cameras still not common back then). I was so excited that I swam, not minding I have no extra clothes. And because the place is isolated at that time, we were the only persons at the site.
The surroundings are so pristine and well shaded by the trees atop the boulders. There seemed to be no trace of human activity except for a stump, whose tree was cut off to build a bridge. The waters are clear and cool which makes bathing refreshing. After a couple of hours, we decided to leave, making a promise that I would return to this hidden paradise someday. Though the elder guide asked no commercial fee nor any compensation, I decided to give him a voluntary donation (undisclosed amount) for the great excitement and enjoyment that I experienced on my mini-adventure at that time that cannot be compared to any material value.
Mother Falls, Today
Along with the development of the site, commercialization also came in. It made me and some of the flock disappointed, especially that upon entrance we were met with several people offering guided tours. Leaving us with no choice, we just rented a tricycle going in, driven by Mang Joey, who also served as our guide. The path was paved with concrete, cutting the usually four-kilometer trek into the half. We also have to pay P30 per head as an “environment fee” and were forbidden to bring plastic or styrofoams other than bottled waters. Not far away we saw a concrete structure – we learned that a turbine generator was installed here as it was made into a hydro-electric dam.
From the drop-off point, we walked on our way toward the falls. From the previously wild trail, trekking became easier except for some streams that we have to cross. The large steel tubes which provided water supply towards the generator also served as our guide. On our way, we met with some group of youth who were also visiting the falls.
The falls started to become popular when it was featured in 2010 in a national beauty contest aired nationwide. Since then visitors started flocking to the falls especially during holidays and weekends. A typhoon has just recently passed so we saw broken branches and trees over the stream. After thirty minutes of walking, we finally saw the famous falls of San Luis.
We were excited, but at the same time disappointed with the large changes to its environment. The boulders which previously covered the falls were removed, the basins expanded and filled with concrete mix to make the waters converge. Though plastic is banned, there are still lots of trash littering the area.
I coped with my disappointment by swimming on its cool, clear waters. Though, I can’t avoid bumping with others because of the number of visitors (lalo pa kaya during weekends or holidays). Like before, after several hours of bathing, jumping, diving, and photo-op, we once again trekked on our way back, wondering if I can explore the place again and see its stunning beauty as what it was fourteen years ago.
Barangay Dimatubo is situated 6 kilometers (7 mins) from the town proper of San Luis. From here you can bring your vehicle up to the drop-off point. From here take an almost two-kilometer trek to the falls.
* You can rent a tricycle (up to four persons) where you can also be brought to other nearby tourist attractions. Just talk with the Baler Tourism Office for information on those places as well as the rates.
Environmental/Entrance Fee(?): P30
Parking – Free
Guide – P300
Did you wonder why most places in Aurora starts with letter D? Like Ditumabo, Diguisit, Dicasalarin, Dipaculao, Dinalungan and so on. These names are named after the clans of the Ilongot, one of the indigenous tribes in the province known for headhunting.
Also known as the Ibilao, the Ilongots inhabit the Sierra Madre and Caraballo Mountains on the eastern side of Luzon, especially in the province of Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija and along the mountain borders between Quirino and Aurora. Another name for this tribe and its language are “Bulangkots”.
It is said that there are about 2,500 members of the Ilongot tribe. They also tend to be close to the rivers as it provided their food source and means of transportation. They are also known to speak the more widespread Ilocano language.