The green in the fields of Tabun-acan in the town of Pilar, Capiz is mostly sugarcane; there are few ricefields, and even fewer trees except in the mountains where nobody is allowed to cut them.
Tabun-acan is most accessible through the town of Lutod-lutod (now renamed as President Roxas, which is separate from nearby Roxas City), where the sugar mill is located. Because farmers need to load the sugarcane onto trucks and transport them to the mill in the shortest possible time, the road is better through Lutod-lutod rather than in Pilar.
But the road condition in Pilar to its mountains is about to change because they have recently commenced construction of the Php 200 million road that hopefully will lead to Tabun-acan. For people from Pilar and the neighboring towns of northern Iloilo, the road’s completion will cut by half the travel time to Tabun-acan.
And why are we talking about going to Tabun-acan?
Because the place is home to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Capiz, by the name of Hinulugan Falls. From Lutod-lutod, it’s about a 30-minute ride. You’ll pass by the checkpoint manned by local barangay officials near the barangay plaza, where you’ll be asked to log your name and to pay the 20 pesos/pax entrance fee.
After that, you’ll be accompanied by a tour guide (or tour guides, depending on the size of your group). Then you’re off to experience the falls.
Vehicles are off-limits at about 100 meters from the waterfalls. You’ll need to trek along the mountain’s slopes on a road made by the locals’ mighty hands. From here, you’ll already feel the cool and moist air drifting from the falls.
And then, at the end of the road after your short trek, you’ll receive the reward for your efforts—a waterfall that’s 30-50 feet high.
But this is just one of the cascades, mind you. There’s another one at the mountaintop. And we were told that no travel magazine writer/photographer from Metro Manila had witnessed the waterfalls’ pure power at the peak.
So up we went. Our team was up for the challenge. We followed our local tour guides in traversing the slippery foot path which, they told us, leads to a town in Iloilo at the other side of the mountain.
But really, there was no clear footpath leading to the main falls. So our guides literally had to carve that path for us.
We had to hold on to vines or the trees’ roots to save ourselves from sliding down the steep mountainside and into the river below strewn with boulders. We had to catch our breath twice along the way.
Finally, we were at the foot of the falls. There was only the roar of the pristine water, interrupted by our excited voices. We were so glad to have been given the privilege to be with her, Tabun-acan’s pride. I wasn’t dressed to take a bath, but I felt that I had to to complete the experience, so I (almost) went skinny-dipping. (Of course, those photos won’t see the light here.)
After the refreshing swim and on our way back, we paid a visit to the local village chairman, Edgar Alfaro. Her daughter, then newly elected councilor Angela Alfaro-Tupas, had prepared a sumptuous lunch for us. Although she’s married to a lawyer based in Manila, she chose to remain in Tabun-acan to head an organization that takes care of the forest.
And her efforts haven’t been in vain. Her area was awarded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Region 6 as the best protected area; they were given a million-peso grant for its further protection. As part of this protection program, her organization has planted 200 hectares worth of rattan.
In light of this, the councilor promised that when she had delivered her first baby, she’ll personally accompany us there. We still have yet to return, but needless to say, we eagerly await the time to be reunited with Pilar’s picturesque waterfalls.
That sacred place convinced me that there are some beautiful things in this world we can only witness but cannot be part of.
(Photos were taken by the author and Phillip Kimpo Jr.)
Where in the World is Pilar?
The town is located at the eastern part of Capiz province. You can take a commuter bus from Roxas City that will drop you off at Pilar. PAL and Cebu Pacific fly daily to Roxas City, which is the provincial capital.
You can also ride a bus or van to Roxas City from the three busy airports found on Panay Island—the Kalibo International Airport west of Capiz, the Caticlan Airport which services Boracay Island, and the Iloilo International Airport south of Capiz.