Unknown to the locals, the pristine Pinipisakan waterfalls and untouched Sulpan Cave lie in the deep tropical rainforest of San Jorge Samar, Philippines waiting to be explored.
Pinipisakan falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Philippines, it’s a four layered of waterfalls that serves as most convenient way to enter the Sulpan Cave. The Sulpan Cave has five-kilometer long underground cave chambers with huge stalactites and stalagmites. The cave has an underground river that serves as tributary for the Blanca River.
Sulpan Cave and the Pinipisakan waterfalls can be better accessed through the municipality of San Jorge, Samar. However, getting there is not easy so local guide who is familiar with the place is needed.
We met our friendly and extremely knowledgeable guide, Jon Bonifacio in Catbalogan City, Samar. He is a cave master and speleologist who had been to numerous cave expeditions with international spelunkers. He runs Trexplore The Adventures who organized caving tours in Samar.
Breakfast with Rio Tudtud and Mickey Deutsch Photo by: Joni Bonifacio Photo by: Joni Bonifacio with Daryl Comagon, Rio Tudtud, Mickey Deutsch and Marlon Flores Habal-habal ride to Blanca Aurora with Rio Tudtud Photo by: Joni Bonifacio
After our sumptuous breakfast in Catbalogan City, we rode a van for hire to San Jorge town which is about 40 minutes away. In San Jorge we hopped on the motorbikes going to Barangay Blanca Aurora, we rode 30 minutes through asphalt road and constricted dirt roads. Blanca Aurora is a small village known to its Blanca Aurora Falls. This is where we will have to get the permit and meet up with the porters and boat navigators.
While Joni was busy processing our permit and organizing the porters, Daryl Comagon a fellow photographer who came with us, took me to Blanca Aurora Falls. It’s a small wide waterfalls just 5 minutes walk from the main road of Blanca Aurora. I just took some snapshots using my phone then we head back to where we will take the boat going to Duroongan.
Blanca Aurora Falls Taken from my iphone
The banca (native boat) ride was quite an experience for me. We had to go upstream that is against the flow of water and the river has a lot of parts that are too shallow where we had to go down and pushed the boat. Normally it will take two hours but since it was summer, the water is lesser so it took us 2.5 hours to reach the other end.
Photo by: Joni Bonifacio Pushing the banca against the river current. pushing banca against river current Photo by: Joni Bonifacio
Once we arrived at our jump-off in Duroongan, we quickly ate our packed lunch before we started our jungle trekking. It’s a two hour hike on an unestablished trail and rugged terrain and some parts we had to climb on rocks to get to the next trail to follow.
Mickey Deutsch rock climbing Photo by: Joni Bonifacio Taken from my iphone Photo by: Joni Bonifacio
Before reaching the Sulpan Cave entrance, you will have to swim across the river, wade through the clear greenish waist-deep and chest-deep water, climb three mini waterfalls and walk all the way through mossy rocks.
Need a helping hand with Daryl Comagon Photo by: Joni Bonifacio
It was already late in the afternoon when we arrived at the last waterfall, so we decided not to climb the last one and spend more time on exploring the spot and figuring out how to get the shot on what I visualized. Otherwise it will be very difficult to hike back and ride the boat in darkness.
Exploring the site with Daryl Comagon and Marlon Flores
Photo by: Joni Bonifacio
Setting up for our shots with Daryl Comagon
Photo by: Joni Bonifacio
Photo by: Joni Bonifacio
At the spot I chose, there’s barely any direct sunlight reaching the bottom so there was no need for a Neutral Density ND filter. Polarizer filter was enough to suppress glare and slow the shutter speed, this will create a motion blur effect on the waterfalls.
The cave entrance is humongous and the only way to measure it up is by positioning a model person on the photo. It is like a giant monster mouth with fangs hanging, its saliva spitting out and ready to eat us. I was in awe with it’s massive entrance and the rock formations are astounding with its beautiful five meter falls flowing towards bluish waterpool. Its just serene beauty with soothing sound of flowing water and the splendid attraction of the falls.
Tips and Info
• Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore the Adventures.
• Address: Abesamis Store, Allen Avenue, Cabalogan City, Samar
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel. no: 055-2512301, Cell: 0919-2943865
• Website: www.trexplore.weebly.com
• 1 day adventure trip inclusion: Permit, life vest, helmet, transportation, food (breakfast and lunch), boat rides, local porters, TREXPLORE guide, certificates and photo documentations.
What to bring:
• Backpack (daypack)
• Drybag to store your camera, wallet and other items that you don’t like to get wet.
• Quick dry clothing: Avoid cotton clothing, when wet it doesn't dry quickly.
• Extra clothes
• Strong water-friendly footwear with toe protection is a must.
• Two pairs of lightweight wool socks. Avoid cotton socks.
• Trail food like energy bars.
• Water bottle
• Hiking pole or hiking stick.
• Waterproof portable camera: Its hassle to remove the DSLR/Mirrorless Camera from your drybag along the trail.
• DSLR or Mirrorless camera
• One ultra wide zoom lens. Its more flixeble than ultra wide primes lens.
• Polarizer and Neutral Density ND filter. Polarizer filter is mostly used but will need ND filter if the sky is too bright.
• Extra Microfiber cloth to constantly wipe off any water droplets on the filter or lens. Mist especially you are near from waterfalls will accumulate on your lens or filters very quickly.
Highly recommended to take a two days for photography activity.
Best month to go: April to May