We honestly didn’t know what to expect on this trek even after doing quite a bit of research about it. A month before our Baler trip, Typhoon Lando had struck Aurora province. We were almost certain that it would not have spared the town of San Luis where the Ditumabo Falls is situated. Now surveying the landscape around us we could see fallen trees littering the landscape and rocks scattered about the fast-flowing stream that led to the falls. Our trike driver/tour guide assured us, however, that contrary to our fears the typhoon had actually made the hike easier.
Located in similarly named Barangay Ditumabo, the Ditumabo Falls is also locally called the Mother Falls because it is thought to be the biggest waterfall in the province. The San Luis Mini-Hydro Power Plant, which started operating in 2011, uses the hydrokinetic energy generated by the falls and the stream and has made the falls more accessible. A 1.3 kilometer trail roughly parallel to the stream and pipeline leading to the falls had been hacked out, parts of it even concreted.
The trek to the falls is not that long but would take us over rock-filled ground, rickety makeshift bamboo bridges and at least two crossings over a fast-moving stream. Our tour guide told us that if anything, Typhoon Lando had caused some mini landslides in the area and filled in the wide gaps between the boulders with soil material, making it easier to climb over them. The weather was good during the days leading to our trek ensuring that the ground was dry and not too slippery. Also much of the trail is under the shade of the surrounding forest. Overall the hike was not too difficult. We had two seniors with us – Nina’s aunt and uncle – who made the trek without any problems.
The scenic stream and surrounding forest will take your mind off whatever difficulty you’ll encounter on the hike. The water was very clear and the rocks, coupled with the undulating topography of the place, created several attractive mini-cascades. On the final leg of the trek we encountered a small waterfall, probably about 40 feet in height.
Just a few meters upstream from the small waterfall is a concrete weir, built across the stream. Weirs are usually constructed across streams or rivers to pool the water behind it, thus controlling the flow. We could see rocks – probably carried down by landslide – scattered about the weir and impeding the flow of water but also creating a weirdly beautiful cascade in the process.
One look at the weir and we knew there had to be a large pool of water behind it – probably Ditumabo Falls’ catch basin. A few more steps and this came into view:
It was the Ditumabo Falls alright – in all of its 140 ft. glory. A little bit of a disappointment, however, was the absence of the large emerald-green pool that used to be the falls’ catch basin. Typhoon Lando had caused a landslide, filling the pool with huge rocks and other debris (we also saw a huge log). Our trike driver/tour guide warned us earlier not to expect the same scenery plastered on several tour posters in town. This was what he meant. It might not look too good for the camera but it was even worse for San Luis’ residents since this meant a more constricted flow of water and therefore less hydroelectric power. It would take heavy equipment to remove the huge rocks but it’s practically impossible to move heavy machinery into this area.
No attractive pool nonetheless, the Ditumabo Falls is quite impressive. The thundering falls sprayed mists of water in all directions making it very difficult to set-up the camera without our equipment getting wet. We managed only a few frames before giving up.
Visitors normally take to the large pool that used to be the catch basin here for a refreshing swim after the hike. However, there are smaller pools along the stream where you can take a dip – something that Nina’s uncle did on the way back. Looking back we weren’t really disappointed about the pool’s condition – the beauty of the falls and stream and the adventure of trekking more than negated whatever adverse effect Typhoon Lando had on the landscape.
We had a private vehicle with us on this trip but we chose to rent trikes to take us to Ditumabo Falls – actually part of a half-day tour that costs P500 per trike with one or two other destinations added. The trikes took the road to San Luis from Baler (part of the road that eventually leads to Bongabon, Nueva Ecija), then branched off on a newly paved road headed for the San Luis Mini-Hydro Power Plant. This used to be a rough road but it has since been concreted and may be used by trikes (cars can probably use it but for the moment it is off-limits to four-wheeled vehicles). The paved road stops a little short of the power plant but the trikes drove the short remaining distance to the entrance where we parked and from where started our trek with our trike drivers doubling as tour guides.
There is a P30 entrance fee per person. At the entrance to the power plant are some cottages that offer food and drinks. We dropped by these huts for some excellent and refreshing fruit shakes after our trek.