Real, Quezon: Chasing Waterfalls and Fish Stalls, Part 1

Although travel restrictions are slowly being eased in the Philippines, we’re still not that confident about traveling by air or sea especially with the Covid infection rate spiraling up in the last few weeks. Confining our trips to travel by land – especially to relatively uncrowded spots – we chose to head up to the coastal town of Real, Quezon earlier this week.

second tier of Balagbag Falls
The second and third tiers of Balagbag Falls in Barangay Tignoan, Real, Quezon

We’ve been to this town quite a number of times in the past, visiting its coastline and beaches and Balagbag Falls. However we’ve missed going to the lesser known Cawayan Falls near Real’s border with Infanta.

Cawayan Falls

one of the many cascades at Cawayan Falls, Real

There are something like 10 waterfalls in Real which isn’t surprising since it lies at the foot of the southern edge of the Sierra Madre mountain range with streams originating from these heights and running along the forests above and at the edge of town. For the moment however, we only know 4 that are accessible: Balagbag, Nonok, Tipuan and Cawayan.

coastal scene at Real, Quezon
Part of Real’s rugged coastline

A 3-hour drive from the metro took us directly to the jump off point to Cawayan Falls along the Real-Infanta Road, the main highway running along the coast. The jump-off point lies to the left of the highway just before a bridge and the Cawayan Gardens, a resort in the area.

second group of cascades at Cawayan
The second group of cascades at Cawayan

Cawayan Falls is actually a series of 6 relatively small cascades along a rocky, meandering stream. It’s well-known among locals but not with visitors. So much so that when we arrived here on a Monday we were the only visitors. Perfect! The first waterfall was about 10 minutes walk from the jump-off point.

first cascade at Cawayan Falls, Real
The first cascade that we encountered at Cawayan

We had to cross a stream on our way to the second cascade and with the fast-moving water and slippery rocks we had to be extra careful. Unfortunately Adel, a friend of ours that we took along, had a slight foot wound that could get infected if she waded along the stream. Sadly we had to leave Adel behind.

short drop at the second cascade, Cawayan Falls
One of the 3 short drops at the second cascade

The whole trek was refreshing and not that tiring – it was less than 10 minutes from the first to the second cascade. Grey clouds overhead shielded us from the sun’s burning rays and a cool breeze made for a pleasant hike. The second cascade is actually a series of 3 very short drops into crystal-clear pools.

another look at the second set of cascades, Cawayan Falls

We waded into the catch basins of the first 2 drops and took photos. We wanted to hike further up into the 3rd cascade which from photos and videos looked to be the most beautiful of all six. (This would have required clambering up a rocky ground with boulders.) However, Adel would have to wait a long time for us and it was already past the lunch hour so we decided to head back. Anyway we could always come back as the place is easily accessible. In retrospect we shouldn’t have taken too much time shooting the first 2 falls and probably should have left home as early as 6 AM.

Tignoan Fish Market

fish for sale at a stall, Tignoan, Real

Lunch of course was at the famous fish stalls of Tignoan, about 11 kilometers south or a 15-minute drive from Cawayan. The only problem was that we’ve both been plant-based eaters since we last dined here in 2018.

more fish at Tignoan

For the meantime, however, we did the most enjoyable thing possible here besides eating: admiring the colorful fishes and other sea creatures on display at the many fish stalls.

more fish at Tignoan

The drive to Real is the shortest route to the Pacific coast from Metro Manila. In recent years the fish market here has become famous for its fresh seafood. Visitors would buy seafood from the stalls and have it cooked in others. In talking to the vendors we found out that most of the catch came from the Polillo Islands, a group of islands lying off the coast at Real.

crabs, groupers and snappers for sale at Tignoan

We’ve thought about going to the pristine islands of Polillo for so long but the logistics of doing so are quite daunting for the moment. However travel to the nearby island of Jomalig and its superb beaches just got better and more convenient (still a 4-5 hour ferry ride though) so it’s a destination very much in our sights when we feel safe and comfortable going on such trips.

Up next: Part 2: Dining at Tignoan and visiting another waterfall

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