In addition to reviving the pre-pandemic popularity of Pagsanjan Falls, the Philippines hopes to attract tourists back to Laguna by showcasing other attractions in the destination
Paddling on a wooden canoe upstream against the swiftly flowing river. Steering clear of sections with too many boulders and rocks. Lifting the boat where water is too shallow. Manoeuvring the small, narrow boat through 14 river rapids downstream, also known as shooting the rapids.
The unmatched thrill and euphoria from at least two hours of canoeing over a 5km stretch of water in reaching Pagsanjan Falls and the downstream return trip from it is what makes Pagsanjan Falls unlike any other.
The waterfalls cascade 91m in three tiers from the mountains, which can be seen in between lush landscape and towering cliffs accessible only by dugout canoe – it was the stellar attraction of the province of Laguna before Covid-19 hit.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) has committed to bring the lustre back to Pagsanjan Falls , including the protection of the Pagsanjan Gorge National Park (PGNP) where the Pagsanjan waterfalls can be found, straddling the town of Pagsanjan, Cavinti and Lumban.
Tourism secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said that through the DoT’s infrastructure and tourism arm, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, the old Pagsanjan Resort will be revived, more boats will be donated to boatmen, and a tourist rest area will be built in the neighbouring town of Bay.
The mayors of Pagsanjan, Cavinti and Lumban chimed in with a tripartite agreement in June to unite public and private sector stakeholders to reinvigorate tourism in PGNP, a protected area covering about 152 hectares around a series of gorges on the Pagsanjan River leading to the waterfalls.
Likewise, PATA Philippines Chapter initiated a fund-raising for boat ride tours and boatmen that masterfully and skillfully paddle the canoe towards the falls and for the schooling of the boatmen’s children.
Indeed, without these 2,000 plus, there would be no shooting the rapids, no tourism. “This is an opportunity for us to work together to support the life not just of the boatmen and their families, but make it a green and sustainable community,” said Maria Paz Alberto, PATA Philippines chair.
With its proximity to metro Manila, Pagsanjan can become a tourist magnet again particularly for South Koreans, but international marketing exposure is needed.
“Pangsanjan is definitely a must visit not only for foreign tourists but Filipinos as well. The younger generation does not even know about this beautiful tourist area. Many foreigners from India, South Korea and Japan do visit, but hopefully we can promote this destination in international shows (more),” she said.
Alberto also noted that Pagsanjan “is now evolving, not only for adventures but also getting to be a culinary destination plus a great place for buying Filipino fabrics and even ready-made Filipino outfits”.
Marlene Insigne, general manager of Southeast Travel Corp is optimistic about Pagsanjan’s revival. She said: “Being one of the Philippines’ pioneer tourist destination, Pagsanjan has always been attractive to foreign tourists regardless of nationality. Pagsanjan is a must in their itineraries… (and) the kind of adventure experience the tourists are looking for.”
She added that the destination is on the right track with the three town mayors working closely with the DoT and tour operators to include Pagsanjan in their Philippine tour programmes. With a greater demand, it will lead to the development of new accommodation, tourism activities and infrastructure which the destination desperately needs.
While they may be on the right track, stakeholders should not overlook the basic ingredients of marketing and promotions by making destination information and images readily available for media and agency use.