(The fresh water is coming from the mountains. It is refreshingly cold.)
My cousin’s wedding prompted a random reunion and outing. Prior to that, our last family outing was in Club Manila East. But since this year was extra special, as we were reunited with relatives based abroad whom we have not seen from five to eight years, we chose a place which is and will forever be important and memorable to us. We did not even think of the fancy resorts in Laguna and nearby provinces.
This place which we fondly call piit has been a backgrounder in too many photographs – from my grandparents’ generation to us. The last time I came here was post-college when there were still crabs (we would cook them), plenty of fish and other pertinent marks inhabiting in and by the river, as most of the members of the family and my gradeschool classmates (we had a very memorable day here) recall. There were no entrance fees for the longest time and in a way, we felt like we will forever be entitled to that because we are the town’s pioneer residents. I remember that more than five years ago, the management (whoever was managing that time, now it is managed by the municipality) wanted to start collecting fees for its maintenance. But in all cases, they were not charging us because we are some of the identified residents. Though it came to a point that I rarely go home and look touristy, then I should at least have someone known to the gate keepers.
(When I looked at the running waters, I heard laughters and saw faces of too many people, including strangers from yesteryears, and I think that they would think and feel of the same way should they kiss the splash again.)
Until last Maundy Thursday, we embraced our old favourite once again. It changed a lot. It is obviously being commercialized now coupled by improvements. Maybe I am just one of the old patrons who is undergoing a phase of resistance because we loved it for its innocence (and I admit, for some sort of exclusivity). The hanging bridge that made me walk like a drunkard (forgetting about my fear of heights) and was swaying excessively especially when there are more than two people crossing by, was newly introduced.
Before the bridge’s existence, we needed to cross through the batuhan and river. Also, I missed the hiking obliged from the main gate until we are taken to first glimpse of running water. I did not see our favorite spots anymore where there are humongous group of stones where we used to place our stuff. Most of them are gone and replaced by the many cottages. There are washrooms now as well. When we were much younger, we changed clothes at our own risk/strategy (hello, malong!). Oftentimes, we went home with the same wet clothes.
And well, the school of fish and crabs are gone.
But just the same, it was a fun-filled day graced by chatting, camera and video shutters, cards and comfort food which were mostly inihaw and cooked there (grilling spots were steps away from the cottages). I just realized that I forgot to take photos of that (more important) part. Probably I was too busy catching up on stories with my relatives and that we were eating kamayan style (eating with hands).
(Originally uploaded by Pinoy Mountaineer)
I am happy though that the hiking (and going through the long stretch of running water) is still necessary to reach the hidden falls (buntot palos) at the far end. The challenge really matters. Somehow I still feel some sort of exclusivity because not too many reaches that area (or only known to few). But I noticed that the hardwork is lessen by the availability of tour guides this time, armed with bamboo raft and vest.
And wow, our very own piit was renamed into Panguil River Eco Park. The big changes are destined. But whatever happens, some things never change. I will always remember it the way it used to be.