Sunday morning at Hinulugang Taktak

There are many ways to tell a story. And there are many ways to view the truth.

These are photos of Hinulugang Taktak. As a photo enthusiast, I could choose to tell you that there are two ways to capture the image of flowing water.

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In the photo above, the drops of water are discernible. By changing the shutter speed of the camera, the appearance of the water can have that smooth fluid look like what you see in the photo below.

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But as a concerned resident of Antipolo and a citizen of the Philippines, I have to tell you too that the photos above were carefully framed so that only the beautiful aspects of the falls are visible. The photos are not a truthful representation of Hinulugang Taktak. They are more in the nature of product shots — the kind used in glossy brochures for promoting tourism. Let me tell you about the REAL Hinulugang Taktak.

When we moved to Antipolo in 2001, one of this first things we promised ourselves was to visit Hinulugang Taktak. About two years later, in the summer of 2003, visit Hinulugang Taktak we did with friends who had moved to Antipolo years before us but had never visited the falls either. Understand that after two years of living in Antipolo, we still felt and acted like city folk driving out of town for the weekend. We were exploring and looking for spots that couldn’t be more unlike everything we grew up with in the city. Hence, the decision to go to Hinuligang Taktak which I hadn’t seen since I was a child.

The place had been turned into a park and resort, complete with picnic huts and a pool. We thought about paying the entrance fee and spending the afternoon in a picnic hut when I decided to peek through the eateries first for a closer view of the top of the falls. I can’t describe exactly how I felt at that moment. Shock would be an understatement. People have warned me that Hinulugang Taktak was not what it was decades ago but I was still unprepared for the sight that greeted me. The water at the top of the falls was filthy and appeared oily, and foamy with what looked like soap suds. Plastic bags and all kinds of garbage were floating all over.

Legend has it that the residents of Antipolo were once bothered by the excessive tolling of a church bell and demanded that it be removed. The parish priest, yielding to the public clamor, dropped the bell into the river and that river came to be known as “Hinulugang Taktak” which literally translates to “where the bell was dropped.”

Rural folk are superstitious. And not too long ago, Antipolo City was a rural town. I wonder if the legend about the dropping of the bell has been interpreted as a license to drop just about anything in the falls. Because just about everything seems to have been dropped into it – plastic bottles, dead animals, human waste, spoiled food… We turned back in disgust. Instead of the planned picnic beside a waterfall, we drove to Sumulong Highway and ate crispy pata and sisig while gazing at a panoramic view of Metro Manila.

According to the official Hinulugang Taktak website, Hinulugang Taktak was declared a recreation area by President Elpidio Quirino in 1952. In 1990, it was proclaimed a national historical shrine by the National Historical Institute placing it under the jurisdiction of the DENR Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau. In 2009, then Antipolo mayor Vic Sumulong sought the return of the falls from the jurisdiction of DENR back to the Antipolo city government. Sumulong died, Vice Mayor Nilo Leyble took over, pledged to continue the project and managed to have the DENR agree to allow the Antipolo government to co-manage the site and to rehabilitate it.

Well. 2009 is almost over. Alex and her classmates are doing a documentary film about Hinulugang Taktak and it was she who told me about the legend. We visited Hinulugang Taktak over the weekend. This time, however, we did more than peek. We paid the entrance fee and explored the place. And I took over a hundred photos documenting the different parts of the falls and the adjacent park and resort.

From the ticket booth on the roadside, we entered a gate that led to concrete steps winding down to the park at the bottom of the falls (there is even a ramp for the disabled).

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But even before descending the steps, Sam (who never gets up before noon on Sunday but who was bathed and raring to go by mid-morning for what we hoped would be a wonderful photo op session) and I started taking photos right behind the ticket booth. The waterfall was party hidden by the trees and it appeared pristine and white and shimmering in the sunlight.

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We started to descend and, midway, we stopped at an open platform that afforded a partial view of the bottom of the falls. And we saw froth.

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So, things haven’t changed much since 2003. The water was still dirty. We took photos. At we continued to descend, the unmistakable stench of decomposing garbage grew stronger. It was the kind of stench that makes one wince, so permeating that it seems to stick to one’s clothing.

By the time we reached the bottom of the steps, the horror was complete.

The froth – no, it was thick foam – was several inches high and covered most of the surface of the water.

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And on (or is it IN?) the foam was garbage.

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And we took more photos.

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We stayed for two hours as Alex and her classmate filmed an interview with the park’s caretaker.

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I don’t know what information they got (Alex said he was very helpful and informative), I didn’t ask because I wanted to write this piece independently of whatever information they gathered.

The park and resort are not in bad shape. In fact, they looked quite well maintained. The vegetation was lush and the huge old trees provided shade from the harsh sunlight.

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The picnic huts were clean. The water of the pool was blue and clear. Separate trash bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste were strategically situated all over the park.

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The irony, of course, is that the focal point – the main attraction – is the very thing that I can’t rave about.

Too bad, really. It would have been swell to sit on a bench under the trees with a iced drink in one hand and a good book in another.

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The sound of the waterfall was music to my ears.

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The rustle of the leaves was relaxing and the greenery was mesmerizing. But the stench that blew with the breeze was terrible. And I just couldn’t wait to get away from there.

Comments

  1. says

    Nakakahiya naman ang DENR, ilan taon nasa pangangalaga nila yung area tapos parang wala naman silang ginawa para sa Hinulugang Taktak kundi parang lagyan lang ng makeup.

    • Chris M. says

      It Hurts me to see and read what had happened to Hinulugang Taktak. I have a lot of memories there even though all the photos of it had been burned with our house a couple of decades ago. we used to go there at least once a month to play, swim, picnic and bond with my parents and siblings. It was a very beautiful and peaceful place to be in after a long weeks of studying. I hope and pray the local or even the national government will do it’s best to restore the beauty of it.

      • Chris M. says

        It also saddened me that i can’t take my children in hinulugang taktak and daranak falls anymore because of what had been done to the two place. How i love to be with my love ones to go there and see the place as i saw it in the 70’s and 80’s

        • beth m. says

          Is there no respect left for mother nature? the problem is, there are so many laws, but NO strict implementations at all. Yung “baka makalusot” mentality is what destroys our beautiful country!! my heart bleeds for you my beloved Philippines, yet i’m not giving up on you yet, there’s still hope!

        • Gabriel Cristobal says

          Hinulugang Taktak is a crowning glory for how our DENR cares for (or indifferent to) environmental issues in antipolo. this tourist UNSITE is probably the biggest tourism embarrassment for the City of Antipolo.
          Gone are the days when we would be excitedly gearing up for an Antipolo outing, singing: “Tayo na sa Antipolo, at doo’s maligo tayo…..”

          DENR and City of Antipolo: JUST HOW MUCH LONGER DO YOU INTEND TO KEEP HINULUGANG TAKTAK THE WAY IT IS TODAY, Aug. 24, 2012?

  2. says

    hindi ako nagtataka sa dumi kasi, dumadaan ata sa city of antipolo yung tubig bago ito bumagsak sa waterfall. nung early 70’s umaakyat kami para mag swimming at maganda pa nuon. pag lipat namin sa antipolo nung late 90’s, sabi ng mga kaibigan ko, huwag na lang pumunta dahil baka raw sumama loob ko.

    pinatay na natin lahat ng mga waterway in and around manila.

  3. emyM says

    That’s a shame! I hope advocates to clean and preserve HT will volunteer in the future.
    Perhaps the younger generation.

  4. says

    when i was six years old my lola and I regularly visits Antipolo church every 8th of December. after church we directly go to Hinulugang Taktak, nagbabayad pa ang lola ko para magpapicture kasi napakaganda nito lalo na ang falls kaya napakalaking kawalan kapag tuluyang nasira ito dahil isa ito sa maipagmamalaki ng Pilipinas. hanggang hindi nawawala ang mga taong nakatira sa paligid nito, lalong masisira at mabababoy ang HT. sana bigyang pansin ng gobyerno natin ang mga kalikasan ng pilipinas. kapag nasira ang mga ito masisira din ang income ng bansa natin dahil isa ito sa dinadayo ng mga turista.

  5. rhodora says

    Off topic lang, Connie – Brad Pitt na Brad Pitt ang pose ni Speedy. LOL!

    On Hinulugang Taktak: Well, I guess people go there not for the falls anymore, but more for the resort and the park. Maganda nga ang lugar, and it’s nice to just sit there and have picnic. Kaya lang, mahirap sigurong lunukin ang pagkain, kapag nai imagine mong sa tabi lang ay nandoon ang maruming waterfalls.

  6. says

    Pag nakita mo yung simbahan ngayon, baka ma-shock ka rin. Parang palengke ang harapan. And I’m not just talking about the street but right inside the gates of the church, there is a flea market.

  7. says

    “Brad Pitt na Brad Pitt ang pose ni Speedy”

    HAHAHAHA I’m sure he’ll be smiling the whole night again after reading that.

    Re Taktak: Yep, nice place but the stench is bad. I suppose on windless days, it might not be so bad.

  8. says

    OMG they charge for that? If as you say, sobrang baho, kahit malinis ang paligid how can anyone stand to sit down there?

    Mind boggling — gaano ba kahirap sahurin yung mga duming nakalutang na yan at lagyan nang “filter” at least yung sa taas?

    Real nature is one of the things I miss about UPLB. When I was a freshie (gosh ang tagal na) I frequent Pook and even just the Botanical. I used to sit alongside the stream. Ang sarap nung ibon, hangin at daloy lang nang tubig yung naririnig mo. I also went hiking before in Quezon (forgot the name of the mountain) yung mga mountaineers mismo ang nagbabawal sa mga tao na wag mag-sabon/shampoo sa tubig.

    Kainis nga yung iba o KARAMIHAN?? talagang walang disiplina, nakakadiri.

  9. Carla of Dubai says

    it is really disgusting…i remember when i was in gradeschool when we went to Antipolo to see HT and the church…it was clean then and to see it with those soapy bubbles, nakakadiri talaga, that is so true na mukang flea market na ang harap ng Church, kung buhay pa si Hesus, itinapon na cguro nya ang lahat ng paninda doon.. Ipinagmamalaki pa nman ng mga pinoy sa abroad na maganda ang Pilipinas, not the city but in the provinces. Ipinagmamalaki rin ng mga pinoy na isa tayo sa pinakamalinis na tao sa mundo, thats true maybe in the sense na sa pangangatawan lang pero wala na tayong pakialam sa waste na naiiwan at naikakalat ntin sa kapaligiran.

    If they are pouring money over pasig river, please do something about HT too.

  10. says

    As they say it in Filipino, nandiyan na iyan. The problem is there already but the local government should do something about it, install a filtration system or prohibit people around from throwing garbage.

    Isa sa mga pang-akit ng Antipolo sana sa mga turista ay ang Hinulugang Taktak. Noong araw kuwento ng lola ko napakalinis daw ang tubig diyan at masarap maligo. A couple of years ago I brought our relatives and friends from Washington there and all they could say is SAYANG!.

    Could Senator Manny Villar do something about it from his Pork Barrel? Marami siyang subdivision sa Antipolo di ba?

  11. says

    Auee & Segundina, the top of the falls is the end of a very long creek that cuts through Antipolo (dunno where else it passes). In some places, the creek is lined with squatters. So if the filter were installed right on top of the falls, naku, that would be a HUGE filter. And right there, there are those eateries which don’t have proper kitchens. You can just imagine…

  12. says

    I am a resident of Antipolo for more almost 2 decades and my family have witnessed the deterioration of Hinulugang Taktak, despite that it was marked as a Historical Site by the national government, I wonder who has the jurisdiction in the preservation of this site, because the local government has never done any positive efforts to save and maintain the once famous great falls of Hinulugang Taktak which we once admired during the 80’s.

    Even the Shrine Of Our Lady Of Peace And Good Voyage, where thousand pilgrims/devotees flock the church daily has become an eyesore to local residents wherein inside and outside the church vicinities have turned into commercial stalls and peddlers blocking the site of the church and have caused to much traffic in the streets leading to the Church.. What makes worse is that the public parking areas are not available.

    I wish the government can do something about it before their term ends on May 2010, otherwise don’t vote for them.

  13. marielle says

    ive never been to hinulugang taktak before, but i remember my mother used to told me how beautiful it was and when i look at the picture of it in the net , the first thing that came into my mind “wow its like a paradise and how good God is to give us this kind of gift” but when i see this picture, i dont know, but i feel so sad … and at the same time disappointed, some people never give importance to our environment, how sad i wont be able to see how beautiful hinulugang taktak personally….

  14. Miguk says

    It was supposed to be one of the “not-to-miss” places, but first off it is very hard to find. And then to see that mess! And I had to pay also!! How can the Department of Tourism promote that place in good conscience? And it makes me really hesitant to travel further (Vigan, Rice Terrances, etc.), just to find the same thing :-(

  15. beth says

    When I was small, our annual trip to Antipolo (Any day in May)was always a treat depite the long distance.As we travel, our elder relatives will urge us to sing the song…….”tayo na sa Antipolo at doon maligo tayo.Sa batis na kung tawagin ay Hi-Hi-Hinulugang taktak…..” and so on.On the way, my uncle will entertain us,kids, with several stories and “bugtong”(riddles) so we will forget any motion sickness in the car(a no air conditioned Beetle).Upon reaching the church, we hear mass and pay homage to our Lady of Good voyage and then the fun part begins with lots of Suman and Kasoy.And we kids get our palayok-palayukan and paper mache horses!Hinulugang taktak was the picnic place for lunch.The last time I saw this falls maybe in the 80’s and at the height of an El Nino, I was disheartened to find the place dirty with garbage and not much water cascading down.Never been back since then.How sad that it has deteriorated further.I hope concerned citizens in the area will adopt it as a project—-ressurect the falls!

  16. Miguk says

    The only ‘Tourist’ place I have ever been that I thought was worth it was Villa Escodero. I guess because it is privately owned? It’s sad really because tourism could be a big attraction (and money maker) for this history-laden, scenic, and English speaking nation. Starting off I would say with a replica of a Manila Galleon. Why is there nothing representing the thing that made the Philippines famous? They have a replica of Admiral Yi’s Turtle Boat in the Han River in Seoul, why isn’t there a Manila Galleon in Manila Bay?

  17. elit says

    Pogi naman ni Speedy dun sa last picture! no wonder na in-love ka…….nakalimutan ko na tuloy na Hinulugan Taktak pala ang topic mo :P hehehe

  18. lemon says

    Emote na emote si Brad Pitt este Mr. Speedy. hehe.

    Re: church in Antipolo–my sister always wants to hear Mass there. Ako ayoko, why go all the way there when you can’t even hear Mass properly kasi ang dami dami daming ingay sa labas. Talo pa ang palengke.

    Yes, daranak is also filthy. hay. Sayang naman.

    Can’t help but think, ano ginagawa ng local government or DENR.

  19. says

    Daranak is dirty but not as dirty as Hinulugang Taktak which is really… nakow, nakakadiri talaga.

    The church is not a church anymore. Sayang. With its history and architecture.

    Si Speedy, Brad Pitt forever HAHAHAHAHA

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