Kabutongan Falls and Late Afternoons in Malabuyoc

After weeks of research and several failed attempts, I was finally able to locate Malabuyoc town’s Kabutongan Falls. Kabutongan Falls is one of Southern Cebu’s most hidden waterfall systems. Unlike its more popular counterparts, Kabutongan is a bit difficult to find and even more difficult to conquer. But I didn’t know these things before my actual trip. No. All I knew was that this waterfall was unlike any other. And that while the trip was going to be long and tiring, the treasure I’d discover at the end would be beautiful and special and worth all the trouble.

Name: Kabutongan Falls
Type: Waterfall System
Municipality: Malabuyoc
Barangay: Looc
Features: Waterfall System, Rock Formations, Bouldering
Distance from City: 3-4 Hours by Bus
Distance from Town Proper: 20 minutes
Access: Bus / Van / Private
Nearest Tourist Spot: Montañeza Falls
Trekking Time: 10-20 minutes
Standard Rate/Fee: PhP 10
Additional Expenses: Guide: Open Rate
Hours: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Restrictions: Life vest a must for safety
Guide/Tour Operator: Yes
Tours Offered: Yes
Accommodations: Yes
Restroom/Changing Room: Yes
Restaurant/Food: No
Picnic: Yes
Camping: No
Adventure Level: Mid to High
Rating – Hospitality: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Rating – Safety: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Rating – Guide: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Rating – Adventure: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Rating – Overall: ★★★★★★★★★☆

When I reached the town of Malabuyoc, I immediately started asking around for directions to the waterfall. The only information that I had, however, were the words ‘Kabutongan’ and ‘falls.’ A lot of the locals that I asked near the town center didn’t even know about this waterfall. Maybe they have a different name for it or something. I don’t know. And those who did, couldn’t give me an exact landmark.

So, it looked like I was going to have a huge problem finding it. Fortunately, I remembered what my friend Anne (who grew up in Malabuyoc) had said about Kabutongan being located very close to Ginatilan. As you all know, Ginatilan is the town next to Malabuyoc. So, at least the search area has become smaller.

I continued driving until I saw a sign welcoming me to the town of Ginatilan. I drove all the way to the first road marker I saw before making a U-turn, just to be sure. I stopped at a small store along the road and the kind lady informed me that my landmark was a furniture shop. However, when I did locate the shop, the dude inside informed me that I was a few hundred meters from the actual landmark. I probably asked around three more people before a young boy told me to look for a white San Isidro Labrador chapel.

Sr. San Isidro Labrador chapel situated along the national highway in Looc, Malabuyoc.

A few people who were hanging out near the chapel told me to follow the dirt road right next to the chapel until I reach a small paved ‘foot path.’ Ok. That seemed easy.

View of the chapel and several stores along the highway.

However, just a few meters later, I reached this empty field and there was no sign of a paved footpath anywhere. Those two Kab Scouts, however, were very helpful and they told me to keep driving (past the parked vehicles and fighting cock huts.) They said that the foot path was actually very close.

I did what they told me to do and true enough, I was able to locate the foot path. I asked the first guy I saw if I could drive my bike all the way to the falls. He said that I couldn’t but that I could leave my bike in front of a small house near the river.

I drove for around five minutes. No house near the river in sight yet.

Finally, I saw this house. And the sign in front of it. Can you read it? It said Pay Parking – PhP 10.00.

So, after parking my bike, I was on my way to the falls. Cool. This is it!

A couple of meters from the house, I finally saw the river.

Before I was able to cross the river, however, I saw a young man walking towards me. He was carrying a backpack and he looked like he just got out of the water. So, I asked him if I was almost there. He said that I’d have to walk around 300 meters more. He then asked if I needed a guide. Honestly, I was hesitant at first because I really didn’t think that the trek would be hard. “It’s impossible to get to the drop without a guide,” he said. I asked how much his fee was. And he said that it was all up to me. “Deal!” I said.

A few minutes later, we finally reached the ‘reception area.’ Basically, this is where you can pay the ‘entrance fee’ (PhP 10.00,) rent a life jacket (PhP 50.00,) or rent a room.

Behind the reception center is this beautiful view.

The river trek started off nice and easy.

The water was shallow in these parts. So crossing the river was pretty easy.

Then, it got a bit challenging. This part was really deep. And to think that I originally didn’t want to rent a life jacket. Hahaha. I had to ask my guide to hold the camera for me. Good thing he was really tall.

Bouldering was also very challenging. One wrong step and it’s either you get a broken arm or a broken (and wet) camera.

And then it got REALLY challenging. We had to use ropes to scale the side of this hill. You slip and you end up in the water below.

We also had to climb down back to the water. The rocks were really slippery so you have to be extra careful.

Then we reached this beautiful pool. I was ready to swim but my guide told me that the trek wasn’t over yet.

Next, we climbed up a really huge boulder. There were no ropes this time. Good thing the plants and tree branches along the way were able to support my weight.

I was totally breathless when we finally reached the top. And then I saw this.

I almost passed out. Haha. It was gorgeous.

My guide gave me a few minutes to be alone and to enjoy the wonderful view. He said that he would be waiting for me at the bottom.

After taking tons of photos of the drop (and selfies, of course,) it was finally time to go down. My guide took me to the very middle of the pool below and he took this photo of the drop from the water. He was very careful with my camera so I wasn’t very concerned that he’d drench it. He took a lot of photos as I enjoyed floating nearby.

Next, we came to this beautiful spot. He explained that this one is a ‘natural slide’ and that all visitors under his watch are ‘required’ to give it a try. Well, why the heck not? Haha.

I did give the natural slide a try while my guide took photos of me from the bottom of the drop. Although I ingested at least a gallon of water during my three attempts, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

After the tour, my guide walked me to my bike. My original plan was to give him a hundred pesos as fee. I did ask him how much people usually pay him and he said that he usually gets around 50 to 100 for huge groups. Since I had a little extra and he was very attentive and fun, I gave him 200 pesos. I guessed he didn’t expect it because he thanked me profusely.

Before heading back to the city, I stopped at this beautiful spot in Malabuyoc. This was my fifth late afternoon in this town and just like my four previous trips, I stopped at a quiet little spot and waited for sunset. I played a favorite song on my phone and just sat there absorbing all the wonderful things the town had to offer.

My eyes were closed when a little guy came up to me and started a conversation. He was a grade two student and he was on his way home from school. He was wearing slippers, his polo was missing a front pocket and his tattered bag sagged all the way to the back of his legs.

“Taga syudad ka, Noy?” he asked. I told him that I was and that I was just in town for a quick visit to the waterfall.

“Tua man didto akong papa,” he said. I asked him why his father was in the city.

“Nag-buhat ug building,” he answered.

He sat down next to me. He talked about his first and only trip to the city and how he’d love to go back. He also talked about how he enjoys walking home from school and what they learned at school that day.

I opened my bag and looked for anything nice that I could give him. The only thing that I could find was a newly-sharpened pencil from the office.

“Do you want this pencil? I’d like to give it to you.” I said. He told me that his dad had promised to buy him some school supplies when he comes home next month. “But I’ll take it,” he said.

We ate my last remaining pack of Presto Creams biscuits as the horizon slowly turned red.

“Adto na ko, Noy. Gipangita na ko sa akong Mama ron,” he said as he got up. He smiled at me as I waved at him.

This was my fifth late afternoon in Malabuyoc. And by far, this was the best.

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