Bangkero Festival 2015: Reliving Pagsanjan’s Glory Days
For the people of Pagsanjan, bangkeros are heroes. They are rulers of the mighty Pagsanjan River, conquering dangerous waters to reach the Magdapio Falls (also known as the Pagsanjan Falls). Their annual Bangkero Festival is their way of paying homage to these local heroes through various events and festivities.
Pagsanjan Royal Gate
The Bangkero Festival has won different awards over the years. In 2013, it was awarded the Pearl Award from the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines. This year, as they celebrate the 17th year of the festival, they chose the theme “Sama-samang Pagsagwan Para sa Mahusay na Bayan” to show the town’s progress because of tourism and investments.
Boatman in his Bangkero Festival river float
Participating river floats at Bangkero Festival Fluvial Parade
Early Friday morning, I traveled with other writers and bloggers to visit Pagsanjan and celebrate the unique festival. The moment we arrive, we were led to the festival grounds along the river to witness the annual parade of decorated balsa, and participate in the award ceremony.
Bangkero Festival fluvial parade
Other events of the festival include a showcase of their local products, a parade by the river that shows different, and beautifully decorated floats made out of canoes. There is also a paddle-painting contest, a kakanin cooking contest, a dragon boat race, a pageant for boatmen, and an assortment of native games.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
There’s so many things to see and events to witness at the festival—all of them showcasing the town’s rich roots, culture, and how they commune with the great Pagsanjan River.
Local Food Haunts
After the awards ceremony, we were treated to some halo-halo and puto bumbong from Aling Taleng’s Halo-Halo. We were told that their halo-halo, in particular, was very famous in the area. After enjoying our delicious dessert, we headed to the Pagsanjan Falls Lodge and Summer Resort to check-in and rest awhile before going to dinner.
We went to another local restaurant for dinner, Emin and Mila’s Canteen. The place started out as a small hole in the wall take away food corner near the owners’ family home back in 1978. Now, it’s still a popular eatery where locals and visitors alike can enjoy short order food items like pancit and other affordable dishes. They also have a second branch in Calle Real.
We were served a delectable sampling of their best offers—the Pancit Pagsanjan, Dinuguan, Sisig, Beef Sotanghon, Hot and Spicy Pancit Canton, Lechon Paksiw, Veggie Torta, and another serving of Halo-halo! Among these dishes, my favorite has to be the Hot and Spicy Pancit Canton, their Veggie Torta, and the Halo-halo.
An Exhilarating Ride
On our second day at Pagsanjan, we had an early breakfast at the hotel and headed towards the riverbanks for our upstream river tour to Pagsanjan Falls. This tour is a popular tourist activity where locals and tourists alike travel miles just to experience the river’s rapids.
Stopover in the middle of the trip
This is not my first time in Pagsanjan, nor is it my first time attending the Bangkero Festival, but I have never been to Pagsanjan Falls. It was an exhilarating trip and I really appreciated the strength and endurance of the bangkeros to row upstream and against the river’s current.
Majestic Pagsanjan Falls
Pagsanjan or Magdapio Falls is more than a beautiful sight to behold; it is an adventure to experience. The trip towards the waterfall (or what they call “shooting the rapids”) is a thrilling ride. No wonder it’s on plenty of traveler’s bucket lists. It’s definitely a top must-do for those who find themselves visiting the area.
Getting closer to the waterfalls
After the Pagsanjan Falls experience, we headed back to our hotel for checkout before lunch at Calle Arco Restaurant.
Calle Arco Restaurant
Back in the 1970s, Pagsanjan Falls was the country’s pioneer tourist attraction. It was featured on countless of postcards and posters as a symbol of the country’s beauty. To this day, it is still the Tourist Capital of Laguna. Through the years, the town continues to grow and keep their traditions and culture alive while preserving the unique Pagsanjan River and Falls. You can really feel the townspeople’s respect and reverence to the natural surroundings that have given them so much.
With over 140,000 tourists who travel far and wide just to experience the famous rapids, Pagsanjan has a solid place as one of the country’s most interesting charms.