“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention,” adventurer-photojournalist Sean O’Connell told Life negative assets manager Walter Mitty after seeing a magnificent but rare snow leopard through his camera. It may be just a quote from the 2013 adventure-comedy-drama movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. But the phrase rings true in real life—and in many destinations. The municipality of Samboan has its own gorgeous hidden wonder called Binalayan Falls in Barangay Bonbon.
With an established dirt trail and a steady influx of visitors, Binalayan Falls, popularly known as Hidden Falls and the third of Samboan’s waterfall trilogy, is not really hidden anymore. But still has a mystical aura that continues to enthrall its visitors.
The entrance to Binalayan Falls is just a 5-minute ride away from Aguinid Falls. You can’t miss it since there is a sign right beside the highway.
We completed our registration at the visitor’s center, which doubles up as a souvenir shop and a sari-sari store. After finishing the registration, barangay captain Alvino Villarin accompanied us to the waterfall.
The first part of the journey is a 10-minute trek on flat terrain across a large coconut grove. Notice that there are no stores, rest areas, shops, or carenderias unlike those in Aguinid Falls. That’s because Binalayan Falls is not as popular as Aguinid although it is part of the Samboan waterfall trilogy.
The murmuring sound of a river is always welcome music in our adventures. We came to this small brook that supplies water to the lowland communities. And oh, that nice brown dog? That is Captain Villarin’s faithful companion; he won’t go anywhere without his master!
To get to Binalayan Falls, we need to cross three streams. Yes, there’s no way of escaping wet feet, so wear your aqua shoes or trekking sandals.
About 20 minutes into the trek, we came to this cool clearing with the forest trees acting like a protective wall. Guests can relax here before proceeding to the main waterfall.
The rest area has a couple of benches and shades. They also fastened old tires with ropes to make makeshift swings. Just imagine swinging into the air with the river just below you!
Concrete dressing rooms and toilets are constructed for the convenience of guests.
A little farther upstream, we arrived at the first tier of the river. Concrete steps and bamboo handrails are installed so guests can get to the top easily.
Alexa had her first romantic thoughts here. Will her daddy and mama allow her to bring her crush so that they can chase waterfalls?
That’s the first tier up close. The water is deep enough so that diving from the top of the tier is safe. Also, check out the right side of the 10-foot waterfall. That’s a large opening for a cavern. I wonder where it leads to.
Once we passed the first tier, we came to this area of slippery boulders and carved steps. We could hear the splashing sound of a waterfall, but where could it be? There’s no waterfall in sight.
Well, it turned out that we had to turn around a corner to get a glimpse of the enchanting Binalayan Falls. Yes, “hidden” is the right adjective for it; you can only see the waterfall after you make that left turn.
It is also easy to understand why it is commonly called the Triple Drop Falls. Rock outcroppings at the lip break the water’s flow, creating its characteristic three drops, each about 50 feet high. Since the water has partial contact with the bedrock, Binalayan Falls is considered a ledge waterfall.
Large depressions in the bedrock make perfect diving platforms and hiding places. A small but deep pool of cold water forms at the base of the waterfall, which makes it a great place to frolic in. Finally, locals carved a set of steps at the side of the waterfall so guests can ascend to a natural diving platform.
Not as crowded as Aguinid or Dau Falls, the Binalayan Falls is perfect for families and friends who want to cool off and relax without having to contend with hordes of strangers.
Constructive note: The only thing that ruins the place’s enchanting nature is the massive amount of graffiti carved deeply into the rock. Hopefully, natural erosion will erase these graffiti. Even then, that would probably take a long time.
We took Alexa and Mama Dinah to the cascades of Aguinid Falls. After an exhilarating river adventure, we headed to the well-hidden Ponong Lake, which is just a few minutes away from Mayor Calderon’s guest house.
Check out the palm-like plants. Those are called saksak, and they are used for a variety of things. Saksak fronds can be used as roof thatching, wrapper for Samboan’s delicacies, and more.
Well, Ponong Lake is not technically a lake but a large lagoon filled with brackish water. According to Sir Irwin, seawater once flowed here during high tide. But the construction of a nearby embankment obstructed the flow of the seawater. Now, the lagoon is constantly replenished by rainwater.
The thick mangroves provide a perfect roosting place for the Manolong, a bird endemic to Samboan. The manolong has the ability to dive into the water and stay there for a period of time to escape its predators and hunters.
Two bamboo raft cottages provide guests with a place to sit down, relax, and munch on their snacks. A rope at the middle of Ponong Lake makes it possible for guests to take the raft towards the middle of the lagoon. Sounds like a great way to be in complete isolation or take your snack, isn’t it?
It is not only Argao that produces delicious tortas. Samboan has its own version of fluffy torta. This is a type of sponge cake that is made out of flour, egg yolks, fresh coconut sap, and milk. The cake is then slowly baked in a stone-heated oven that is fired with coconut husks or firewood. The porous, spongy cake, which resembles a large cupcake, is then garnished with sugar and shredded cheese.
Torta goes very well with hot sikwate (native hot chocolate), but this time, we paired ours with an ice-cold Coke.
After finishing up our sweet tortas, we went to the embankment to catch a bewitching and calming view of the sun setting over Tañon Strait.
Our fun-filled weekend adventure in Samboan is a success. We covered hidden wonders and potential attractions that will place this lovely and rustic southern town as a must-visit eco-tourism and cultural heritage destination. Come to Samboan where you can experience Mother Nature’s beauty, warm Cebuano hospitality, and rich culture all in one amazing place!
We would like to thank the following Samboan officials who warmly took care of us during our visit in their amazing town.
- Mayor Raymond Joseph Calderon
- Ma. Victoria G. Calderon, Chairperson of the Samboan Tourism and Heritage Council
- Irwin Gamallo, Samboan Tourism Officer
- Janice Marimat, Samboan Technical Guide
- Vincent Ortiz, Samboan Tour Guide
- Alejo Cabello, Samboan Tour Guide
- Eddie Hisoler, Colase Barangay Captain
- Alvino Villarin, Bonbon Barangay Captain
Together with the wholehearted support of the locals, they are the ones who planned, instigated, and implemented Samboan’s impressively successful tourism programs. Samboan, we will be back to check out even more of your amazing attractions!
- P 170 per person – bus fare (non-airconditioned) from Cebu City to Samboan (same rate applies on the return trip)
- P 15 – habal-habal rate from Samboan Poblacion to Binalayan Falls (see also Tip 2)
- P 20 per person – registration fee
* We did not include our expenses for snacks, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, and sharing scheme from us. Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.
1. For more information, guideship, and assistance, get in touch with Samboan Tourism Officer Irwin P. Gamallo at 0925-5061879. You can also search his name on Facebook.
2. To save money and to make the most of your trip, we highly recommend doing the Samboan waterfall trilogy. Head off to the Aguinid visitor’s center, and tell the guides there that you want to have a packaged habal-habal transportation to take you to the three main waterfalls in Samboan—Dau, Binalayan, and Aguinid Falls.
That will cost you P250 per person, which includes waiting time. This excludes entrance fees to the waterfalls.
3. Watch your step because the path is quite slippery. Take extra care at the first tier and the area around Binalayan Falls itself as the rocks are very slick.
4. The pool at the bottom of Binalayan Falls is quite deep. Make sure you know how to swim, or wear a PFD for safety.
5. Pack light but do bring the following:
- water (at least 1 liter)
- umbrella, hat, or malong (sun protection)
- swim wear, rash guard, cycling shorts
- trekking sandals or shoes
- extra clothes
- extra money for emergencies
6. Waterproof your stuff by wrapping them in plastic bags before putting them in your backpack.
7. Do not litter, and bring all your garbage with you. Do not vandalize the rocks.