A hushed, laid-back place where you can relax in peace and feel the stress melt away. A primal venue where you can enjoy a wild adventure that keeps your heart pumping. Two contrasting ideas. Two different mindsets. Is it even possible to blend these two completely different concepts into one great experience? Absolutely yes and more! Just head off to the stunning Bugang River in the lush inland barangay of Guia in Pandan, Antique.
We spent the night in the humble and cozy Pandan Beach Resort after our whole-day adventure in Libertad. Due to a regional blackout, bad evening weather, and sheer exhaustion, we simply took off our clothes, showered, and crawled inside clean, silky sheets.
We woke up to a bright, sunny morning and saw the warmth of this comfortable resort. Pandan Beach Resort is adorned with traditional and contemporary Filipino furnishings and decors, reflecting the warm nature of Filipino homes. Open-air terraces provide an unobstructed view of the resort’s simple but tastefully manicured garden.
The resort’s breezy open-air restaurant doubles as a common area and welcome lounge. There are travel magazines and books which guests can read while waiting for their meal.
Malumpati Cold Spring
After a warm breakfast of eggs, hotdogs, and dried fish, we packed inside our van and headed northward toward the unspoiled Northwest Panay Peninsula Park. The van negotiated an unfinished rough and muddy back road (thanks to a road improvement project). But in no time at all, we safely reached our destination, the popular inland resort of Malumpati Cold Spring.
What greeted us was this very welcoming aquamarine pool of fresh, cold natural river water. Surrounded by soaring trees with expansive umbrellas of leaves and branches, it is a perfect getaway for those who want to be one with Mother Nature. Malumpati Cold Spring is a great venue for family outings, corporate parties, and gatherings of friends.
The natural pool was beautiful, but little did we know that was just for starters.
Years ago, this part of the river was shallow. A simple concrete dam was constructed to make the pool deeper. However, several spillways are incorporated into the dam ensure that the river continues to flow.
Beside the dam is a large natural spillway so water can flow easily. An old man, probably part of the Malumpati Cold Spring staff, helped his younger compatriots clean the pool to prepare it for the day’s visitors.
Various huts and tables are available for rent at reasonable prices. These are perfect for families and groups. Visitors are also free to bring their own meals, and an open grill is provided for those who want to cook grilled food.
At one end of the resort, the old man whom we saw earlier got to serious work inflating these interior tire tubes in preparation for our next adventure. Obviously, these are used as flotation devices, and visitors who want to venture into the deeper part of the natural pool can rent these for a minimal fee.
But then, he started segregating the tubes for us. What kind of an activity is this that requires inflated tire tubes?
We spent nearly an hour of swimming before we found the answer. One of our young tubers—that’s what they call the guides—explained what the tubes were for. River tubing! What kind of an activity is that? Well, tubing is a water activity that is similar to river rafting; but instead of a large inflatable raft, we will be going down the river using small interior tire tubes!
Everyone was truly excited. This is going to be one heck of an adventure!
After the short briefing, we walked towards the trail head a short distance from Malumpati Cold Spring. Since the trail is at the other side of the river, we need to cross a concrete bridge which serves as the pool’s boundary. No one is allowed to swim past the bridge.
That aquamarine water looks really inviting, but guests have to be careful as this is a deep part of the pool.
Also check out that building beyond the bridge. That is a pumping and filtration station operated by the Pandan Water District; the town and 20 barangays that surround it get their water from here.
Carefully polished shrines and plaques honor the environmentally conscious Chinese businessmen who helped put up this local attraction and preserve the natural beauty of the place.
Our team arrived at the trail head less than a hundred yards from the pumping station, marked by this registration center and rest area. For safety and monitoring purposes, guests are required to register before proceeding.
After everyone wrote their names in the logbook, we started walking on a trail of loose soil and slippery rocks alongside the alluring Bugang River. Let us tell you that Bugang River is among the most picturesque and most magnificent rivers we’ve ever been to as you shall soon see.
Just take a look at the trees that form part of the riverbank. Those are first-generation, original forest trees! The indigenous Atis along with local Pandans are receptive to modernity, but they never lose their respect for Mother Nature. They know how important the river is to their lives; and they ensure stringent policies, rules, and methodologies to protect and preserve it.
Bugang River stretches 6 kilometers from its source and empties into the vast Sulu Sea.
At times, we needed to walk on rickety bamboo bridges that span across some of the several streams that crisscross Bugang River.
The water is so clear that we can actually see individual rocks and water lilies under the surface! Bugang River is considered to be the cleanest inland body of water in the country, and it has official awards to prove that title. Some of the river’s awards include
- Winner of the 2005 Dangal ng Ilog Award during the First National Summit on the State of Philippine Rivers
- Gold Winner of the 2006 UK-based International Green Apple Environment for Environmental Best Practice, Local Authorities, and Ecotourism Category
- First Runner Up of the 2006 Hiyas ng Turismo Nationwide Search
- Hall of Fame Awardee for the Cleanest River in the Philippines
We told you earlier that Bugang River is one of the most scenic rivers we’ve ever visited, right? Well, check out the photo below. Where can you find a wild river as pure, pristine, and beautiful as this? Where can you find water as clear and as smooth as glass?
Check out the wall of lush plants. These plants do an effective job in keeping the water clean by filtering impurities through their roots and preventing heavy siltation by acting as a natural barrier.
In less than 30 minutes of trekking, we arrived at a grassy area where our experienced tubers, one for each guest, briefed us on how to ride and balance the inner tube “rafts.” They also taught us safety protocols and emergency procedures in case one accidentally falls off the tube.
After the briefing, we resumed our trek towards the starting point. Along the way, we spotted vast fields of lilies under the water. The lilies help filter impurities as well as serve as shelters for various freshwater marine creatures.
Looking at these green underwater lily fields seem to be glancing at the treetops of some enchantress’s magical but forbidden realm.
We reached the starting point, but the lead guide told the others to stay there. He then led us to one of the most beautiful—and dangerous—spots of Bugang River, the mystical Blue Lagoon. It is a large, dazzling freshwater lagoon with glowing milk blue water! Look at its smooth, glass-like surface.
But such unearthly beauty can sometimes hide extreme danger, and the Blue Lagoon’s charm can be dangerous indeed. A few years ago, a team of divers tried to reach the bottom of the lagoon. They dived to a depth of 40 meters where they encountered unusually strong and lethal undercurrents coming from a series of dark caves around the lagoon’s walls. The divers are alive and well to this day, but the bottom of Blue Lagoon remains unexplored.
The milky blue color comes from the deep sediment that is stirred by the undercurrents. Due to the danger of unexpected suction, swimming in the Blue Lagoon is strictly prohibited.
Ati elders often harvest the young tree roots at the side of the lagoon to be steeped into tea. They said that the roots have healing properties.
Just ahead of the Large Blue Lagoon is smaller pool of seemingly calm water, aptly called Small Lagoon. Just like its bigger sister, the bottom hasn’t been explored yet.
With the unseen undercurrents, it seems that these lagoons are the sources of water that fuel the flow of Bugang River.
After wallowing in the mesmerizing beauty of Bugang River, it’s now time for real adventure! One by one, the team members and their tubers sat on the tire interiors, ready to ride the river.
Once everyone was in the water, the guides took off their flip-flops. “Dig!” the lead tuber exclaimed, and the others pawed on the water, using their flip-flops as paddles.
Slowly, we floated downstream, continuing to admire the serenity and blissful quiet around us.
Well, perhaps the tubers misinterpreted our appreciation for silence as boredom. As such, they splashed cold water on us! Everyone shrieked and laughed loudly as we joined in the fun.
The first part of the tubing activity involves floating down the calm river, letting the gentle current carry us back to Malumpati Cold Spring. Every now and then, our guides pointed out to some points of interest along the river.
Let’s check out some of them. The tuber behind me said that the towering tree with the white trunk is called a bugang tree in which the river gets its namesake. The branches of bugang trees, as well as other trees along the river, make perfect resting places for vipers, pythons, and other snakes that reside in the area.
We even found one large reticulated python sleeping in one of the branches. Too bad we were too far away; we couldn’t take a clear picture even if we zoomed in our camera towards the snake.
This strange plant with broad green leaves looks like it is plucked out of a science fiction movie! Bugang River houses a diverse collection of flora and fauna.
Soon, our train disengaged, and we divided ourselves into small teams of two. Everyone’s gentle smiles turned into wild, anticipating grins as we caught sight of the first whitewater down the river. One by one, we screamed our hearts out in pure fun as we quickly rode through the rough, frothing water.
Apparently, everyone had fun as we negotiated the series of rapids that line up the river, each with a different style of “attack.” Sometimes, the water was so shallow that our bums, which poked out of the donut hole of the tire tubes, hit the riverbed!
Also, because the tubes are fully inflated, we floated high above the rapids. That means, we had a mighty rough and exciting ride!
Tubing operators piled up large rocks to create deep, whitewater lanes along the river. If not for these rock lanes, the water would be too shallow for the tube riders to float on. The lanes also funnel the river’s flow, creating stronger, faster rapids.
All too soon, we were back in calm water as the sight of the water pumping station came into view. No! We want more, more, and more wild water tubing! It was so much fun!
We resumed our train as we approached the resort. We felt a little uneasy as guests and residents looked at us from the concrete bridge with expectant smiles. They probably know that we totally enjoyed each moment of the river tubing activity.
But wait! There was indeed a grand finale, something which we did not expect! Some of our tubers maneuvered the train so we would form a neat circle under the diving platform.
Once we were in perfect position, a few of our tubers quickly climbed up the platform and dived at the center of our circle! We applauded and squealed with delight at each stunt while being drenched with huge splashes.
Bombs away! Apparently, even our guides had a lot of fun doing this.
It’s quite difficult to show you just how enjoyable and exhilarating the river tubing adventure is with just photos and words. This short video can better show you a glimpse of the thrill of the activity.
After an entire morning of swimming, trekking, and water tubing, our tummies were audibly grumbling. To answer everyone’s maddening call of hunger, the tourism officers of Pandan fed us with a delicious lunch of grilled fish, chicken binakol (native chicken in a tinola broth thickened with coconut milk), and pork menudo (chunks of pork, carrots, potatoes, and peppers swimming in a thick tomato paste).
Leocadio Alonsagay Dioso Memorial Public Library
The evening before we headed out to Malumpati Cold Spring, we met one of the owners of Pandan Beach Resort, a highly intelligent gentleman. We conversed on many topics, and everyone was utterly amazed at his vast store of knowledge.
He is retired UN official Mr. Leo Dioso. He and his wife are the founders of Leocadio Alonsagay Dioso Memorial Public Library, a heartwarming gift to the people of Pandan and an important destination in the municipality. Even though the library is privately owned and operated, it is an non-profit facility.
We absolutely love books and libraries, so Sir Leo invited us to visit Pandan’s kingdom of books.
Look at all those books! Aisles upon aisles and shelves upon shelves of books!
Sir Leo, a voracious reader, conceptualized the idea of establishing a library when he realized that Antique—and the entirety of the Philippines, for that matter—lacks good and well-equipped public libraries. He wanted to instill the passion of reading to children, teens, and adults as a lifelong habit for their entertainment, personal development, and well-being.
Thus, when he retired from his UN post, he gathered his family’s books (which filled up his garage in New York, we might add) and shipped them to the Philippines in a 40-foot shipping container filled to the brim. That collection became the first readily available books to read in the Leocadio Alonsagay Dioso Memorial Public Library.
Today, there are more than 20,000 books, magazines, journals, and other literary materials in the library’s collection. Many of the materials are donated by individuals, foundations, and institutions that share Sir Leo’s vision.
Magazine collections are carefully hardbound. Sir Leo personally and lovingly takes care of the books to ensure that these valuable treasures of knowledge will last forever.
It has been many years since we last used encyclopedias for our school papers. Seeing these thick books again filled us with nostalgia.
The Leocadio Alonsagay Dioso Memorial Public Library has a nice reading area for kids. Here, teachers and volunteers conduct storytelling sessions for toddlers and schoolchildren.
The library also has a computer room, a conference hall, and other facilities.
Outside the library is a stage that is used for live presentations and community programs. When we went there, we saw three teenagers practicing a school dance.
Shy but smiling kids grinned for the camera as they waited for the library to open. Sir Leo said that these kids are regulars, and they have become certified bibliophiles.
That’s Sir Leo (the guy in black polo shirt) with travel bloggers and Antique tourism officials. He is such an inspiration, and with his leadership and support, today’s readers will truly become tomorrow’s leaders.
Relaxation and adventure. Slumber and excitement. Pleasant drowsiness and a good injection of adrenaline. Indeed, they all come harmoniously together in Bugang River. And if you are a bibliophile, you can enrich your knowledge in a library that has become a generous forefront of knowledge in the region.
Visit amazing Pandan now, and fill your soul with serenity, excitement, and wisdom!
To facilitate your tour around Pandan, Antique, get in touch with the following:
- Mr. Bong Venus (Pandan Tourism Officer) – 0918-448-9348
- Mr. Flord Calawag (OIC Antique Provincial Tourism Office) – 0927-699-5727 / 0919-813-9893
- Ms. Jola Lyn Tingson (Antique Natural Tourism Program Head) – 0977-811-0017
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: Province of Antique
- Phone Number: 0995-5034544
We strongly recommend contacting any of these officers before your trip so they can coordinate with the accommodation providers and the necessary people to help you in your adventures. They are the best people to go to if you want your adventure to be smooth-sailing.
Once you arrive in Pandan, head first to the municipal hall to register. Then see the tourism officer/staff for assistance.
Transportation (same rates apply on the return trip)
- P 80 per person – bus fare Kalibo to Pandan Bus Terminal
- P 100 per person – bus fare Kalibo to Pandan Bus Terminal
- P 250 per tricycle – one way tricycle fare from Pandan to Malumpati Cold Spring (maximum of 6 persons)**
- P 150 to 200 per habal-habal – estimated one way habal-habal fare from Pandan to Malumpati Cold Spring (maximum of 2 persons)**
** We strongly recommend you negotiate with the driver to wait for you or to fetch you at a scheduled time. Returning to Pandan’s town center from Malumpati Cold Spring is quite difficult because only a few public vehicles actually go there. Most guests ride private or hired vehicles.
- P 40 per person – environmental/entrance fee for non-Pandan residents
- P 20 per person – environmental/entrance fee for Pandan residents
- P 350 per person – river tubing (includes guide fee). One guide per guest.
- P 100 per cottage – cottage rental
- P 2,000 per raft – bamboo rafting for 3.5 kilometers downstream from Malumpati Cold Spring (maximum of 6 persons)
- P 200 per person – boating for 1.5 kilometers downstream from Malumpati Cold Spring
* Rates are subject to change without prior notice. We did not include our expenses for meals, snacks, souvenirs, accommodations, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, and sharing scheme from us.
1. For large groups or for a more private tour, you can hire an air-conditioned van from Southwest Tours. Use the following contact details:
- Cellphone Numbers: 0917-568-2441 or 0947-891-1658
- Email: email@example.com
2. For accommodations in Pandan, stay at the Pandan Beach Resort. Get in touch with Ms. Gigi Bautista, Resort Manager. Use the following contact details for bookings, reservations, and information.
- Mailing Address: Pandan Beach Resort Barangay Dionela, Pandan, Antique, Philippines
- Landline: (6336) 278-9379
- Mobile Numbers: 0917-837-1155 / 0917-580-9648 / 0922-812-7906 / 0922-812-7863
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: Pandan Beach Resort
3. To visit the Leocadio Alonsagay Dioso Memorial Public Library, get in touch with Mr. Leo Dioso. Use the following contact details:
- Mailing Address: L.A. Dioso Memorial Public Library, Pandan, Antique, Philippines
- Landline: (6336) 278-9711 or 12
- E-mail Address: email@example.com
If you wish to donate to the library, you can use the contact details above. For US-based donors, send your donations to the following address:
The Dioso Library U.S. Office
330 East 38th St., #22L
New York, New York 10016, U.S.A.
Both cash and non-cash donations are welcome, but the library prefers the latter. Preferred non-cash donations include
- Fiction and non-fiction books (used ones are fine as long as they are in good condition)
- Audio-books, music CDs, movie DVDs and videotapes
- Children’s books, educational games, and toys
- Computers and printers
- Miscellaneous school supplies
4. Many parts of the Malumpati Cold Spring are deep. As a precaution, rent an inner tube or wear a PFD if you plan to go to deeper water. If you wish to be unencumbered by such devices, make sure you are in a position wherein a shallow area is within reach. For kids and non-swimmers, there is a shallow area behind the concrete dam.
5. Swimming in the Blue Lagoon and the Small Lagoon is absolutely not allowed. Unexpected and uncharted undercurrents can pull down even the strongest swimmer.
6. Do not shake light woods and trees which dot the riverbank. That’s because snakes rest and sleep on the branches of these trees. You don’t want a viper or python falling on your shoulders, do you?
7. For safety during tubing, always follow your tuber’s instructions. Avoid unnecessary movement.
8. Pack light but bring the following:
- water (at least two liters)
- rashguard, swimsuit, cycling shorts, board shorts, and other swimming attire
- trekking sandals or flip-flops
- umbrella, hat, or sarong
- snacks and beverages
- packed lunch, if necessary
- extra clothes
- extra money for emergencies
9. Waterproof your belongings by wrapping them in plastic bags, Zip-lock sandwich bags, dry bags, and other waterproof housings.
10. Preserve the beauty and cleanliness of Bugang River by observing the adventurer’s mantra: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.