PAST & PRESENT
History and legend has it that the Hispanic name “Pagsanjan” (Pag-sang-han) was originally derived by the early Spanish colonizers from the Tagalog word “Pinagsangahan”, meaning 'branching' or 'juncture' because it is located where the rivers Balanac and Bumbungan merge to empty into the great Laguna de Bay.
Pagsanjan first loomed in history as a barrio of Lumban, a town founded in 1578 by the famous Fray Juan de la Plasencia, a Franciscan missionary-historian. In 1668, the first settlers of Pagsanjan were eight Christian Chinese and Japanese traders who were highly impressed by the strategic location of the barrio at the juncture of two rivers, Balanac and Bumbungan. They established their trading settlement in Pagsanjan and engaged in the betelnut industry, which in due time became a flourishing trading center of Eastern Laguna. Lured by the burgeoning prosperity of the settlement, many native families from Lumban, Cavinti, Sta. Cruz and Pila migrated to Pagsanjan.
In December 12, 1668, then Governor-General Juan Manuel de la Peña Bonifaz issued a gubernatorial decree creating the barrio of Pagsanjan as a town. The first gobernadorcillo elected was Pagsanjan's Cabeza de Barangay Francisco Umale. In 1687, Fray Agustin de la Magdalena became Parish Priest of the newly established Parish. He chose Mexico's Our Lady of Guadalupe as Pagsanjan's Patroness.
For 170 years (1688-1858), Pagsanjan was the capital of the province of Laguna. During this long period, the town basked in the magnificent glow of greatness. Pagsanjan bloomed as the commercial, cultural and learning center of the province, and was called the “Athens of Laguna.”
The “Puerta Real” or the Town Gate was constructed from 1878 to 1880. It was inaugurated in 1894 by Don Pedro A. Paterno, and was restored in 1975 by then Mayor Gregorio F. Zaide, an internationally known historian.
Pagsanjan was occupied by the Revolutionists in 1896; by the Americans in 1899; by the Japanese in 1942; and liberated by the Filipinos in 1945. In recent years, Pagsanjan has become the premiere, world-class tourist destination in the Philippines, owing to its natural scenic wonders and the most visited waterfalls in the country - the famous “Pagsanjan Falls”. Pagsanjan is also a favorite location for the shooting of local and international filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola's “Apocalypse Now”, which was filmed here from 1975 to 1976.
AT A GLANCE
Like a graceful swan, Pagsanjan perches on the riparian delta formed by the confluence of two cool rivers , called Balanac and Bumbungan, situated 101 kilometers southeast of Manila, easily accessible by car or bus. It consists of 16 barangays with a total land area of 2,640 has (26.40 sq.km.). Pagsanjan is the tourism center of the Province of Laguna.
Pagsanjan is the home of the most hospitable, friendly and peace-loving people. Pagsanjeños are sweet, beautiful, warmhearted and fiesta-loving. It is a town rich in cultural heritage as revealed in their richfolklore, customs and traditions, and colorful fiestas.
Richly dowered by God with natural wonders, Pagsanjan boasts of its awe-inspiring gorge, the roaring rapids, and the enchanting waterfalls, the lush virginal, tropical forests and fertile gardens, the everflowing springs and breathtaking panoramic vistas.
Adorning the town is the centuries-old national treasure, the “Puerta Real” a stone royal arch, standing like a lone sentinel at the western entrance to the old, Hispanic pueblo. The historic stone town gate with three Roman arches and topped by two lions guarding Spain's royal escutcheon stands as a memento of the glory that was Pagsanjan, back when it was the capital of Laguna during the Spanish colonial days. Many Pagsanjeño polistas labored for 2 years to finish this arch.
Along the wide main street, “Calle Real”, are traces of the past: picturesque old houses, churches, and the town square.
Pagsanjan is a little town of global fame, diversity and filled with fun, water-activities. Experience the colorful traditions, sights, sounds, vibrant colors and culinary treats.
Experience the “unforgettable thrill of a lifetime” in the wet, oozing and wild sojourn, that is Pagsanjan! Truly worth it!
NATURAL WEALTH OF WONDERS
Pagsanjan, the tourist capital of the province of Laguna and one of the premiere world-class tourist destinations in the Philippines, is gifted with natural wonders and scenic views. It is inarguably famous for its rapids. These aesthetic features of the town attract tourists for whom manmade and initiated tourism support accommodations, facilities and services are focused.
The main attraction of the town is its natural wonders - the stark natural beauty of the Pagsanjan River, the awe-inspiring gorge, the breathtaking roaring rapids and the spectacular world-famous waterfalls, the “Pagsanjan Falls”.
Actually, the real name of the majestic waterfalls is “Magdapio Falls” located in the next town, Cavinti. However, the falls has been popularly known as “Pagsanjan Falls” because the trip to the waterfalls, referred to as “shooting the rapids”, starts from Pagsanjan, passes through part of Lumban, then to Cavinti.
It begins benignly enough in the still headwaters of the river, then rapidly churning to make it the ride of your life. You will enjoy the thrill and adventure of “shooting the rapids” which is the boatride experience of a lifetime.
On the way to the magnificent waterfalls, one may feel the relaxing atmosphere and beauty brought by the experience of harmony with nature. While entering the tropical gorge, one will see wild orchids, ferns, vines, spiders, dragonflies, lizards on the rocks, chattering monkeys and the beautiful sun rays passing through the trees, touching the peaceful water, and high above are the multicolored birds flirting in the bushes.
It is a must for people visiting Pagsanjan. Two to three tourist passengers are treated to a thrilling river ride on board a “banca” or “canoe” expertly paddled and bodily lifted upstream against the strong current through an amazingly pristine panorama of primeval forest. It is then maneuvered downstream between the picturesque canyon walls, and through the rapids, rocks and roaring current at breathtaking speed by two seasoned and skilled “bangkeros” or “boatmen.” The pair of tourist passengers should synchronize their positions to maintain balance.
With the dexterity and skill of boatmen who have spent their whole lives on the river, a navigator and a pilot will safely guide your “banca” on an exciting two-hour journey. At times, you will be skimming through the gorge with walls of rock mass formations and vines that rise up over a hundred meters. There will also be times when you will be tossed and twisted through the rapids as you speed downstream to the two towering waterfalls. Depending on the water's height, there are a total of 12 to 16 rapids altogether. Upon reaching the last major waterfalls, you can transfer from the “banca” to a “balsa” or “bamboo raft” that will take you through the cascading water to a hidden cave (which looks like the profile of a devil) formed by the walls of the gorge.
It is as exhilarating, spine-tingling, adrenaline-pumping, two-hour boatride from the Bumbungan River to the “Pagsanjan Falls”, whose booming water cascades down the 300-feet cliff in full view. The falling waters fill the place with thunderous sound.
Traveling along the watercourse and shooting the 16 roaring rapids is definitely one big heart and nerve-breaking adventure.
From Pagsanjan to the main falls is 5.38 kilometers.