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During my preparation for my recent trip to the Philippines, I reverted to an almost conditioned response to any trip I take. I googled Viator Philippines. Viator is a website I have been using for so long I can’t even remember when I started. It has been a useful resource for almost all of my travels. Viator is a website that offers tours and day tours in many destinations all over the world. During my review of the website, I came across a stunning image that lured me right in. The stunning image was Hidden Valley Springs Resort located in the Laguna Province of the Philippines. I showed my Grandmother who is a Native of the Philippines, and she insisted that she herself arrange a trip there for me.
My Grandmother hired a driver named Santos. About eleven AM Santos pulled his van into my Grandmothers garage at our family home in Tanay Rizal Philippines. My grandmothers maid Marisel, my Aunt Athena, and I all piled in. We all set out on Manila east road, past windmills, lush green dense low hills, extreme poverty, ramshackle shacks and whizzing motorcyclists. Every curve of the Road revealed panoramic vista after panoramic vista. Along the way, we stopped at Mabitac Village and bought some bananas, mangos, and pineapples.
Our driver Santos told me that the Phillippines has wine and we could go and taste it so we stopped at Jimmy’s store in the town of Calanuan. Jimmy was offering a taste of his wine straight from blue fifty-five-gallon drums. One taste and my mouth almost caught fire! My Aunt Athena asked, “Is the two hundred proof?” We weren’t drinking wine. We were drinking Lambanog or as our driver, Santos comically called it in the deepest Filipino accent “Criminal Water”. Lambanog is an alcohol made of coconuts. We bought an massive bottle to blend with all of our mangos pineapples and bananas. As our road trip neared closer to our destination we passed vendors selling intricate wood carvings and stunning furniture that made me wish I had an unlimited budget and access to a cargo plane.
Late in the day, Santos pulled the van into the entrance of Hidden Valley Springs Resort, and we paid a fifty dollar entrance fee and rushed to the restaurant for our included lunch. The lunch buffet offered soup, salad, sweet and sour fish, pork, rice, beef, and dessert. After lunch, we walked past a meticulously manicured field of palm trees, cute little cottages, and over a series of bridges and down a stone staircase to reveal a gorgeous vista of three natural pools fed by waterfalls all flanked by wild giant boughs of palm fronds and emerald green vegetation.
I plunged my body into the natural pools and was surprised and soothed by the temperature of the warm water. As I peacefully floated on my back I stared in admiration at the greenery and wild vegetation of the huge green elephant ear plants and crowns of whispy palm fronds lining the gloomy silvery overcast sky. I was so relaxed I felt like I never wanted to leave. However, as the sun sank low into the horizon and the resort’s lighting began to illuminate the area I realized my time was up and If I didn’t leave someone would be coming to kick me out. So I got back into Santos’s van with everyone else that came with me.
Luckily a few days later while I was just sitting around our family home back in Tanay Rizal, to my surprise my Aunt Wee Wee threw open the garage door and said: “I’m here!”. She is from the United States and I had no idea she was even coming to the Philippines! The best part is when she said: “Uncle Vic lent me his car and a driver!”. She said “Let’s go to the mall”, and I said let’s go to Hidden Valley!
The next day Auntie Wee Wee’s young driver Jim drove us to Hidden Valley and this time it was like Maya Angelou’s famous quote “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. This time around we arrived right at the opening time so that we could take full advantage of every hour and service available. Driver Jim’s already youthful appearance was enhanced with an ear to ear grin when he was overcome with excitement as jumped into the natural pools. Auntie Wee Wee and I frolicked around the water and took a silly amount of ridiculous photos.
After lunch, Auntie Wee Wee was so relaxed she peacefully napped by the lower waterfall. Jim came and told me “That guy says there are more waterfalls”. I immediately jumped out of the water and he and I went searching. In our swimsuits barefoot and dripping wet, we took a wide flat stone zig-zagging path lined with lush leafy vegetation that led us to a medium-sized pool with a tiny waterfall. Then we saw another sign to Lovers Waterfall as we approached Lovers Waterfall we saw a sign that said, Hidden Falls: so we kept going.
The stone path ended and an almost never-ending bridge made of fat stems of bamboo lead the way. The bamboo path kept going and going. Jim and I came upon an open field of dense jungle. There was a Filipino man with a huge bolo and he informed us that the waterfall was near. Just as my feet were really starting to hurt from walking on all the bamboo. The bamboo path ended. I could hear the loud waterfall but all I could see was a black granite hill flanked by a staircase. Jim and I took the staircase and the terrain became even more rugged.
Our bare feet were walking on very sharp sometimes slimy black naturally occurring stone. We struggled with the terrain. I could gauge how close we were by the intense sound of loud rushing water but we still could not see it. So we decided to take our hike into the water. Every step was unknown. One step could be a foot deep in water and another could be four feet down in the water. As the water level became a steady waist deep level we were shocked by the frigid temperature. As the sound, temperature, and terrain intensified we were rewarded! Jim and I were finally in view of Hidden Falls. Jim was a little to overcome with excitement. Jim must have thought we were in a movie or something. He told me I was beautiful and tried to kiss me! I’m married!
I Had an amazing time at Hidden Valley Resort Spring, and would recommend it to anyone! I will definitely return one day. But, next time I’m bringing Mr. Arnold. Maybe I’ll finally get that kiss at Hidden Falls.