By BING PAREL
Nestled within the remote barangay of Caganayan in Tineg, Abra is a breathtaking natural wonder known as Kaparkan Falls. Located about 45 kilometers from the capital town of Bangued, the 524-meter long, 175-meter high multi-tiered waterfall features an infinity of pools and terraces, with the water cascading from top to bottom.
It’s comparable to Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios in Jamaica and the Kuang Si Falls in Northern Laos, says George Anthony Lalin, leader of the volunteer tourism and environment advocacy group known as Abramazing and also a tourism consultant to Abra Congressman Joseph “JB” Bernos.
Lalin learned about Kaparkan Falls when he saw a Facebook post of a municipal engineer from Tineg back in 2010. Awed by the sight of the terraced waterfall, Lalin asked to be brought to the place.
“It took me two years before I could convince Engineer Vilamonte – who incidentally is also a member of our trail-riding group – to bring us there,” says Lalin, who described the experience as “surreal.”
While the engineer and other locals of Tineg consider the waterfalls as commonplace since they see it whenever they have to trek through the forest to get to Bangued, Lalin saw it as “a priceless treasure.”
Many visitors have since visited this not-so-hidden treasure of Abra, but getting to Kaparkan Falls is challenging, to say the least, because of the rough terrain and the roads that get thick with mud during the rainy season. So muddy, in fact, that vehicles could get stuck for hours. Lalin, who has since become the proprietor of pioneering local travel agency Abramazing Tours, says tourists also find it difficult to endure the arduous trek through an abandoned 11-kilometer military road leading to Kaparkan.
“We addressed this by utilizing surplus 6×6 military SKW trucks as conveyance,” Lalin discloses, adding that this became an added attraction to the tourists who found the concept of a “hell ride to paradise” exciting.
Easier access to Kaparkan will soon be possible, however, once the construction of the 11-kilometer Alimusgan-Bai-Caganayan Access Road is completed. A priority project of the DPWH Abra District Engineering office since 2018, Lalin says the access road will not only draw in more tourists but will also benefit the residents of Lagayan and San Juan as these municipalities are the gateways to Kaparkan Falls. He also sees businesses opening up such as inns and restaurants, which will generate income and employment.
For sure, the community of Caganayan which mostly thrives on farming, hunting and fishing will benefit from the access road as tourism on off-seasons can augment the income of the residents.
But as access to the falls becomes easier and more tourists come in, this could also result in waste and garbage as well as the construction of facilities that could wreak havoc on the pristine nature of the falls.
To mitigate this, Congressman Bernos has filed a bill that would create an administration that would independently manage the falls and establish systems to protect and preserve the natural resource. “We have likewise identified the area that will be covered by this (proposed) bill to prevent road construction all the way to the falls, which may disturb the ecological balance of the place and destroy the cave systems that serve as conduits of water supplying the falls,” Lalin elaborates.
“In the four years that we have been pushing tourism in Abra, we have also been espousing the need to preserve and protect the environment,” Lalin stresses. Government should recognize the need to balance accessibility vis-à-vis the preservation and protection of a natural wonder like Kaparkan Falls, he concludes.
About the Writer
Bing Parel is a Senior Vice President for the Editorial Department of WSP Incorporated, a Filipino-owned communications firm. In her past life, she was a travel magazine writer and associate editor for a glossy, and was also involved in the national campaign of a presidential candidate. She describes herself as a domestic diva on weekends and confesses that one of her frustrations is the inability to solve a Rubik’s Cube despite her teenage son’s patient encouragement and tutorial attempts.