As the second largest province in the Philippines, Isabela seems less explored. Maybe the places are far between that it takes considerable time to explore them. Or municipalities are cut-off by the Sierra Madre mountains like coastal villages Maconacon, Divilacan or Palanan that it takes a plane ride to get there. When an invitation to explore Echague, one of the municipalities of Isabela, came in, I immediately took the offer. Exploring new places is always exciting whatever I may find there. In this case, Echague is getting ready to showcase their eco-tourism attraction, the Madadamian Falls. A network of falls and streams found within the lush forest region of Echague.
Getting to know Echague
The overnight municipal-owned bus took only seven hours to roll in at the municipal grounds of Echague coming from Balintawak. We found ourselves stretching out and yawning to wake at the NIA Building where the Municipal Cultural and Tourism Office is located. The building also houses the LGU-operated hostel.
Echague is about 380km from Manila. Buses headed to Cagayan passes by this southern municipality of Isabela. Quirino is close by down south. Their main agriculture is corn, pineapple and cocoa. Echague used to be known as Camarag (name of the tree common in the area) and is home to the minority group Yogad tribe.
Madadamian Falls Circuit
Tourism is still being developed in Echague and the Madadamian Falls is one of the key attractions the municipality is looking into. This was an exploration trip with the local tourism. We rode an elf truck for Baranggay Madadamian which is 32km away east of the municipality. To say the road is rough is an understatement. The ride shook us up rigorously along the wide rolling hills of corn and pineapple fields. In an hour we reached Madadamian proper where we met with the Kapitan Redgie and our guides. Fully equipped with ropes, bolo and belly full, we were ready to hike and explore.
Falls to Falls
Kapitan’s place is still about 2km from Madadamian proper. Heavy duty jeeps and trucks are the only transportation that can handle the road here and they go to the capitol only once a day. For the Madadamian Falls, we left the main road and passed through several corn fields until we descended where a river flows. From there we passed by a few cascades and falls. We could see the trail isn’t established yet and our guides had to hack their way through some of them.
They said Madadamian has at least 18 falls but some we passed by I wouldn’t really consider as falls. There are two main falls though, Mada and Damian, named from the two Negrito lovers who met in the baranggay on what used to be called Vill Dim. For this exploration though, our end point was Mada Falls. A lot of the cascades or falls we passed by have no names yet.
The river hike were along shallow waters. Turned murky from our disturbance of the soil below. In the forest and river trail, the key sites I liked were the bamboo forest trail, the miniature canyon-like passages especially with a falls enclosed in and the dense forest. Mada Falls was the highest in the initial circuit at 18 meters with a natural pool. There are other falls further but it takes longer to hike.
It took us four hours to go through the trail leading to Mada Falls. My GPS estimates about 6km of trail in varying elevation as high as 820 feet. We passed through several falls and roping up low cliffs and cascades to go through the trail. The beauty of this area is the unspoiled forest. Don’t be surprised if you encounter snakes here like we did. A couple in fact, one more that 12feet long and another about 8 feet. So its important to have a guide with you when exploring this area.
The LGU of Echague still have a lot to work on to develop the Madadamian Falls circuit. There’s potential in the area if done right. If you love nature and enjoy tramping in the forest, this place would be a good side-trip if you are ever in Isabela or the nearby Quirino.
To visit the Madadamian Falls circuit contact the Municipal Cultural and Tourism Office:
NIA Building, Municipal Ground,
Provincial Road, San Fabian,
Echague, Isabela 3309
Contact: (078) 305.5159
To go to Echague, ride a bus heading to Tuguegarao and asked to be dropped off at Isabela State University in Echague. Victory Liner and Five Star buses pass through Echague. Travel time is at least 8-hours. Fare is Php 400.
Tips: The trail is new and is still being developed so it can be real challenging. Some portions will require ropes which the guide will bring. Make sure you have good river trek foot wear. Trial can also be really muddy if it rians.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.