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Mambangon Spring Resort – Cabacungan Negros Occidental

Wait, I’m not talking about buying several gallons of mineral water, pouring it into a kiddie pool and swimming in it. That would be an uber-luxurious and uber-impractical way of spending your money, on top of being tedious and without advantage.

This is not about wasting water, it’s actually the opposite. According to Water.org, approximately one out of every eight people lack access to safe water. And we all know that unsafe water is the cause of all kinds of different sickness and disease where some can even lead to death, like typhoid fever.

An article on “Facts about water” that I saw recently reminded me of my favorite budget swimming destination. The resort’s name is Mambangon Spring Resort in Cabacungan, Negros Occidental Philippines.

The white tree behind us is where the neighbors get their drinking water.

During our stay there, I saw a kid carrying an empty gallon to get some water coming out from the tree’s roots. My wife told me that the owner of the resort allowed their neighbors to get their drinking water flowing from that tree.

According to my cousin-in-law who had a chat with guy managing the place, a Japanese mineral water company offered a big amount to buy that place but was turned down by the owners because the price wasn’t big enough for them. Perhaps the problem here is that, it’s an inherited property owned by ten families and dividing the amount to all of them may not be worth it in the long run.

He even told us that the famous boxer congressman Manny Pacquiao and Philippine tycoon Danding Cojuanco gave bigger offers but was still turned down by the owners. Of course, since we didn’t get this story straight from the involved parties, we can dismiss it as a rumor.

There are people out there who don’t have access to clean drinking water and here, it’s so abundant that we’re swimming in it. I wish that springs like this existed everywhere. This reminds me of my grandfather who gets his drinking water straight from a water pump yet its clean and safe. I’ve been drinking it in my two-week stay with them and they’ve been drinking it all their lives.

I really love this place because a swimming pool resort in our area charges P100 ($2.3) per person, only to get a 5ft deep swimming pool and water with a strong chlorine smell (unlike other pools) which they change every other day.

But in Mambangon Spring Resort, the water source is used as drinking water, is around 2ft-9ft deep, no chlorine and is changed every second. You’ll also get to enjoy a great landscape view and a fresh air that only a countryside can offer, all these for only P20 (half a dollar). Talk about getting the best value for your money.

You can rent a cottage for around P300-P500 ($7-$12) which is large enough to accommodate the whole family. There’s even a section where you can cook your own food with no additional charge. In our case, we brought an already grilled chicken but cooked our rice and grilled some fish there.

We ate our food in classic style, using our bare hands on a banana leaf. It seems like food tasted better if you eat it that way compared to a fine dining setup where you’re conscious of table manners and use several utensils. Maybe it just depends on the mood but it clearly depends on the food. I can’t imagine myself eating spaghetti with bare hands.

Getting there

From Bacolod City, the most cost-effective and convenient way to get to La Castellana is through public vans in the HLS terminal for only P70 ($1.8). From La Castellana, take a motorized tricycle to Cabacungan for around P12 ($0.45) only which heads straight to Mambangon Spring Resort.

Mambukal Mountain Resort in Negros Occidental, Philippines is a very memorable place for me. Not just because  of its captivating beauty but because it’s the only place where I’ve had a travel injury and heard several related stories among all of the outdoor travel adventures I’ve had so far.

It’s a given that everyone makes mistakes, but how you react to it is what counts. I’ve learned a lot from my experience here which helped me in my future travels.

Before we talk about the injury stories here, let me give you some great facts about this wonderful place. Mambukal Mountain Resort is known for its Seven Falls. Me and my wife had a great sightseeing experience here because the place is so green, filled with old trees and plants.

Inside this resort is a river where you can enjoy boating while getting relaxed by the splashing sound of the small waterfall in its midst. There are cottages near this river where you can have lunch while the enjoying fresh air and a wonderful view. The ambience made me feel that our food got more delicious.

If you’re fond of animals, there’s a section in its forest filled with bats hanging like large fruits in trees. You can take a picture of those bats while reminiscing a scene in Batman. They also have a butterfly garden where you can have a fun close encounter with colorful butterflies.

For swimming and relaxation, they offer a large swimming pool and a hot spring.

Now for our first travel injury story, we were told that an American mistakenly thought of the sulfur hot spring as one of the swimmable hot springs. When you enter this spring a warning sign will greet you and warn you that the spring’s temperature is around 90°C to 100°C and that you’re not even allowed to touch it.

The guy must have been a bit groggy that early morning and failed to read the signboard’s warning. He dived into the sulfur hot spring and the most unfortunate thing happened instantly. Since then, they’ve assigned someone to warn the tourists about this spring before entering after realizing that the warning signboard alone wasn’t enough.

I think some barbed wires might have helped prevent the tragedy. Unless they’re using the spring for boiling eggs occasionally, I don’t see a reason for them not to put one. The travel lesson learned here is very clear, always read the signboards.

After an enjoyable stroll in the whole area, we’ve decided to take the climbing challenge to the Seven Falls. It’s a long climb per waterfall. Good thing they’ve made concrete steps to it which made it easier for us to climb.

After reaching the 6th fall, our tour guide told us that we can take a swim there unlike the rest of the falls. Since the water is very clear and enticing, we gave it a shot. The water’s temperature was just right and there’s a shallow and a deep section.

We tried the shallow section first and had an immediate struggle. I found myself drowning with only have of my body submerged in water. Seriously? Check out the picture below and you’ll understand how a person can get drowned with only half of his body submerged in water.

I was actually just giving myself a feel on how it’s like to experience the controversial waterboarding torture done by the CIA to captured terrorists.

Since I know how to swim, I dived to the deeper part of the fall. It was so deep that I can’t see the bottom part. The guide was obviously very used to swimming there that he could stand at the slippery edge of the fall.

If you’ll take a closer look at the picture below, the only place in that fall where you can sit comfortably after swimming from the opposite side is the edge of the fall. So the clumsy me sat there thinking that it’s safe since the guide can even stand there.

The part where I’m sitting at edge of the fall was smooth, mossy and slippery. The clumsy me again didn’t mind because gravity and my balance helped me stay put. I also didn’t mind the fact that what’s behind me is very steep and the water down there is shallow.

So the guide left me and went up a tree to enjoy a grandiose dive which happens to be near in front of me. There was a big splash then a wave and I ended up losing my balance which made me turn sideways and get pushed down below.

I’m surprised that my wife managed to get a shot of its “before and after” event. I guess if Twitter and Facebook was already around that time, she would have tweeted and uploaded it first in her Facebook wall before coming after to help me.

So the clumsy poor me was still blessed enough to just have a large wound in my foot and a dislocated joint. I can’t imagine what would have happened if my head went down first. It’s good that I can still walk back to our room and that the guide knows a shortcut there where we don’t need to endure a steep climb down.

This reminded me of the popular quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” And I sure did become stronger by getting wiser in my travels later.

My wife had travel bloopers too, like slipping off the boat which caused her shoulder bag to get immersed in water with her cellphone and our digicam inside it. At another occasion, she left our digicam in a restroom during our Bohol travel and we’re very thankful to the person maintaining it for giving it back to us.

She also accidentally bruised her arm in the pointed corner of the snorkeling platform. It left her a large wound and you can see how upset she was.

I’m sure most of us have travel blooper stories ranging from simple things like forgetting to charge the camera’s battery to getting a serious injury more than what I’ve had. To sum up what I’ve learned in my travels, it only boils down to three things, prepare ahead of time, be a keen observer and don’t be clumsy.