October 18, 2007. I had a Mass Media Law exam scheduled the next day, but I decided to go ahead and join Ivan, Nino, and Gideon to Las Haciendas in Laurel, Batangas. The place is a large and budding real estate development on what is apparently a large estate owned by a prominent landowning family. It initially bothered me how the extent of its area covers much of the town of Laurel, even including public offices within its private control and how its development will displace hundreds of local families who have lived in the area for centuries.
I will not claim to know much of the history and the exact details but it to me, it felt like it had the makings of a classic land ownership and feudal relationship issue dating from the Spanish period. Before I could raise the question to our hosts, however, we were told that the long-time peasant residents of the estate will indeed be displaced but will be offered socialized housing. Because we were hosted and toured for free, I will not be an ingrate and I’d rather say that that was fair enough for me, and I shall keep my reservations for now.
Anyway, Las Haciendas is a real estate development that claims to offer urban families and retirees a pampered ‘provincial life’, with their own farm lots and resorts where they can cultivate their own fruit trees and other such plants, and build their dream weekend getaway homes.
We visited Las Haciendas mainly to trek to Ambon-Ambon Falls that was within the estate. The trek to the falls was a fairly easy half-an-hour walk through some small local communities, foliage and streams.
Ambon-Ambon Falls gets its name from the particles of water that shower anyone within the fall’s enclave. The “ambon” however, was not as apparent as it used to be. Other real estate developments upstream have blocked many of the streams that provide the falls with much of its water, hence, the falls are not as strong as it used to be. The pools at the bottom of the falls have also since then become small and shallow so if you trekked to the falls for a swim or a dip, you’ll be disappointed. Unless of course, if it had just rained.
I slipped on some of the rocks on the way to the falls and managed to get myself a handful of cuts on my hands and on my legs. Thankfully, my digital camera came out from the minor accident scratchless, even though I was carrying it by hand when I slipped.