There are around 950 bancas plying the river of Pagsanjan on a schedule basis. And for every banca there are two bankeros that drives and maneuvers it through the rapids. So that’s roughly around 1900 bangkeros that are working and serving local and foreign tourist throughout the river of Pagsanjan. The more than seven kilometer ride all the way to the falls are difficult for a newbie or an unexperienced bangkero, they have to counter the flow of the raging waters. The bangkeros has to skillfully conquer 16 rapids all in all.
Our main bankero (the one infront) that day is young, skilled and handsome. Let’s call him Jonjon. He’s just 22 years old and have been doing this job since his adolescent years. He said if he have other options he wouldn’t like being a bangkero. Jonjon said he was recently a Ginoong Bangkero candidate during a Bangkero Festival. He casually chat with us whenever were on the gentle part of the river, and from there he told us lots of stories about him and the life of the bangkeros. He said he is happy if the passengers are locals because its much lighter compare to the foreigners. He said that the youngest bangkero is 18, while the oldest is 65 years old.
According to him its not easy to become a bangkero. You have to undergo a lot of trainings and examination before you get your license as a bangkero. A sample of how difficult are their trainings – On the river a bangkero trainee must be able to lift/swim with a metal (weighing about 100 kilos) and bring it to the river bank.
They were then issued a license after passing all of the test. Only then that they were allowed to ply their trade. After then they start paying their monthly dues and annual fees to the Municipal. Jonjon said that they also have to follow good grooming in order to be presentable to their guests. And having a bad odor is a big No-No, it must be treated first before allowing to work again. They were also not allowed to ask for tips from their guest. If found guilty, their license would be revoked.
Jonjon sentiments is that they can only work as a bangkero once a week, due to the large number of bangkeros (they were given a schedule). And that he would be fortunate if he could find work in between those days he’s not working as a bangkero.
Well I just hope that the Mayor E.R. Ejercito has great plans for Jonjon (and all the bangkeros). Like giving you the chance to continue your education in order to pursue greener pastures. You never know with this global warming effect the falls might soon dry. lol! Or a livelihood program to know more trades during your looooooong free time.
Before I forget. The adventurous journey to the falls would cost P750/person. That is P660 for the banca ride and another P90 for the raft ride that goes inside the cave. Its the standard price for both local and foreign tourist. I just wish that they made it much cheaper for the locals haha. Showing some gratuity after the ride would make your bangkero a very happy man. 😀