On the southern of the cove lies a small community with about a dozen houses sheltered under neatly lined pine trees. There used to be about 28 families there but that number dwindled to less than half. Some of the families have moved to Pundaquit (nearest barangay) to find work and for their children to have access to schools.
Those who remained in the cove earn a living by small scale fishing. On good days they can catch enough to sell to the town folks of Subic (or exchange for supplies like ice) - a good 4 hours away by outrigger boat. If the weather is good they would gather dead and fallen trees on the mountainsides to make charcoal. A week's worth of work produces just several sacks which they then sell for about 75.00 pesos per sack.
Regardless of what their living conditions are, the folks there (especially the kids) maintain a sunny disposition. Mang Jun, one of the Aetas we befriended, enthusiastically showed us some of their tribal dances. He offered to lead us to their hunting trails the next time we camp there. He told us there are still plenty of wild fowls (labuyo) up in the mountains.
They also did not hesitate to show us a trail to the falls at the back of the village. I noticed from a distance a crevice lined with trees and boulders on the mountain side (very characteristic of a river system) while I was exploring the area near our camp. My hunch was confirmed when I casually asked if there is a falls somewhere in the cove.
We passed by some of local womenfolk doing their laundry on the hike to the falls. Unlike the camp site on the south side where there is a water pump, the series of small falls here are their source of fresh water. There is a plan to lay some pipes from the falls to the village. But that has been on hold for the longest time due to lack of resources.
When asked what they call the falls, our guide answered: "HO2 falls", named so because of some markings they saw on a rock. The name finally made sense (and it made me smile) when I saw the markings myself. He meant "H2O"! (can you spot the marks in the picture above?). These markings (probably etched painstakingly by some surveyors) have already been there since they first settled the cove in the early 1960s.
During the rainy season the water can get bigger. I could just imagine how (much more) beautiful these cascades become with an increase in the volume of water flow.
Living in a peaceful paradise such as Nagsasa is not without woes. Land ownership problem is one of them. There was also a time when there was a move to put up commercial fish pens in the cove. The locals stood their ground. Typhoons and storms they have learned to weather out, but "legal maneuvers" may soon drive them out of Nagsasa cove.