In the late 90s, my once progressive home city lost its clout as The Industrial City of the South. Public amenities were sold to private operators. Housing projects were abandoned, half-built. The largest steel mill in Asia was closed down and left rusting. Jobs were made scarce. Even beer houses, once frequented by husbands whose wives didn’t care so long as they were provided for financially, turned their lights off for good.
Iligan City was stripped off of prestige.
The City of Majestic Waterfalls
But when one is forced into nakedness, one learns to love its own skin. When progress left, nature stayed.
Fast forward two decades later, the city has risen up to the national stage, viciously proud of a new monicker: The City of Majestic Waterfalls.
There are twenty-four, to be precise. But Iligan is best-known for two: one for its power; and the other, for its beauty. I know both for its legends.
What the people in my far-flung hometown lacked in luxury, they made up for in imagination. I grew up in those: in stories woven from the very fabric of nature.
The Lore of Maria Cristina
Perhaps the more renowned of the two is the mighty Maria Cristina, the heartbeat of Agus VI, a hydro-power plant that lights up most of Mindanao. Imagine the force.
In intangible terms however, such force can only be equated to two emotions: love and hate. Coincidentally, these are the legs on which the saga of Maria Cristina Falls stands on.
Once upon time, on the coast of Iligan Bay, there lived two sisters who were famous for their beauty. Maria and Cristina were very close as siblings, but were often compared and pitted against each other.
There came a time when they fell desperately in love to the same man, who in turn, deceived them both. Unable to take the heartbreak, Maria leapt into a ravine and plunged into death. Guilt-ridden for her sister’s untimely demise, Cristina followed suit. Deeply saddened, the townspeople then put a boulder of a tombstone on the spot where the sisters jumped, to remember them by.
Soon after, river water started to flow and fall into the ravine, between the boulder. This created the twin waterfall that was later named after the sisters, Maria Cristina.
But as the playwright Congreve once said, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
In the years that followed, the waterfall and its surrounding waterscapes, were noted to have been claiming lives of men: motorists mysteriously driving over the bridge and into the unforgiving water turbine under it; swimmers winding up dead, their carcasses floating in the nearby Bucana Beach; and fishermen going missing for days— some, never to be found.
Maria Cristina Falls, to this day, exudes radiance. But like a maiden who never got justice, it also rages twice as bad.
Maria Cristina Falls Travel Guide
HOW TO GET THERE
- From the North Bound Integrated Bus Terminal – (if on an Iligan line bus) – take a city-bound jeepney and disembark at Zoey’s Cafe in Aguinaldo Street. Then catch a Buruun line jeepney and disembark just after Agus Bridge.
- From the North Bound Integrated Bus Terminal – (if on an Ozamis /Dipolog/Pagadian/Zamboanga line bus) – disembark just after Agus Bridge.
- From the South Bound Integrated Bus Terminal – take a jeepney (either Buruun, Linamon, Kauswagan, Kolambugan lines) and disembark just after Agus Bridge.
- From Lanao del Norte – disembark just after Agus Bridge.
- Travel Time – from the city centre, depending on the traffic, 15-30mins.
- PUJ Fare – 7PHP (within city centre); 12-15PHP (Ma. Cristina, Buruun, Linamon)
- From Agus Bridge, walk to the gate of NPC Nature Park (approximately 10 minutes from the highway).
- Entrance Fee – 35PHP (adults); 25PHP (kids)
- Shuttle Fee – 10PHP (return)
- The power plant controls the flow of the falls, except on weekends where it is usually on full blast.
The Lure of Tinago
In the last decade, news of a modern-day Arcadia seemed to have caught the fancy of curious outsiders. People have come in throngs, garbed in bright orange safety vests to frolic in the other-worldy waters of Tinago Falls.
Nestled deep in a cavernous gorge between the suburbs of Ditucalan, Buruun and the municipality of Linamon, is most probably the country’s most spectacular waterscape. To get to the basin, one has to descend at least 436 steps down a concrete set of stairs– a small price to pay for such precious a beauty.
But nature, just like all else in life, is a double-edged sword. Unbeknownst to non-Iliganons, behind the charm of Tinago Falls, lies a lore of darkness, whose extent was never before gauged.
To start off, the depth of the basin is not known. Many have tried, but not one has succeeded. The accounts of those who neither died nor disappeared varied from pleasantly enchanting to downright harrowing.
One of the few, non-horrifying versions of the Tinago narrative, was about a rainbow that appeared every afternoon, and whose end dipped into the waterfall. It was said that behind the cascade was a cave. In the cave, was a pot of gold guarded by a giant snake.
Another version recounted how an entire coconut tree was once dropped into the falls in an attempt to measure its depth, but it did not float back.
But the most nightmarish of all, told of a tale of a diver who surfaced out in sheer panic after hearing voices at the bottom of the falls. When prodded, the poor man reportedly, eerily described the voices as “wailing in suffering, as if it was the very doorway to hell.”
The truth to the mystery of Tinago Falls may be something that no one can ever get close to in this lifetime. But maybe too, there are truths we do not have to pursue. The way of nature is something that needs not only to be respected, but also, accepted.
In Iligan, we recognise that our realm, may sometimes overlap with that of others. There is good; there is evil. But the humankind is gifted with the most powerful magic of all: freewill.
It means get to choose our own versions of truths. How I choose the pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow version of the Tinago story every time, for instance.
Tinago Falls Travel Guide
HOW TO GET THERE
- From the North Bound Integrated Bus Terminal – (if on an Iligan line bus) – take a city-bound jeepney and disembark at Zoey’s Cafe in Aguinaldo Street. Then catch a Buruun line jeepney.
- From the North Bound Integrated Bus Terminal – (if on an Ozamis /Dipolog/Pagadian/Zamboanga line bus) – disembark in Buruun or Linamon crossings to Tinago Falls.
- From the South Bound Integrated Bus Terminal – take a jeepney (either Buruun, Linamon, Kauswagan, Kolambugan lines) and disembark in Buruun or Linamon crossings to Tinago Falls.
- From Lanao del Norte – disembark in Buruun or Linamon crossings to Tinago Falls.
- From Buruun (my favourite route) – from the highway (Buruun crossing to Tinago falls) – hire a habal-habal to Tinago Falls.
- Cost: 50-100PHP
- Accessible through the ruins of the old Tinago Falls Resort
- From Linamon (the most convenient) – from the highway (Linamon crossing to Tinago falls) – hire a habal-habal to Tinago Falls Highland Resort.
- Cost: 50PHP
- Maintained by the local government. Roads are less steep and more paved, plenty of parking spaces and easier access to the falls.
- Entrance Fee – donation only (10PHP minimum)
- Live Vest – 25PHP
- Bamboo Raft – 10PHP
- Table – 75-100PHP
- Visit on weekdays as weekends tend to get very crowded.
This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ November 2016 Blog Carnival, with the theme, Stories From My Hometown, hosted by Celine Reyes.