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 BucanaBeach; 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.
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.
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.
For the first instalment of this series, allow me to bring you home to my family; or, in the context of this road trip, let me introduce you to my travel buddies.
My parents are Zaldy and Bing. Both born in 1958, they are also turning 58 this year. I do not know any other couple who are still as strong, active, updated with fashion and young-looking as my Mommy and Daddy.
Both working for the government, they’ve rarely gone to leisure trips while we were growing up. Whatever they’ve spared after making ends meet went to ensuring a decent education for me and my siblings.
This trip is the first of the many rewards I and my siblings are bent on making sure they’d experience for the rest of their lives.
My name is Rain. As the first born and only girl, I get to make the rules. Also, I pay for everything (laughs!).
Having had the privilege of traveling a sizeable chunk of South East Asia and Oceania, it is my aim to lure the fambam into a life of adventure and self-discovery, one destination at a time.
I still have the rest of world on my list. By training the army in my household this early, I might have the chance of walking the length of the Camino de Santiago with my parents or hiking to the remains of Magic Bus 142 with my siblings. I am positive, it all begins on this trip.
If I were to enumerate all the people that I love, my brother Leo, has and will always be number one. If I think back of the first days I learned of fun and happiness and victory, all those were with my brother beside me. He was the first member of my team; president of my fan club. He was (still is) my shield; always strong, against a childhood full of bullies.
It is only imperative that in this rare chance that I am more able, my brother will be spoiled rotten.
Our youngest, Jan, is a copypaste version of myself. He is driven, passionate, intellectual and takes no bullshit. He is reckless and impulsive at times, too, which often gets him into trouble. But like the secret trait that I thought was unique to me, it appears that my brother also has a knack of turning things around to get himself out of trouble, almost as fast as he got in. In vernacular, magaling lumusot.
I mentioned he’s reckless right? Well, it looks like he is quitting work in order to make time for this trip. (Peace, Mom and Dad!)
Janine has never been to anywhere. At least, that is my brother’s appeal to pity so I will allow his wife to miss work and join the road trip. But in all fairness, out of all of us, this brave girl, has gone through the darkest times in the past year, having lost her mom around the time when she was just beginning to attain her dreams.
Despite all, Janine was able harness inspiration from the toughest times in her life to slay victory after victory, school and career-wise. For this reason and more, sending this warrior to a month-long adventure is nothing short of fair return.
The babies in the family, Yumi and Yzza, are the stars of our family adventure. For years, I have been sending them postcards from all of my travels, aiming to plant the seeds of vagabonding. Their parents are unaware of this: but I will do everything in my power to brainwash these two to backpack as soon as they learn how to commute.
Who knows, I might be able to stuff one of them into my luggage to bring home to Australia. *evil grin*
About this Trip
The past months have been a time of conquests: of reaping what were sown in the years prior. After years of pressing on, we, as a family, finally had time to breathe. My siblings have completed university, we’ve renovated our family home and I was able to buy my dad his dream car.
But it wasn’t all roses. Amidst the victories of the past year stood my mom’s cancer diagnosis. But we did not waver. If anything, it only validated what we’ve always known all along: WE’VE GOT EACH OTHER’S BACK.
To celebrate the completion of my mom’s chemotherapy and radiation sessions, our family is going to embark on a month-long roadtrip to select destinations in Visayas and Mindanao in the Philippines.
Please click on the Fambam Roadtrip widget on the side bar to follow our (mis)adventures!
As promised, here’s a 3D2N Bislig and Hinatuan Itinerary, the second half of our 6-day Eastern Mindanao road trip adventure, which covers Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.
In 1993, I spent a summer in an island off the coast of Hinatuan, where my former nanny ran a small fishing business.
The island life was primitive but abundant. I remember looking forward to delivering our catch to the main town each morning, because it would mean I could buy a set of an 8-color marker pens, or an umbrella with a whistle. It would also mean I get to have lunch in one of our divers’ stilt houses.
This trip, more than anything, will be homecoming for me. I wonder if any of my friends are still in the island. I wonder if I could still recognise our own kubo; if Kuya Etok, the neighbour we gave the kubo to, looked after it like he promised to.
Because I’m on a roll, here’s the second instalment of my travel guide series, a 5-day, 4-night SIARGAO ITINERARY (Also includes Bucas Grande!) Please feel free and download for your perusal and pin / re-pin on Pinterest.
DISCLAIMER: Right-click has been disabled on this blog. Best viewed when pinned/re-pinned on Pinterest. Or holler, I’m happy to email a PDF version. 🙂
The tide was almost always low in the afternoons, as if the sea was a pair of palms pleading for the skies. Half of my barrio’s women were seashell gatherers and the other half were fishmongers. I was the odd child caught in between realities of the mundane, of survival.
My task, I felt, was to dream on behalf of those who couldn’t afford the luxury of reverie, the gift of marvel.