Mindanao never runs out of places for tourists to explore, from white beaches and rivers to caves and coves, from deep diving spots to mountains grand and tall. Some remote and some easily accessible, these wonders of nature are proof of the timeless allure of Mindanao. Raw and wild, Mindanao is truly a nature-lover’s paradise. (READ: 9 spectacular places to visit in Mindanao)
Sadly though, this beauty is overshadowed by skepticism, even fear, largely to the image being associated with Mindanao as an area of conflict. While it is true to just very few areas here, the peaceful situation in large areas of Mindanao now serves as a magnet for tourists. ([WATCH] Hidden Mindanao: The beautiful places many of us may never see)
If the influx of visitors in key tourist sites is an indication of a shift in stereotyping of Mindanao, then the island is indeed ripe for the world to see. And just as an example, take a look at these beautiful waterfalls you can visit once you decide to come around to see Mindanao. (READ: 7 breathtaking Mindanao destinations you shouldn’t miss)
1. Tinuy-an Falls
Located in the slopes of Bislig in Surigao del Sur, Tinuy-an Falls is referred to as the “Little Niagara Falls” of the country. Tinuy-an Falls is huge, spanning 95 meters in width and its water cascades 55 meters high – enough to resemble a wide white curtain usually seen in theaters. (READ: Hit the road: Cool off at these 5 PH waterfalls)
Make sure to ride a bamboo raft to get closer to the base and enjoy the plunge of water. Afterwhich, take 200 steps to reach the second and third level of Tinuy-an where you can sit or lean on the rock and let the water massage your back.
Getting there: To get to Bislig, one has to fly to Butuan City and take the 6-hour bus ride to Mangagoy, part of Bislig. Tinuy-an is located 18 kilometers away from Bislig City proper, or merely a 40-minute ride through the roads.
2. Aliwagwag Falls
After suffering the wrath of Typhoon Pablo in 2012, Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel, Davao Oriental is now back to its full glory. Lush vegetation can now be seen on both of its sides, adding beauty to more than 130 cascading waterfalls spanning 1,110 feet.
The provincial government of Davao Oriental collects a minimal entrance fee for the upkeep of the eco-park that has seen an influx of tourists lately. Added attraction here is a zipline and a monkey bridge where tourists can cross above the waters of Aliwagwag.
Getting there: Aliwagwag is 7 hours away from Davao City. From Davao, take a bus to Mati City. Upon arrival, ride a van going to Cateel town proper. From downtown Cateel, a 30-minute habal-habal ride will take you to Aliwagwag which is conveniently located along the highway.
3. Bani Falls
If you are aiming for more adventure, you should visit Bani Falls in Arakan Valley in North Cotabato. Before reaching the base of this 100-meter, two-tier waterfall, one has to trek for two hours at the hills and plateaus of Arakan.
But after the exhausting walk, you will be rewarded with a grand view of Bani, and the sound of gushing water is such music to the ears.
Getting there: Take a bus from either Cagayan de Oro or Davao City. Alight at Kampo Uno, Katipunan, Arakan. Take note, there’s also a place called Kampo Uno in Maramag, so should give proper directions to your bus driver. Take a habal-habal to Sitio Inamong, where you will start your trek.
4. Maria Cristina Falls/Tinago Falls
It’s a sight you only see in the pages of HEKASI books. But once you set foot in Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City, you will be awed by its imposing beauty. However, you can’t swim here because the 320-foot waterfall has a strong current. It is a primary source of electric power that is harnessed through a hydroelectric plant nearby.
A visit here will not be done in vain because you can always hop from one falls to another like the Tinago Falls. Iligan is home to many waterfalls, thus earning the moniker “City of Majestic Waterfalls.”
Getting there: There are direct flight from Manila to Iligan. From downtown Iligan, head to Barangay Buruun via jeepney, where Maria Cristina Falls is located.
5. Awao Falls
Nestled on the hills of Monkayo town in Compostela Valley, Awao Falls is undeniably off the tourists’ radar — at least, for now. For a town famous for producing gold with the mention of Mt. Diwalwal, the news of having an amazing waterfall in this part of Mindanao made some buzz among local hikers here.
One can choose to ride the town’s famous skylab, a single motorcycle fitted with an extension on both sides that can seat up to 8 people. A short 10-minute walk to the base of Awao Falls is easy, making it ideal for novice trekkers.
Getting there: Fly to Davao City and take a four-hour drive to the town of Monkayo in Compostela Valley. Hire a habal-habal to take you to Barangay Awao where the driver will take you directly at the base of the second falls.
6. Panas Falls
In New Corella town in Davao del Norte lies the Panas Falls, a multi multi-tiered cascading waterfall freely flowing from different cool streams. It is a favorite spot among Dabaonons, especially those who want to escape the heat of the metro.
For adventure seekers, Panas is an ideal venue for river trekking which is an hour-long expedition that will take you to different watercourses and streams.
Getting there: From Davao City, take a bus to Tagum City and alight at the city terminal, where many jeepneys ply the Tagum-New Corella route.
7. Tamsuvan Falls
People who chose Magpet town as entry point to Mt. Apo can choose to have a welcome dip at the cold waters of Tamsuvan Falls, located at the foothills of the country’s highest peak.
More than its waters, one will be amazed by the lush vegetation surrounding it and the warmth of its locals. Don’t be too surprised if a smiling Bagobo offers you a native coffee after your swim! To complete your Tamsuvan experience, ask them to cook native chicken for you.
Getting there: From downtown Kidapawan City, take the hour-long habal-habal ride to Barangay Bongolanon in Magpet where Tamsuvan Falls is located.
8. Asik-Asik Falls
Asik-Asik Falls is by far the most unique waterfall you will see in Mindanao. This 140-meter curtain spring waterfalls’ gem is its landscape. Unlike most waterfalls, there is no known source of water above the falls. Instead, water just comes out from a towering wall bedecked with ferns and moss, an unexplained phenomenon that invites tourists to come witness this nature’s wonder.
People planning to do the same need extra patience, as the trip involves a one-and-a-half hour habal-habal ride, mostly on pot-holed roads of Alamada town in North Cotabato. From Manila, fly to Cotabato City and take a van to the town of Midsayap where there are plenty motorcyles catering to tourists.
These are just of the nature’s wonders that can be explored in beautiful Mindanao, a place so misunderstood that we fail to appreciate its true beauty. Maybe it’s about time you change your lens and see Mindanao in a different light. – Rappler.com
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect some corrections in the directions for Awao Falls and Tamsuvan Falls.
Louie Lapat is a government employee in Tagum City, Davao del Norte where he writes for a local government on weekdays. On weekends, he explores his beloved Mindanao and write accounts about it on his travel blog: dsprinkles.com.