Philippine tourism

Go canyoneering with Higaonons at Iligan’s Sikyop eco-tourism site

Merlyn Manos
Go canyoneering with Higaonons at Iligan’s Sikyop eco-tourism site

NARROW PATH. A group takes a narrow part of a river leading to the Pagangan Falls in Iligan City.

Merlyn Manos/Rappler

The idea, basically, is to get a good feel of the Higaonon life, to enjoy and commune with nature in the way of the Sikyop lumad

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Tourism officials in Iligan stepped up a campaign to promote canyoneering in an eco-tourism destination being run by a Higaonon community.

The area, called the Sikyop Agri-Tourism Adventure, can be found in Lawlawon in the village of Rogongon, approximately 30 kilometers from downtown Iligan.

Sikyop boasts of a grandiose underground river, falls, a cave, and a rainforest which is home to several dozen tree species that are all waiting to be explored.

The local tourism office drummed up the Sikyop promotion campaign in time for the month-long Diyandi Festival activities leading up to the citywide celebration of the September 29 feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of the predominantly Catholic city.

Iligan tourism operations officer Pat Noel said Sikyop is the perfect destination for people who love outdoor adventures, but not many people, Iliganons included, are aware that there is such a place in the city.

One of Noel’s favorite areas is the Sikyop Treetop where tourists can stay overnight around an area for a bonfire.

HIGAONON-MADE. One of the Higaonon-made nipa huts where visitors can stay overnight in Iligan City. – Merlyn Manos/Rappler

There, visitors can stay in Higaonon-made nipa huts, relax, enjoy the forest breeze after a day of exploring the Inulusan Cave and an underground river and trekking the path to the Pagangan Falls and enjoying its pristine waters.

At Sikyop, organic vegetables and other fresh food are abundant.

The idea, basically, is to get a good feel of the Higaonon life, enjoy, and commune with nature in the way of the Sikyop lumad.

The place is home to nearly 100 species of trees, wild orchids, and sloths that can be found by those who venture into the depths of Sikyop’s Malizord Wild Forest with the help of Higaonon guides.

“The remote rainforests at Sikyop are untouched,” Noel said.

A tourist from Angeles City, Pampanga, said he was amazed at the beauty of Sikyop, adding that it was worth his time.

He had just come from Camiguin Island, another must-see tourist destination in Northern Mindanao, and then went to see Sikyop out of curiosity.

“I am enjoying it so much, and I highly recommend it. It’s something the entire Philippines should know about,” said Jong David de Leon while pointing downward, toward the direction of Pagangan Falls.

Noel said the local tourism office has been collaborating with tour and travel firms to promote the Sikyop destination.

The area is being run by the Sikyop Agriculture Cooperative, a group of Higaonon farmers.

WALK IN THE WATER. Visitors walk in the pristine water toward the direction of the Pagangon Falls in the village of Rogongon in Iligan City. – Merlyn Manos/Rappler

The trek starts at the cooperative’s base where visitors get a briefing and a good warm-up walk through an open area toward an area called Treetop where a zipline awaits.

From the end of the zipline, visitors trek through the underground river, go canyoneering, and then enjoy the waterfalls.

Descending through some parts of the underground river to Pagangon Falls is an adventure by itself. Visitors maneuver their way through rocks and boulders, trees, and narrow openings with the help of guides.

The trek from the registration area to Pagangon Falls takes at least 30 minutes, depending on the visitors’ pace.

Visitors are advised to trek there as lightly as possible, but the Higaonon guides are always ready to carry their things, especially on some challenging footpaths, and the river. 

But the cooperative has lockers where visitors can leave their belongings. 

For a P200-fee, a Higaonon will guide tourists all the way.

Visitors are also advised to bring extra clothes because getting wet is inevitable.

Tourism officials said the trek to the falls, and exploring the underground river are not as difficult as they seem, although the descent can be a bit challenging but that is where the fun is.

The ascent back to the Sikyop base is the most challenging part, but motorcycle rides for P50 per person are available. – Rappler.com

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