Iligan City, the capital of Lanao del Norte, dubbed as the City of Majestic Waterfalls, is home to 23 waterfalls scattered in its lush green forest area. Two of which, the popular Tinago and Maria Cristina Falls were my latest day trip destinations courtesy of Wandering Juan Travel Blog Awards 2010.
Manila to Iligan via Ozamiz
Sandwiched by the airports of Cagayan de Oro and Ozamiz, I chose the latter as entry point to Iligan City. The plane touched down in Ozamiz Airport at eight in the morning, it was my first time in the province.
I went out of the airport building to the tricycle terminal and rode in one of the trikes, charging a fixed P60 per passenger fee to the city. I asked the driver to get me to the bus terminal and in around ten minutes, the trike stopped in the bus terminal and I got into a half full Rural Bus en route to Cagayan.
The bus left the terminal at 9AM and drove to the nearby port of Ozamiz. All passengers alighted the bus and queued to pay for ferry fare of P25 plus terminal fee of P3 and waited for the Ro-Ro ferry that arrived in a little while. I boarded the ferry along with other passengers and vehicles going to Lanao del Norte, our bus was there too.
The ferry route from Ozamiz Port to Mukas Port in Kambolagan is the shortest and fastest way to get to Lanao del Norte from Misamis Occidental. Travel time takes only 30 minutes.
Before the boat docked to the port of Mukas, some passengers already stood up and went down to where their vehicles were in the barge. I noticed everyone seemed standing and moving so I followed and went to the bus. To my surprise, the half full bus I boarded was already full. I glanced at my seat and an old woman a a small girl already occupied it. I went on the aisle beside them and just stood up while the bust started to move. So I spent the one hour bus ride from Mukas to Iligan City standing, occasionally sitting down the side handle of my previous seat. I paid P70 for the ride.
After an hour, the bus reached Barangay Buru-un, the first barangay of Iligan City from the town of Linamon. I know for a fact that this is where Tinago Falls is, but I hesitated to signal stop because I didn’t know exactly where to alight, not to mention I was already starving so I decided to get off at the terminal in Camague, five kilometers away, and look for any fast food store to have my breakfast.
Finding Tinago Falls
I ended up with two donuts and iced tea for breakfast at Dunkin Donuts in Iligan City’s Camague Bus Terminal. I quickly finished it and asked around on how to go to Tinago Falls. The store crew told me to ride a Buru-un multicab in the highway, get off at Maze Resort and ride a habal-habal to the falls. He was certain.
As directed, I rode a multicab to Buru-un (P8.00) and asked the driver to drop me off at Maze Resort going to Tinago Falls; it was just a short ride. I bought a bottle of iced tea in the nearby bakeshop before approaching the lone habal-habal parked at the corner of the street going to Tinago Falls. The driver charged me P75 for the round trip, P50 going there and P25 for the return trip. I tried to haggle down the price but the driver was firm with his rate so I agreed.
We drove to the street going to the falls. The first half was nice and concrete while the other half was rough. In about fifteen minutes, the motorcycle stopped and parked in a small village, and the driver accompanied me for a walk to the starting point of the 364-steps to hidden falls. I paid P10 entrance fee and went down the steps alone. The surroundings are all green; the steps are concrete albeit some are already kaput while some broken trees are blocking the way. Halfway to the falls, I already heard the sound of cascading waters. Aaahh! The waterfalls! The beautiful waterfalls!
The Beautiful Tinago Falls
Wow! At last, I reached the legendary Tinago Falls, the waterfalls I long dreamed of seeing. It is so beautiful and worth the tiring trek.
Situated in Sitio Ditucalan, Tinago Falls is one of the 23 major waterfalls of Iligan City and considered by some as the most beautiful among the 22. The name was based from the Filipino word “tinago” which means “hidden,” as the falls is hidden in a deep ravine. Flowing from the height of 270 feet, the water forms a natural blue-green colored pool ideal for swimming. There are cottages and bridge in the area, crossing the bridge costs P5 which will bring you to the other side of the river that offers non obstructed view of the falls.
There were few tourists swimming around when I came. Swimmers are required to wear life vests which I believe requires additional payment. There is a cave at the back of the falls but I opted not to swim. I just marveled around, took pictures, watched as the people enjoyed the cold water of the pool and convinced myself that I am actually seeing the stunning waterfalls I used to see only in pictures and TV.
Shortly after, I decided to hike back. The idea of trekking up to the 364-steps made me want to stay, swim and just enjoy Tinago Falls but I quickly aborted the day dreaming. It was past noon and I want to be in Cagayan de Oro before dark so I can sip a coffee and devour a cake in Gazebo as recommended by my friend Tet, before the dinner with Ate Claud at Vienna Kaffehaus.
Tired and sweating, I reached the starting point of the steps, where the habal-habal driver was waiting. I rested for a while and had a small talk with Ate Barbing (Barbara Viray), caretaker of Tinago Falls. She asked me where I came from and they were surprised that I came from Manila and went there on my own. “How come you speak bisaya”, she asked in her native tongue. I told her that I know a little since I frequent Visayas and Mindanao, and because my mom is from a Cebuano speaking town in Leyte.
She then asked me if I have been to the nearby Maria Cristina and I said “no”. I assumed that the waterfalls is open only on Sundays which she opposed. “It is open everyday; they have zip lines, rock climbing and other adventures there”, she said in a convincing tone. She told the driver to take me to Maria Cristina. The driver asked for additional fee, any amount that my conscience can afford. I joked that I will give him extra peso and we all laughed, I said goodbye to Ate Barbing with a renewed enthusiasm to see the famed Maria Cristina Falls.
The Majestic Maria Cristina Falls and NPC Nature’s Park
The habal-habal drove back to the main highway to the direction of Barangay Maria Cristina before turning right to the street that leads to a gate with a signboard that says “NPC Nature’s Park”, it stopped at the gate of the National Power Corporation (NPC). I got off the motorcycle, gave the driver P100 and thanked him before he went away.
I quickly filled up the registration form and the guard asked me to enter a room where my identification card and bag were checked. After a few questions, seems like an interrogation, I was cleared for entry. I paid P20 for the entrance fee and P10 for the tour. I was joined by a family on a multicab tour guided by the park supervisor.
The NPC Nature’s Park is the newest destination in Iligan City, it occupies 10 hectares of the NPC Agus 6/7 Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) complex, and is owned, managed and operated by NPC. The park just opened in July 10, 2010, allowing the public to experience nature and adventure in the backdrop of the majestic Maria Cristina Falls. They aim to expand the tourism potential of the waterfalls, which has long been an icon of industrialization in the country. It has two components – the Botanical and Zoological Garden and the Adventure Activity Area.
Our fist stop was the Botanical and Zoological Garden – a well landscaped green area in Agus 7 HEP complex with an enclosed crocodile sanctuary, ostrich farm, ponds, Butterfly and Orchid Garden, cottages and hanging bridge. We were given time to explore the surrounding before proceeding to the final leg of the trip – the Adventure Activity Area in Agus 6 HEP complex, a site for rock climbing, zipping, bridge jumping, “canyoneering” and other adventures. But the landmark of the area is the falls itself – Maria Cristina, which is best seen in the view deck.
The falls is located in barangay of the same name and more accessible from the highway compared to Tinago Falls. The 340-feet high waterfalls is a tall drop in the Agus River, the only tributary that catches the outflows of Lake Lanao before going to Iligan Bay. It is an important source of electric power in Mindanao through Agus 6/7 HEP, producing 200 megawatts of power.
It was already past 2PM; since it was raining and none of us wanted to avail of the activities, the multicab took us back to the gate. I walked a few meters to the main highway and waited for a jeepney to Camague Bus Terminal (P7.00) where I transferred to a regular bus bound to Cagayan (P85.00). As soon as I settled to my seat, I closed my eyes, took a nap and woke up after two and a half hours in Bulua Terminal of Cagayan de Oro.
It was a day spent in chasing the waterfalls of Iligan where I only saw two out of more than twenty waterfalls hidden in the city. I felt really tired, sleepy and hungry, but reminiscing the beauty of Tinago and Maria Cristina Falls were enough to keep me alive, kicking and smiling. There are still a lot of falls to be explored, things to do, places to go, foods to taste in Iligan City, and I intend to be back again very soon.
Thanks again to Wandering Juan Travel Blog Awards 2010 and Cebu Pacific for taking me there. Cebu Pacific flies to Iligan City from Manila, avail of their Fun Tours for some of the best packages in the City of Majestic Waterfalls, please visit their site http://funtours.cebupacificair.com.