Monday, September 18, 2017

The splendor of Asik-Asik Falls

It might not be your most accessible destination on a weekend but Asik-asik falls in the municipality of Alamada, North Cotabato is worth all the long travel especially if one chases for a euphoria of disgust and disappointments.

Last September 16 I headed 200 kilometers west bound   to see for myself an ultimate bucket list – the majestic Asik-asik waterfalls. The extensive bus travel which took 4 hours from Sta. Cruz to Midsayap and another 1 and a half hour motorcycle ride from Midsayap to Barangay Dadu of Alamada was exhausting. For day tourist from Davao City I suggest you take a very early morning ride via Mindanao Express Bus because time is really of the essence when going to Alamada.

It was already past 12:00 noon when I arrived at the tourist information center. I paid 30 pesos entrance fee and instantly gained access to the waterfalls. The trek was less than 10 minutes using a concrete stairway. I saw several weekenders also visiting there from almost all parts of Mindanao. Indeed, Asik-asik falls is now one of Mindanao’s most promising tourist destination.

I was struck in awe when I witnessed face to face the grandeur of Asik-asik falls. As a naturalist I thought of this place as truly wonderful. Its splendor and magic is second to none. I have been exposed to a lot of waterfalls in the country already but man, this one is beyond compare.  

What is more interesting is that this waterfalls emanates from practically nowhere. The wide and endearing droplets are just being positioned opposite the fertile vertical land structures of Alamada and the drops have collaborated with the horizontal water body to form a titanic river. It is ironic that this waterfalls is not formed from a mighty bulk of descending stream. 

All waters arising from the backdraft of Asik-asik falls is potable. Locals believed that it springs out from Lake Lanao considering that the location borders the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon.  

Whatever supernatural ideas surrounding Asik-asik falls, I believed the foremost concern now for government authorities is on the aspect of sustaining the beauty of this natural heritage. It was only opened for public approximately five years ago but there is so much more at stake for this terrestrial attraction in Alamada.

In my pursuit to find comfort amidst annoyance I found out that Asik-asik falls is an ultimate refuge. This waterfalls holds all the magic to calm a storming emotion. In Asik-asik falls you will realize that freedom is not as subtle as what others thought of. In Asik-asik falls we can always refuse to perish.    

P.S. There are two options when traveling to Barangay Dadu from Midsayap. Regular jeepneys travel from Midsayap daily but will take several hours before reaching Dadu. This is only good for guests who will be staying overnight in Alamada. For those who are in a hurry and catching up with some tight schedules I suggest you take a motorcycle from Midasayap all the way to Dadu. The rate is 1,000 pesos back and forth. The highly-suggested driver is Janjan, a very reliable driver and tour guide at the same time. He can be contacted through cellphone number 09305519760.

Friday, September 8, 2017


In Mindanao where destinations with unique theme are practically in scarce I found a new place of interest in Malagos, Baguio District. They call the place Bamboo Sanctuary. On September 2 we decided to pay a visit there along with my daughter Majesta, sisters Maimai and Ruby and brother in-law Archie.

At first glance the place, like all others in the region, is fine as a leisure destination ideal for family outing and day tour.  As a new attraction which was opened to the public just last June this year, Bamboo Sanctuary lives up to the billing as a secluded abode for people who seek peace of mind. It has affordable accommodation rooms, restaurant, a natural pool, cottages and other amenities.  

However, more than being beautiful with green and leafy landscape, Bamboo Sanctuary’s selling point is its botanical dome situated just few steps away from the information center. The dome is the biggest of its kind in the country and houses several flora species endemic in the locality. The chirping of birds can also be heard while inside the dome.

Another unique advantage of the resort is the presence of 26 species of bamboo along its perimeter. We were taught that bamboo emits more oxygen than any other tree varieties and store plenty of water underground, making its pool cold enough even in gruelling sunny occasions. In fact, the place is considered bamboo conservation area because majority of its landscape is pedicured with gorgeous bamboo plants and several species of bamboo thrive well here.

When planning to visit the place, resort authorities encourage to book early. They also accept walk in visitors. There are transport shuttles available in case guests want to be fetch from Calinan proper to the resort and vice versa. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wonderful attractions in Colan

On August 26 I visited sitio Colan for a customary monitoring routine every long weekend. Instead of the usual desander climb I took the other route to witness several attractions of the upstream portion of Baruring River. With me was Artur, the Sibulan Porters Association's President.

Little did I know that Colan could be a very good adventure tour destination for a day or two. Just a little over 5 minutes from desander we saw the pristine Colan River in its finest state as it is spared from obliteration, perhaps the only one left in the area. A cold stream is being intersected by the hot river accumulated from the spring that flows directly from the volcanic waterways above Colan. The magnificent blue water was mixed with brown color from a distant channel, good enough for a transitional range of vision.

Over at the eastern part of the river is a three-layered waterfalls being laid out in a verdant setting of Colan’s tropical rainforest. The highest part is estimated 30 feet. Artur told me that a lot of locals have been visiting the waterfalls already and the land possessor where the waterfalls belong is bent on developing the area to cater to a wider audience.

As we trekked further we reached sitio Mararag. Situated just a hill apart from Tumpis, Mararag is a vast farmland planted with high value vegetables and abaca. Sitio Bolyo is another area bordering Mararag, a site that offered us vantage point of the scenic Kapatagan mountain range. Bolyo is a name derived from a local water source in Colan.

A short trek from Bolyo brought me back to Palaka Hot Spring, one of the three hot springs in Colan. My last visit to this site was way back 2002 and I was amazed by how this attraction retained its natural characteristic. We followed the hot water trail from Palaka and reached another good site, the more-popular Mundo Apo Hot Spring.

Our 2-hour trek with Artur enabled me to document few good reasons to visit Colan other than climbing Mt. Apo. For those who love to commune with nature without unleashing so much physical strain I suggest you take this foothills loop in Colan and I am pretty sure you will be rewarded with its wonderful attractions. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Mabini Protected Landscape and Seascape

The second installment of the series of experiential visits conducted by the Mt. Apo Natural Park Protected Area Management Board had us visiting the Protected Landscape and Seascape  of Mabini in Compostela Valley last July 27-28. This came as a pleasant surprise because the Mabini Protected Landscape and Seascape (MPLS) is a model PA that every locality should imitate. We were fortunate to have been led by a dynamic PENRO in Mr. Pablito Ofrecia, the new and tireless Mt. Apo Protected Area Superintendent (PASU) because he was the one capable of transforming MPLS into one of Mindanao’s well-managed PAs during his tenure in the town of Mabini in early year 2000.

MPLS is a 6,106 – hectare terrestrial and marine protected area established in 2000 basically to safeguard the diverse marine ecosystem in Davao Gulf particularly in the shores of Compostela Valley province.  It was created by virtue of Proclamation No. 316 dated May 31, 2000 and Republic Act 7586 otherwise known as the Integrated Protected Area Systems Act of 1992. The park extends along the coast of the municipality of Mabini from the mouth of Pandasan River up to the southern tip of Kopiat Island.

The Mabini portion of Davao Gulf where the MPLS is situated serves as feeding ground of eleven species of marine mammals which includes dolphins, sperm whales, killer whales and diverse breeds of sea turtles.

Another interesting feature of MPLS is the mangrove reservations identified in the major portions of Mabini stretching to as far as Kopiat Island. The dominant variety of mangrove is the Rhizopora apiculata that houses several endemic birds.

On the second day of our visit we were exposed to the PA’s rich underwater environment. It was my second time diving using a Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. During the dive we were informed that the coral reef of Mabini is one of the three in Region XI being classified as having excellent condition, the other two in Samal Island and Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

In an effort to create sustainable management of MPLS, the MPLS-PAMB has considered ecotourism a vital tool, paving local community to operate minimal impact tourism activities while also promoting measures to maintain the unspoiled mangrove forest of the area.

With its attributes featuring healthy fishing ground, mangrove reserves and coral formations; there is no doubt that the Mabini Protected Landscape and Seascape is one of the most unique Protected Areas in the country.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Batuno-Sibulan-Tibolo Double Traverse

Official duties prompted me to lead a double traverse climb in the mountain ranges of Batuno, Sibulan and Tibolo together with other local stakeholders to scout for possible bridge projects that may connect small sitios in far-flung areas of Sta. Cruz. The presence of major rivers in these areas necessitates putting up of bridges and even wider roads to cater to the needs of the community in terms of agriculture and education. Local residents also see potentials for tourism because there are unspoiled waterfalls, beautiful sceneries and caves that could be future destinations.

The 2-day climb happened last May 8 and 9. Our first stop was Mt. Batuno located in Barangay Jose Rizal. The long and moderate trail from Jose Rizal proper to Batuno can be a good day hike and can even be an excellent route for trail running given with the uphill single tracks. This mountain is occupied by the Bagobos and although almost all portions of the area are titled lot, biodiversity is still a thing to consider in establishing program interventions especially infrastructure projects.

While taking our lunch in Batuno we chanced upon a century-old man doing chores in his farmlands. His house was a vantage point where we saw the panoramic sites of Davao City. Some agricultural farms made up of coconut, banana and fruits trees are in abundance for which the old man also retained.

As we headed to Sibulan via sitios of Gurem I was refreshed by my experience more than 10 years ago of the European-funded project called Upland Development Programme (UDP) especially in the areas of Tabug, Gurem and Dariango where we used to climb with my UDP colleagues. The vegetation in Tabug remains lush and the river bordering Tabug to Dariango is still very attractive even if some of its features were eliminated with the passing of time when the hydropower plant progresses in the area. 

We took a short break in the Christian church of Dariango and had some native coffee break in the house of Tribal Leader Datu Gideon Tolentino. From there we hiked up west to see the other target site for bridge project in the circumference of sitio Tabug and sitio Landig and later went back to the Datu’s house. It was already late afternoon when we left Dariango. A 30-minute descent to Sibulan River was equally interesting, as we crossed Sibulan river in a twilight zone, passing several familiar sceneries in Sibulan which includes sitio Cagas Compound, Sibulan Proper and sitio Piping.

On the second day we took a 270-degree turn to Lower Tibolo via Kapatagan road to do ocular inspection of an even extreme upstream portion of Sibulan River, the Cabarisan-Lower Tibolo border. This is place I am used to because we always take this as a venue of the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge specifically the trail where mountain bikers carry their mountain bikes from the river to the open road of Tibolo and Kapatagan. Surprisingly, we were greeted by a juvenile King Cobra on our way back.  

Lower Tibolo is an approach to sitio Tudaya up northwest, sitios Landing 1 and 2 in the southeast and Barangay Kapatagan in extreme north and Davao City in the northeastern part starting from sitio Cabarisan.

Establishing bridges in all these places will definitely enhance connectivity and beef up accessibility in transporting the abundant farm products and at the same time enable barangay authorities to propel ecotourism.