Friday, November 7, 2008

Bislig, Surigao del Sur

Why Bislig is a must-see

The road to Bislig is a long one–and still not cemented. I found out during one sunny Sunday afternoon, when all the bumps gave me a dizzy sensation that made me wonder if I was traveling a never-ending highway. Daylight was fading when the wheels of the pick-up truck finally touched the concrete path. And at last, our destination was close by.

Bislig is near the southernmost tip of Surigao del Sur. It became a chartered city on September 18, 2000. My visit lasted barely a day and a half, which I am told isn’t enough to be acquainted with the place. Still, I felt as if time stood still when I saw two of Bislig’s most attractive spots. They made me want to stay forever.

Our local Niagara

Some locals in Agusan del Sur recommended a site in Caraga (the popular name of northeastern Mindanao), which they boast is the Niagara Falls of the Philippines. The aerial shot of this body of water at the lobby of the Paper and Country Inn Hotel further piqued my curiosity, and I wondered whether my newfound friends were merely exaggerating.

But I was not disappointed. Tinuy-an Falls could arguably be the most beautiful waterfalls in the Philippines, and still its existence is virtually unknown beyond Mindanao.

The waterfalls are 19 kilometers away from the main road. If your vehicle is going to the direction of Tinuy-an, you’ll see a long stretch of rice fields to your right. At some point on the left, you’ll see a water reservoir of PICOP (Paper Industry Corp. of the Philippines). There is also an abundance of coconut trees, as well as falcata (a slender version of a malunggay tree), mangium and bay-ang, which is curious to look at because their branches and leaves are shaped like an inverted open umbrella.

Our van passed three barangays (San Isidro, Mone and Burbo-ana) on the way to Tinuy-an. We headed towards a small mountain range where the waterfalls are found. The first sighting was overwhelming: There stood the three-tiered waterfalls. I was standing close to the falls at first, which is about less than three meters in length, and approximately nine meters wide.

Edwin and my two other guides, Lorelei and Dodong, then gestured me to follow them. Between the first and second falls is a stream of about 100 meters in length. There are two falcata trunks that lie across them. We used one of the trunks to cross the stream, which was a bit slippery, while we used the second one to keep us balanced. It was on the left bank that one would be able to appreciate the view of the second falls.

The second falls is the tallest and definitely the most breathtaking. It’s close to 14 meters high and nine meters wide. Facing it is a pool that has a depth of nine meters. According to Lorelei, there is a shallow path where the water drops and visitors can cross it or position themselves to feel the thud of the water.

Above the second falls is third one, which is less than three meters in height as well. Edwin said there is actually a fourth falls, which can’t be seen from where the van was parked. Apparently, there’s also a different route to it.

My guides then encouraged me to take a dip in the pool but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the falls.
Lorelei recalled that a group of foreigners go there yearly, who all wait patiently for a rainbow to appear between nine and 11 in the morning. It was bad luck that it didn’t show up when I was there.
With the gradual influx of tourists, not much has been built around Tinuy-an to make it comfortable to them. There is, however, a plan to build a watchtower there. Other than that, city officials think it best to keep the area in its natural state with lots of vegetation, in order for visitors to appreciate its true beauty.

Coastal sightings

On a clear, bright day, Bislig Bay looks enticing for exploration, and exactly what we did when we made our way there the next morning.

Initially, it took us about 45 minutes to reach Hagonoy Island, which is one of the numerous isles and islets that line the coast of Surigao del Sur. It’s a pearl-shaped isle that has an area of one hectare. Vegetation, consisting mostly of coconuts, abounds in the center. Our boat soon landed on a white-powdered beach that is less than 150-meter long. Minutes after our arrival, Edwin and Bong accompanied me to stroll around the isle.

There is a tinge of red in the sand when we encircled the right corner. The opposite side is both rocky and filled with corals. We spotted tiny crabs and thick-bodied starfishes. It took us about 20 minutes to walk the entire coastline. It was lunchtime when we returned. It was also during that time that the water level near the shore gradually receded.

Before returning to the mainland, we passed by a hut on stilts that breeds milkfish (popularly known as bangus). Each succeeding cage showed the growth of the fish.

When we finally had our fill of coastal sightings, everyone was tired and wanted to rest, but we met a certain Dolores Marcojos who invited us for another nearby trip that should not be missed.

View from PICOP

The Paper Industry Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP) is 54 hectares wide. Marcojos toured us around the area and then took us first to the manmade coast way, where visitors can savor the bay up close and feel the sea breeze at the same time. It was a nice view but it was the Bayview Hill not far away that caught my attention.

The entire PICOP compound can be seen from up there. Bislig Bay looks lovely from above while Hagonoy seemed like a speck. Not far away is another islet in the neighboring municipality of Hinatuan. We drove around the village where PICOP employees live. Marcojos recalled monkeys littering the roadsides before but she said that they must have gone into seclusion when people began to arrive.

As I walked around, thoughts about Tinuy-an Falls and all the other sights came to mind again. While I thought I would never return to Bislig while I was on that bumpy road, seeing Tinuy-an changed everything. The long journey is definitely worth it.

(First published in Manila Times on July 18, 2003)


bislig said...

Dolores "Dely" Marcojos is the owner of Paper Country Inn. She is also the City's tourism representative.

greenah said...

british nationals would like to visit the the area safe or secured against the NPA?

Franz said...

Yes. In fact, I went to Bislig a few weeks ago. Tinuy-an Falls is no longer a "virgin" destination; cottages are being constructed, and a stairway is built for visitors to have a closer look at the first tier (of falls). Entrance fee is 10 Philippine pesos (about 20 US cents).

I can give you the contact details of the city's Tourism Officer if you're interested.