The surigao del Sur visit: The Tinuy-ay Falls in Tandag and the Enchanted River in Hinatuan
26.12.2010 - 27.12.2010
On the 23rd of December, my eldest daughter and her husband Martin arrived from Manila to join us in our Mindanao vacation. We heard the christmas eve mass in my hometown's catholic parish church. I guess I made a statement: I am a baptised UCCP Protestant, but my wife is baptised catholic and same with my two daughters, but in the spirit of unity with my town mates we heard the catholic mass . I humbly feel that having played as Father Jude in “May Bukas Pa” made me more catholic in practice sans the basptism!
My sister Myrna contacted her friend Shelda to arrange for a van for hire that we could use for the Surigao del Sur trip. Surigao del Sur had become an elusive place for me since childhood. As a proud native of Caraga region, I grew up to memorize the landmarks of the towns of my home province – Agusan del Norte. From time to time, I used to pass by Agusan del Sur on our way to Davao City. Surigao del Norte is a frequent alternative point of entry from Cebu and I had relatives in Surigao City (the Yuipcos) whom we used to visit during summer. But not Surigao del Sur which is a known bailiwick of the New Peoples Army! So, as part of this Mindanao Vacation, I googled Surigao del Sur. Two tourist spots emerged to be so exciting and intriguing at the same time: Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig and the Enchanted River in Hinatu-an. I read several blog entries on these two tourist destinations and my curiosity made me decide to include it in itinerary.
The Hyundai Starex Van offered the van for a total of P5,000.00 for the Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River trip. Although eventually, the driver asked for an additional P300.00 for the gas, still it was a good deal considering the distance we travelled. Besides, the gas price has really increased!
Our rented van arrived in our home at 6:00 am as we agreed upon to be our pick-up time. We left home in Tubay, Agusan del Norte at 6:15 am. We travelled through the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway leading to Butuan City until we reached Barangay Ampayon where we turned left towards the direction of Agusan del Sur. When we reached San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, we went around the rotonda and followed the road leading to Surigao del Sur. There is a junction where the another road would lead to Davao del Norte.
We arrived the area where the Tinuy-an Falls is located in Tandag, Surigao del Sur at 9:30 am making it in three hours. We immediately went through its gate where we paid the entrance fee of P10.00 per person. After a few steps, we were already gazing at an amazing God's creation, a curtain-like waterfalls which is a smaller version of Niagara Falls! My family enjoyed the magnificent view of the waterfalls and we were busy taking videos and photos from different angles. I told my family that we should only stay in the falls for one hour or else we will be running out of time to visit the Enchanted River in Hinatuan town.
We left Tinuy-an Falls by 10:30 am and headed for the Enchanted River. We were already hungry when we reached the Enchanted River at t11:50 am. I immediately headed for the entrance gate leaving behind my family in the van. I thought that we could move faster if I go ahead first and make arrangements for the pump boat ride. After paying the entrance fee of P10.00 per head, I asked the person manning the entrance gate where the queue for the pump boat ride is. I followed the trail passing along the bank of the marvelous blue lagoon or river on my left side with a sea of humanity either walking or preparing to make their dive into the river. When I reached the pump boat ride control table, I was told that we would be the next in line to take an available pump boat ride! The man in-charge of listing the people for the ride told me that we will pay after the ride. I immediately went back to the van and told my family to pick up our food preparation for our lunch and we headed for the pump boat ride. I asked the pump boat operator to take us to an island first where we could have our lunch. While we will cruising, I realized how organized the pump boat owners/operators are. They were patiently giving rides to the guests following a queuing system. Moreover, I told myself it was an advantage that I had previous information on the arrangements in the enchanted river. Considering that there was a sea of humanity who visited the place at the time that we arrived, not all of them knew that there is a pump ride available. Although most of the people may have interest on simply swimming in the lagoon and do not have intention of taking a pump boat ride.
The pump boat ride was for me a main feature of the visit to the Enchanted River. You see, the river which flows from an underground tunnel forms a blue lagoon about 150 meters long and 10 meters wide. This is where most of the people are swimming, taking a dip or simply sitting on the lagoon enjoying the refreshing cold water of the river. The river drains towards the sea where there are islands and man-made fish cages.
We had the entire island all for my family when we anchored at 12:45 pm. The island has a beautiful white sand beach. It is planted with coconuts. There was a “koprahan” or an smoke-drying house where mature coconuts are placed for smoke drying. There was a small shed on its side which we used as the place where set our food. My daughters took their plates after filling it with food on the white beach and had lunch there.
After our quick lunch, we boarded the pump boat leading to the fish cages. Although the sight of the school of fish and sea turtles swimming side by side with the little boys who were also visitors is nice to see, it failed to impress me. The sight of the fishes failed in comparison to the fishes in the Ocean Park in Manila.
We paid P320.00 for the two-hour pump boat ride which for me was very reasonable. When we arrived on the lagoon, we spent an hour swimming. The swimming was interrupted by the feeding time of the fishes on the lagoon. Feeds were thrown into the lagoon where waiting school of fish were visibly competing in catching the feeds.
The place has simple but inadequate facilities for taking shower after swimming. But, we were able to change our swimming trunks/suits inside wooden dressing rooms. We left the Enchanted River at 3:30 pm. Passing the highway, we noticed that the Philippine military personnel manning the check points were serious in doing their business of checking the passing vehicles. My family slept on our trip back to my hometown. As I gazed at the sight of grim poverty and underdevelopment of the rural areas of both the Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur, I could only give a a deep sigh realizing that the concrete highway is the only visible infrastructure that had been investment by the government. Admittedly, the highway opened the two impoverished provinces to the world. 30 to 20 years ago, the highway that we were passing was not safe to travel because the NPAs planted land mines on the highway. But, needless to say, the concrete highway is not enough. Development needs other things.
We arrived home safety at 7:00 pm tired but very satisfied with the trip!
The next day, I heard the news on the radio that the day that we went to Surigao del Sur was the anniversary of the founding of the New Peoples Army. That day, the NPA showed its strength publicly in Mt. Diwata Surigao del Sur, a few mountains from where we went!
(to be concluded...)