Friday, September 2, 2011

Bislig, Surigao del Sur: Venturing to the Philippines' easternmost city and Tinuy-an Falls

Bislig - Tinuy-an by Day
Tinuy-an Falls: breathtakingly-beautiful by day
After an uneventful trip to Butuan where visiting the Balangay site museum yielded no souvenir images (why taking pictures of the original Balangay to help bring in more tourists is prohibited is beyond me), we knew we have to move on to Bislig in Surigao del Sur, about 152 kilometers or six-hour-bus ride away.

Mangagoy impressions. I thought that this premier barangay had a laidback vibe with an assortment of old and new inns, shops, raucous six-seater tricycles and charming small eateries.  We hired a van from here to head off to the falls in Borboanan, about an hour's drive away.  I must admit the biggest attraction in going all the way here was not to see what remains of a place which used to enjoy the prominence of being home to PICOP, one of Asia's largest paper mills before it closed in 2008.  The incentive was rather an opportunity to see what is arguably the country's most gorgeous falls.

Bislig - Tinuy-An Wide View
Crowds enjoy the 95-meter-wide main cascade
Searching for adjectives to describe Tinuy-an.  This trip was a year-in-the-making and it certainly is interesting to find out if Tinuy-an is as beautiful as I read about it.  The falls is of special significance to Bislig apart from its natural beauty.  With the closure of the paper mill and the resulting loss of revenue, the city turned to tourism with the falls as its jewel.  The falls is some 15 kilometers away from the main road in Borboanan, taking one through an artificial lake before the terrain rises.  We came on a long weekend holiday but surprisingly, the crowd was manageable unlike the hordes we saw in the Enchanted River in Hinatuan later in the day.

In broad daylight, Tinuy-an is simply breathtaking and majestic.  At 55 meters, it isn't the tallest falls in the country but its 95 meter-wide curtain gives the main cascade that panoramic, wide-screen gape and gush-at-it factor.  I won't give in to the temptation to ride on the "Niagara Falls of the Philippines" hype since I think Tinuy-an has a beauty all its own.
Bislig - Magical Tinuy-an at Dusk
Tinuy-an at dusk: mystical and surreal
Tinuy-an blues.  We came back before sunset after a rather disappointing trip to the Enchanted River in Hinatuan and I must say the falls has a mystical, surreal feel.   With the crowds gone, the desolation added to the mood.  We heard from some locals that the local government is planning to build a structure (a view deck?  a hotel?) above the falls which is saddening.  (why can't we leave nature alone?)   We also observed guests openly throwing garbage into the waters or the rocks.  Pity.  Considering that Tinuy-an is the city's flagship tourism attraction, I just hope the local government as well as the locals and guests will take better care of it.

Info on transport:  Going to Mangagoy: Bachelor Bus ply the Butuan-Mangagoy route; travel time: approximately 6 hours; fare for non-AC bus: P243.50 • Alternatively, you can take the Davao City-Mangagoy route via bus or van; travel time: around 6-7 hours •  Going to Tinuy-an: Vehicles can be hired from Mangagoy to go to Tinuy-an; prices vary so haggle smartly; travel time: around 1 hour • Tinuy-an rates: P50/pax for entrance; parking fee: P10 for motorcycles/tricycles, P20 for four-wheelers; cottages (P300), tents (P200) and tables (P100-200) are available for rental, overnight accommodation are also available • Info on Bislig:  this city is part of the province of Surigao del Sur in Mindanao; it is around 208 kilometers away from Davao City • According to Wikipedia, Bislig derived its name from "bizlin", a kind of gold worth two pesos used by the locals for trade and commerce in the 16th century

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