I live and work in the northern and central part of Mindanao. What I know of the eastern side of the island was that it is always at the frontline of the Pacific Ocean typhoons and thus one of the poorer areas in the island with quite long and difficult roads. All the same, the word of mouth from fellow Mindanaoans of the less explored white beaches, enchanting rivers, and majestic waterfalls has always gone around.
And so, when my German friends messaged me of their visit to Mindanao, I just have to suggest that we experience Surigao del Sur for the first time together. As expected, not much of the province has been tackled in international travel books.
We decided to see the Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig, a city known as the “Booming City by the Bay” in Surigao del Sur.
We started our Surigao del Sur expedition from Davao City. At the Ecoland Bus Terminal, we were offered two transport options: the eight to nine hour non-airconditioned bus trip directly to Brgy. Mangagoy, Bislig City’s commercial and trade center (155 pesos) or the five hour airconditioned bus trip to San Francisco, Agusan del Sur and a transfer to a two to three hour non-airconditioned bus or van trip to Bislig. It was a hot and sunny day from Davao and the five hour cooler San Francisco route was the better option for us.
We arrived at Brgy. Mangagoy in Bislig in a van and were welcomed by a crowd of motorcycle drivers to take us to our lodging and were offering trip bookings to the Tinuy-an falls and the Enchanted River. We agreed to pay 1,500 pesos for each (Dolfo – 09078660659 and Glen – 09078282567) that could carry two to three passengers to both places for a whole day.
We spent the night at the Paper Country Inn at 800 pesos for a double bed airconditioned room with private CR and hot shower.
We left early the next morning on single motorcycles that took 40 minutes to arrive in Sitio Sote, Brgy. Burboanan. Locals advise to see the falls between 9 am to 11 am to see rainbows form among the white water curtains.
The Tinuy-an falls is considered as sacred by the Manobo Tribal Council of Sote because it is part of the 13,000 hectare of the ancestral domain of the Manobos and it has provided their forefathers and the present generation with a bountiful catch of fish and other freshwater necessities. The Manobos request that all guests share the same respect that they give to the grand falls.
Spanning 95 meters wide, standing at 55 meters (180 feet) high, and cascading in three tiers, Tinuy-an Falls is said to be the widest waterfall in the country and touted as the Niagara Falls of the Philippines. The surrounding century old trees, ferns and thick shrubbery give you a feel of being in a hidden paradise.
An entrance fee of 50 pesos is charged per person and if you have your own vehicle a 20 peso parking fee is also charged. Aside from the falls, the area offers other amenities for different needs. At the picnic grounds, umbrella sheds can be rented for 150 pesos, a table with four chairs for 100 pesos and 10 pesos for each additional chair, and small and big cottages can be rented out for 200 and 300 pesos respectively. A function hall can also be rented for 1,000 pesos per day.
When swimming, life jackets can be rented for 30 pesos for the whole day. For a closer view of the falls, bamboo rafts can be rented from 100 to 150 pesos.
Options are also available for those who want to spend the night. A room good for 10 persons can be rented at 1,800 pesos a night. For couples, rooms can be rented at 600 pesos a night.
We spent the whole morning swimming the cool waters, climbing the three tiers of the falls, seeing the lush surrounding forest from above, and just lounging at the waterside while enjoying the gentle mists of water from the cascades. At noontime we proceeded to the Enchanted River.
In Visayan, “tinuy-an” means “a place you’ll keep going back.” It may be a little far for most, but these majestic falls surely lives up to its name.