Why do I love chasing waterfalls? Elation. Euphoria. As cheesy as it sounds, no words can really express how I feel whenever I see myself standing across a huge basin being filled by a powerful vertical drop of pouring water. It’s a different energy that refreshes your weary spirit. So after a long-ass flight, with no ounce of sleep the prior night, we instantly felt rejuvenated the moment we saw a glimpse of Tinago Falls from a distance.
It was, officially, the first day of our adventure in Northern Mindanao and we had no idea where the crew will take us. We had our own guesses and assumptions but our attempts at getting any information seemed futile since our handler, the mischievous Lai, only gave us a stern look every time we asked her a question. It was worth the try though.
The van stopped near a private property and Dong Ho, based from a sign he spotted earlier, told me that we would be heading to Tinago Falls.
Although the name of the waterfall sounded familiar, I don’t remember anything else about it. Good, “no expectations”, I thought.
The trek going to the waterfall is probably one of the reasons it was named such and I wonder how anyone in Iligan found this. There’s good 10-minute walk through the property before you reach the stairs leading down a ravine. Now, take your time to look and understand the signs that you’ll see before going down. You’ll be grateful that someone thought of giving you this advice. Though it would’ve been more effective if they left a similar sign downstairs.
Tinago Falls is hidden deep within a ravine and you’ll have to go down several steps to reach it. 500+ steps to be exact. 500 friggin’ steps called the winding staircase. As we were going down the zig-zagging steps, I couldn’t help but picture how it would be such a FUN trip to go back these stairs later. So much fun. Not to mention the plethora of insects hiding within the rainforest. At one point, I spotted a huge millipede in front of me. It was my first time seeing one and I let out a girlish gasp, took a photo and moved on. At almost 12 inches in length, it was the biggest I’ve ever seen.
Part of the Tourism Triangle of Iligan City, Tinago Falls is one of the three best and most popular waterfalls in the province alongside Mimbalot Falls and Maria Christina Falls. Because of this triumvirate, Iligan is also known as the City of Majestic Waterfalls. And I can attest to that. as I’ve seen all three and was in awe of each one.
We got a little bit exhausted from going down (Geez, imagine how hard it’ll be going up), but our spirits kicked in full gear the instant we saw a preview of the falls and it’s turquoise basin! Our group hurried down the remaining steps and were left wide-eyed and breathless upon seeing it in its entirety.
At the bottom of the stairs, several life vests are available for rent, all lined up and hanging on a clothesline. If you want to swim at the basin all the way to the underwater cave behind the waterfall, a life vest is required since the basin is pretty deep. Even good swimmers are required to have one because of the strong undercurrent made by the falls.
Entrance to the falls require you to pay a minimal fee of P10.00, P20.00 for each life vest, and P40.00 if you’re going to use one of their small cottages. A small price to pay when you are in the presence of something wonderful.
The water glistened from the sun. It seemed that at that time, we were transported to an enchanted land surrounded by mountains and a canopy of trees. It was hard to take a good photo because of thousands of water particles are spraying everywhere with the help of a soothing breeze. If you look a little closer, water flows down and cascades on several sides of the mountain. On one side, there’s a wall of rock that tourists can climb if they want to jump 40 ft. into the cool water below.
For a new experience, you can ask the shirtless locals hanging out by the pool to take you to the actual waterfall via a raft made of bamboo. I forgot how much they charged us (P20.00 I think), but it takes two burly young men with carved abs and strong chests to pull the raft and everyone on it close to the falls. We were full of excitement as the raft approached the wall of water. Once there, we took a shower underneath where each drop felt like we were being gunned down by hard pellets.
The Legend of Tinago
“Legend has it that there once lived an influential and powerful Sultan Agok and his wife. They were appointed by their people as their king and queen. But they became too proud of themselves and became selfish rulers of their kingdom. When the sultan’s wife was pregnant, an enchantress, disguised as a beggar, begged for their help but instead they exiled and rejected her. Because of this, the enchantress cursed the couple that the child will become ugly but they did not take it seriously and permanently banished the enchantress.
The child did become ugly. The couple was sad and disappointed, expecting the baby to be as lovely as her mother. They hid the child in a cave to avoid embarrassment and named the baby Tin-ag, which means “hidden face”. They visited and took care of the baby in the cave.
When the child grew up, she came out of the cave and became amazed at what she saw. The enchantress, who cursed her parents, saw her and made an offer to transform her into something of great beauty and splendor. She accepted the offer and became the Tinago Falls.”
And no doubt Tinago Falls is nothing short of beautiful. It’s worth the trek, so just make sure you maximize your time here. Aside from the legend above, locals also believe that a giant squid or freshwater animal can be found deep within the unmeasurable abyss underneath the pool. Until now, no one has managed to reach the bottom.
For kids and those who prefer shallow water, there’s a small pool/river right on the other side of a bridge. This could provide a great spot for those who wants to relax, although I recommend getting a position upstream since there were women washing clothes when we were there.
If you’re more of an explorer type, like us (chos), you can grab on to your life vest and swim all the way to the underwater cave. If you get into some trouble, you can scream for dear life and wait for the hot locals to save you.
After feeling refreshed and spending a good amount of our morning getting our spirits rejuvenated from the enchanting magic that Tinago possessed, the only thing we had to worry about are 500+ steps on our way back to the van. Awesome.
How to get to Tinago Falls
From the city proper of Iligan, take a jeepney bound for Buru-An and ask the driver to drop you off at Buru-An Market. Once there, hire a motorcycle or habal-habal to take you to straight to Tinago Falls. Or if you prefer an easier ride, then take your prissy ass and get a cab that’ll take you there.
A Natural High
Our trip to Tinago Falls is part of the online reality travel show PHL360. You can watch the full episode by logging on to the official website where all the other episodes can be viewed online. If you’re going to Iligan anytime soon, a stop at Tinago Falls is a strong recommendation. Best time to go there is at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning where a small rainbow is said to appear right above the basin.