For Whom the Tinuy-an Falls | Surigao del Sur

The massive force of Tinuy-an's raging waters stunned me at first sight. It's 95 meters wide, and the sound of water falling from its 180-foot top mimics a roaring engine, as if you're standing in front of an aircraft on the runway about to run you over. The more you move slowly towards it, cutting distance in slow and deliberate strides, the more enthralling it becomes. Splashes of water begin to droop over you, as if a dog was shaking its dripping wet coat. Just when I thought I couldn't see it any better from where I was, I noticed a rainbow planted near the foot of the waterfalls.

Tinuy-an Falls

Clicking rewind for a few minutes. We go a little back to where we rag-tag along a rough road from the town of Mangagoy in Bislig - aboard a habal-habal driven by motocross race shoo-in, whom we shall call Jazzy Jeff, because I'm bad with names.  It was a 35-45 minute ordeal of holding on for dear life or being thrown off the motorcycle. Nathalie sat in front of Jazzy Jeff, with Gael and myself behind him. If Gael falls off, she could grab me, and I could grab Jazzy Jeff, and we'd all crash. It's the kind of science that a habal-habal ride is supposed to convey. Nobody is thrown off alone; everyone rides and crashes together.

I was disappointed to see a few structures constructed to please lazy visitors. They built a small pool and some small cottages near the waterfalls. There is a bridge that allows people to cross and see the falls from a different perspective. That may be justifiable in comparison to the others, but I hope they don't build additional infrastructure near the waterfalls. I wish the LGU's, the community and the local government would learn from what happened at Kawasan Falls in Cebu. (which has been corrected already when Gov. Gwen Garcia ordered the demolition of structures near it).

We took a small bamboo raft to the base of the falls. I handed over my camera to a middle-aged man whose family I had previously photographed with his camera. It was his turn to take our photos since it was our turn to use the raft. However, before he could take any pictures, we noticed him stumbling off his feet and slipping on his butt (my first concern was about my camera lol). I breathed a sigh of relief when he rose to his feet and held my camera up as if to say, "Your Nikon is in good hands."

There is a trail leading to the upper cascade of the waterfalls on the right side, where you will find a few smaller levels of waterfalls suitable for bathing. I jumped into the knee-to-waist-deep water, and from the edge, you can see the main basin of the Tinuy-an Falls below. You can even dive right in if you have delusions of imitating Dante Varona.

Gael, one of my friends, was not thrilled. She keeps telling us that Tinuy-an Falls isn't as big as it appears in pictures. Maybe she's seen a lot of waterfalls in her travels, which is why her level of satisfaction is difficult to match. Even though she gave it a thumbs up, you'll still hear her say, "How come it doesn't look as big as it did in the pictures?" with a matching sad puppy face. I adore her when she makes that expression. In my case, it's the tallest waterfall I've ever seen.

I've yet to see the many waterfalls in Iligan, Zamboanga and other places. 
A month later, I visited Biliran and saw at least six waterfalls, all of which were impressive but not in the same league as Tinuy-an Falls. Most of the time, the discovery of a new place is what motivates us to travel further; it leaves an itch that we want to scratch on our next trip. My current goal is to find a waterfall that can rival what I would call the Philippines' Jimmy Hendrix of waterfalls.

Hustle and Bustle in Bislig

We took a 7-hour bus from Surigao City to Mangagoy in Bislig, the starting point for Tinuy-an Falls. Aside from the usual beautiful countryside scenery found in the Philippines, the trip was uneventful. What stood out, however, was our bus driver voicing out his dissatisfaction of missing the Pacquiao-Bradley fight that morning.

I was also trying to keep up with the fight, but the Globe signal always goes out once we get to a long stretch of highway. As a result, I had no idea what was going on in the fight. At our last stop, around 1:00 p.m., the bus driver vanished for more than 20 minutes. The passengers are already getting irritated. Then, not long after, we noticed a crowd of people leaving a nearby gymnasium without a smile on their faces. I knew immediately that Pacquiao had lost the fight. 
Our bus driver crept back behind the wheel with the expression of someone who had lost a wager to a dog; I couldn't understand what he was saying, but he was so enraged that he was pulling his hair. I'm glad he didn't take his frustrations out on his driving. Going MIA during a bus stop-over, becoming a spoiler and bearer of bad news at the same time, he really put the passengers in a bad mood for the rest of the trip.

So we arrived in Bislig shortly before 3:00 p.m., found a place to stay, and went for a walk around town. Mangagoy appears to be a busy town for a village I've never heard of. That is why it is referred to as a "small city within a city." There are a few hostels scattered around town, as well as a bustling marketplace, rows of streetfood and seafood restaurants near the fishing port, lines of tiange stalls, and busy people doing random things. It was a good little foray into a strange town, but as Freya Stark so aptly puts it, "waking up quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world." That happened the next day in the Bislig town of Mangagoy.