ALAMADA, North Cotabato (MindaNews/08 February) – Hidden by the rugged terrain of Barangay Dado is a towering falls whose water cascades through a river between deep ravines all the way to the famous Asik-asik Falls. Compared to Asik-asik, however, Daday Falls has remained unnoticed by adventurers and even by most locals.
I consider myself lucky to have explored Daday even if it was an unplanned trip.
I have been to some waterfalls on the other side of the mountains like in the parts of Buldon in Maguindanao and of course in my hometown of Pigcawayan, North Cotabato. But I have never been to Asik-asik. And so on Wednesday, February 5, I decided to go there along with my high school friend Nonoy Dumaguit and Cocoy Gabriel of Dado.
Amid the scorching heat of the sun, we drove for about 30 minutes through the dirt roads all the way to Dado aboard Cocoy’s motorcycle. But instead of heading straight to Asik-Asik, Cocoy, unable to hide his excitement, suggested to go instead to Daday.
Some of our companions sounded hesitant to go. “Do you think we can get through?” one of them asked. “As long as you’re there,” Liplip Costales quipped, referring to Cocoy, who then invited another friend, Renan, to join the trip.
We took the same route that leads to Asik-asik, which is in Sitio Dulao. A few minutes later, near the junction going to Asik-asik, Cocoy and Renan arrived on board a rusty off-road vehicle that we earlier saw parked along the road. Grinning, they said they borrowed it from a barangay kagawad. So we left our motorcycles and jumped into the four-wheel vehicle that Cocoy drove as if he was just playing with a remote-controlled toy car on a miniature race track.
It was 10-minute roller coaster ride to Sitio Mimbalawag, an Iranun- inhabited village where Cocoy stopped to ask permission from the local leaders. From there an elderly man whom they called bapa accompanied us. I learned that he is the most respected leader in Mimbalawag.
As we were about to leave, a guy hurriedly grabbed an M14 rifle from another and sat on the right side of the vehicle’s hood beside Cocoy. This time, Renan was behind the wheel. Five minutes later, we arrived in another Iranun community.
Cocoy jumped off the truck and approached another elderly man to get another clearance to visit Daday. After a 30-minute negotiation, we got our clearance. Four other villagers hopped into the vehicle as Cocoy started the engine.
We hiked upon reaching an area near the trail on top of a hill, passing through parcels of land planted with banana and vegetables before getting to the edge of the cliff where I could already hear the roaring falls. But I could barely see the river which resembles a rope that bends on the bottom of the ravine.
“Are you ready to go down?” Ali, the M14-wielding escort, asked me as he pointed to the grassy and almost-vertical trail. “Of course,” I shot back with zest.
The bapa, a turban wrapped around his head, introduced himself as Bukat Pakir. Clad in fatigue jacket and jeans, the 67-year old Iranun did not hesitate to join us in the trek.
The trail was already concealed by thick grass, an indication that Daday Falls is rarely visited. Looking down, I could sense it’s a long, treacherous way down, and with nothing to hold on to in case you slipped. About 10 meters down the trail, I could see the upper portion of the waterfalls. But it was still half a kilometer away.
Thirty minutes later, we entered a thinly forested area. The roar of the waterfalls was getting louder, and on my right, a crystal-clear river sliced through the rocks and lush vegetation.
I asked bapa where the falls got its name.
“This was named after my grandfather Nur Daday, who owned the land here,” bapa said in the local dialect.
As we reached a clearing, Daday sprinkled the air with droplets of water as I stood before it beholding its majesty. Its height simply dwarfed some of our companions who stood right beside the natural pool at its feet.
Unlike its other cousins, which are surrounded by thick forests, Daday Falls sits between a rugged cornfield, parcels of vegetable farms and thin vegetation. From a distance, you could see the lilac-colored wildflowers blanket the walls of the cliff. While moss and wild ground vines weave through the rocks and boulders around the natural pool.
The icy water in Daday’s pool made me wonder if I could ever endure a swim in it. But Liplip told me we might run out of time and it’s already late in the afternoon.
Given the height of the cliff, it would be dark here after 4pm. Besides, I wasn’t prepared to take a dip in this unplanned adventure.
As I moved closer to the pool, the sprinkling water made me feel like I was having a gentle shower inside a giant bathroom. I jerked when I made a quick dip of my feet in the icy stream.
“Years ago when we were hunting wild boars, we would soak the meat in the natural pool and pick it up three days later. It would still be fresh. It’s like placing it in the freezer,” Liplip said.
He said he had first seen Daday Falls during his elementary years. But they could not go down because there was no trail then.
“Only a few of us from Dado have already visited the falls because aside from its difficult trail, they are scared of the Moro rebels,” he added.
Since we needed to reach our original destination before dark, we had to head back to the village.
To get a better traction, I decided to climb back barefoot. I quipped to Nonoy: “Crawl up, this is a four-wheel drive already.”
Going down was already tough, but going up proved tougher. We had to literally use both our hands and feet on our way up the steep trail. We got to the top after a grueling 45-minute climb, exhausted but elated to have seen the other hidden treasure of Dado.
Dado Barangay Kagawad Marlowe Estella, chair of the committee on tourism, said Daday Falls is not yet fully developed as a tourist destination like Asik-asik Falls. He added they have not discussed it with the local leaders.
“We can’t blame them if they don’t just easily allow anyone to come and see the falls. They are mad at those who disguised themselves as tourists but had some bad intentions such as treasure hunting,” he explained.
But hopefully, Estella said, Daday Falls will become one of the top destinations in Alamada. (Keith Bacongco/Mindanews)