MAGPET, North Cotabato (MindaNews/13 May) — Nestled in lush vegetation, Tawsuvan Falls in Barangay Bongolanon is perhaps the most popular among its cousins on the foothills of Mt. Apo because of its beauty and accessibility.
It’s been 10 years since the last time I went to Tawsuvan and took a dip in its freezing waters in the middle of the night. Last week, I had a chance for another visit. Many things have changed about the road and the village itself. In fact, we got lost on the way to the falls because of these changes.
But the falls has not changed; it has remained rejuvenating as in the past, when it was still known as Bongolanon Falls.
It was about seven in the morning that Paps and I drove his Starex van from Kidapawan City to Barangay Ilomavis, its well-paved road leading to the geothermal plant of the Energy Development Corporation and the more famous Lake Agco Resort.
After about 15 minutes, we reached Barangay Ginatilan, which is still part of Kidapawan. We turned left for Barangay Kisandal, where the crystal-clear water of Marbel River slides on its rocky belly. We drove through the quite narrow and still bumpy yet much better road. Take note, we were driving a van, not a 4×4 vehicle.
From Kisandal, Bongolanon is just two kilometers away. A drive uphill finally brought us to Sitio Tamiling, home of Tawsuvan Falls. The trip brought back memories of our adventures during our college days. We used to hike all the way from Ginatilan and stop by the sari-sari stores to buy beer or any available liquor. There were times that we would drive here late at night, have a drinking spree and go home early in the morning.
On the way to Tamiling, we passed by Sitio Pandan, which is still part of Kisandal. It took me a while to recall the village’s name. The landscape of the place, the vegetation in particular, has totally changed. An unpaved basketball court is still there but already surrounded by small huts.
We continued to drive uphill crossing streams and passed by farms already planted with banana and rubber. Tiger grass, locally known as tahiti, grows like a natural fence on both sides of the road. Tahiti is the raw material for soft brooms, which is one of the sources of income among the Bagobo in the village.
Since a lot of things have changed along the road, I felt so unsure if we were on the right track. We saw two young men on horseback going in the same direction, and asked them if we’re taking the right road to the falls. They said yes.
Farther on the road we met several Bagobo women walking down a steep hill with umbrellas on their heads because it was drizzling. They told us Tawsuvan Falls was just about 300 meters away. “Pagtong-tong nimo diha sa babaw, duol na kaayo. Makita na nimo ang sitio, mao na diha,” a Bagobo woman told us.
We tried to drive uphill but could not even reach halfway no matter how hard we tried due to the slippery surface. So we decided to leave the van on the foot of the hill and walked with our camera gears and extra clothes to Sitio Waterfalls.
“We have reached our destination,” I told Paps, pointing to the falls that stands amid the thick rainforest. It looked the same as it was 10 years ago, it has never changed. We sat on a small sari-sari store where few vegetables are sold along with several soft brooms.
Ten years ago however there were but a few houses in the village. Now, 72 mostly Bagobo families have settled here, according to Roselyn Hordista, the village’s tourism officer.
Hordista asked us to write our names on a logbook and to pay a fee of P20 per head. Ten years ago the fee was P10. She volunteered that at least 500 persons would come on Saturdays and Sundays to enjoy the natural beauty of the falls.
After a brief chat, we hurriedly went down the concrete steps leading to the camping ground and cottages right in front of the waterfalls. The landscape of the camping ground has never changed along with the structure of the cottages.
The well-preserved lush vegetation makes the village a rejuvenating weekend getaway. Here the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves blend with the roaring sound of the falls.
The breeze got colder as I moved closer to the waterfalls while taking pictures. A tranquil pool at the foot of the 30-meter drop was still tempting as it was in the past.
After taking pictures, I took a dip in the natural pool and crawled my way up the slippery boulder to be able to get right on the plunge pool of the waterfalls. As I stood with my back beneath falling water, it felt like I was being massaged with drumsticks. Then I soaked into the ice-cold tranquil pool and told Paps that it’s more freezing late at night.
While we were soaking in the natural pool, we saw three young Manobo girls carrying baskets filled with laundry, a scene that we saw a dozen times as we passed by rivers and streams on our way here.
Gateway to Mt. Apo
Karl Jones Tanaid, the town’s tourism officer, told MindaNews there are 18 waterfalls in Magpet, which sits on the foothills of Mt. Apo. Many of them remained rarely explored because of inaccessibility.
But Tawsuvan Falls, despite being the most popular perhaps and the most accessible, is not as high as its cousin, the Mabu Falls in Barangay Manobo, which stands about 400 feet.
During climbing season, mountaineers would spend a night in Sitio Waterfalls before heading for a two-day climb to Mt. Apo. Bongolanon is the jump-off point to the country’s highest peak passing through the mossy forest of Bob’ong trail.
No longer drunk
After soaking in the tranquil pool, we packed our stuff and headed back to the sari-sari store for coffee and bread.
Hordista said guests may spend overnight but will have to pay P40, and if they will occupy the open cottage, they’ll just pay P100. For daytrips, cottage fees cost P50.
“Pwede magpaluto dire. Kung gusto ninyo native chicken, tag P130 per kilo tapos kamo na bahala pila hatag sa mag prepare,” she added.
On our way home, we took the Bongolanon-Magpet road. I never knew that this road network existed. Fortunately, it’s better than the road along the Ginatilan route.
It was a refreshing day. What made it perfect for me was that it was good to be back and enjoy the natural beauty of Tawsuvan Falls not as a drunken guest anymore. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)