Tourists usually flock this part of Southern Philippines to our nearby Camiguin Island in Misamis Oriental, or the famous Siargao Island in Surigao Del Norte.
Well, that was before Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig, Surigao Del Sur and the Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. I’m intentionally making this post with the hope of attracting the adventurous souls to come visit.
Neighboring residents of the two destinations have been flocking there since last year because it has become a local tourist attraction. My classmate in college is the Municipal Accountant of Bislig, Surigao del Sur, and she told me that in the previous years, the annual income from Tinuy-an Falls in form of entrance fees, parking fees and cottage rentals only average around P 10,000.00. However, last year’s income multiplied so much to a whooping P 300,000.00!
For my part, I have been urging my friends and my family to take a peak in these two destinations. My hubby has gone there last year during their office Christmas Party and my brother also went there for the same reason with his officemates and they weren’t that enthralled to take the same long trip and go back with me again. Good that we gave my mother an extra special 70th Birthday Celebration and my two sisters came home, because they decided we should go take a family outing in Tinuy-an Falls and the Enchanted River.
Thus, last Sunday, all 32 of us from my maternal grandmother’s family — my aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces — finally got a taste of these two local tourist destinations.
All of us assembled at Dunkin’ Donuts in JC Aquino Avenue, where we took some warm drinks. The kids ate some donuts, of course. At exactly five in the morning, we started our day’s adventure. Boarded on four vehicles, we excitedly traveled around two hours to San Francisco, Agusan del Sur.
Our first stop was breakfast at Jollibee – San Francisco. The guard in Jollibee told us they still had five to ten minutes until opening time, but I nonchalantly told him they had to open right then because we were so many and luckily, he didn’t mind us barging inside. The Manager saw our huge group and ordered the counters to open immediately. We ordered per family to hasten the ordering and so that we can leave as soon as possible.
Shortly before eight in the morning, the group continued our journey out of Agusan del Sur to Bislig, Surigao Del Sur.
It took us a little over an hour to reach our first destination. From the highway, it was still a long and rough road towards the interior leading to the Tinuy-An Falls [8 kilometers?]. The road was paved but it wasn’t cemented. It was so dusty going in.
When we finally stopped at our highly anticipated destination, the first thing that I saw was the falls near our parking area. A pang of disappointed nearly overcame me because the falls were so small and I cannot reconcile it with what I saw on the pictures. Before I could make any reaction, I saw the entrance and realized the waterfalls I saw outside wasn’t the one. Sigh.
There were a handful of vehicles parked at the entrance, and I thought it would be too crowded already. I led the group to the entrance and we were stopped upon entering and told to register. Since we were a lot, I was told to only register and just indicate how many we were. We were 34 (including two drivers) and I had to pay P 50.00 entrance fee per person (P 1,700.00).
A few steps inside, I could already hear the roaring of the mighty Tinuy-an Falls. It was a magnificent view. The Tinuy-an Falls has been called the Niagara of the Philippines, but compared to what I saw of the great Niagara in the pictures, I don’t think we could claim it to be. Ours wasn’t as big as the Niagara.
The kids were so excited to swim but I told them we didn’t have sufficient time for that because we had to be in the Enchanted River before twelve noon. We spent our forty-five minutes taking pictures and wading our feet in the waters. There was a small playground near our cottage and the kids had something to fill their time.
There weren’t that many people inside. In fact, while we were there, no one was even bathing in the waters. Perhaps it was still early at around nine in the morning.
Looking around, I saw several cottages abounding the vicinity. There were even cottages for overnight stay [how scary is that? lol]. There wasn’t a decent restaurant, but I was told there’s a small canteen for some snacks. It didn’t really matter because we didn’t intend to take our meals there. For those who want to spend more time here, you have to bring your own food because you can’t buy that much here.
At exactly ten in the morning, we left Tinuy-an Falls to move on to the Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. Our driver said it was only twelve kilometers away, but it took us a good hour and a half to arrive there. By 12 kilometers, the driver was referring to the drive inside the interior to the river from the highway, lol. The rough road going inside Tinuy-an Falls was a lot better than the roads leading to the Enchanted River. It wasn’t only rough, it was hilly and steep… and at some points, it looked eerie like some supernatural being might appear in front of us, hahaha.
It was almost high noon when we arrived at our ultimate destination. Looking from the outside, I already saw how crowded it was. The built in cottages were already full and we had to request a make shift cottage for our large group. We were given three tables and one beach umbrella and some chairs. Unlike in Tinuy-an Falls where the entrance fee is P 50 per person, for all of us, H only paid P 480.00, including parking of the four vehicles and rent of the tables and chairs. There were also some food stalls nearby and there’s even a stall which cooks fresh seafood.
Again, the kids were dying to jump in the river, but I told them it would be better to take our lunch first because anytime the fishes in the river will be fed and they had to step out if they take a dip then. It was almost twelve noon when we laid out our food on the tables — lechon, kinilaw, rice, boiled banana and cake for dessert [left over from my mom’s party the night before]. My cousin’s wife had some fresh seafood cooked too [I forgot what dish].
While we were finishing lunch, music filled the area and all the people rushed to the river,ourselves included. The music signaled the start of the feeding session, which meant we could see the fishes come out to eat. I couldn’t get a nearer position because people were already jammed around the riverside. Even then, it was a magical sight to see a school of fishes swarming so visibly to eat the raw squid being thrown to the river, add to that the music to complete the enchanting ambiance. Feeding time lasted about fifteen minutes. When it was done, people quickly jumped in to resume swimming… and the fishes disappeared as quickly, too.
After seeing the fishes, nothing could contain the excitement of the kids… well, only the fact that there weren’t enough life jackets available for them all at once so that they could go explore the river, lol. It took several minutes before the right size of life jackets were available for everyone to rent. Rental fee for one life jacket is P 15.00 per hour — be sure to bring any kind of Identification Card because it’s a requirement to be able to rent one.
I didn’t take a swim in the river because I didn’t want to exchange a bit of fun at the expense of my face which has been under the care of the dermatologist fairly recently, lol. I don’t know about fresh water, but I do have an allergic reaction to salt water where my face just turns red, itchy and inflamed a few minutes after it contacts the water. So, no… not so worth it, lol.
While the kids and my cousins went swimming, and the oldies stayed under the shade and talked leisurely, I went around for some sight seeing. I located the dressing rooms and the comfort rooms and in fairness, they were clean and presentable and with sufficient water supply [not the usual public facilities in the beaches which are usually poorly lighted, dirty and without water]. From there, I went back to the river and took pictures of them who were playfully swimming. I really marvel how clean and clear the water is. Its color is deep blue and when I asked my cousin how come it was so blue, he said it’s probably a reflection of the sky, while my brother said it was because it was so deep. I think the Enchanted River is over 100 feet deep. The deep part has a cave where the fishes are supposedly inhabiting while the opposite side is the shallow part, where the water exits the river and runs toward the Pacific Ocean. There were several ropes scattered throughout the river, the first one near the entrance of the cave, which was meant to prohibit anybody from swimming in not only to protect the fishes, but also because it was dangerous in terms of depth. The other two ropes were meant to provide the swimmers with something to hold on to, because the current of the river is so strong… I saw my cousins laugh while struggling to swim against the current. Most of the time they held on to the rope. My niece Nadine had a blast swimming in the same direction as the current because she just floated so fast, lol.
We would have loved to take a boat ride out of the river and out on the ocean because there was supposed to be some islets [and a white island] there and to also swim with the pawikans but time was against our side. It was already two o’clock in the afternoon and we had to head back as scheduled. We don’t want to be caught in the dark while going home. I’m not saying it’s dangerous, but the area is reported to be infested with new peoples army, thus, it was better to be safe.
We made a quick stop in Jollibee again for some snacks, and went on our way. We were back in Butuan at around six in the evening.
Truly, Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River are worthy of the long trip. However, taking into consideration the long hours we had to travel versus the short time we enjoyed there, I can understand why some wouldn’t want to make a second trip anymore. We were there to maximize the time, but for others, they really make just one trip to Tinuy-an Falls and stay the whole day there, then make another trip for Enchanted River and spend one day there, too.
Personally, one day with two destinations was already enough for me. And I don’t mind going back in the near future.