Dingalan: Discover why it is Aurora’s answer to Batanes

Dingalan — pronounced di-nga-lan and not ding-ga-lan — gained popularity among nouveaux voyageurs and weekend travelers via the hit local TV travel magazine, “Byahe ni Drew”.

Relatively untapped by commerce, this quiet coastal town in the province of Aurora boasts sights that catered to the insatiable appetites of Y.O.L.O. adventurers seeking for newer thrills, as well as photography enthusiasts wanting to capture verdant landscapes and azure seascapes.

Dubbed as the “Batanes of Northeastern Luzon” because of the majestic view from the new lighthouse atop Sitio White Beach in Brgy. Paltic, Dingalan has become the latest must-visit destination.

Dubbed as the "Batanes of Northeastern Luzon" because of the majestic view from the new lighthouse atop Sitio White Beach in Brgy. Paltic, Dingalan has become the latest must-visit destination.

Dubbed as the “Batanes of Northeastern Luzon” because of the majestic view from the new lighthouse atop Sitio White Beach in Brgy. Paltic, Dingalan has become the latest must-visit destination.

My top picks for Dingalan

Lamao Cove and Caves

Sitio White Beach

 

Dingalan Lighthouse

Dingalan Lighthouse

How to get there

There are several options in reaching Dingalan — via Gen. Nakar in Quezon and the more popular route, via Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. You can take the 0630AM trip of 5 Star Liner in Cubao or Pasay (one way fare is PHP185) inorder to catch the 10AM van trip to Dingalan (one-way fare is PHP100). Once in Dingalan proper, ride a tricycle to the town’s feeder port for the banca ride to Sitio White Beach (boats can be rented for PHP600 up), or you can just opt for the longer route, which is about an hour trek through the shoreline from Brgy. Paltic to Sitio White Beach.

Where to stay

There are several B&B inns in Dingalan, the more popular being Shalom Lodge located just in front of the feeder port. If you’re into beach camping or just want a quiet time on the beach, you may stay at Ate Nene’s Place (+63909.031.6069) or at Lourdes & Buboy’s Cottages (+63918.503.6080). Power on both “resorts” are from a genset which they run until 11PM.

Aliwagwag Falls: Inspiring Awe

Aliwagwag Falls

2012. When I first saw a photo of Aliwagwag Falls from an airline’s in-flight magazine, the ONLY word that I was able to summon was: AWESOME.

“Awesome” is a word I stay away from as much as possible. I generally file it in my “for-lack-of-a-better-term” folder, and only pull it out in “emergency cases”, where I ran out of adjectives: Last night’s party was “awesome.” Your new Fujifilm X100T is “awesome.” The extensive coverage given by the tri-media to the presidential bid announcements of Binay, Roxas and Poe, while ignoring the masses’ call for a Duterte presidency, is simply “awesome.”

My reluctance on the use of “awesome” stems from a purely semantic point of view. Isn’t it strange, if not weird, that we describe such profound beauty that it inspires awe as “awesome”? Shouldn’t it be full of awe; therefore, awful? So, last night’s party was in fact awful, as was the camera and the media coverage.

But in the case of Aliwagwag Falls, I make an exception.

This beauteous stairway-to-heaven-like cascade is definitely awesome! I was mesmerized. Scanning the pages of the magazine, I excitedly searched its location, mouthing an inaudible “Whoopie!” when I found where it’s at: Cateel, Davao Oriental.

2013. Typhoon Pablo happened… and Cateel was among the badly hit municipalities in the region: and. Aliwagwag Falls was severely damaged. My hopes of seeing her was dashed.

#TeamBAMid 2014. I got a call from a friend who works at the Davao City Tourism Office that they’ve just recently visited Cateel, and that efforts to “restore”  Aliwagwag Falls is “well underway”. The news got me excited–and sad at the same time, because I wouldn’t be seeing the falls in all her natural splendor. Nevertheless, that didn’t dampen my desire to visit Aliwagwag a single bit.

Fast-forward to 2015, I was finally able to make the trip with these awesome people…

Aliwagwag Falls
Cateel, Davao Oriental

Aliwagwag Falls is a series of 84 falls, mimicking a stairway with various heights in between steps, ranging from 2m to 33.5m (7ft to 110 ft). The highest cascades are about 22m (72 ft) and 20m (66 ft). Overall, Aliwagwag Falls is 340m (1,120 ft) high and 20m (66 ft) wide. If upright, it is undoubtedly the highest waterfalls in the country!

The Philippines is such a beautiful country; and the fact that I can enjoy its beauty is wonderful. Life, indeed, is full of beauty and wonder.

P.S.

To Cateel by Grab Taxi-DavaoThere are two routes leading to Aliwagwag Falls: through Compostela Valley (which we took) and via Mati, Davao Oriental. The latter is the more practical option, as there are many trips going to Mati (via Bachelor Bus Lines), compared with only one trip (via Mallen Express) if going by way of Compostela Valley. Travel time varies from 6hrs to 8hrs.

Since we were pressed for time, we opted to hire an AUV for two (2) days: Davao-ComVal-Cateel-Mati-Davao route.

 

Seek and you will find… Asik-asik.

The island of Mindanao is blessed with rich and bountiful natural resources, not to mention majestic land- and seascapes. It is home to three of the highest peaks in the country, several marine and wildlife sanctuaries, and hundreds–if not thousands–of waterfalls, explored and unexplored. No wonder it is called the Philippines’ Final Frontier.

Hitting two birds…

When we talk about Mindanao waterfalls, Tinuy-an in Bislig and Maria Cristina and Tinago, both in Iligan come to mind. But there still exist some equally-glorious-yet-seldom-talked-about cascades in the island of Mindanao: Limunsudan in Lanao del Norte; Asik-Asik in Alamada, North Cotabato; and Aliwagwag in Cateel, Davao Oriental–my Holy Grails of Philippine Waterfalls!

Much of the allure these waterfalls possess is due to their reputation as difficult-to-reach destinations, coupled with stories of brigands and other lawless elements patrolling the roads leading to these natural gems.

On my most recent trip to Mindanao, I was fortunate to have visited two of these three breathtaking waterfalls in Mindanao: Asik-asik and Aliwagwag.

Asik-Asik Falls
Brgy. Dado, Alamada, North Cotabato

“Discovered” only in April 2012 by local students on a field trip, Asik-asik Falls opened its doors to visitors in September that same year.

At 140 meters wide and about 60 meters high, this natural formation resembles a vast jade wall veiled with silky smooth curtains. Unlike most waterfalls, Asik-asik does not have a visible water source at its top, instead, water flows out from the mountain’s side, more like a series of springs.

According to some locals I chanced upon, this phenomenon may have been due to strong typhoons that ravaged the area a few years back, where clumps of trees were uprooted… and from these, cracks appeared which allowed the water to spring forth. A flowing natural pool formed at the base of the cascades where visitors can swim in the cold, clear waters.

SIDETRIP:

Still as magnificent as the first time I saw it in 2012.

Still as magnificent as the first time I saw it in 2012.

After an arduous trek to Asik-asik, you might wanna visit Cotabato City’s Grand Mosque.

The golden mosque or the “Masjid Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah dang Brunei” (Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque) is located a few kilometers away from the main highway, Sinsuat Avenue, in Barangay Kalangalan, on a parcel of land donated by the Dilangalen clan. Nestled beside Tamontaka River and the Moro Gulf, the masjid is a sight to behold from the air, as it is near Awang Airport.

The golden masjid is partly funded by the Sultanate of Negara Brunei Darussalam as part of a bilateral agreement with the Philippines. Designed by world-renowned Palafox and Associates, the mosque incorporated domes and minarets of the Arab-Islamic influence.

To Cateel by Grab Taxi-DavaoNext:

From here to eternity… that is Cateel, Davao Oriental…

Lake Sebu’s Magnificent Seven

Lake Sebu has been dubbed as the “Summer Capital of Southern Mindanao” due to its very cool climate. It is also home to the T’boli Tribe, where they try to keep old traditions and their culture alive, amid the rampant commercialization of the area.

One of Lake Sebu’s prime attraction is the Seven Falls Eco-Tourism Park where guests can try the zipline–touted as the highest in the country–to have a bird’s eye view of the complex’s magnificent waterfalls: Hikong Alo, Hikong Bente, Hikong B’lebel, Hikong Lowig, Hikong K’Fo-i, and two others whose names escaped me.

When itchy feet meet crazy peeps…

Mindanao Road trip 2015

I haven’t finished writing about my Northern Mindanao solo journey yet… when, off to another 7-day Southern Mindanao getaway I went… Life. Is. Good.

From SOCCSKSARGEN to North Cotabato and Maguindanao to the various Davao Regions, to the hills and over mountains, to the rivers and seas and above them… it was one hell of a roadtrip with these fun people: very different in many ways, but all together in one adventure!

So what’s the best recipe for a funtabulous journey?

Gather a bunch of crazy, thrill-seeking people, mix them together in an itinerary-less journey, sprinkle with a dash of anxiety [like not knowing what lies ahead], smother with tons of adventure, and garnish with lots and lots of laughter!

Actually, my MAIN purpose in travelling to this part of Mindanao is to witness this:

Tribu Manubiaw of Tacurong Pilot Elementary School, one of the performers/contestant in #Talakudong2015 Streetdance Competition.

Tribu Manubiaw of Tacurong Pilot Elementary School, one of the performers/contestant in #Talakudong2015 Streetdance Competition.

… the annual Talakudong Festival of Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat. More on this soon….

P.S.

I still cannot get my mind off this beauteous creation…

Fall to the sea

Catandayagan Falls, Masbate

‘Natuyuan’ Falls?

This is what I was expecting to see when I made a last minute decision to go to Bislig City in Surigao del Sur, after I was told by my doctor that I cannot risk climbing Mt. Apo, the Philippines’ highest peak [thanks to my lingering knee problem]:

Photo by Mylene Sereno

Photo by Mylene Sereno

But then again, what’s to expect? It hasn’t rained — according to my guide — in Bislig since summer started. I was a tad disappointed, but no less mesmerized by this beautiful and expansive waterfalls:

DSC_2899a

Dubbed as the “Niagara Falls of the Philippines”, Tinuy-an Falls in Brgy. Borboanan, Bislig City is a spectacular multilevel affair, rising as high as a four-story building and spanning a breathtaking 95 meters across. As one approaches, three tiers of cascades can easily be seen, the fourth one obstructed from view, as it is well atop the main waterfall head.

Sadly, I was only able to photograph the lower level and the main waterfalls, as the water level was low.

Hopefully, with the monsoon season afoot, Tinuy-an Falls will be more vibrant and full when I return a couple of months from now.

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