Sunday, March 22, 2015

Maria Cristina: The Mighty Cascade

Date: MAR 15, 2015

The city of Iligan in Lanao del Norte is known as the “City of Majestic Falls.” A number of waterfalls can be found within the city, and one of them is the famous Maria Cristina Falls. Today, I will try my best to get to this waterfall that I’ve only seen on my Sibika at Kultura textbook during elementary days.

Visiting the twin waterfalls for the first time

Hydro Power plant inside the Maria Cristina Park
The van was empty, and I was the only one inside; despite this, we still left minutes after I paid P50 fare. However, the driver didn’t stop when we reached the highway, probably because of misunderstanding. I asked him to drop me off when we arrived at the town of Alubijid, and I went to the bus stop and waited for an Iligan bound bus.

Moments later, an ordinary bus bound for Pagadian came. I hailed it to a stop, and asked the bus conductor in Visayan language to drop me off at Iligan. I sat near the window to see the view outside, and readied my video camera to record everything that my eyes would see.

We had to drive on a dusty highway at first. Some parts of it were mountainous, but as we get closer to the lower part of the highway, I began seeing white sand beaches and the sparkling blue sea (just beside the road). Most of these were public parks, and some were beach resorts. There were a lot of people that time, spending their weekend swimming at the beach having a great time with their friends and families.

There was a short stop-over at the public transport terminal when we reached the town of Initao. The bus picked up some passengers, and at the same time, hawkers went inside the bus to sell food and drinks. There were quail eggs, boiled plantains and peanuts, but I didn’t buy any of it because I was still full.

Right after this bridge was the junction going to Maria Cristina Falls
I didn’t notice that I slept during the trip, and when I peeked outside, I saw this long stretch of baywalk, and right after that was a welcome arch, saying “Welcome to Iligan City”. What greeted me inside the city’s territory were huge manufacturing plants and industrial zones, and a few moments later, we reached a bus stop where most of the passengers disembarked. Thinking that I was already at the city center, I got off the bus.

That was a mistake, because the city center – which locals call “Siyudad - was still a few kilometers away. I had to ride a jeepney to take me to the city center, and right after passing by Gaisano, the driver dropped me off and told me to ride another jeepney bound for Buru-un (since I told him that I would like to visit the falls). Just a few minutes later, a jeepney came, and I rode it. While inside the jeepney, I saw how the city looked like. There were lots of commercial establishment in the area, and I saw mosques and churches built near each other. Christians and Muslims were living in harmony – opposite of what the media portrays. It was just too sad that other Filipinos – especially those who were from Luzon – picture the whole island of Mindanao as a war zone.

The zoo with only two animals in it
The jeep was full of people when we left Siyudad, and after 30 minutes, we reached the junction going to Maria Cristina Falls. The junction is located right after the orange colored bridge, and I had to walk for a few meters to get to the park’s gate. As I was walking towards the gate, I’ve seen a small waterfall cascading down the road, and it made the area cool despite the sun’s heat.

At the gate, I paid for P35 entrance fee. Because I would like to save more money during trip, I asked the guards if I can just walk towards the Maria Cristina Falls - but they said that it was not allowed. They told me that I had to ride a shuttle, and it cost P50/roundtrip (it was only P10 per person, but since I was the only one visiting that time, I had to pay for the other four). Our first stop inside the park was at the zoo.

Hanging bridge inside the park
Inside the zoo, I saw another waterfall. There was a hanging bridge as well, but it was closed to the public. This was called a “zoo”, but the funny thing was I’ve only seen two different kinds of animals inside – a caged monkey, and a bird. There weren’t that much to see inside the zoo, so I went back to the shuttle and asked the driver to take me to the falls.

I can hear the roaring crash of Maria Cristina Falls from afar, and when the shuttle stopped, I rapidly went to the viewing deck to witness the mighty cascade that I’ve only seen on my grade school books. That very moment was like a dream come true. I cannot believe what I was seeing, that it was happening in real life – Maria Cristina Falls was right in front of me. I took a handful of photos and videos, and I immediately updated my Facebook post.

Presenting the Maria Cristina Falls
Maria Cristina Falls looked different in person. Before, I thought that it was just a huge waterfall in the middle of the jungle - but in real life, a hydro powerplant building was built right next to it. People were not allowed to go near the falls, and an “off-limits” sign was placed on the powerplant’s gates. There was a store near the falls that sells food and souvenirs, and this was where I bought my souvenir magnet. I didn’t stay for long because I was planning to visit Tinago Falls that same day, but I realized that I won’t be able to make it so I just went to Cagayan de Oro instead.

Signs prohibiting tourists to go near the falls
From the gate, I had to walk back to the junction and ride a jeepney going to the city center, and from there, I had to ride another jeepney going to Iligan Public Transport Terminal. There were lots of buses when I reached the terminal, and I decided to ride an ordinary Rural Tours bus bound for Cagayan de Oro.

The bus was slow-moving, and it took me two hours to reach Cagayan de Oro. Even though the journey was sluggish, I managed to enjoy the sceneries along the way as we drove through coastal towns – like the beautiful beaches and baywalks on my left, and the vast rice fields and lush mountains on my right. It was already 5:00 PM when we reached the bus terminal in Bulua, and from here, I had to ride another jeepney that would take me to Agora Bus Terminal, where Davao bound buses can be found.

Before boarding the bus bound for Davao, I decided to look around and find a place where I can eat. I located a nice carinderia inside the terminal and ordered their beef dish. Eating my late lunch got me energized, and after paying for my meal, I went back to where the buses were and rode this airconditioned Rural Tours Bus bound for Davao that would pass through the next province on my list – Bukidnon.

This post is part of my Mindanao and Mount Apo Adventure (with Trail Insanity) that took place between March 15 – March 21, 2015. Read the first entry here. Proceed to the next destination here.

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