The warmth of the morning sun caressed my skin as I took a moment to take in the beauty that was in front of me. The view was surreal. My mind cannot find a more fitting word to describe the beauty of the curtain of water cascading on a rock face with green vegetation. I have seen it in pictures and, now that I am standing in front of it, the mystery behind Asik-Asik Falls begin to deepen.
Located deep within the mountainous terrain of Alamada in the province Cotabato is one of the country's most beautiful waterfalls, Asik-Asik. This tourist destination stands out because its springwater cascades through a wide rockwall surface with green vegetation creating a stunning image of a curtain of water. This unique cascade make it an extraordinary destination to explore and discover. Its beauty was kept well-hidden from the world until its discovery by the locals in 2010 but it was only two years after its initial discovery that it started to catch the attention of off-beat travelers.
Getting a first hand view of Asik-Asik Falls is no joke. One needs to endure a two-hour habal-habal ride through paved and rough roads from Midsayap, our jump off point, to Brgy. Dulao in Alamada. My driver mentioned that the roads are a lot better now compared to earlier years as most of the access roads to Brgy. Dulao are close to completion making the trip faster and more comfortable. He shared with me that during earlier years, they had to contend with rough roads that compromises their safety and their guests. By the way, it is highly recommended to have one guest per habal-habal for safety reasons.
The two-hour ride will traverse through the agricultural fields of Midsayap, Libungan, and Alamada giving you a refreshing view of the rural scene of the region. The endless view of the valley bordered by the mountains of the nearby provinces will keep you entertained and amused during the habal-habal trip. I enjoyed the rustic views especially when we were already traversing the hills of Alamada that overlooks the valleys of Cotabato.
The first thing that I noticed when we arrived at Brgy. Dulao was the efforts of the local government to build tourist facilities in the area. There is a registration/waiting hall, with a nice view of the hills, where tourists can re-charge before and after visiting the famed waterfalls. Local residents have also set-up small snack and souvenir shops beside the hall where I had my favorite breakfast of pastil! These are strong indications of the robust commerce that Asik-Asik Falls is bringing in to the community.
After we registered and paid a minimal fee of Php20, we started our trek down the ridge to the waterfalls. The downhill trek is easy because of the cemented pathways. There are shaded rest stops along the way but it is more often used during the uphill trek back. One would not notice the steep descent down the trail because your eyes will be treated with a panoramic view of Alamada's mountain farmlands. Note that there are no streams or river that run parallel with the trail to the waterfalls.
For a brief moment, I was in awe at the raw beauty of Asik-Asik Falls when I first saw it in full view. I was dumbfounded with its beauty that I wondered how such a natural wonder was kept hidden from the world for a long time. I breathed in its beauty while enjoying the warmth of the sun and the gentle trickles of mist on my skin. It was worth enjoying the moment first before doing anything.
The beauty of Asik-Asik Falls is its unique cascade that covers the whole rock surface of the cliff covered with moss and ferns. Spring water cascades from a height of 60 meters into a shallow basin creating a veil of water and mist. Visitors can wade into the pool and enjoy a refreshing cold shower at the base of the rock wall. The more adventurous ones climb up its slippery rocks for photo ops or to get a better view of the cascade.
Asik-Asik's beauty is also clouded with mystery. The water that cascades onto the wall surface emananates from a spring beneath its walls unlike other waterfalls where its water comes from a water source upstream. I have asked locals where the water source of this unique waterfalls and they could only point to two nearby lakes as its possible source - Lake Lanao or Lake Putian. The water then snakes under the ground to spring out of Asik-Asik Falls.
There is no doubt that Asik-Asik Falls is one the most photogenic waterfalls in the country. Every corner and every angle is worth capturing on photo. The fallen trees and potruding rocks add to the drama of the scene. The best area to capture a panoramic shot of Asik-Asik Falls is downstream ofcthe tributary where you get to see the whole beauty of the falls. The best time to visit is early in the morning to avoid the crowd.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
As we slowly trudged uphill to the registration area, I was still in awe of Asik-Asik unique beauty. I was amazed with how majestic it looked up close. Its unique feature definitely make it one of the best destinations in the country. It is a trip that is worth taking.
What makes the whole Asik-Asik Falls experience more interesting is the fact that it was a recent find by both the locals and the traveling community. It begs the question - what other uniquely beautiful destinations can we find in Mindanao? I am excited with the opportunities of exploring this part of the country now that it is getting the spotlight that's been long overdue. And for starters, it is definitely safe to travel in Mindanao.
Getting There: Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have regular flights to Cotabato. In Cotabato City, you can take a trike to Novo Merchandise along Jose Lim Street where the terminal for vans that pass through Midsayap are located. Fare to Midsayap is Php70 and travel time is approximately 45 minutes. You can ask the driver to drop you off at the Midsayap Community Doctor’s Hospital where most of the habal-habals are located.
Habal-Habal rates to Dulao, Alameda from Midsayap is at Php750 roundtrip. It is highly recommended to have one habal-habal per person for safety reasons.
You can contact our habal-habal driver Kuya Jun Camap at +63919 4558958 to arrange for your trip.
From the Dulao registration center, it will be another 20-30 minute downhill trek to Asik-Asik Falls.
Sample Travel Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Cotabato City / Cotabato City Tour
- The Grand Mosque (Habal-Habal Contact: Mohammad Edsa - 0935 9063067)
- People’s Palace
- Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral
- PC Hill and Tantawan Park
- Old Cotabato City Hall
- Cotabato City Plaza
Day 2: Asik-Asik Falls, Alamada, Cotabato
Day 3: Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat Road Trip in the morning enroute to Lake Sebu.
- White Mosque (Datu Odin Sinsuat)
- Margues Blue Lagoon (Datu Odin Sinsuat)
- Pink Mosque (Datu Saudi Amapatuan)
- Sultan Kudarat Provincial Capitol (Isulan)
Lake Sebu Walking Tour (PM)
- Lake S’bu
- T’Boli Museum
- Lake Sebu Town Center
Day 4: Lake Sebu Tour (Contact person for Lake Sebu Tour: Ronald Maguan – 0997 2482160). Travel to Glan in the afternoon.
Day 5: Glan Tour
- Lago Beach
- Sta. Catalina de Alexandria Church
- Glan Municipal Hall
- Taban Beach
Travel to General Santos City in the afternoon
Day 6: General Santos City Tour
- General Santos Fish Port
- Queen Tuna Park
- Pioneer Street
- Plaza Heneral Santos
- Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage
- Tiongson Arcade
Day 7: Early morning departure to Manila
The "A" of Camp Avenue
The weekends leading to the grand celebration of the Panagbenga are not exactly the kind of weekends Baguio locals enjoy. With the worsening problem of the city's traffic and waste management, the additional congestion is not something that we welcome with a big smile and open arms. Don't get me wrong, we love the attention and the business it brings but not the human behavior problems that go with the annual celebration. With the festival gearing up for its grand celebration, we decided to spend a quiet beach weekend in Camp Avenue.
Camp Avenue is a beach campsite tucked along the shorelines of San Juan in La Union. Unlike the popular surf spot, the camp is void of the usual development associated with the influx of tourists. It has maintained a low key aura despite the attention that it initially received through Facebook and other social media platforms. Its socmed exposure was enough to pique my curiousity to check and give it a grade.
A+ for the camp vibe
The vibe of Camp Avenue is grade A+ and spot on as a beach chill spot. They were able to blend the laidback atmosphere and its beautiful shoreline with the campsite's structures.
There are three ways to enjoy a night's rest in Camp Avenue - camping, glamping, and the Indo Bali Huts. In our case, we experienced staying in one of the huts. Do not expect much because Camp Avenue is still a camping site and not a resort. Expect the basics.
The Indo Bali Huts are triangular huts, like Indian teepees, made of bamboo with coconut roofings. It is designed with a mattress and a desk fan for a comfortable sleep. The hut is large enough to accomodate 2 to 3 adults and it is located within the fenced perimeters of the camp. The huts do not have locks but a swing door safekeeps your items inside. Just make sure that you bring with you all your important stuff.
If camping and glamping is your style, the campsite is located closer to the beach. Glamping facilities are the same with that of the Indo Bali Huts except that you are in a bigger tent.
A for camp facilities
Again, do not expect much because Camp Avenue is not a resort. They have clean common restrooms and shower areas. It is well-maintained but the camp needs more shower areas to cater to the surge of campers, which in our case was very evident since we came in on a long weekend.
The camp has a restaurant and a swing bar where you can get your alcohol fix. The complimentary cocktail drink is grade A. I loved the mix. There is a small store a few steps from the reception area for anything else that you need. There are hammocks within the premises that you can use to enjoy a nap or if you just want to be lazy even for just a day.
Cooking is not allowed in Camp Avenue as a precaution considering that the huts are made of light combustible materials. Although, I think a designated grill area would be able to give an extra flair to their camping experience.
A- for camp food
The biggest drawback for Camp Avenue is the food. While bringing in food is charged corkage as per camp rules, they really need to level up their cooking game in the kitchen. Food is one aspect that help create the experience and, in Camp Avenue's case, it does not.
We tried their pasta, sandwich, and rice bowl meals and it was not value for money. Too bad though that there are no other restaurant options unless you would like to drive up to the surf spot in San Juan. Even their breakfast was not enough to perk me up the next morning.
A- for camp parties
Camp Avenue has a perfect spot for a beach party and they have a good DJ to boot. The early evening music mix was really inviting that I was anticipating a huge crowd as the night deepens. I actually thought that it was going to be a nice way to introduce parties to my 10-year old lady. I'd rather that we introduce it to her than someone else.
After having dinner and taking a short nap, we came back to the party grounds but it did not pick-up as expected but the music was inviting. Then the flamboyant host suddenly announced that it was "manyakan time". That caught us by surprise. He then scooped a couple to do body shots on stage.
Now I have been to parties that escalate towards that kind of scene BUT this particular party was not that kind and was not even close to that. It seemed that it was trying to use "it" as a come on for those who were either on the beach or inside the tents. It tried to emulate Boracay by using the famous tagline "what happens in Boracay, stays in Boracay" but using "Camp Avenue" instead. One thing missed though was that Boracay never uses it to "attract" party goers. It may escalate to that but it was never forced down people's throat as THE highlight for the night the way the host did it at Camp Avenue.
I think that rolled the party vibe further down after that.
A+ for camp art
Camp Avenue has a lot of artistic nooks - from its swing bar to its Indo bali huts to its campsite. Although it is not as glam as what I have previously seen on Facebook posts, these photogenic spots does not deviate that much from expectation.
The swings carefully place by the beach front are great spots for photos, without the tents around it. Or their version of the bird's nest that gives you a perfect view of the beach and the sea. Its 3-D Camp Avenue sign would have been a perfect spot for the sunset except for the rows and rows of tents behind it. These artsy nooks would stand out if they just organize their campsite.
For those who want to play around with their creativity, there is a pottery-making corner in front of Camp Avenue. Locals will teach you the basics of pottery-making before setting you out to explore your creative mind.
But the beach of Camp Avenue stands out when it comes to camp art. It is one of the most photogenic beach spots that I have seen in the north. Unlike the surrounding beaches in the area, the rocks by the beach stop the rolling of the waves creating a lagoon-like basin by the shore. It makes a perfect spot for dramatic photos matched by a perfect sunset. I would let the picture speak for itself.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Overall, Camp Avenue in San Juan, La Union is grade A. There is no doubt that it is in a perfect location on this side of town but it still has a lot of room for improvement to level up to other camping/glamping sites in the country. With a little reorganizing and re-wiring, it has the potential to be a preferred camping/glamping spot in Luzon.
My expectations of Camp Avenue did not really match up to my experience considering that I have tried other glamping spots, but only on a few notes. I did not come out amazed neither disappointed. It was still a good weekend beach break and it could have been better. And I hope to get a better experience the second time around.
Getting There: Partas Bus Lines and Viron Bus Lines have regular trips to the north that pass by San Juan in La Union. You can ask the conductor to drop you off at Camp Avenue at Taboc, San Juan.
You can reach Camp Avenue at +63917 7942293 for advance reservations.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.