A socmed post on this natural attraction piqued my interest. It was not the usual Cagayan de Oro attraction I had in mind. A lot has changed in this city. From the rustic and clustered downtown, the city has expanded both vertically and horizontally. The changes brought in huge developments to the city, uncovering spots that were previously behind the untouched forest covers in the city’s hinterlands. So when I was planning to visit my birthplace, a visit to Sinulom Waterfalls was inevitable.
Tucked within the mountains of Talakag in Bukidnon, Sinulom Falls is a collection of 28 waterfalls that cascades into the Cagayan de Oro River. It’s viewpoint is on the side of Tignapoloan. Surrounded by the forest covers and mountains, it is a very relaxing and chill destination that you can enjoy in a day or two. My adventure to Sinulom started at 6am at Carmen Market where I took the van to Talakag. I asked to be dropped off at the Tignapoloan Crossing where I hired a habal-habal to the waterfalls. I arrived early at the resort which opens at 8am. I had to sit it out for 45 minutes before I was allowed to enter the resort.
One can already view the multiple cascades of Sinulom from the entrance of the resort. Yes, a resort is already operational and the entrance fee of Php160 covers the two main attractions in the area - Sinulom Falls and Bolao Cold Spring. The resort has full amenities - swimming pools, a restaurant, airconditioned rooms, and camping facilities for those who want to spend a night at the resort. The main hall of the resort has a viewing deck that gives you the best panoramic view of Sinulom Waterfalls.
A pathway leads you down to the pool area and the camp grounds where you can get a closer view of the cascades of Sinulom Falls. From up close, the falls reminds me of Asik-Asik in Cotabato, only that the latter has a wider rock wall where spring water cascades. Sinulom’s cascades are more concentrated and defined along the rock walls. You can clearly identify the individual cascades creating an image of the crying mountains. The waters drain into the Cagayan de Oro river and it makes a dramatic foreground for Sinulom.
The camp grounds along the river side have boulders that serve as “platforms” for a better view of the falls or for that instagram-worthy shots. You get a view of the raging waters of the de Oro river with the falls as its backdrop. The river waters were murky at the time of my visit because of the rains from the day before. Take extra precaution when you get close to the riverbanks and stay within safety ropes installed by the resort. I enjoyed the moment where I just sat down on one of the rocks to enjoy the view of the cascades and the surrounding greens and listening to the roaring sounds of water rushing. It was very relaxing and energizing to just let nature embrace you.
Sinulom Falls was a beauty to see and it is an interesting addition to the rustic adventures of Cagayan de Oro. It gave the city another must see destination that is quite unique compared to the other waterfalls attraction in Mindanao. It is a beauty from a distance and up close. It seemed that the mountain side was shedding tears of joy of having been found.
Bolao Cold Spring
If you are up for a quick and relaxing break from the heat of enjoying the views of Sinulom Falls, it is time to take a dip at Bolao Cold Spring. A short hike down the trail and over the hanging bridge and a quick jeepney ride, will bring you to the shallow spring pools of Bolao. The area is complete with picnic huts which makes it a good spot for family gatherings as you enjoy the cold mountain spring waters. A perfect destination to escape the summer heat.
The cold waters cascade from the mountains of Talakag into catch basins made of rocks. The waters are collected into a series of man-made pools before draining into the Cagayan de Oro River. Wooden pathways surround these pools for easier access by guests where the can swim, enjoy a light massage from the cascade, or just simply enjoy the feel of the cold water on their skins. Since it is all natural, you can catch a sight of schools of small fish near the rock crevices. You can easily find your own spot where you can enjoy having a tan while enjoying the cold water running on your body.
It was a perfect way to cool down after I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Sinulom Falls. As I dipped my feet into the waters of Bolao, I enjoyed the feeling of the spring water cooling me down on a hot midday. I also enjoyed the sound of the cascading waters mixed with the laughters of the other guests. These are the joys that we miss out when we live in the metro. This was natural peace and bliss that only nature can give.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
May ganyan pala sa Cagayan de Oro?
This was the same question that I thought of when I first saw the socmed post on Sinulom Falls. It was the same question that my relatives asked me after I shared with them my travel experience. The city that I have known since I was a kid have changed dramatically and these changes have led to discoveries of new attractions in areas where I probably once feared to explore. Now we are seeing more natural attractions in the city that is beyond the white waters of Cagayan de Oro. This is exciting because I am now wondering what are the other “gold” finds in de Oro that is worth exploring in my next CDO trip.
Urban development are often viewed with varying opinions - some get excited for the prospect of financial growth while some frown upon it for the behavioral and environmental changes it will bring. As the area expands, we get to discover new natural attractions that adds to the beauty of the place but, with the discovery, comes commercialization. We need to find the right balance between development and preservation because we cannot stop change. Finding the right balance is key to finding a win-win situation as these changes happen around us.
Getting there: All major airline in the Philippines have flights to Laguindingan Airport from major cities of the country. You can take an airport van from the airport to the city proper of Cagayan de Oro. You can then take a taxi or public jeeps to Carmen Public Market. The terminal for vans going to Talakag is along Castro Street, right infront of Rika Drugstore. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Tignapoloan Crossing where you can take a habal-habal to Sinulom Falls. Please make sure that you also arrange a return trip with your habal-habal driver. For habal-habal arrangements, you can contact Kuya Albert at (0926) 4803823.
I remember Antipolo City as a favorite chill spot when I was in college. The ridge along Sumulong Highway was a top choice for a Friday night out where you enjoy the cool weather and the view of the metro’s lights over bottles of beer and sisig. Back then, these kinds of night outs were a luxury. We usually do this after hurdling our finals and opening the school break.
Antipolo City has kept its charm as an easy escape from the metro, be it a day trip or a weekend escape. A visit to this suburb city was made easy with the LRT 2 extension that significantly cut travel time to the east of Metro Manila. Despite these changes, the city managed to retain its “provincial” vibe that attracts metro residents and local travelers. My eagerness to check the LRT 2 extension got me re-visiting and re-exploring the city that sits on the hills east of the metro.
Cathedral of Antipolo
At the heart of the city is the Cathedral of Antipolo, also known as the Pontifical Shrine of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. It is the home of the Black Madonna - the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. The church receives millions of devotees especially during the annual “alay lakad” held annually every April 30. During this time, devotees conduct their “panata” as they bring their petitions to the patron Lady, walking the length of Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Avenue to the church grounds.
While we all marvel at the beauty and people’s devotion of the church, I discovered that behind the church’s altar is a small museum where you get to see a brief history and an exhibit of the church’s artifacts. A small prayer room is found behind the back of the church where you can light a candle and offer your prayers and manifestations. The stairs inside the room leads up to a loft where the artifacts of the church are on display. These includes revered Marian images, old garments of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, and miniature tableaus depicting significant events of the church.
You also get a closer look at the revered image from a small window behind its pedestal on the church’s retablo. The vantage point gives you a back view of the Marian image and the navel of the church. Devotees take the time to also offer their prayers on this pedestal.
My curiosity was piqued when I first heard of the Mystical Cave in Antipolo. It does not come as a surprise as the city lie along the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. It sounded really interesting so I took the time to explore it during a recent visit in the city.
The cave is located on the outskirts of the city. It is about a 20-30 minute trike ride from the city center. The cave faces the Laguna de Bay. One needs to climb up a flight of stairs to get to the mouth of the cave. A fee is charged by the caretakers to enter the cave which includes a guided tour of the upper part of the cave system. Our guide said exploring the lower part of the cave can be a challenge physically as some parts would require crawling through small spaces to get through.
The upper level of the cave is easy to navigate. The cave has a single opening that serves as the only entrance and exit into the system. It has its own collection of stalactite and stalagmite rock formations although it seems that it has been exposed to human activity. Our guide walked us through the well-lighted trail where she highlighted some formations that the shadows casted depict religious figures and events. You get to explore the upper part cave in 20 minutes with the guide helping you with the vantage points to catch the shadow casted. It does take a little creativity to be able to see the image described by the guide.
Mystical Cave has become an attraction especially during the Lenten Season because devotees flock to the cave because of its religious depiction. Although not recognized by the Catholic Church, the faithful still visit the church and offer prayers to these “religious” images. The cave is not just an attraction among travelers and bikers but also to the faithful.
Hinulugang Taktak Protected Landscape
A lot of improvement has been done on the protected area of Hinulugang Taktak from the last time that I visited the park. Apart from the less musky smell of the falls, the park offers exciting activities that will keep both adults and kids excited and challenged. You could really see that the local government has invested on improving the park as an attraction for the city.
There are activities that will challenge you and will make you face your fears that are FREE currently. You can challenge yourself physically by trying out wall climbing or challenge your fear of heights by rappeling down. You can also choose to enjoy the views of Hinulugang Taktak and its surrounding areas by traversing the treetop canopies or by enjoying the heights at the spider web. These activities are free to visitors, at present, for people to enjoy and give you different views of the Hinulugang Taktak Protected Landscape.
Hinulugang Taktak remains majestic and beautiful. The smell that the cascading waters emit has significantly improved. Park sheds are properly maintained making the park a good spot for picnics with family and/or friends. The park also has a public swimming pool that provide an easy relief from the heat. This would make the Hinulugang Taktak Protected Area a quick and easy to visit during the summer months.
Pinto Art Museum
Pinto Art Museum is probably the most popular art gallery on this side of Manila. Founded by Dr. Joven Cuanang, the museum’s humble beginnings started out as a hobby for the neurologists who started his collection in the 1980s. The area has been developed into a gallery that features the wide collection of contemporary artworks of local artists.
The gallery has undergone many changes from my last visit. It has expanded and has additional galleries and performance spaces. The rustic charm of the small chapel still welcomes you as you enter the compound. The cafe, adjacent to the chapel, was a huge improvement from its food selection and serving sizes. There are now 3 cafes in the museum that caters to visitors of the museum.
The Pinto Academy is a structure that houses Filipino cultural galleries and performance spaces. An outdoor amphitheater gives you that rustic and relaxing vibe as you enjoy the Antipolo breeze under the afternoon sun. The artistry of Pinto is felt with the Nine Muses and Chorus in teracota by Noi Gonzales. The structure also houses Indigenous Art from pre-Spanish jar covers, images of ethnic gods, musical instruments of the country, and ancient burial jars. Interestingly, the burial jars are displayed in a manner that it takes out the fear associated with death. It makes you feel comfortable with one of life’s constants.
There are 7 galleries to explore in Pinto Museum. The galleries feature contemporary works from paintings to sculptures to 3D walkthrough artpieces. Gallery 1 opens with “Karnabal” by the group Salingpusa. Mounted in an amphitheater style gallery, it gives you an impression of a viewer watching a “show”. I remember this artwork catching my attention from my first visit. The artwork and how it was placed captures the attention of guests.
Walking through the galleries makes you pause to admire and tests your creative side. The galleries were built to also maximize the natural slopes and rock formations of the compound. I still get amazed by the “wired” artworks of gallery 3. I enjoyed the intricate detail by the artists. The exhibits have a mix of the old works with new ones keeping returning guests something to remember from the past visits and something new to admire.
The sprawling Gallery 7 was a welcome addition to Pinto Gallery. The huge exhibit area gave me a sense of freedom to explore and be creative. You get to find your own corner for your creative shots. It was a visual delight from its paintings to sculptures to its optical illusions. The exhibits depict life in an exaggerated and creative way. The basement of the gallery also features a station of the cross utilizing the materials from the ongoing construction, I think. The museum also features an arboretum where you can find your corner to relax and commune with nature.
Pinto Art Museum was a welcome change from my usual travels. It slowed me down and gave me a more relaxed vibe while testing my creativity in the process. Like what I said earlier, it gave me the chance to reminisce my previous visit while enjoying the new artwork additions and the new gallery.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Revisiting Antipolo gave me an “updated” version of the city. It was nice to see that a lot of changes have been taking place to improve previous destinations while I also got to enjoy exploring new attractions in the city. It gave Antipolo a “fresher” look for me that goes beyond the usual weekend coffee stop.
There is always something new to discover in old destinations. One just needs to have a keen eye for these attractions. It may mean re-visiting a destination with a new set of eyes or exploring a new spot that has been under the shadows. Remember that no two visits are the same.
Getting there: You can take the LRT 2 and go down the Antipolo Station. At the exit of the station, you can take a jeep that goes to Antipolo Simbahan. You get around Antipolo using the tricycle. You can contact Ate Joan at (0951) 2892809 for assistance at Mystical Cave.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.