Water is my element and this province is overflowing with water that it comes from above, under, and on all sides. It is no wonder then that it was quite easy for me to fall in love with this province for its vast water attractions that captivates and enchants you. From its majestic views to its enchanting stories, Surigao del Sur is definitely a charmer.
Located on the eastern coast of Mindanao, Surigao del Sur is the 56th province of the country that was created after the mother province Surigao was dissolved in 1960. The mother province was broken down to three new provinces – Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and the Dinagat Islands. Its name is derived from the word “suligao” that means “spring water”.
Interestingly, the main tourism draw of Surigao del Sur are two natural attractions where spring water flows. One offers a majestic view while the other one enchants its guests. These two popular destinations provide a balance to the laidback vibe of its communities. Let’s hop aboard a habal-habal for a quick daytrip to explore two popular tourist spots that make this province a Surig-Wow!
It took us about an hour of habal-habal travel from Hinatuan to get to the City of Bislig. The city is, geographically, the easternmost city of the Philippines and it is the most populous in the Surigao del Sur. Bislig is a tourism destination known for its ecotourism. It has a handful of tourist destinations from its beaches to its grand waterfalls.
Too bad that I was not able to prepare for this trip and I only allotted half a day to explore the city. I highly recommend to give Bislig City a day to those who will plan a trip to the city dubbed as the “Booming City by the Bay”.
Tinuy-an Falls is Bislig City’s tourism icon. The multi-tierred waterfall has been featured in different travel madazines and shows because of its natural beauty.
Dubbed as the “Little Niagara Falls of the Philippines”, Tinuy-an Falls is the widest waterfall in the country with a cascade spanning 95 meters wide. Its name comes from the Cebuano word “tinuyo-an” which is rougly translated to mean “a place that you’ll keep coming back to”. Its beauty is definitely one that you would always want to re-visit and enjoy.
Fresh water cascades at a height of 180 feet creating a white curtain water along its rock surface. The most photographed part of the four-level waterfall is the second level. The third and the fourth cascade are hidden from the view. I was informed by one of the manongs in the area that one can climb up a trail to get to the third level but I opted not to since the trail looked risky to me.
Tinuy-an Falls is very majestic. Its wide cascade provide you with different a different personality of the waterfalls. The best time to go there is in the morning because with the right angle you will be able to catch a rainbow on the right-side of the waterfall. We were also lucky that we came in on a weekday and there were only a few visitors.
The park is developed and maintained. If you want to get closer to the cascade, you can rent a bamboo raft to get closer to the waterfall.
Bislig City Baywalk
As we headed back to Hinatuan, we made a short stop by the Baywalk of the city. The viewdeck gives you a panoramic view Bislig Bay. The long stretch of the beachfront is now being developed into an attraction of the city.
One can also have a picture with the “I Love Bislig” sign here with the sea as its backdrop. Too bad though that beach was not as inviting because it looked a “muddy”. Our habal-habal driver did confirm that the beach is muddy in this area of the Surigao del Sur.
The quaint town of Hinatuan is a charmer. I love its rustic and laidback small-town vibe. The lazy afternoons by the breakwaters, the basketball games at the plaza, or the crowds by the food stalls near the plaza. The plaza is the focal area for community activities. These is where they congregate to share stories, play a game, or just simply enjoy the late afternoon buzz.
Evenings are peaceful. Everyone seems to be in their homes in the early evening so you don’t get to see anyone around except for the occasional visitors of a 24-hour convenience store near the plaza. This is the life that most city dwellers would dream of.
Hinatuan Enchanted River
The Hinatuan Enchanted River evokes a mystical vibe. Its deep blue waters and the surrounding foliage is a very relaxing sight that it never fails to captivate its guests. The view and the vibe are so perfect that you would want to stay a little longer just to breathe in its beauty.
The deep spring river has its own story to tell. Local folklores tell the story of “engkantos” that live in the area to serve as the protector of the river. The story goes that the fairies added the colors of sapphire and jade to the river to give it its unique color. These legends are shared to guests through the poem “Rio Encantado” and the song “Hymn of Hinatuan”. The song serves as the haunting background music and narrative during the fish feeding activity.
The river runs very deep into the ground. A number of explorations were already done where a hidden cave and an underwater chamber were discovered. Fresh water flows out of the cave and mixes with saltwater as it drains to the Hinatuan Bay. Swimming is no longer allowed at the mouth of the cave but guests can still take a dip on designated swimming areas. You would notice that the current going out to the sea is very strong, indicating the flow of water.
The tourism complex is now being developed in the area. It was good to see that dining facilities were constructed far away from the actual site of the river. This prevents unnecessary trash from getting into the river. It was also nice to see that there are efforts to really preserve the natural beauty of the place. I just hope that it would be sustained through the coming years as more people visit the place.
The complex also serves as the jump-off point for the Hinatuan Bay island hopping. For a rate of Php500, one can already explore the islands of Hinatuan Bay. The tour will also give you a peek as to where the waters of the Hinatuan Enchanted River meets the sea.
Sibadan Fish Cage
The Sibadan Fish Cage is one destination that you should not miss out when you find yourself in Hinatuan. The resort, on stilts, is tucked on one side of Hinatuan bay and offers an amazing view of its surrounding areas. It is a popular spot in the region for its stingray interactions.
At the heart of the resort is a fishpen that is the home of big talakitoks, baby sharks, and stingrays. There are two landings where guests can interact with these sea creatures. You will be amazed at how sweet the stingrays are when they swim by your side. You can buy a plate of small fish at Php20 to feed these gentle creatures. Initially, the size may look intimidating but, once you get the hang of it, you find stingrays are very gentle creatures.
The resort also has a restaurant that offers fresh seafoods cultured from their own fish cages. For those who opt to stay overnight, they also offer overnight accommodations.
Lodestone Shores Resort
If you want a little adrenalin rush, Lodestone Shore Resorts is the place to check out. The resort is picturesque with its platform connected to the island via a wooden walkway. Its laidback vibe is a perfect spot to enjoy the afternoon sun.
The resort also has three platforms where adrenaline junkies can jump off into the aquamarine-colored waters of the bay. There is an activity for every kind of guest. You can enjoy an afternoon sun with chill music or you can opt to shout your heart out as you plunge in to the waters of Hinatuan Bay.
Rock Island is rock islet along Hinatuan Bay. The rock formation is the main attraction of the resort. Wooden structures and walkway platforms were built around it giving the place a relaxed vibe.
Like other spots in in the area, the area was developed around a natural feature to give the guests a different experience.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
With Tinuy-an Falls and the Hinatuan Enchanted River at the helm of its tourism drive, Surigao del Sur is a province that holds promise as a tourist destination. Its beautiful spots, its rustic and charming small-town vibe, and the warm hospitality of its people complete the whole travel experience. Too bad that the #CommunityQuarantine had me cutting short my CARAGA backpacking trip that had me missing out on some of its other attractions. I guess I would have to plan out another CARAGA trip to discover interesting spots on this side of Mindanao.
The province of Surigao del Sur is a haven for travelers. It is slowly getting more traction in its tourism drive. It is no longer just Tinuy-an and Hinatuan. There are beach spots to discover, islands to explore, and strong waves to hitch a ride on. As the province slowly opens its doors to the world, I hope that these new destinations will be developed to improve and sustain the local communities around these destinations.
Getting there: Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have regular flights to Butuan City from Manila and Cebu. From the Bancasi Airport, take a taxi and jeep to the bus station for buses and vans departing for Mangagoy, Bislig. You can ask the driver to drop you off at Hinatuan. There are a number of inns and hostels in Hinatuan.
For habal-habal services for Tinuy-an and Enchanted River, you can reach Kuya Jessie at (0910) 644 3428.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.