“Daddy, can we go faster.”
Asher quipped as we zoomed our way to the viewing deck of Maria Cristina Falls aboard a “habal-habal” – a motorcycle used as public transport in the provinces where three adults, and a little girl in our case, are made to fit on it. It is not the safest way to get around but definitely it is an exciting and faster mode of travel. We were able to cover our one day Iligan itinerary to only half a day.
The decision to just go to Iligan City from Cagayan de Oro was a spur of the moment decision after our initial plan was scrapped. Rather than getting stuck in the city for a day, I decided to just bring Asher and Weng to an afternoon of discovery in Iligan.
Welcome to Iligan City!
The City of Iligan is known as City of Majestic Waterfalls as it has a total of 24 waterfalls within the city. The thriving metropolis of Lanao del Norte form the other component of the Cagayan de Oro – Iligan economic development area for Northen Mindanao. The city’s economy thrives on industries that made Iligan its home and the tourist attractions of the city.
Having 24 waterfalls within its jurisdiction, our “habal-habal” driver confirmed that one can visit all 24 in 2 days. Some roads are rough but all waterfalls were accessible using a motorcycle. Our itinerary for the trip, due to time constraints, was limited to the three most visited falls in the city that forms its tourism triangle – Maria Cristina Falls, Mimbalut Falls, and Tinago Falls with a short visit to the Macapagal Ancestral House.
Maria Cristina Falls – Elegantly Majestic
Maria Cristina Falls is the poster image of Iligan City and, without a doubt, deserves the title. It prides itself with its twin falls because the flow of water is divided at the top by a huge rock. Water falls from a height of 320 meters and the force that it generates is harvested by the Agus VI Hydroelectric Plant and serves as an electric power source in the region.
Maria Cristina Falls looked elegant and majestic from the view deck. The sound of her mighty “roar” showed that she was definitely a force to be reckoned with. You can really feel the sheer force that she releases from the deck and by watching the strong flow of water heading downstream. You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of the water crashing down. Nevertheless, she was a real beauty to admire.
Since Maria Cristina Falls is under the jurisdiction of the hydroelectric plant, the firm has managed to develop its area to include a mini-zoo, viewing decks, and even a small shop to cater to its guests. Guests get to see these sites within the compound as part of its tour for a very minimal fee.
The Macapagal Ancestral Home - Two Presidents and A Home
Comfortably nestled along the national highway is the home of two Philippine Presidents – the Macaraeg-Macapagal Ancestral House. The house was declared a heritage house in 2002 and served as the first house where two Philippine Presidents lived, the late President Diosdado Macapagal and, his daughter, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The quaint 2-floor house sits on a sprawling lawn. On one area is the playhouse of former President Gloria when she was a young girl. The miniature house is complete with a bedroom, a kitchen, and a porch. You can reckon that little Gloria probably had so much fun running around the lawn and retiring inside her miniature house.
The house was probably one of the grandest in the city during earlier days. It has a small office where the former Presidents probably received guests. The first floor had the receiving and dining area while the second floor houses the rooms of the family. On display are the personal heirlooms and effects of the family. Interestingly, a painting of the young Gloria is one of the highlights of the house which gives you the impression that she was probably the family's baby.
Mimbalut Falls - Chilling By The Falls
Just a few minutes from the Macapagal Ancestral House is a waterfall where chilling is the way to go. Mimbalut Falls is known for its rock surface where water cascades down to its base. Its water source is the same as that of Maria Cristina Falls. The falls is open to the public however one area is prvately owned and access to this part will require additional fees.
Mimbalut Falls is definitely tamer than Maria Cristina Falls. It allows guests to enjoy its waters along its surface where water cascades. You can climb onto its rocks where you can enjoy the gentle flow of its cold waters. It is a great way to relax from the heat of riding on a “habal-habal” under the afternoon sun.
Tinago Falls – The Beauty in Hiding
Around 20 minutes through paved inland roads of Baranggay Ditaculan is the drop off point of Iligan’s hidden beauty. The Tinago Falls experience is highlighted by a short trek through a 500-step that leads down to the base of the falls. The falls is located in a deep ravine of the city where water cascades beautifully from height of 73 meters onto a blue lagoon. It is a beauty that is well-hidden hence the name “tinago” or hidden.
As you embark on the trek, you would notice abandoned structures along the way. Apparently, a resort was once built in the area to cater to guests and tourists. Unfortunately, the resort got bankrupt and was forced to abandon its concrete structures. Locals have said that there are efforts to revive the resort but they are still waiting for actual plans to start rolling.
Tinago Falls is my personal favorite among the three falls. Its elegant beauty just simply captivated me. It was soothing to watch water cascading like rain on its rock surfaces covered with greens. It looked and sounded like rain failing onto the lagoon complete with mist rising from its base. It was surreal to just watch the beauty of Tinago Falls on the sidelines.
One can enjoy a cool dip in the lagoon. You can also hop on a raft that will bring you at the base of the falls where you can enjoy a soft massage from its cascading waters. You can also climb onto a small cave found at its base where you can enjoy the thunderous sound of water falling.
Tinago Falls is definitely a great way to end our half-day adventure of chasing waterfalls in Iligan.
Post Travel Notes
Our half-day tour of Iligan City has given us a glimpse of the city’s natural beauty. It was a totally new experience for me and Asher. It was actually our first time to enjoy getting drenched by the cool waters of a waterfall and to hop on a habal-habal and enjoy the views of the city, the unconventional way. The three waterfalls, Maria Cristina, Mimbalut, and Tinago, are definitely a good way to start your exploration of Iligan City as it will leave you in awe. There is a taste of history in Iligan as evidenced by the Macapagal Ancestral House. The city still has a lot to offer and it piqued my curiosity to plan out a more exciting trip to the city. This time I think I should try conquering all 24 waterfalls. Anyone up for a challenge?
You should try to do something new and different when you travel. It gives you that extra thrill and excitement. It will also enhance your travel experience. That something new can leave you with a bigger smile after the trip. In our case, it now falls under our “habal-habal” journals.
Getting There: The gateway of Iligan City by air is Laguindingan Airport. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air have direct flights to Cagayan de Oro daily from Manila and from major cities of the country. From Laguindingan Airport, you can then hop on a van to bring you to Iligan City which is about 45 minutes from the airport.
You can also take boat ferries that will bring you directly to Iligan City.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.