Grandeur of Aliwagwag Falls-A A +A
Thursday, July 26, 2012
THE stunning grandeur of Aliwagwag Falls nestled in Cateel, Davao Oriental never fails to elicit gasps and awe from passersby and tourists, but remains to be an undiscovered ecotourism destination because of its far-flung and remote location. At 338 meters high with a jaw-dropping 84 cascading tiers in varying heights, it is said to be the highest and one of the most uniquely beautiful in the country.
I struggled on a hired motorcycle to get to this area (three of us were sharing a seat, with me at the end constantly slipping down). The dirt road is flanked by a dense forest thick with heavy trees and occasional cluster of villages. Surviving for years within this woodland is the country’s tallest tree, Philippine Toog, standing majestically as you pass by these giant wonders.
Reaching the falls up close is quite another experience because it is just beside the highway and a sight to behold. Somewhere up the topmost tier lies one of many significant caves, said to be an ancient sacred burial location of the tribes.
I first visited the falls sometime back in 2001 when I anchored a special travel episode of Davao Oriental for a US cable production. The invigorating waters was cool to the skin as I remembered taking a dip in its clear pool which flows freely towards the Cateel river, renowned for having been awarded as the cleanest river in the region by then. At that time, the Aliwagwag Bridge was newly constructed which connects the municipality of Cateel to Compostela Valley. It would also speed up travel in 4-5 hours by private car from Davao City (5-6 hours if by Mati City). Buses ply the route daily, and it is easier to reach the municipality of Aliwagwag on such roads today than before.
Declared by our President Noy Aquino as the Aliwagwag Protected Landscape under Republic Act No. 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, it protects the mountain range and its peripheral areas as Buffer Zone, “subject to private rights, and without prejudice to the rights of indigenous peoples.” This has been a bill sponsored by then Congressman Cora Malanyaon before she became the provincial governor of Davao Oriental today, and she has long rallied for its protection and conservation.
Aliwagwag Falls is not only known for its imposing vista, but its enormous volume of flowing waters that drains into the Cateel River plays a significant and critical role in the irrigation of rice fields in Davao Oriental. It is not only a blessing to the province and the locals, but a beautiful vision worth every photographer's trek.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 26, 2012.