IF YOU were to search for ways to improve your mental health, Google will provide you with millions of links to websites on nature's healing impact.
But what if it's nature that needs healing instead?
It was for this reason that the Municipality of Samboan in southern Cebu decided to temporarily close Aguinid Falls for one month starting on June 17.
In a phone interview with SunStar Cebu last Monday, June 3, 2019, reelected Vice Mayor Emerito Calderon Jr. said the closure is an offshoot to the voluntary rehabilitation initiated by the Municipal Government and officials of Barangay Tangbo, where Aguinid is located.
“This is the first time we're closing the falls to let it heal since we opened it to the public in 2015. Nihinay pud ang tubig karon tungod sa El Niño, so saktong time na para makalimpyo (The volume of water also dropped due to the El Niño phenomenon, so it's only fitting to conduct a cleanup),” he said.
Aguinid has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the province since full operations started in 2016.
Aguinid is split into eight levels, with each level offering the trademark cascades of milky blue water.
Despite it being approximately 150 kilometers from Cebu City, tourists flock to the falls to embark on a trekking and swimming adventure for an entrance fee of P40.
Of the amount, P20 goes to the Municipal Government as environment fee, while P10 goes to the barangay and the other P10 goes to the honorarium of 30 volunteer tour guides.
According to Calderon, they recorded an estimated 150,000 local and foreign tourists in 2017 and 2018.
With Aguinid's growing popularity, especially with social media, Calderon said they saw the need to conduct a cleanup.
Some of the branches of nearby trees have reportedly clogged up waterways in the upper levels, threatening unsuspecting swimmers in the lower levels.
“We always conduct a cleanup drive every now and then, but it actually just depends on the need. The water is really decreasing, but it hasn't stopped even with the El Niño,” Calderon said.
The vice mayor belied reports of deep wells being constructed in the upper portions of the falls, saying that all developments need to pass through the Municipal Government for permit applications.
Calderon, though, revealed that there is a reservoir at the top of Aguinid.
He said the town's water consumption is taken from another source.
Earlier, incoming governor and outgoing Third District Rep. Gwen Garcia expressed plans to tap southern Cebu's surface water as a viable solution to Metro Cebu's water problem.
With southern Cebu boasting of several falls and rivers, Garcia said tapping surface water from these waterways might help augment Metro Cebu’s existing bulk water supply.
But aside from Aguinid, Samboan also boasts of seven other waterfalls.
While it may not be as famous as Aguinid, tourists also visit the Binalayan Falls in Barangay Bonbon and the Dao Falls in Barangay Suba.
Calderon said the same rules and fee regulations apply in all three destinations.
“But what's unique about Aguinid is that the other falls are not multi-leveled. It's easier to manage the other falls when it comes to cleaning. For now, we're focusing on cleaning Aguinid because it's the most popular,” he continued.
At the Provincial Capitol, outgoing Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, chairperson of the Provincial Tourism Commission, commend the efforts of Samboan.
“That is what we need. The environment suffers when there's so many visitors. I congratulate the local officials for the guts to do this and we will not wait for the National Government to look into our tourism destinations,” she said. (RTF)