Asik-asik Falls: long trip to the sprinkling wonder of North Cotabato

I can hear from a distance the noise of the gushing water as I trudged the trail down to the ravine where the famed Asik-asik falls is located. My eight-hour one way trip to that point was about to end. I stomped down the 376-step concrete stairs with careful steps to the forested portion of the mountain range in Sitio Dulao, Barangay Upper Dado, Alamada, North Cotabato, that keeps the unique curtain-like expanse of waterfalls.

Updated photo: Asik-asik falls expands up to 140 meters 


My knees were involuntarily shaking as I positioned my tripod-held camera to shoot from the point where one can have the first sight of the falls. 

Was it really worth the long trip? 

The looong journey

“Sir, Itlog, bibingka , orange? (Sir, you want boiled eggs, rice cake or orange juice)”, a bus terminal vendor asked me as if aware of a passenger’s predicament in waiting for long rides to proceed again. I heard the same invitation in all of five terminal stops from Koronadal City in South Cotabato going to the upland town of Alamada in North Cotabato. 

376 concrete steps. there's more before this.

I had to hop from bus to bus to a colossal six-wheeled jeep called double-tire to a slender but powerful motorbike we call skylab. All I have to remind me that I was still in Mindanao after hours of traveling alone was a screenshot of a Google Map with lines connecting road networks from Koronadal City to Alamada. 

I left Koronadal at 6:30 AM and had my first glimpse of the sprinkling wonder before 3:00 PM. The long journey entailed loads of patience, indeed. But more than the dreary rides I get to meet people who shared to me their precious time and useful information.

updated photo (Nikon D7100, 11-16mm)

Just a name 

Jeepney-loads of tourists usually flock to the falls area during weekends and caretakers leave at around 3:30 PM when the falls area becomes empty of the mortals. But the friendly caretaker Rene Recto waited for me until I was done with my tripod sessions at 4:30PM. I have the 140 meters wide and up to 25 meters high series of falls by myself to wonder and photograph…with a guard, if I may say. 
Updated photo: Asik-asik falls is  a source of clean water that comes directly from an underground source
I am an Ilonggo and the word asik-asik’s meaning isn’t a mystery to me. The Karay-a people, an ethnolinguistic group with origins from Antique province which dominates the area, popularized the term which means sprinkles in English. Kinaray-a, an Austronesian language spoken by the Karay-a people who settled in Alamada in the first half of the century, is the mother tongue of Ilonggo. 
File photo (D5100): Bridge to the camping area near the falls

Besides the Karay-as and the Ilonggos, Manobo and Iranon people share the place too. With the Iranon people admitting to have first discovered the falls they recently proposed to use the name Paguranan, still of the same meaning. Any of the two can be used but Asik-asik would always ring a bell. 

A phone photo to the world

Locals knew of the falls even before it was brought to fame. But kuya Rene who’s been a watchman even before the falls was opened to public in 2012 said it was in the same year when a photo of the falls finally got posted in Facebook (as if he knows about it or has an account in it) and went viral. A Karay-a local invited his soldier friend who owns a phone with a camera to the falls and the product of which was the first to have reached the social network. And the rest was…well, as you know it. 

Since the first viral photo phenomenon the village officials who managed the falls thought it’s becoming too big of a responsibility. Then came the provincial government of North Cotabato to the rescue.

enjoying the silence
Ralph Ryan Raphael, provincial tourism focal person whom I talked to over the phone after my trip, said the community is being involved in the management of the falls. Landowners whose properties were traversed by the trail are given livelihood related to tourism. There used to be conflicts among them and the local government but a settlement has been made for the benefit of all stakeholders. Livelihood programs were implemented for the locals. They have established amenities like cottages, sleeping quarters and stores at the welcome area with the program.

Healing water 

Kuya Rene waved at me signaling me to vacate the area. It was 4:30 PM. I wanted more of the calming sound of the falls, but we must leave. After a round of sun salutation I washed my face of the cold water and left. 

Asik-asik falls is considered mystical by the local tribes in Alamada. People here believe there is an unseen force that guards the place and that its water can dispel diseases, Kuya Rene said in Ilonggo. They believe that the falls is a blessing. With this news, visitors come to try their luck for its supposed power. He recounted a visitor from Manila who hired four men to carry him down to the falls so he can bathe in its cold and pristine waters. Was he healed? Only he can tell wherever he is now. 

Geological explanation

I’m no geologist and the idea I have of how Asik-asik came to life was from different theories I heard from different people and organizations. One theory, Kuya Rene told me as we hike back to the entrance area, was that the falls was formed after a great flood and landslide in 2008. Part of the mountain wall collapsed opening the cracks where the water now gushes out. 

A lone bamboo tree and corn crops stand on top of the mountain above the falls. It’s a mystery how the waters flow and seem won’t end. 

Sprinkling the energy to the universe

Zombo, the wandering zombie
In my interview with Sir Jim Flores, chief geologist of Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Region 12 (MGB-12), he said Asik-asik could have been there for thousands of years already. A series of volcanic activities around Mt. Ragang, an active stratovolcano settled on the boundaries of North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur and part of the Central Mindanao Arc, a strip of local active volcanoes which is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, from the past formed the ravine that serves as the wall for the falls. 

The bed rock within the mountain range is volcanic and is highly fractured. There is a water table higher than the riverbed which functions like a spring. A technical term for this is phreatic, meaning there is a fixed water table near the surface. The water table could extend far to higher elevations. It is indeed a unique formation according to the chief geologist. 

Will the falls dry up in time? Never, he said. It might get affected by the drought but it will never dry up. 

Asik-asik falls will remain in that balding mountain range for a long time. We could only pray that it will not fall victim to the deadly form of mass tourism where mortals and its creativity prevail over the innocence of nature. 
Asik-asik panorama (Olympus TG-620)

The uphill climb to the entrance area was obviously harder than going down. It was getting dark and I won’t make it back to my hometown for sure. But who cares? Got a few shots of the falls and finally felt its energy. That’s more than enough to bid temporary goodbye to one of the most gorgeous falls I’ve ever seen. 

Namaste. []

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How to get there: 

From General Santos City’s Bulaong Terminal take a Yellow Bus to Koronadal City (1 hour, 83 pesos). From Koronadal City take another Yellow Bus to Tacurong City (45minutes, P45). 

In Tacurong City look for a Rural Transit Bus bound for Cagayan. Tell the Conductor to drop you off at Kabacan in North Cotabato (2 hours, P150). 

In Kabacan look for Weena Bus heading to Cotabato City. Tell the driver to drop you off at Midsayap town (1 hour, P55).

In Midsayap From the corner where Weena buses stop take a tricycle to the terminal (P8 to P10).

Look for the Double-Tire Jeeps bound for Barangay Dado, Alamada. Make sure it’s in Dado, otherwise you’ll be dropped at Alamada town center which is still far from the falls (2.5 hours - P70). 

From Dado, find a skylab to take you to Asik-asik. The road is super bad when I went there. Each skylab can only hold 2 persons as per the local government’s policy (30 minutes, P75).

But if you’re from Alamada town proper, going to Asik-asik falls cost P300 one way or 600 if you want the same motorcycle to wait for you and take you back. 

Include waiting time for you trip when you make your own itinerary.

Advisories:

Entrance fee to the falls is P30. 

There are sleeping quarters for rent at the entrance area at P300 a night.

Cellular Phone signals for all networks are very poor or nothing at all from Barangay Dado to the falls area. Although there are “spots” where Globe network is present. 

Affordable restaurants are available near the terminals and town centers. I suggest you eat in Midsayap or Alamada town proper before heading to the falls. 

Peace and order in the area is maintained by the local government and the community. I feel secured all throughout the trip. 

Special thanks:


To Kuya Rene for waiting for the wanderer who came in late and for the stories about the falls.

To my couch hosts in Alamada, Maam Lovelyn and her husband Mark. I love the ginataang haluan you prepared for me. To my sister Louella, too, for connecting with my hosts.

Cheers!


10 comments:

  1. great experience... the scene is sooo terrific! so beautiful and mysterious.

    t'was the great crowd that spoilt the view when i visited there.

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    Replies
    1. yeah! i agree with you, sir.
      and the crowd...i was so lucky to have arrived there late, the landscape was clear of the mortals. hehe.
      cheers!

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  2. This is in my homestead. ^_^ I posted about this last May 2012 (http://creativitywindow.com/2012/05/introducing-asik-asik-falls-the-pride-of-alamadians)using the photos of Joy Urbano. The photos were posted by Joy on Facebook on April 23, 2013.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. good to know that, sir. i just hope the local government's and the people's efforts to preserve and protect the place will be doubled.
      cheers!

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    2. I haven't been the place because I am now an OFW, but hopefully I will be there before this year ends. Last year, my younger brother visited Asik-asik and he shared with the photos of the area after it was initially developed. It is nice, indeed.

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  3. informative documentation! thanks...

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  4. Wow sir louie, nice photographs. Ever since Asik Asik falls was featured on TV, I added this to my future trips. Hope to see it one day soon. From Cotabato City, how long is the travel time?

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    Replies
    1. thanks, Izah. it's around 3 hours from Cot city. (Cot City-Midsayap-Alamada route) It's a must-visit place, really.
      thanks for dropping by.
      cheers!

      Delete

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