There was a little apprehension in the next leg of our #TravelMindanao adventure coming from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. We were headed northern counterpart of Cotabato this time and we can’t help thinking about its tainted reputation of sudden insurgencies. I’ve traveled to places like this while most of the time its safe, it helps to keep a low-profile so we were cautious. What ensued was the most arduous journey of #TravelMindanao in my opinion but rewarded with the sight of Asik-Asik Falls in Alamada, North Cotabato. Personally, one of the most enchanting and surreal falls I’ve seen in the Philippines.
Journey from Lake Sebu to Midsayap
We were down to four. We had to bid goodbye to PinayTravelista from this leg on as she had to attend to personal matters at home. The TravellingFeet, EscapeManila and BagdokOnTheRoad were my trusty companions in this semi-covert exploration. From Lake Sebu we head to Surallah (Php 35), an hour’s ride to transfer to Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. There was a fiesta that time in Sultan Kudarat and we had to take a quick van transfer near the rotunda in Isulan for Cotabato City (Php 120). Travel time was for the 89km ride was about 2 hours. We had our late lunch in Cotabato City then we rode a van for Midsayap (Php 60) which took about an hour. We arrived in Midsayap, North Cotabato by mid-afternoon.
The journey was really taxing it was a good decision we spend the night in Midsayap. We got a room for Php 1200 good for four at White Hut Inn, a large compound with a pool and is touted for its reliable security. We ventured downtown as well for dinner and to restock our supplies. Midsayap, for a small town is bustling with many tricycles on the road, a school and some commercial establishments.
Midsayap to Upper Dado, Alamada
And our journey to Asik-asik Falls continues the next day. We decided to just hire a couple of habal-habal to take us to Alamada, Upper Dado since we wanted to start early. There were actually jeeps available to Alamada but leaves at 10am. We checked out from White Hut Inn and left some of our luggage at their reception. We were on our way by 7am, heading back a short distance to Libungan then traversing the highway to Alamada. The 1.5 hours ride here was still manageable, there were sections of paved roads but most of them are dirt roads. No wonder they use heavy-duty large jeeps here. We even had to pass by a makeshift bridge over Raradangan River since the concrete bridge was destroyed from a recent flood. There’s a Php 20 fee just to pass by this improvised bridge.
Upon reaching Upper Dado, Alamada, North Cotabato, we had to leave our hired habal-habal for a while and transfer to a much more heavy-duty habal-habal. We paid an entrance of Php 30 at the tourism center where we also registered. The accredited habal-habal (Php 100 per motorbike) were already waiting by the side and we got a couple for us four passengers. The ride was about 30-minutes but it was the most hellish habal-habal ride I had. The road was really rough and rocky that butt-numbing was an understatement. You really have to hold on tight as it is easy to get thrown off from the motorbike in this ridiculously bumpy ride.
Enchanted by Asik-asik Falls
I breathe a sigh of relief as we finally reached the jump-off to Asik-asik Falls. There was a large pavilion where our habal-habal would wait and the place to get guides. From here on, it’s a short 20-30 minutes hike to the falls. It was a descending trail and I was just mesmerised by the rolling hills and mountains in the area. It reminds me so much of the pictures I see of Tuscany, sans the fall colors as these hills were all shades of green. Midway, there’s a 500+ descending stairway leading deep into the gorge. When we reached the stream, we finally got a glimpse of the falls.
The place was a set straight out of a fantasy novel where fairies, dwarves and other mystical creatures dwell. A 140 meter wide concave wall reaching up to 60 meters high covered with tropical plants like a vertical garden and water spewing out from random crevices. It’s not like any falls I’ve seen before with no main water source spewing from the top. In fact the stream is running against the direction of the falls. Just bizarre. I’m also glad the place isn’t badly developed. There are bridges, stairs, tables and chairs but they were all made of wood to keep the area as natural as possible.
Asik-asik Falls was just wonderful and relaxing that we spent about 3 hours in the place. We had the falls to ourselves arriving early and just had our bread snacks for lunch so we could maximise our time there. I took a dip at the icy waters. Chilly it may be, it was still refreshing. The wind draft from above made the place a lot cooler. I climbed up the rocks to enjoy the natural showers.
Long Road to Davao
It was sad we had to leave Asik-asik Falls sooner, I would want to stay longer in this place. There’s also another falls in the area named Daday falls which would be interesting to explore as well. We tracked back the way we went through including the extremely bumpy habal-habal ride back to Midsayap. We collected our bags from White Hut Inn and got on a van bound for Davao. It was another exhausting 5 hours travel which left us zoned out throughout the ride. Asik-asik falls is another gem in Mindanao I was glad to visit. It makes me think that sometimes places that have a bad rep can be an advantage to keep places like Asik-asik falls unspoiled. Then again, I think people deserve to know a wonderful place like this exist.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.