I have been in many places in Mindanao.
In fact, I went white water rafting in Cagayan De Oro, did a tour in Marawi, saw sunken cemetery in Camiguin,rode the colorful tricycle in Bukidnon,awed by the majestic Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City, lakeside viewing in Lake Mainit of Surigao, enjoyed the downpour in Sagpulon Waterfalls in Misamis Oriental, cruised along Agusan River in Butuan, swam in Pearl Farm in Samal Island and enjoyed Kadayawan Festival and nature tripping in Davao City. Still, I can't say that I've been in Mindanao (or the whole of it) since Mindanao encompasses six administrative regions which are further subdivided into 26 provinces. At most, I have been to Northern Mindanao and a few places in Southern Mindanao.
As Mindanao is the second largest group of islands in the Philippines (Luzon being the largest and Visayas the smallest in terms of land area), a random visit to a few places will not justify a label - positive or negative for the whole of Mindanao. So depending on who writes it, Mindanao is stereotyped either as the " notoriously turbulent area " or a Land of Promise. Conflicting right? With that I learned not to just take the writer's word for it. For the ones that are known to be tension-free like the ones I visited, I come to see it for myself!
And so it was for Cateel, one of the oldest towns in northeastern Davao Oriental. Travel Teller Olan Emboscado's entry to Hometown Blog Carnival in May 2011 that I hosted gave me a foretaste of Cateel's pride like the majestic Aliwagwag Falls. The pictures on Travel Teller's post are postcard perfect. But I knew that Cateel really has to be seen in person to be appreciated. So aboard the Mallen Express, my friend Nilo and I left Davao City at 5 in the morning last August 22, 2011. We didn't have reservations but glad the front seats were vacant. The next five (5) hours travel on alternating paved and rugged roads via Compostela Valley was filled with fun anticipation but with a slight worry of the unknown since Cateel is in the outskirts. To date, this trip maybe my bravest stint in traveling.But it is so worth it!
The Municipality of Cateel ( named after a kind of rattan that abounds in the place) is bounded on the North by the Municipality of Boston, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the South by the Municipality of Baganga, and on the west by Compostela Valley. In October 29, 1903, Cateel was created as a municipality under the American military government with a long and varied history in its cap. I learned that the Spaniards took the town in 1614, but lost it to the Americans in 1900. Now, Cateel will personally be remembered as home to my memorable moments of friendship, adventure, excitement, pleasures and delights in another place in Mindanao. Truly, there is so - called Mindanao Bliss.
Friendship and Adventure
Arrived in Cateel at around 11 in the morning. PTB Olan's brother Roderick "Dodong" Emboscado picked us up from the bus station and brought us to their home where we have stayed for the night. He also contacted a motorcycle owner who was our adventure buddy for the day.
Motorcyles is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to travel the off-roads condition on the way to Barangay Aliwagwag, the home of the enchanting Aliwagwag Falls. Problem is I have a motorphobia (or the fear of riding two -wheeled vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles).Thanks to the friendly and helpful motorcycle driver slash tour guide slash photographer and other neighbors. Sitting at the rear for 45 minutes one way from Poblacion to Barangay Aliwagwag, I had the ultimate heart-pumping thrills of my life. And Aliwagwag Falls did not disappoint.
Excitement, Pleasures and Delights
Aliwagwag Falls is said to be the highest in the Philippines with 1,110 feet and one of the most beautiful falls in Mindanao. It is a series of 84 falls cascading like stairway to heaven with various heights among the steps in the midst of virgin forest. I felt a sense of pride for overcoming my fear and not missing this majestic beauty. I bet, I am one of the few travelers who are able to see the Aliwagwag Falls up close and personal.
We wrapped up our Cateel scenic nature tour enjoying the Maglahus Bridge (which again I have a phobia but I managed to cross it while playing with the kids), sunset viewing and sumptuous dinner at Santa Filomena Beach, visit to the St. James Church and enjoying the cool night at the Cateel Centennial Park with the tallest Jose Rizal Monument. Indeed, an overnight pack trip of another Mindanao Bliss! But don't take my word for it,come and visit Cateel to agree!!!
This is my entry to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for November with the theme ‘Mindanao Bliss’ being hosted by Travel Teller Olan Fernandez Emboscado.
For previous Blog Carnival topics please visit Estan Cabigas' Langyaw.