Though I am from Mindanao (from South Cotabato on the south-western side), I need to really schedule a trip there because my work is in Manila, some 900 km away. “Tinuy-an” in fact means “to purposely or intentionally visit”, from the root word “tuyo” which means purpose or intent in the Visayan dialect.
The chance came during one of my regular trips home. As soon as I landed in General Santos, I took a 3-hour bus ride to Davao together with my wife and some friends. From Davao, it’s another 5-6 hours van ride to Bislig. Talk about “visiting purposely”: 1 hour and 45 minutes plane ride and a 9-10 hour land travel. By the time we arrived in Bislig it was already around 7 in the evening. After a quick dinner I fell on the bed like a log.
We woke up by 4AM and thirty minutes later was already en route to the falls. I wanted to shoot the falls before the swimming crowd gets in and before the harsh light breaks through.
From Bislig, it’s another 20 minutes ride via a 12-kilometer unpaved road. There was a time when it was really difficult to get to the falls. For one, the falls is remote (no established road before) and located in a private land owned by a now defunct company called PICOP (used to be the largest paper mill, not only in the Philippines, but also in the whole of Asia). The area was also infested with insurgents, so it’s not unusual to come across check points manned by the rebels.
My first reaction when I first saw the falls up close was that of a kid in a toy store in Christmas: elation! The volume of the water was not big, but it gave the falls a different look. The beautiful wall of rock is clearly seen behind a thin veil of white water.
We wasted no time and got down to business, breakfast can wait.
Soft morning light fell on the falls, making the rock wall glow. We stopped shooting when the sun was fully up, grabbed some breakfast (juicy steamed cholesterol-loaded mud crabs!) with our eyes still fixed on the falls. The anticipated rainbow appeared on cue (the locals said a rainbow always appear between 7-9AM).
One cool dip in an amazingly clear water and a big lunch of crabs (again!), prawns, and broiled fresh catch later, we were back in Tinuy-an.
The thin volume of water was an advantage for we can get close to the upper levels and see the layers and layers of beautiful rock. The upper level looked like it was a deliberately designed rock garden, complete with cascades.
It was already twilight when I had my fill of shooting Tinuy-an. The crowd had left for the evening and the place was once again pleasantly deserted.
I took a shower and changed into fresh clothes and prepared to head back to the city, but not before taking a few more parting shots. It may need some strong intent to visit Tinuy-an, but it certainly won’t disappoint. I will be back there again, that’s for sure.
Developing the place does not really mean building and congesting the place with concrete structures. Word has it that the local government is planning to build a large resort hotel near the falls. Development can mean making the place more accessible while preserving its original state, better waste/garbage management and disposal.