When you were born and raised in the Zamboanga Peninsula but still foreign to the places nearby due to some parental restrictions and trust issues, getting around on a road trip in my home province from point A to point B can be a harrowing experience.
“James, do you know where that is?” my friends asked me in vernacular out of concern and curiosity or maybe out of boredom on this long road from the backseat of our car. I just grabbed my phone and showed them the screen, “I honestly don’t know guys but let’s put our trust on the map.”
But fear no more. Nothing’s worth it than arriving at point B without delays from lost of direction and unfamiliarity. Thanks to our driver, my uncle, who’s familiar with this route like the back of his hands.
Welcome to point B, Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte.
As soon as we stepped into the soil of the laidback town of Tampilisan, we had this much-unwanted attention from habal-habal drivers coming from every corner of the highway. But we’d rather have this crowd than nothing. Unpopular to most of the drivers, the distance and the very limited information about the waterfall made this a hard time to deal with. This brought forth to a very challenging bargaining bravado to meet everyone’s strings through a rightful agreement. It took us a while before snagging two habal-habal rides for four gutsy butts and bags.
I then said thanks to my uncle for tossing us a little of his time into his busy schedule and bid him farewell afterward. After Pulacan Falls, we’re now about to score our second waterfall for this day, Situbo Falls.
From the highway, the habal-habal ride took us to the barangay hall to have our names enlisted on their logbook. Some of the local officials asked us where we came from and were surprised with our answers. They wished us for our safety and good guidance while traveling the island of Mindanao. Such good people. Back on the road, the real coaster ride hit from a descent barangay road to the most unforgiving road so far here in Mindanao. These unpaved barangay roads occasionally opened to some rubber plantations — one of few sources of income to these remote places and barangays of Mindanao — and verdant forests of mahogany and coconut trees. Flourishing in the shadowy boscage of old-growth forest, these trees are abundant all throughout the whole island of Mindanao.
Almost an hour had passed, we came into these muddy barren lot to park our habal-habal. The surging waters can be heard from this distance. With the dark grey sky looming behind us, we swiftly traipsed down a steep path to the river bank.
There’s nothing more exciting than hiking down a ravine, hearing the wild surging water descending from an upstream river, and seeing for the first time a rough flow of water plunging straight down a deep catch basin. There’s always that moment of awe knowing that, that beautiful scene is tucked and hidden in the middle of a thick green forest, and there’s always that invitation to jump right into the turquoise-colored water. I almost did, just before one of our drivers gave an unsolicited story of a freshwater crocodile looming behind the bushes of the waterfalls when he was still little. Though he was just fooling us around, the thought of swimming the turquoise catch basin of the waterfalls never came back.
Still, the tranquility of the place and its elusiveness cannot be defined by mere words of a traveler. Only when one discovers this waterfalls can appreciate the wonder that we’ve seen. Indeed, this one of the untouched beauties of Zamboanga del Norte.
HOW TO GET TO SITUBO FALLS
Zamboanga del Norte is known for its twin cities of Dipolog and Dapitan. Other towns and municipalities of the province still remain quiet rather than competing the booming tourism of the twin cities but it does not mean they lack potential tourist attractions. Like this quiet little town of Tampilisan near the border of provinces of Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay, it humbles the tallest and the grandest waterfalls of the province. Getting there will quite take a toll of your time more on landtrips.
- Via Dipolog City or Dapitan City. Take a van/bus going to Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay and get off at the town of Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte. Travel time is more or less than 1 hour.
- Via Pagadian City. Take a van/bus going to Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay and get off at the town. Travel time is 2 hours. From Ipil, take another bus/van that is going to Dipolog City or Dapitan City and get off at Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte. Travel time is 1 hour.
- Via Zamboanga City. Take a van/bus going to Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay and get off at the town. Travel time is more than 2 hours. From Ipil, take another bus/van that is going to Dipolog City or Dapitan City and get off at Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte. Travel time is 1 hour.
- Habal-Habal Ride. Hire a habal-habal at the town of Tampilisan to Situbo Falls. The drivers will also be your guide. Travel time is 30 minutes. Then hike for more than 20 minutes before arriving at the falls.
- Please practice LNT principle. Do not loiter around the area. Minimize your voice.
- Always take with you your IDs. There might be random checkpoints around the area, especially when passing military camps. Just present your IDs to the authorities. This is just a normal routine here in Mindanao. No need to be anxious. Unless you’ve done something unlawful.
- ENJOY YOUR VISIT! Pull off a memorable experience.