Chasing Waterfalls: A Side Trip to Tinago Falls

Photo by Ronald

While writing this, I couldn’t help but mumble TLC’s signature song, ”Waterfalls”, remembering how we traveled from Cebu via Ozamis to Iligan City to catch a glimpse of this awe inspiring falls named Tinago – Tagalog word which means “hidden”, the falls being hidden in a deep ravine. This is actually a side trip for a major climbing traverse in Bukidnon and I’m glad to have visited this place. Contrary to what other people say, Tinago Falls is located in the municipality of Linamon, Lanao del Norte – not in Iligan City. After depositing our luggage at a local pension house in Iligan, we started hunting for information on how to reach Tinago Falls. Some habal-habal driver asked us a fee of 250 per pax one way (that’s ₱500 back and forth) citing the distance and uphill terrain of the area. This is a ridiculous amount and I ain’t paying a dime. So we chose to ride a jeepney heading to the market terminal, and from there another jeep ride bound for Buru-un. We stopped at the Linamon national highway and mounted the local habal-habal until we reached the gateway of Tinago. Just to demonstrate the practical side of things, each of us spent a total fare of ₱142.00, significantly lower than the ₱500.00 asking price of the previous driver. Don’t be a pushover and watch out for opportunists.

At the gates of Tinago Park and Resort, we were greeted by a friendly tour guide. When I asked how much the guide fee is, Jerry said the tourism office forbids a specific amount to be collected – it shall depend on the tourists how much they’re willing to give. We descended a series of concrete stairs comprised of 436 steps. From a distance, the waterfall had been like a silent white stream cascading over the rocky outcrops. It was Saturday and a lot of people have flocked the area, having their family picnics in one of the concrete table tops. Albeit wearing a life vest, I did not take the plunge but we rode a bamboo raft towards the bottom of the falls. The deafening roar of the water was the kind where torrents are poured over rocks hard enough to crack your skull. Yet again, I gazed in amusement at this wonderful creation of nature. The water resembles that of Bomod-ok Falls in Sagada or Kawasan Falls in Cebu. Have you ever wondered why most waterfalls share the same blue-green color? This is due to large amounts of calcium carbonate in the water that formed the limestone that lines the creek and reflects its color so strongly.

You know, I’ve always been envious of people who can swim. Oh, what I’d give to experience floating freely through the ripples and swoop underwater to see the formations at the bottom.

Two years ago, I promised myself to learn swimming but my fear for open water, bordering thalassophobia, always gets the best of me. That’s what happens when, during childhood and you were playing along the edges of the marsh outside your house in the countryside, and your nanny told you about stories of crocodiles and sea monsters and how they took their victims to their lair, never to be found again. This was such a scary story that would surely frighten a child of any origin. I was this child and it stuck on me from then on. And though I’m more of a rational thinker now, there are moments when I shiver at the vast emptiness of the sea, that something might grab my legs and pull me down under. I’m not crazy alright? Not yet. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the overall experience. Chasing waterfalls is actually a fun activity with family and kids and I was surprised that a place as unexpected as Lanao del Norte harbors a scenic view like Tinago. Hopefully, beyond global warming and increasing levels of consumerism, this place will last for generations to come.


On our way up, I faced my least favorite structure – the same 436 flight of steps – that built up the lactic acid in my muscles and made me catch my breath. In one of the trees, we saw a monkey swinging high up the branches, unsure if it’s a pet or a wild one.

In Philippine Mythology

Legend has it that there once lived an influential and powerful Sultan Agok and his wife. They were appointed by their people as their king and queen. But they became too proud of themselves and became selfish rulers of their kingdom. When the sultan’s wife was pregnant, an enchantress, disguised as a beggar, begged for their help but instead they exiled and rejected her. Because of this, the enchantress cursed the couple that the child will become ugly but they did not take it seriously and permanently banished the enchantress.

The child did become ugly. The couple was sad and disappointed, expecting the baby to be as lovely as her mother. They hid the child in a cave to avoid embarrassment and named the baby Tin-ag, which means “hidden face”. They visited and took care of the baby in the cave.

When the child grew up, she came out of the cave and became amazed at what she saw. The enchantress, who cursed her parents, saw her and made an offer to transform her into something of great beauty and splendor. She accepted the offer and became the Tinago Falls. [Wikipedia]

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