*We were in the Cotabato region when the Maguindanao Encounter happened. We had to pass through several Maguindanao towns the day before the unfortunate incident. Part of the purpose of this blog, among other things, is to encourage others to travel to these wonderful destinations in the Philippines, but please do assess the situation in Mindanao before making any plans.
Video courtesy of John Rey Cuyos
From Cotabato City, we rode a van to Midsayap. The fare was P50 and the trip did not last for an hour. It was already dark so I couldn’t see a thing on the road but after checking the map when I got home, I found out that we had to pass by a couple of Maguindanao towns again.
We arrived in Midsayap, North Cotabato a little past 7pm. We checked in at White Hut Inn and Resort upon the recommendation of this blog. They had an air-conditioned room for P1500 that accommodated the six of us. At that rate, they also had a hot shower. We had to check out late the next day and they charged P100 per hour after 12noon.
We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant and after eating, my companions spoke to a tricycle driver to see if he could get us three habal-habals, two people on each, to take us to Asik-Asik Falls the next day. Then we went back to the inn to sleep the night off.
Early the next morning at 6am, we left for Alamada. There were three habal-habals waiting for us outside as promised by the tricycle driver the previous night. They charged P1000 for each habal-habal. It was a long and rough ride so this was reasonable.
I’m not usually comfortable riding a habal-habal anywhere but that was the only option. When it was on the highway, it was fine. But when it made a turn for the rough road, things just went awry.
The first part of the rough road was still manageable. Then we got to the part where rocks on the road started to get larger. I was just riding a motorcycle but I was sweating like hell. My butt and thighs were hurting and when we stopped, I could barely walk. Please note that this wasn’t the worst yet.
We reached Brgy. Dado in Alamada around 7:30am. The habal-habal ride felt like forever.
We had batchoy and coffee for breakfast in a store owned by an Ilonggo family. I was surprised to see that people here spoke Ilonggo with the same accent as I have.
It was strange being in the Cotabato region. People spoke different languages in each town. You can ride a van and hear four different languages being spoken. One town would speak Ilonggo, then the people in the next town spoke Bisaya, some spoke Tagalog and a few spoke a language I don’t understand but I assumed it was Tausug.
Anyway, after breakfast, we got ready for another habal-habal ride to the jump-off point to Asik-Asik Falls. We had to hire three more habal-habals for P75 each because it would be difficult to have two passengers on one habal-habal. Unlike the habal-habals we hired from Midsayap, the habal-habals in Brgy. Dado were built for the rough road. Some even had chains wrapped around their rear wheels.
I was assigned to the same habal-habal that I rode from Midsayap because as the driver put it, I looked light. A few meters ahead from the center of Brgy. Dado was the start of a dirt road. That road was slippery because it rained the previous night. A few meters into the dirt road and my habal-habal fell. Then one by one, the two other habal-habals from Midsayap started falling too.
The drivers and their motorcycles weren’t used to this type of terrain so they really had difficulties. The two women I was with, who were the ones assigned to the Midsayap habal-habals, and I were forced to walk because our drivers couldn’t manage to get their vehicles up the road. Thankfully, the Dado drivers fetched us and I was made to ride along with another companion for the rest of the road. One of our female companions still rode on the same Midsayap habal-habal and unfortunately, she fell four times.
We reached the jump-off point around 9am and at that time, we felt we already had the adventure of our lives. I took the warning about this lightly but boy was I wrong. It was the habal-habal ride of my life!
The view of the mountains around the jump-off point was scenic especially that lone house on top of a hill.
There was a registration fee of P30 each and we had to write our names on a logbook. There were a few stores at the jump-off point and one was even selling what would become our go-to meal, pastil. We bought a few pastils for lunch.
After a few minutes of rest, we started the walk down to the falls. The start of the trail was still mud but they had already started cementing most of it so it wasn’t that bad. They said the steps numbered 500 but I didn’t bother to count. Maybe there were indeed 500 steps.
We forgot about all our pains when we got to the falls. It was the most beautiful falls I have ever seen so far.
The water was just shallow but the current was strong especially under the tallest drop. I amused myself by walking along the rocks and getting dumped by the cascading water.
We were the only group of people in Asik-Asik the whole time we were there so we had the place all to ourselves. Other people only started arriving when we were heading back.
After more than an hour of enjoying the scenery and the water, we made our way back. But while we were crossing a log bridge, we found a snake eating a frog. This was the first time I ever saw this live. Even if the snake was small, it was still interesting to see it.
Climbing down the steps to the falls was pretty much easy but climbing up wasn’t. I was gasping for air when we reached the jump-off point.
We rested for a few minutes and paid the guide P100. Then we rode our assigned habal-habals back to the center of Brgy. Dado. The road this time had now dried up so the habal-habal had an easier time navigating it, although we almost fell once. We went back to two passengers on each habal-habal after stopping in Brgy. Dado. At this point, my tailbone was already sore and bruised so I was just so happy when we reached the highway.
We stayed at White Hut Inn until 3pm so we paid P300 for the extension of time that we spent there. We then proceeded to the terminal to ride a van going to Tacurong en route to Marbel in Koronadal where we were staying for the night before we go to Lake Sebu the next day.