|The Aliwagwag Falls – the tallest in the Philippines – as seen from the Aliwagwag Bridge.
An unfinished road through Compostela Valley to Cateel, Davao Oriental has cut the eight-hour travel time to the sleepy Pacific town by three hours. Thereby making its prime attraction, the Aliwagwag Falls, easier to visit. Composed of 84 cascades that reach a total height of 1,110 feet, the glorious waterfalls of Brgy. Aliwagwag is considered by many to be the tallest in the Philippines. For comparison, the popular single-tiered Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City is only 320 feet tall – that’s less than a third of the total height of Aliwagwag Falls!
|A closer look at the majestic cascades of Aliwagwag Falls
Half an hour’s ride from the main town will take you to the Aliwagwag Bridge, overlooking the massive cascades. This is the best vantage point from which to take photographs, though it would take some time for you to hike down the river and up a boulder to perfectly position yourself. The tricycle driver enthusiastically obliged to assist in taking pictures.
The area is surrounded by some of densest jungles I’ve seen in the Philippines, home to endemic wildlife. However, these forests are being threatened by illegal logging and gold mining; and wild animals are being illegally captured for food or pet trade. Along the way to the falls, children sell endemic Colasisis or Philippine Hanging Parrots (Loriculus philippensis) as pets.
The majestic multi-tiered waterfalls makes for an amazing, lesser known stopover on a trip along Mindanao’s Pacific coast, before venturing farther north to the more popular Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City and Enchanted River in Hinatuan, both in Surigao del Sur.
|An Colasisi or Philippine Hanging Parrot illegally sold as a pet
HOW TO GET THERE: From Davao City, Mallen and Lyra Express (5 hours, PHP 250) buses travel to Cateel via the unfinished Compostela-Cateel road. Both bus lines can be found in a parking lot behind the Davao Ecoland Terminal. Schedules are as follows: Mallen departs at 4:00 AM and 5:00 PM daily, while Lyra Express departs at 3 PM daily.
Bachelor Express at the Ecoland Terminal has more frequent trips, but they pass the longer route via Mati, Davao Oriental, which can take up to 8 hours.
On the Compostela-Cateel route, you will pass by Aliwagwag Falls, some 25 km before the town center. You can alight here during daytime, though you might have trouble finding a ride to town after. Alternatively, from Cateel town, you can negotiate with a tricycle driver to take you back to Aliwagwag Falls (PHP 200 return, 30 minutes each way).
WHERE TO STAY: If you need to spend the night in Cateel, stay at Oar Inn (Mobile: +63921 2343730 at Brgy. Poblacion along the national highway, where single rooms are at PHP 250.