Location: Brgy. Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur
If there was one thing that questioned my mortality and resolve to pursue this ambitious travel project, it was my trip to Tudaya Falls.
This segment in my ten-day Mindanao Backpacking Adventure did not start well.
First, it took for the van going to Kapatagan three hours to be filled up with passengers. So much precious time was lost while in Digos City. Instead of having much time to explore Kapatagan and see a number of waterfalls, I opted to go to Tudaya Falls.
Second, the habal-habal motorcycle’s front wheel was punctured by sharp stones as we were approaching the AboitizPower’s Tudaya 1 Hydroelectric Power Plant. So, I had to walk down about a kilometer to reach the jump off point. I had to ask several locals for the right direction. Thankfully enough, when I saw a house with some Bagobos inside, someone volunteered to accompany down to the falls.
But what nearly broke the proverbial camel’s back was during the climb back to the village. As we were rushing back because a heavy downpour just began, I collided with a stone along trail. In an instant, I was clinging for dear life on the ravine. I shouted for help from my guide and quickly he pulled me up from the clutches of death.
In all the years that I have been doing the Chasing Philippine Waterfalls Project, that was my closest encounter with death. And thankfully enough, it was not my time yet. My wife was just in her first trimester of pregnancy at that time. I could never have seen Sophia Nathalie.
At 100 meters in height, Tudaya Falls is said to be the tallest in Mount Apo Natural Park. It bears resemblance with Katibawasan Falls in Camiguin. Both plunges from a deep ravine into a wide basin. Tudaya then gently flows down to the Sibulan River towards Davao Gulf. When the power plant became operational, the flow of the water was drastically reduced thus stymied the brute strength of Tudaya. Nevertheless it is as still majestic on that rainy afternoon. Even made it more beautiful and serene because I had the falls all by myself.
So as we were negotiating our way back to the main road, the rain released its fury. Good thing that there was a house along the way. We stopped by to wait for the downpour to stop. The owner of the house we stopped by offered a freshly brewed coffee. Probably the most aromatic coffee I ever had! I learned that he is one of the coffee growers contracted by Nestle.
When the rain stopped, I started to walk back to the rendezvous point with the habal habal driver. Alas! He was not there. So I had to walk up a little further until I saw several houses and inquired the locals if there are still habal habal going back to Kapatagan. Someone took a pity on me and brought me back just as darkness started to set in. He went as far as looking for me a ride going back to Digos en route to Davao City.
The day may not have started right but it was more than compensated by the natural beauty of Tudaya Falls, the sight of the imposing Mount Apo, the freshly brewed highland coffee, and the hospitality, generosity and kindness of the Bagobo people. Indeed, all’s well that ends well.