Blessed by a Water Veil

Saturday, August 05, 2017

asik asik falls
At first, it was like we were just visiting relatives – which, technically, we were – only that it was on short notice, already 10PM, and that we didn't really know where else to go in Davao. For the record, it was not my intention to barge in on my aunt and uncle so late into the night. On the plane, I even pictured me, my fiancé Dennis, and them having a nice dinner at some local restaurant. But as luck would have it, our flight got delayed and instead of sampling the local fare, we ended up getting takeouts – at McDonald's no less.

Our 5-day trip was originally planned around a visit to Lake Holon. We would've had spent two days in Davao, ridden to South Cotabato for a hike up Mt. Parker before finally heading down to General Santos for our return flight. But then a notice from the local tourism office announcing the temporary closure of the site for several weeks, which included the dates of our trip, dampened my mood and had me putting off creating a new itinerary. I got lazy to be honest, throwing caution to the wind, adamant we'd just cross the proverbial bridge when we get there. 

In the cozy kitchen, we munched on our late dinner of fries and cheeseburger. After a while, my uncle shuffled to the living room and tuned in to the late night news. Over the steady buzzing of the tv and under the yellowish glow of ambient lighting, my aunt inquired about our plans. With a sheepish grin, I told her we had none. 

She raised an eyebrow. "Well, I'll tour you around but I'm going to Cotabato tomorrow." She informed us she had recently resumed her local dental practice. Patients were expecting her the next day.

At that, something clicked. Inside  my head, a bud of an idea blossomed into a beautiful flower. Short of shouting "Aha!", I visibly perked up. 

"We'll come with you," I blurted out. 

She looked at me half suspicious, half amused. "Are you sure?"

I was very sure. 

"Where do you intend to go?"

"Asik-asik Falls," I replied simply.  

She blinked. "That's in Alamada."

I nodded. I asked her if we could meet with her in Cotabato City after our foray to Asik-asik Falls. 

"Fine," she said before reaching for her phone. "I'm calling my cousin so you'd have help there just in case." 

The next day, our uncle dropped us off at the Southern Mindanao Transport Terminal where we hopped on a commuter van to Cotabato City. Throughout the trip, my aunt reiterated our plan. Libungan. Alamada. Then Cotabato City. She reminded us to get in touch with her cousin Cart who'd help us look for a place to stay the night. I told her not to worry too much. 

The journey was smooth. The roads were scenic. For miles and miles, our van was the only vehicle on the road. Long stretches of rural vistas were punctuated by patches of city centers. Sweeps of fields far outnumber modern buildings. I remember thinking I wouldn't mind commuting every day if roads in Manila were like these.

After four hours, the driver veered to the side of the road and pulled over. We were now in Libungan. I gave my aunt a kiss before getting off, assuring her for the nth time that everything's going to be fine. 

We were right on time, it turned out. A multicab (Mindanao's version of the jeepney) bound for Alamada just pulled up behind the van. Dennis and I hauled our backpacks and immediately got on. We’d made small talk with the conductor who’d, upon finding out that we were bound for the falls, offered to drive us to on his motorcycle.

A couple of hours later, Dennis and I were breathless, but not because the trek was punishing. The waterfalls simply took our breaths away.

Like a secret, it was tucked in a patch of forest. Along with the steady note of its falling streams, a gregarious river muttered a song. There was no one in there save for Dennis and I. And in that solitude, the mystery of Asik-asik grew tenfold.

I left Dennis with his camera and wandered close. There was a trunk once belonging to a mighty tree that straddled the river, and on it, I stood. Following the curtain of cascades run its course was like falling into a trance. I watched mist collect at the base of the surge, still wondering where the water was coming from. To me, it looked like the streams flowed out of the mountain, not over it. But Asik-asik Falls probably didn’t care what I thought. It existed. It just is. 

I heard Dennis approached, starting me from my thoughts. It was almost dusk. We should be heading back. With one last sweeping look, I took in all of Asik-asik’s grandeur, its existence and all the questions it inspire, and accepted it. And as if to thank me for the sentiments, the spray of water lifted just enough to touch my face.

Storytime is a series of  stories about my most memorable travel experiences. Read more here.

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