Tucked into a deep forested ravine approximately 1,200 steps down is a work of nature like no other. Asik-Asik Falls (from the Hiligaynon term “asik,” which means sprinkle) has become the biggest sensation not only in Sitio Dulao, Upper Dado, Alamada, Cotabato but also throughout the country and if not in the world. Emerging after Typhoon Frank ravaged the mountainside, Asik-Asik is truly a must-see mystery.
In my interview with one of the locals who allegedly discovered Asik-asik Falls, Bambi Santander, he mentioned that in 2008, there were only small streams along the river, but then floodwater literally dug the river that passes through stream deeper and uprooted the trees that grew on the side of the cliff, which included a huge balete tree. It created cracks and water started to gush out.
There was no written documentation as to how Asik-Asik Falls was discovered. The Idalemen Tribe already knew of the place long ago but considered it as sacred and it remained a hidden sanctuary before it was re-discovered. However, it has been told that there was a farmer who was looking for his lost horse. He tracked the rope and he later found out that it fell into the ravine and then eventually saw the waterfalls too. From then on, the news about it spread like crazy.
The Unique Feature and Scientific Theory
What makes Asik-Asik unique from the rest is that the falls stream from the side of the mountain unlike a conventional waterfall where a river stream flows from a cliff. The upper portion of the mountain is deforested and planted with different crops like corn and peanuts. Hence, one can easily wonder how it is possible.
The highest waterfall is about 25 meters tall and some are about 5 meters and below. The entire system stretches about 130 meters wide on the curved mountainside. A river flows from the upper portion of the terrain passing through Asik-Asik, which according to the locals denotes the presence of other waterfalls further upstream.
In my research, though I am not a geologist, there is one scientific explanation that this phenomenon can be possible as opposed to the different beliefs told by the locals. Asik-Asik is about 1/20th the height of the mountain where the existing water table can be a notable source of water. Lake Baranibud, the nearest lake, is about 10 kilometers away. Hence, its probability of being the water source can be so trivial. The erosion that exposed the crack on the side of the cliff may have opened the crevices of the mountain where the water table is present. The series of mountains north of the waterfalls may have an ample water supply enough to support them.
A Myth Told
The cliff where the water cascades is covered with beautiful flowering vines, which according to locals blossom with different colors every December. There was once a visitor from Cotabato who picked various plants from around the waterfalls and brought them with her to the city. She could not sleep every night after she arrived home from the waterfalls. What she did was she returned the plants back to the waterfalls. From then on, she was able to sleep well.
The locals believe that the place is mystical and legendary, considering the presence of a huge balete tree before the flood uprooted it, which then caused the emergence of the beautiful waterfalls.
From Asik-Asik to Lamihan Waterfalls
Mindanao Cross, a local newspaper in Cotabato City, published an interview with Bai Rebecca Alamada-Buan, the president of the United Idalemen Tribe Association of the Philippines, stating she sent a proposal to the provincial government renaming Asik-Asik to Lamihan, which means a curtained structure for the spirit linked towards the tribe’s respect for nature. She further reiterated that Lamihan is very apt as it signifies a meaningful and sweeter description for the natives.
Future Developments, Conservation and Protection
In an unexpected chat with Wendel Ventilacion, an employee of the Alamada Mayor’s Office, at the jump off point of Asik-Asik Falls, he mentioned to me some of the plans in relation to conservation and protection. Considering that most parts of the area are deforested, the local government is planning to plant high-value crops like Arabica coffee to relieve excessive usage of land and to mitigate deforestation. The upper portions of the cliff where the waterfalls are located down below are now planted with bamboo to prevent soil erosion. The path leading to Asik-Asik has already been paved to eliminate the further emergence of worn trails, which may harm vegetation and also cause soil erosion. Sari-sari stores near the waterfalls were demolished and banned. He also mentioned some other developments like road improvements and a zip line. The provincial government has allotted funds for improved infrastructure and facilities.
My Personal Recommendation
As a mountaineer and an environmental advocate, there are several things I would like to recommend to preserve the beauty and sanctity of Asik-Asik Falls. Given that the visit to this wonder can be educational and adventurous at the same time, visitors must practice the following:
1) Principle of Leave No Trace
a) Plan ahead and prepare
b) Travel and camp on durable surface (usage of a single trail)
c) Dispose of waste properly
d) Leave what you find
e) Minimize campfire impacts
f) Respect wildlife
g) Be considerate of other visitors (minimizing noise can also preserve the serenity of the place)
2) Mountaineer’s Creed: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time.
3) No bonfire allowed. I saw traces of mishandled bonfires and trash.
4) If possible, no bringing of excess foods and liquor as they may generate waste at the waterfalls.
5) Soap and shampoo should not be allowed.
6) A 10-minute orientation will help educate the visitors about the importance of environmental protection and conservation.
How to Reach Asik-Asik Falls (Please click the link to see the comprehensive list.)
From Manila, take a direct flight to Cotabato City. From Awang Airport, ride a tricycle to the national highway. Ride a supermarket-bound jeepney, alight at Don Rufino Alonzo St (Magallanes), then take a bus at the terminal en route to Davao City. You can either drop by Libungan (25-35 minutes) or Midsayap (45 minutes) where you can take a jeepney going to Alamada. From Alamada, you can take a habal-habal ride going to the jump off point at Sitio Dulao, Upper Dado, Alamada, Cotabato.Sources: http://lnt.org/learn/7-principles http://www.mindanaocross.net/home/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=278:idalemens-named-curtain-falls-laminan%E2%80%99 http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/196829/waterfall-emerges-from-devastating-typhoon-frank