Friday, December 3, 2010

Pagadian Sights

Availing a 3-day vacation leave from work, we set off to Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur last week, accompanied by Wife and our 3-year old Son. Its a city on a hillside, bounded by the Illana Bay on the south, and referred to as the little Hong Kong of Mindanao. Its like Baguio City minus the pine trees and cold climate, plus the seas nearby.

With CebuPac's total promo round trip airfare of only P776 for the three of us, we were able to set foot on the island of Mindanao for the first time. I was surprised on the "mob" of people at the airport to welcome their friends or relatives who came from their Muslim pilgrimage at Mecca.

The highlight of our trip is the Manga Waterfalls above, which we visited on our second day. Although it was a 1-km. tiring hike to and from the waterfalls (especially as I have to carry my son most of the time), it was all worth it once you see and hear the volume of water surging down the deep pool of water. 

I have no plans to swim, but I wasn't able to resist taking a dip on its inviting cool and clear waters. Since I did not bring extra clothes, I was only able to rinse and change into dry clothing only when we got back to the hotel, less than 10 km. away.

To go there, we hired a tricycle from the city center with agreed round trip rate of Php 180. However, we gave the driver Php 250 for his efforts to bring us to the waterfalls, inspite of the 2 almost-unpassable portions of the road, probably destroyed by the rains. The trip to the falls would have been a breeze and more relaxing, if those 2 short portions of the road are in good condition. 

The Manga Falls provide some of the water needs of the nearby barangays in the city. There is a small gazebo beside the pool, and the use of all the facility is free. Locals say that some monkeys visit the falls, but we did not saw one. There is a twin cave on the area as well, but without a guide, looking for it is not an option.

After taking our lunch on our first day, we looked for the city's tourism office, to ask for ideas on how we can get to our target destinations. Unfortunately, the tourism officer we talked to is just new on the job, and she's almost clueless on how to answer our queries. 

Those who are more familiar with the tourist spots are either on a meeting or too busy to assist us with our queries. Even most Pagadianons don't have an idea on the exact location of their tourist spots. The local people are friendly and helpful, but their tourism product knowledge needs more time and concerted effort to be developed.

Using only the information gathered from the internet, we tried to see first their Agro Tourism and Heritage complex. However, their butterfly farm on the complex is now devoid of butterflies, while the zipline is unavailable, because the zipline staff are busy helping on Christmas preparations. So we went back to the hotel to rest before going to their famous Rotunda on top of the hill.

The view from the Rotunda is great, seeing the Fajares avenue lead to the pier and to the sea on its way down. I think this is the signature view of Pagadian, as photos of this roadview abound on the internet. There is a small park on the back of this observation deck, with a small refreshment store and a horseback riding facility. 

The horseback riding is really cheap at only Php 50/hour, and my son enjoyed the late afternoon short horseback ride. The place is a popular hangout of the locals, judging on the number of people going there to admire the views. If only they get rid of the 2 eyesores like the trash on the edge of viewing deck, and the unfinished 2-storey building on the park, this Rotunda park will attract more people.

Next morning, we went to Dao Dao Gamay (Small) island, by hiring a pumpboat for P200 roundtrip fare. Its less than 10 minutes boat ride from the mainland. Locals say that the island gets submerged during very high tide, so the huts would seem to float on the sea. 

Seeing small fishes on the water, I was hoping to swim on its shores, but the rocky beach and some trash on the seafloor prevented us from doing so. We saw a group of fishermen bundling a type of seaweeds, before selling them in the city proper, that would later end up in production of rubber.

These huts can be rented for Php 150 per day. They are perfect for picnics and drinking sessions if you want privacy while enjoying the sea breeeze. Just make sure that you bring all your supplies, as there is no store or restaurant on this islet.

That afternoon as we got back from Manga falls, we walked to the "batik" stores near the corner of Jamisola and Ariosa streets. We bought shawls, batik dress and shirt at good prices.

There are no jeepneys in Pagadian. The most common means of transport is their unique tricycles, which are inclined by 25 to 45 degrees for better stability on steep roads. At first, I was doubtful of its stability. But when I saw and rode one myself, I was convinced of its physics. 

The passengers on the first row prevents the tricycles from toppling backwards when navigating upward slopes. The manner of riding the passenger seats is difficult on the first time, but you will get used to it. If you're a tall person, I recommend taking the front row, as its harder to disembark from the rear row.

Normal tricycle fare is Php 9 per adult person within the city proper. Most tricycle drivers are honest, though we did experienced one driver who overcharged us on our way to Agro Tourism Heritage complex. To get the best rate and most knowledgeable driver to Manga Falls, go to the Manga tricycle terminal at the Agora Market. 

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  1. I visited Pagadian City earlier this year. It was my first visit to the Philippines. The people were very friendly and my Pagadian friends made my visit as enjoyable as possible. The views from the Rotunda were great and I enjoyed my rides on the unique tricycles. It is not a place too many Europeans seem to visit and I felt a bit of a curiosity to the local population, but only in a good way, and I never felt uncomfortable, quite the opposite. I hope to get back there and explore more of Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines. Thanks for this article which brings back some nice memories.

  2. There are many other tourist sites in Pagadian but most are very far (e.g. Lakewood, Lourdes Falls & Cave), or needs a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach (e.g. Kendis Cave).

    Philippines is full of nice beaches, dive sites, waterfalls, caves, old churches, and regional food choices. I hope that you revisit the country to see most of them.

  3. I am a Pagadianon, and I was amazed with this post. In fact, I've never been to some places that you've posted here in your blog. This posts makes me more proud of being a Pagadian, and indeed, I appreciate tourists like you who appreciate our place that is most of the time, taken for granted by some Pagadianons.

    I agree that some tourist sites are far, however, the local government is steadfast in their thrust to develop Pagadian City as a multi-sector attraction be it in the Tourism Sector, Business Sector, et al.

    We hope you'll come back to Pagadian as Pagadian is always opening both her arms to welcome tourists like you. :)

  4. Yes, Pagadian is not yet on the tourism radar. My wife was initially hesitant to go there, for fear of reported armed rebels some decades ago. But once we got there, she felt comfortable.

    If Pagadian's city government improve the roads, and organize the tourism sector like what Puerto Princesa had done, the city's economy would improve further.