Saturday, August 25, 2012

Captivated by Merloquet Falls of Zamboanga

For me, the best natural attraction of Zamboanga City is their magnificent Merloquet Falls, found in Sitio Merloquet, Barangay Sibulao, northeast of the city proper. I don't think that our travel to Zamboanga City would be complete, if we failed to see this awesome waterfalls, carved by nature over thousands of years.

Since renting a car going to the falls would be too expensive, we utilized the public transportation to visit this natural wonder. From our hotel, a tricycle took the 4 of us to the Guiwan bus terminal, where we had a quick breakfast and bought Twins fried chicken for our lunch meal. The air conditioned Rural Bus left the terminal when it was full of passengers. Fare is Php 125 per adult person.

In about 1.5 hours and 57 km, we arrived at the waiting shed of Barangay Tagasilay on the left side of the road, after a left turn from Tagasilay Elementary School. Kagawad Badang Luna met us, and luckily we were able to hitch a ride on the pick-up vehicle of Barangay Captain Armando Ramos. 

He asked his son Alberto to escort us to Merloquet Falls, and a grandson who drove the vehicle. Below are the photos of our gracious "accidental" hosts, all very nice people. The automatic rifle is just a precaution in case some muslim robbers stray in the area.

We travelled about 5 km uphill, some portions with rough roads, before turning right to the jump off point. Then its about 500m downhill trek to our destination. There was supposed to be Php 20 as entrance fee, but they waived it for us, since we were referred by DOT office. There are 2 groups of youths when we arrived, one seem to be a school field trip.

Merloquet Falls is the widest and grandest waterfall I ever saw. Yes it doesn't have the height and power of Ma. Cristina Falls in Iligan City, but for me it is more beautiful, simply mesmerizing. Another nice thing about this waterfall is that we can safely go where the water drops, and feel how the water massage our head and body. We could just marvel at what we saw, definitely worthy of long travel from Laguna.

The rocks are very slippery, so extreme caution must be exercised when approaching the waterfall. During the time I spent on its foot, I caught a limatik (leech), but its not the aggressive type. On the photo below, I climbed the top of this waterfall through a steep and slippery trail on the right side, and saw another waterfall farther up with some teenagers swimming on its deeper catch basin. 

The upper waterfall reminds me of an escalator, due to the inclining rock from left to right side. Unfortunately, I don't have my camera phone with me that time to take photos of the area, for fear of dropping it on the trail or at the water. 

An hour after sharing our lunch food with our nice hosts, we dressed up with new set of clothes from the makeshift toilets, which are not in good condition. On our way back to the city proper, we took the longer route to Vitali, where its easier to get a ride back via Rural bus. I just gave P600 gas money to Mr. Alberto, though he did not asked for any payment. According to DOT officer Ms. Ludy, habal-habal drop off fee to the waterfalls start at Php 50/person.

The lower 2 photos of the collage below shows our pick-up vehicle, and the signage along the highway in Vitali. Along this road, there are stalls selling mud crab at cheap prices, but we don't have access to a kitchen where we can cook them. From this point, its about 78 km back to city proper, but with same fare of Php 125/person. The upper two photos were taken at Guiwan bus terminal.

Here are some tips when going to Merloquet Falls:

1. Bring enough food, as only drinks are sold near the waterfalls.
2. If commuting, make sure to be dropped at the Tagasilay waiting shed after the left bend of the road, or at Vitali military checkpoint. Some portions of the area are inhabited by muslim communities, where tourists' safety cannot be guaranteed.
3. If commuting, it is safer to take the bus than the vans who ply the same route.
4. Contact DOT office and Bgy. Sibulao officials to arrange guides or habal-habal ride. See their contact details below:

DOT Officer Ludy Silorio  0922-8246456
Kagawad Badang Luna   0922-8844249
Bgy. Captain Armando Ramos  0905-8706409

Keep safe and enjoy Zamboanga City!

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