Cebu Marmol Cliff

Is it worth the effort to see Marmol Cliff?

Beautiful Marmol Cliff rises into the sky. Its white and bare face providing a sharp contrast to the scenery.

Beautiful Marmol Cliff rises into the sky. Its white and bare face providing a sharp contrast to the scenery.

Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Niño , the province’s patron, come to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.

I was holding tightly to the habalhabal’s iron back frame as the driver deftly maneuvered at the shallow river, evading deeper portions and rocks, culled from memories of countless trips. Water splashed at my sandals and legs. Brief stops and pauses. A few lean to’s  and short walks just made the anticipation of reaching my destination greater. Patience is a virtue, I silently told myself.

Habalhabal motorcycles with four passengers. Its the common mode of transport in Tuburan and the vehicle to hire when going to Marmol Cliff.

Habalhabal motorcycles with four passengers. Its the common mode of transport in Tuburan and the vehicle to hire when going to Marmol Cliff.

Riding into the river needs an experienced driver who knows the terrain well.

Riding into the river needs an experienced driver who knows the terrain well as it involves evading deep portions of the river as well as navigating through rocky parts.

Tuburan is located in northwestern Cebu and one of the progressive towns in this part of the island province. About 30 minutes into its interior, where the terrain turns rugged, a stunning landscape unfolds. Marmol Cliff has been on my mind since I saw a spectacular spread at the coffee table book Cebu: Pride of Place. During a shoot for the book Balaanong Bahandi in this town, a brief visit to this terra incognita, at least for me, was at the top of my list.

One can also climb the opposite rock face where millenia of river action has carved a smooth path for the river. During dry months, people just pass below. However, during rainy season, the river can rise as much as 20 feet or more and rafts are used.

One can also climb the opposite rock face where millenia of river action has carved a smooth path for the river. During dry months, people just pass below. However, during rainy season, the river can rise as much as 20 feet or more and rafts are used.

Getting there is not easy. You have to hire a habalhabal, those motorcycle transports that cram 4 to 5 passengers in a single trip that gives the impression of copulation (in Cebuano, habal means to have sex, for animals, that is). You should chose a driver  who knows the way as it involves riding into the river, one who has an idea of where to cross and what to evade as there is no other way.

Trees' root system clinging on the rock face is a common sight as the terrain here is so rugged and steep.

Trees' root system clinging on the rock face is a common sight as the terrain here is so rugged and steep.

Because of this, the cliff is only accessible when the waters are shallow, especially the non rainy season. A brief rain in the mountains is enough to raise water level to several feet and has deadly consequences to unwitting passengers. At Marmol Cliff, I was told by the driver that there is at least one fatality every year as waters can go as high as 20 feet or more. During these times, residents living in the vicinity or beyond hike their way.

Villagers living beyond Marmol Cliff often pass through this place.

Villagers living beyond Marmol Cliff often pass through this place.

Bringing produce to the town is easier during the dry season.

Bringing produce to the town is easier during the dry season.

As we hit the river, flat terrain gives way to rolling hills. From villages to almost uninhabited space except for the occasional homestead at the banks. From a wide water expanse, the flow narrows and in some parts deeper. Then rolling hills give way to mountains, farmlands transform to rugged bush and soaring trees. The sound of birds are much apparent now with sighting of colorful feathers flying above from time to time.

But we are not alone. There are many gravel gatherers along the way. The occasional habalhabal with or without passengers make the trip back and forth. Children are bathing in the clear river as some people are hiking along the banks. Several minutes into the wild landscape, the mountains at both sides turn steep until it is, more or less, 90 degrees and forming a gorge. The vegetation is forest like with some walls bare. Swallow are now aplenty.

The habalhabal motorcycle I hired to reach Marmol Cliff. It's really built for the rough terrain and this driver knows the way quite well.

The habalhabal motorcycle I hired to reach Marmol Cliff. It's really built for the rough terrain and this driver knows the way quite well.

As I surveyed the surroundings, following the jutting tops of the cliffs, into the interior and just behind the bend where the river emanates, lo and behold, beautiful Marmol Cliff! Standing tall and high, its white limestone face aglow in the early afternoon sun. I was just speechless and in awe. The setting is so picturesque. The ruggedness of the terrain contrasts with the sheer vertical drop that you don’t really have an option but to direct our view into this spectacular sight.

Is it worth the effort to see beautiful Marmol Cliff? You bet, it is.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

14 Comments

  1. oman
    September 14, 2009 @ 10:17

    based on your photos, i definitely agree with you… it is worth it. the best places are not easy to go to. 🙂

  2. lantaw
    September 14, 2009 @ 13:14

    great adventure bai, kaso bad trip yun graffiti dun sa isang cliff wall

  3. Langyaw in 2009 | langyaw
    December 31, 2009 @ 18:12

    […] featured touring around the island from north to south and visiting beautiful, not so known natural attraction. There’s also the stunning moving works of art that is the Cebuano jeepney as well as the […]

  4. Brennan
    January 11, 2010 @ 16:57

    Hi Estan.

    We are planning to go to Tuburan this month. And I do hope that January is also a good time to view the Marmol cliffs. Speaking of which, are there specific hours of the day where the water level is high? How much was the fare for the habal-habal going to the cliffs?

    Cheers,
    Brennan

  5. estan
    January 11, 2010 @ 18:32

    @brennan, not sure about that but the river, i think, isn’t affected with the tides. its high only when it rains. you can negotiate with the habalhabal probably between 100-200.

  6. Brennan
    January 14, 2010 @ 19:34

    Thank you for the feedback Estan. Your main photo on the cliffs reminded me of the Argonath scene in LOTR. That is why I have named our weekend travel after that.

    Anyway, one more question from me: when you took that photo, was it around 10:00 AM? I am arranging our schedule such that we could view the cliffs under the best possible lighting conditions. Our next trip to this side of the Cebu province may not happen again anytime soon.

  7. estan
    January 14, 2010 @ 21:56

    Brennan, Marmol Cliff is at the western side of Cebu and the best time to visit the place is around 2PM above 🙂

    Do enjoy your trip 🙂

  8. » Visiting Mantayupan Falls after 23 years | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    September 30, 2011 @ 12:25

    […] have been strangled with built structures. It’s vertical wall brought memories of Marmol Cliff in Tuburan. The second level, on the other hand, is just 14 meters […]

  9. exie potencioso-palileo
    October 21, 2013 @ 9:39

    i was just here yesterday 🙂 yes it really is a breath taking view… 🙂 still the same, its still difficult to go there but its def worth the trip. the small monkeys show up at dawn 🙂

  10. reixllopez
    October 13, 2014 @ 12:51

    Pwd private vehicles? Like suv type cars? Can the road take it?

  11. estan
    October 15, 2014 @ 15:27

    ok basta 4×4. You need to cross rivers basta di lang malalim. 🙂

  12. Nilo
    January 22, 2016 @ 11:13

    Pwede own motorcycle ?

  13. estan
    January 26, 2016 @ 10:19

    Pwede man guro

  14. Cebu wedding photographer
    September 8, 2016 @ 22:07

    Nindota ani bai…Nangita ko ug bag-ong prenup location then nakita nku ni, nindot kaayo…

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