We will be exploring a newly discovered waterfall in the hinterlands of Maitum, the domain of the Tboli’s. Do you want to come? It will involve hiking. Ms. Beth of the Local Government Unit told me (or something to that effect).
I had just come from a visit to this southern municipality in the province of Sarangani where I spent a few days exploring the area. But the thought of a great adventure: wild places, a cave, vast forests and tribal people was just too good to pass that I found myself flying back in no time.
Mindanao, the Philippines’s second largest island has a veil of mystery draped around her. Feared by the uninformed but loved by those who know her true worth and beauty. This series is my tribute for Mindanao, where I’ve been crisscrossing over the years and where a part of me also comes from. I have always loved adventures. When I was in college, I was a member of the mountaineering club. The same was when I was already working and based in Makati. The spirit of adventure has always been in me, traveling to forested and mountainous areas in search of butterflies and eventually, beetles of which several new species have been named after me.
I have trekked the rugged fastnesses of Bukidnon, the Cordilleras, Lake Sebu and Batanes. Surely, a call to the wild in the almost pristine and sparsely logged Maitum hinterlands would not hurt.
Maitum is not only pawikan sanctuary, water tubing, rubber trees and, what’s its best known for, the anthropomorphic burial jars found in its archaeologically significant caves. It holds one of the few stands of virgin forests in South Cotabato straddling the mountains within the border of Lake Sebu in the north and other surrounding municipalities.
The sun has just risen and the morning was nippy. After a great breakfast of bangsi (day old dried flying fish), organic salted eggs and tomatoes, we boarded an LGU dump truck that would take us up the sierras.
With us were some local government employees plus two army men who will ensure our safety. Maitum is generally peaceful but they were there for protection to whatever might endanger us.
The dump truck already wound its way up, following the dirt road that will eventually connect this town with Lake Sebu. As we gained in altitude, rubber plantations gave way to extensive forests. Stands of red lauan, narra and other hardwood species abound.
Forest encroachment as well as slash and burn farming are already making there mark. A great green carpet with patches of brown is slowly disfiguring the landscape.
We pulled up at the side road and alit. Supplies and other stuff were brought down from the truck and into the backs of two waiting horses lead by two Tboli youngsters. In a few minutes, we were on our way.
To be continued…