I always get a laugh, a grin or a smile coupled with eyes of disbelief every time I mention Tagbilat Falls. A lot of people who knows how to speak the Visayan dialect would get curious after hearing the name of the waterfalls. Hidden amidst the verdant greens of Barangay Malagandis, Titay in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, a waterfalls with a peculiar name is slowly getting popular among the locals. Neither established tours nor DIY travel guides are available to get to the waterfalls thus it can still be considered as a virgin destination (pun intended, at least I tried). With its unique name, a lot of people would ask why would a waterfall be named after a woman’s private parts? According to my Subanen relatives in Bacalan, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, the waterfalls got its name from the river that flows from the municipality of Titay to Ipil. The river is a bit shallow and its depth reaches up to the private parts of a woman or “bilat” in the local dialect. Hence, it is called Tagbilat River. According to some locals, Tagbilat river is historic because it used to serve as a trading site for Chinese businessmen and ethnic Subanens.
Despite having an atypical name, everything else about Tagbilat Falls is beautiful. A short 30-minute trek will take you to the waterfalls that has a wide façade with a small cave-like space in the middle. I climbed to the center of the waterfalls and I was spell bound by the water cascading like a curtain of diamonds. Swimming is also great in its basin that can reach up to five feet deep. A climb on the right side of the falls would take you to a smaller second tier with a smaller but deeper basin.
Tagbilat Falls is not a developed tourist destination. Without any caretakers, not a single person is in-charge of the maintenance of the waterfalls. I have noticed that some of the guests were not responsible in disposing their garbage. Each visitor should be mindful not to leave any trace specially non-biodegradable materials. Local governments should also exert effort in preserving their hidden treasures. Developing a tourist spot does not necessarily mean creating infrastructure projects . It can be done by organizing the community near tourist destinations in order to create a committee that can look after the waterfalls, guide the tourists and give visitors information about the destination.
How to get there?
For travelers based in Manila, you can fly to the Zamboanga, Dipolog or Pagadian Airport then take a bus to Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay. I was on vacation in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay when I visited Tagbilat Falls. We took a jeep (18.00 pesos) in Petron Gasoline Station near Ipil Rotunda. Our group alighted at Titay Public Market where we approached habal-habal drivers on standby. The 30-minute habal-habal ride to Tagbilat costs us 140.00. Make sure to pick drivers that may guide you directly to the waterfalls. On our way home, we negotiated with our drivers (with an additional fee) to take us to the town of Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte for our next destination: Situbo Falls.
Thanks Joan Jeska Abalde, Bro Noe Largo, Edmund Pasaforte, Tara Jo Abalde and Jhan Keith Javar
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