Bulingan: A place worth the hassleBy Julie Alipala
LAMITAN CITY—The jeepney ride was a discomfort. You ride with fresh fish, boxes of food items, cases of beers and soda and gallons of tuba, wine distilled from coconut juice.
The tricycle ride doesn’t offer any relief, either. It was like being on a roller coaster, except that the ride doesn’t get off the ground.
The trip to Bulingan Falls, however, is worth the trouble. It wasn’t about getting there; it was about being there.
Forget the irritation at the drivers’ practice of picking up nearly every one they see on the road, stretching travel time longer than it would normally take to get to a place just 8 kilometers from the town center.
Though tiring, the hourlong trip can never be described as boring. Scenes like people working on fields, tricycles carrying sacks of coal, bananas and other produce stir the imagination.
Inside the jeepney, the sound doesn’t come from worn-out speakers blaring hip-hop or rap music but from the conversation of people sharing their common miseries, their poor existence.
‘We are now in Bulingan’
Soon, the trip would be over. “We are now in Bulingan,” the driver announces.
Bulingan Falls paint a picture of Basilan different from what the rest of the world had been made to see—kidnappings, killings and criminality mainly attributed to the terror and bandit group Abu Sayyaf.
The water stream passes through rock formations the size of cars before it falls on a river that connects the villages of Look and Bohe Yakan.
Weekends are the busiest times in the falls when visitors crowd the place. Most are people from downtown, according to Puresa Solamo, a retired schoolteacher who lives near the falls.
Around the river, half a dozen cottages and small huts have risen. Many are used by visitors simply as viewing posts to watch those swimming in the river. Other visitors hold picnics under the shade of mango, acacia or balete trees.
“My visit to Basilan is not complete without a peek and a splash at my favorite waterfalls in Basilan, the Bulingan Falls,” said Edgar Diokno, a California-based backpacker.
After enjoying the falls and cooling off, visitors line up on the road to wait for their return rides.
The ride back is as taxing as that going to the falls. Aside from bananas and freshly harvested cassava, passengers share the ride with unprocessed foul-smelling rubber latex from Basilan’s rubber plantations.
That Bulingan Falls exist in a province so wracked by violence and crimes is as perplexing as the failure of government to bring peace and order to Basilan that, according to historian Vicky Siason, has so much to offer in terms of scenic spots.
Siason, a consultant of Lamitan City’s tourism office, said the city alone “has so many breathtaking natural wonders to brag about and most of the spots are very accessible.”
Lamitan Mayor Roderick Furigay said aside from Bulingan Falls, Lamitan also prides itself with being home to other waterfalls such as Ligapu Bohepasa Falls, Pader Bohepasa Falls, Maloong Falls and Camanse Falls.
Siason said the city is also home to a marine sanctuary at the Maloong Canal, the Palm Beach in Barangay Kulay Bato, Maarena or Sandy Beach in Barangay Calugusan and Mount Ubit.
“Basilan has the most beautiful spots and all are still unexplored,” Diokno said.
“We have vast hectares of rubber trees all throughout Basilan and once the leaves turn to yellow or orange, the trees provide an awesome sight,” he said.
Mayor Furigay said visiting Lamitan or Basilan is certainly fun, never mind what you hear in the news.
He admitted, though, that foreign tourists shy away from the province because of security concerns.
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