Lanao del Norte Tourism
The word Lanao came from the Maranao word “Ranao” which means a body of water and this instance- the second largest lake in the Philippines (Lake Lanao/Ranaw) which is while located in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte shares a huge affinity through the indigenous people living around the lake which is considered as one of the world’s foremost ancient lakes (An ancient lake is a lake that carried water without any interruptions for more than 1 million years. Aside from Lake Lanao- other lakes that fit this category are Lake Baikal in Siberia, Lake Titicaca in South America, and Lake Tanganyika in East Africa).
Photo by Ace Reston
Before the separation of the province into Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, the area was only known as Lanao. After the division, the northern part became Lanao del Norte and the southern part became part of Lanao del Sur. Unlike what most people would think, Lanao del Norte is actually predominantly Christian with the people a mix of Maranaos and Cebuanos who along with the many other Christians from all parts of the country settled in the area with a marginal number of Higaunons settling in the hinterlands of Iligan.
Through the hundreds of years of attempting to subdue Lanao and the Maranaos, the region south of Iligan remained unconquered despite the establishment of a garrison in the city of Marawi. However, it was on July 4, 1959 that the province was finally divided into two through Republic Act No. 2228 with Iligan City as Lanao del Norte’s capital.
In 1977, however, the late Philippine strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, under a bill sponsored by then Assemblyman Abdullah D. Dimaporo which transferred the provincial capital from Iligan City to the municipality of Tubod which still currently stands as the provincial capital.
While the province, along with the rest of Mindanao, grapples with image issues associated with terrorism – though unfairly, has largely overshadowed the fact that with the rest of the region, Lanao del Norte has so much to offer to the intrepid traveler.
Photo by Ace Reston
Starting off with Iligan City, a city which melds industrial muscle and roaring and gorgeous waterfalls of which Maria Cristina is the most famous. The city alone has over 20 waterfalls – no wonder, it is nicknamed the City of Majestic Waterfalls. Maria Cristina is 320 feet high and spills 130 cubic meters per second of water, its raging magnificence is harnessed to provide electricity (although we have heard locals grumble of the apparent frequent outages in the province- we have not experienced such while we were there). This beautiful waterfall is located at the borders of Barangay Maria Cristina, Ditucalan and Buru-un about 9.3 kilometers away from the city. The waterfall is located inside a property of the power plant and one has to sign one’s name before being let in at the viewing area. Near Maria Cristina is the ancestral house of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who spent part of her childhood in the now National Historical Institute declared Heritage House – The Macapagal -Macaraeg Ancestral House. The house is a modest two-story affair; with fairly sized rooms with pictures of the President present everywhere as well as a painting of her in a very sultry green dress – cleavage and all. Of course, some in our group tried hard to stifle a snicker especially when Philippine media was all agog about the President’s breast implants during our visit.
Photo by Ace Reston
Aside from Maria Cristina, another Lanao del Norte pride is the Tinago Falls, which is accessible through a 300-step staircase that is located in the upper part of Barangay Buru-un. The waterfalls feature a curtain-like cascade which falls into a basin-like pool of icy-cold water. Tinago Falls (elevation- 420 feet), like what it names say (Tinago is hidden in local dialect), is literally hidden in a deep ravine about 13.8 kilometers away from Iligan City proper. Access is through the Iligan Tinago Mountain Resort which is managed by the City Tourism Office, and comes with a minimal entrance fee. Other noteworthy waterfalls in Iligan are the Mimbalut Falls (small waterfalls of about 18 feer), Abaga Falls, and Dodiongan Falls. 20 kilometers away from the city proper is a 40 foot high two tiered waterfalls called Hindang Falls and its 6-8 cave clusters with narrow entrances and deep chambers.
Photo by Ace Reston
Limunsudan Falls which is about 35 kilometers away from the city proper is a breathtaking two-tiered falls with a total height of 870 feet and is close to the boundaries of Iligan, Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur. To reach the waterfalls, a trek of two days is required from Kamalamalahan, Rogongon, Iligan City. While some Iligan locals claim that Limunsudin Falls are the tallest in the Philippines, it is actually the second tallest. The current title is held by Aliwagwag Falls in Davao Oriental which is also Southeast Asia’s 2nd tallest. Aliwagwag Falls is 1,101 feet, but this record is going to be contested soon with many waterfalls still undiscovered deep in the lush tropical jungles of the Philippines. In other parts of Lanao del Norte, one may frolic in the Pasayanon Falls (Matungao), Munai Falls (Munai), and the Fairy Falls (Linamon).
Photo by Ace Reston
Aside from the waterfalls, Iligan is also known for Timoga Springs (also in Buru-un) meanwhile is well known for its crystal-clear water which flows into many numerous swimming pools of each of the resorts around the area. Likewise, cold and pure spring water gushes out in Kalilangan in the capital town of Tubod, at the Pili Hot and Cold Springs at the foot of Mount Karkum, at Cabongbongan and Inasagan Spring in Salvador, at the Kawa-kawa Spring in Munai, and the Pioray and Babuyan Lake in Pantao Ragat. Lake Nunungan meanwhile is actually composed of three lakes of varying sizes and teeming with fish bred by local farmers.
Lanao del Norte also has its own version of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River albeit in a much more modest scale. Check out Lidpa Subterranean River in Munai where the river bores into a hill and then runs underground for about 100 meters. If you want just chill out, and laze around, go for a Balo-I River cruise whose entry point is at the riverbank by Poblacion, Balo-i.
Thoroughly understated and unassuming, the shores of Lanao del Norte are dotted with beaches, while not as popular and as drop dead gorgeous as many other more famous beaches in the country, they compensate with their genteel simplicity. Check out the many beaches in Linamon, a favorite destination for many in Lanao del Norte.
For those who love mountains, there is the 1600 feet high Mount Agad-Agad, the highest in Iligan City and safe for mountain climbing, camping and trekking and is just 5.5 kilometers away. It has a hanging bridge which connects the main road and the jump-off point to the foot of this mountain. In Nunungan, there is also Mount Inayawan with its rainforest resplendent with rich biodiversity and cultural rhythms set by the Maranao settlers in the area.
Festivals are a way of life in the Philippines, and Lanao del Norte is very much like any other Philippine province. During the Sagayan Festival, a Maranao dance is performed during the Araw ng Lanao del Norte Celebration (Lanao del Norte Day). Sagayan portrays a war dance among the Maranaos complemented by women in very colorful costumes gracefully doing the Kasiduratan, a pronounced movement of their arms. Hudyaka Festival is a thanksgiving celebration in the towns of Bacolod (every January 18) and Linamon (every January 23). There is also the Saguingan Festival (October 17) in Tubod, the Guini-akan Festival (January 21) in Baroy, Niyogan Festival (May 15) in Magsaysay, Alimango Festival in Lala, and the Coconut Festival (January 23) in Linamon.
During Iligan’s city fiesta, the Diyandi (a ritual dance) is performed during the Feast of Michael the Archangel, the city’s patron saint where a dance simulating the battle between Saint Michael and his enemies (Yawa-yawa, literally Devil-devil).