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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Balbalan: Land of Waterfalls

by Augustus Ulat Saboy, ca. 1966

[Note: Although commercialism has, in the past few decades, crept into the hinterlands of Balbalan and has scarred their pristine beauty in many areas, the municipality remains alluring. Several waterfalls still cascade down mountainsides to join the great Saltan River and the underground river Gus Saboy speaks of still rumbles below a section of the rugged roads of Balbalan. Deer and wild boars, however, are now on the brink of extinction. - sms]

BALBALAN – A wanderlust may find himself fully satiated with historic sights and scenic wonders in this municipality if he makes it a point to visit all the natural wonders of this western Kalinga municipality.

Of course, he must be physically fit, first of all – with a strong back to meet the bumps of a buggy ride through Balbalan’s rugged road and a good pair of legs to climb hillsides into the barrios and sitios, criss-crossed by horse and foot trails.

From the municipality of Lubuagan, the capital town of the sub-province of Kalinga, one is greeted by the sight of Limo-falls, a 60-foot waterfall in the sitio of Salagpat, Balinciagao. This is the second known highest waterfall in this municipality, and perhaps in the province. It cascades down a high cliff overlooking the Pasil River below and the villages of Balinciagao barrio.

Along the road up to the old municipality center of this municipality bearing its name are other waterfalls gliding down thickly wooded hillsides. As one travels westward through the barrio of Balbalan, he finds himself swallowed by thick forests through which the Kalinga-Abra national highway is carved out from the rocky mountainsides. Here in this jungle section of the road is found a natural tunnel formed by a huge rock whose caves rest on another big rock, thus forming a short tunnel.

Beyond this tunnel and towards the barrio of Salegseg, the present municipal center of the Balbalan is the famous Ugid underground river. A short stopover on this spot gives a traveler an opportunity to hear the droning sound of the river below, as if a propeller-driven airplane is left with engines running. It is said that this subterranean river is teeming with black fresh water eels of varying sizes. Thomas Awing, a public school teacher and among the few natives of the place who have toured this underground river, said that during the dry months of the year, natives of the place visit the river by passing through big rock cleavages on the surface near the road. In some sections of the river, torches are needed because of the darkness. It is in these sections of the underground river that fresh water eels are found, Awing says.

The public school teacher also reveled that in his own barrio of Poswoy, which is some two-hour hike from the national road, another breath-taking sight can be had from what is believed as the highest waterfall in Kalinga – the Ligayan falls. During rainy seasons, the waterfall sends down a giant silver veil of water from the mountain above. As the falling water hits the Saltan River hundreds of feet below, it sends sprays of water formed like huge flower petals. Other waterfalls, according to Awing in Dao-angan and Poswoy – all in this municipality – are Pudao and Maulilog falls which he said are equally “beautiful” in sights.

Salegseg, the site of the municipal hall, has also its contribution to scenic wonders in this region in the form of the Makelkelang mountains whose huge rock face appears like the world-famed Rock of Gibraltar in Span along the Morrocco Strait. Legends have it that Kabunian, the legendary Kalinga superbeing, once roamed this mountain. White stripes formed on the face of a rock below the mountain is said to be the stains” of the “vomit of Kabunian” when he was food-poisoned by the old villagers of the place.

Westward towards the Abra-Kalinga provincial boundary, the barrio of Pantikian greets you with another huge waterfall called the Giso-od falls. The falls which is hemmed in my perpendicular cliffs on its sides is famous for its legend as “suicide-fall” for spurned lovers. Other waterfalls seen along the road now under construction leading to the province of Abra on the west are the Bagawat falls and the Agta falls, the latter yielding a romantic sight with its “gold” water apparently caused by the rusty color of the rock through which the water flows.

In the westernmost barrio of Balbalasang, more waterfalls greet the sightseer. The Mapatag falls near the barrio may be likened to the “Bridal Veil” falls of Kennon road in the municipality of Tuba. Within the barrio is the Toy-ob falls around which are found natural swimming pools where the weary traveler can take a dip into its fresh, clear and cool waters.

Perhaps the only pure-brick building the Mountain Province is found in this border barrio. This is the Balbalasang Elementary School building, erected some 30 years ago. The bricks used in putting up the school were baked from crude implements by the early pupils as well as the parents of the schoolchildren. Today, this school building stands as one of the historical landmarks of the Mountain Province – a living symbol of civilization in this part of the country and a living tribute to the dedication of early settlers of this barrio to their dreams of enlightening their sons and daughters through the blessings of education.

This is Balbalan – the land of cascading waterfalls and a promising timber as well as mining municipality.

Hunting any species of deer starts from January to May 15 every year. This was embodied in the parks and wildlife regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
According to the regulations, a licensed hunter could hunt any species of deer during the season. The law, however, prohibits the hunting of female deer any time of the year. Two male deer are the catch limit (bag limit) allowed by law for any licensed hunter. Wild carabao could also be hunted during the same season but the bag limit is limited to only one male of this animal.

Sports hunters could get their permit from the Parks and Wildlife Office at Binondo, Manila.

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