Curtain Falls: Hidden gem of Campawan, Davao Or.
BAGANGA, Davao Oriental – Tucked away in the bosom of mountains straddling two provinces is a hidden paradise of cascading crystal-clear waters that is a sure draw to nature-lovers and casual backpackers.
Less than an hour’s walk from the nearest Mandaya community in Campawan village is a cataract, about 30 meters high, known for its curtainlike drop that is becoming an emerging magnet for tourists in this eastern Mindanao town.
Aptly known as Curtain Falls, the gushing water several meters wide tumbles down to an aquarium-blue lagoon ideal for taking a dip to beat the sweltering summer heat. Its loud roar could be heard hundreds of meters away, a call too tempting to resist.
“This place is a delight for every tourist,” said Nenette Esteves, municipal tourism officer.
Located some 30 kilometers from the town proper, Campawan’s hidden gem is slowly being opened to outsiders as the local government is pushing Baganga to become an addition to the growing number of municipalities riding in on the tourism wave engulfing Davao Oriental.
With the more popular Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel town, up further north, visitors are offered an option to experience a surge of thrill and adventure by swinging by to the equally stunning Curtain Falls, local tourism officials say.
The main waterfall is at the downstream of a river that snakes from the top of the mountains which separates Baganga and Maragusan, in Compostela Valley province, cutting along the edges of Campawan, a farming community of over 2,000 people.
Leading to the cataract is a trail lined with lush ferns, shrubs and some ancient tree stumps that one can grasp on to when the path can be slippery following a night’s downpour. Otherwise, the trek is an easy one, made lighter by the cacophony of birds and other forest sounds around.
“Before, we used to hike 45 minutes from San Francisco,” said Esteves, referring to the community closest to the falls. “With the opening of a road, getting to the falls became faster and easier.”
The local and provincial governments have been doing development works to restore and improve the vicinity around Curtain Falls so as to attract more visitors, according to Esteves. Improvements included widening the road from the highway to the drop-off point so vehicles can penetrate as close to Curtain Falls.
From the vehicle drop-off point where the local government is building an edifice that would house washrooms and a tourism information center, tourists can follow the trail that traverses up on a hill then descends to the river where the imposing Curtain Falls plunges its enormous cool, white foam.
Visitors can take a dip on its clear wide lagoon, or take a shower under the surging drop while lounging atop protruding boulders. A wooden makeshift footbridge used to connect the other side of the river but was washed away by a recent flood, so tourists may nimbly amble to the other side through the rocks or opt to wade across the shallower portion.
Upriver, more eye-popping sceneries are in store for the more adventurous. From the Curtain Falls, a trail leads up to the “mother falls,” actually a series of multiple cataracts that appear like a staircase on top of the other, with the furthest a kilometer or so from the top of Curtain Falls.
According to Esteves, the other waterfalls are still for exploration.
Drone images obtained by Davao Oriental information office show several cataracts gushing on the sides of the mountains— one of these composed of twin cataracts with drops higher than Curtain Falls’.
The waterfall known by locals as “Moka-mokaon” due to the abundance of a local species of white carnation flowers in its vicinity, is having a resurgence following the devastation wrought by Typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) in Dec. 4, 2012.
Esteves says huge boulders pushed by the raging river cluttered the area, making the falls not too inviting for tourists. Almost five years after the disaster, nature is slowly restoring Curtain Falls to what it was once was: a pristine natural wonder.
“We’re also doing improvements but in such a way as not to destroy the environment,” the tourism officer said.
With the opening of Curtain Falls to tourists, “the local government intends to make Baganga a complete tourist destination,” said Esteves.
Being in Davao Oriental’s Pacific coast, Baganga has been known for its powdery-white sand beaches and picturesque islands and islets, but according to Esteves, the town has more to offer.
“We want to tell tourists that our place is not just about the sand and the sea. We also have our beautiful waterfalls with its lagoon that even children would surely enjoy,” she said.
Tourists who do not wish to burden themselves of bringing along much basic provisions need not worry as there are stores in the community that sell almost anything a backpacker needs: from snack foods to live chicken and soft drinks to bottled water.
Gasoline in ubiquitous cola bottles can even be bought, if one asks around.
She said the local government has earmarked millions of pesos of infrastructure projects to boost tourism in Baganga, particularly around Curtain Falls. Aside from the tourism center and washroom at
the drop-off point , the local government plans to set up gazebos, market stalls and a zipline across the river that would give tourists a bird’s eye glimpse of Curtain Falls.
Esteves said road improvements would make the site more accessible to tourists and help local farmers bring their produce to the nearest market.
From Davao City, get on a Cateel-bound bus (air-conditioned and non-air) and take a nine-hour trip (including meal stops) to Baganga Poblacion. Alternatively, you may wish to catch an L300 van from Davao to Baganga. From Baganga town proper, there are habalhabals (motorcycle-for-hire) that can take you to Campawan Proper. Travel time is less than one hour. You may wish to drop by the municipal tourism office at Baganga poblacion for guided tours.
CAMPAWAN FALLS, also called Curtain Falls of Davao Oriental.