Go canyoning with the Higaonons at the Sikyop ecotourism site of Iligan

The idea, basically, is to get a good feel for Higaonon life, to enjoy and commune with nature in a Sikyop lumad way

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines — Tourism officials in Iligan have stepped up a campaign to promote canyoning in an ecotourism destination run by a Higaonon community.

The area, called Sikyop Agri-Tourism Adventure, is located at Lawlawon in the village of Rogongon, about 30 kilometers from downtown Iligan.

Sikyop boasts of an awe-inspiring underground river, waterfalls, a cave, and a rainforest that is home to several dozen species of trees all waiting to be explored.

The local tourist board launched the Sikyop promotion campaign in time for the Diyandi Festival activities which lasted a month before the citywide celebration of the September 29 feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of the predominantly Catholic city.

Pat Noel, Iligan’s tourism operations manager, said Sikyop is the perfect destination for people who love outdoor adventures, but few people, including Iliganons, are aware that there is such a place in the city.

One of the favorite Christmas areas is the Sikyop Treetop where tourists can spend the night around an area for a bonfire.

MANUFACTURED BY HIGAONON. One of the nipa huts made by Higaonon where visitors can spend the night in Iligan City. – Merlyn Manos/Rappler

There, visitors can stay in nipa huts made by Higaonon, relax, enjoy the forest breeze after a day exploring Inulusan cave and an underground river, and walk the path to Pagangan Falls and enjoy of its crystal clear waters.

At Sikyop, organic vegetables and other fresh foods are abundant.

The idea, basically, is to get a good feel for Higaonon life, to enjoy and commune with nature in a Sikyop lumad way.

The place is home to almost 100 species of trees, wild orchids and sloths that can be found by those who venture deep into the wild forest of Malizord in Sikyop with the help of Higaonon guides.

“The remote rainforests of Sikyop are untouched,” Noel said.

A tourist from Angeles City, Pampanga said he was amazed by the beauty of Sikyop, adding that it was worth it.

He had just arrived from Camiguin Island, another must-see tourist destination in northern Mindanao, and then went to see Sikyop out of curiosity.

“I really appreciate it and highly recommend it. It’s something the entire Philippines should know,” said Jong David de Leon, pointing down in the direction of Pagangan Falls.

Noel said the local tourist office is collaborating with travel and travel agencies to promote the Sikyop destination.

The area is managed by the Sikyop Agricultural Cooperative, a group of Higaonon farmers.

WALK IN THE WATER. Visitors walk through crystal clear water towards Pagangon Falls in Rogongon Village in Iligan City. – Merlyn Manos/Rappler

The hike begins at the base of the co-op where visitors are given a briefing and a good warm-up walk through an open area to an area called Treetop where a zip line awaits them.

From the end of the zipline, visitors travel down the underground river, go canyoning, and then enjoy the waterfalls.

Descending through parts of the underground river to Pagangon Falls is an adventure in itself. Visitors navigate their way through rocks and boulders, trees and narrow openings with the help of guides.

The hike from the registration area to Pagangon Falls takes at least 30 minutes, depending on the pace of visitors.

Visitors are advised to travel there as lightly as possible, but Higaonon guides are always ready to carry their belongings, especially on some difficult trails and on the river.

But the cooperative has lockers where visitors can leave their belongings.

For a fee of P200, a Higaonon will guide tourists along the journey.

Visitors are also advised to bring extra clothes as getting wet is unavoidable.

Tourism officials said the hike up to the falls and exploring the underground river isn’t as difficult as it looks, although the descent might be a bit tricky, but that’s where it’s at. pleasure.

The ascent to the base of Sikyop is the hardest part, but motorbike rides for 50 pesos per person are available. – Rappler.com

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