South Upi, Maguindanao: Three-Day Stopover On The Highlands of Maguindanao
With only a handful of information passed on to me by a stranger, I took a Timanan-bound multicab, clad in army green coating and the words “peace maker” inscribed just below the windshield, though unsure and without any expectations. There was just something in me inclined to uncover what’s beneath this mysterious cloak. This is how I got myself in the Teduray town of South Upi, Maguindanao.
Winding roads and spectacular scenery spanning more than a hundred kilometers lies in between Cotabato City and Lebak, Sultan Kudarat. Also nestled between these two are the towns of Upi and South Upi where its horizons are dominated by colossal mountains – and somewhere in these highlands, a few kilometers before reaching Timanan, the main hub of South Upi, in a sitio called Malibacao, I got off the “peace maker.”
A final 10-minute trek and quick ford across the river sets me apart from the campsite, Rawadin Farm & Resort, an enclave concealed by multiple sky-scraping peaks, and a refuge resting on the banks of running streams. And when the pitch black curtains of night roll down, the orchestra is commenced by the crescendo of howling winds, in sync to an adagietto of swaying treetops, and on top of them all, the accenting sound of gushing stream. The harmony was a nocturne that echoed in the mountains, a sonata performed by a maestra, Mother Nature as we call her.
My humble abode for three consecutive days was a sturdy tent, pitched within the premises of Rawadin Farm & Resort, and the owner – the stranger, who was a stranger no more, but a friend. Along with the good the people I met in his resort, the staff, my neighbors, my neighbors’ neighbors – everyone who gave a weary traveler a roof, everyone who shared their food, their laughs, their stories to the real stranger in this mesmerizing foreign land.
Truth is, this part of Maguindanao was supposedly a mere stopover to my actual destination, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat. The 3-hour stopover however turned out to be a 3-day camping in the mountains of Malibacao. Backpacking taught me that plans can change in a snap – from bad to worse, bad to good, good to bad, good to good enough, or worst to best. But wherever we land on the infinite spectrum of possibilities, we need to open our minds so we may find beauty wherever, or whichever outcome we have face. So far (in this journey), trusting my instinct, keeping a positive outlook and occasional strokes of luck brought me to clandestine destinations unimaginably endowed with tranquil magnificence
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1. First, thank you Mr. Paulo Cagara for the huge help, and thanks to your staff also, kina Kuya Rey and his family, the security officers, the neighbors – thank you everyone for the unparalleled hospitality. Thank you very much.
2. Rawadin Farm & Resort is located at Sitio Malibacao, Brgy. Romongaob, South Upi, Maguindanao. To go there, if coming from Cotabato City,take a multicab to Awang Crossing. From Awang Crossing, take the multicab then get off at Nuro (P50.00). Tell the conductor or the driver that you’re going to Timanan so he’ll drop you where you’re supposed to ride the next jeep. It’s in front of a bakeshoppe, which I think the name was “Gian’s.” Then, on the Timanan-bound jeepney, tell the conductor that you’ll get off at Malibacao (P50.00). From there, it’s only a short hike.
Alternatively, you could take a van that goes to Lebak, but it might cost the same price if you’re going to Lebak. Malibacao is somewhere halfway between Lebak and Cotabato City.
3. You could contact Rawadin Farm & Resort thru 0919 571 8402, or message them on Facebook.
4. Entrance fee is P10.00 per person, and an open cottage cost P100.00/rent. There are also rooms for rent.
5. If you’re staying overnight and camping, bring a jacket, a sleeping bag, a malong – it gets really, really, really cold.
6. You could bring food or you could also cook there. They have a cooking station.
7. The hike to the falls are relatively easy, but just to make sure, get a guide.
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12. Be safe and happy travels.
13. Watch this short clip about the place.