The once sleepy southern town awakens to the sound of water
Text and Photos by Noel S. Villaflor
SAMBOAN used to be a sleepy coastal town in southern Cebu, but following the recent “discovery” of numerous beautiful falls hidden in its thick forests, visitors from the metropolis and from as far as Eastern Europe have made Samboan a must-see destination.
Thanks to the town’s main attraction, the eight-level Aguinid Falls in Barangay Tangbo, visitors now come in droves especially on weekends. The falls was officially opened to the public only three years ago as part of the town’s eco-tourism thrust, a move that roused its economy, providing jobs to locals.
“From only one volunteer, Aguinid Falls now has 60 trained guides,” says Marivic Calderon, Samboan Tourism and Heritage Council chairpairson and the town’s first lady. Tourist arrivals have also shot up: last year, the town drew 142,000 plus registered local and foreign tourists, most of whom visited Aguinid. “All the fees that are collected from tourists goes to the barangay. The municipality does not get a single cent,” Calderon points out.
To disperse guests, the town, with Barangay Tangbo’s approach as template, had to open up other sites to tourists such as Dau Falls in Barangay Suba and Binalayan or Hidden Falls in Barangay Bonbon, along with other natural attractions such as Ponong Lake, a closed lagoon with brackish water surrounded by mangroves near the fisherman’s village, and heritage sites, such as the newly restored St. Michael Archangel Church and the Watch Tower.
With the influx of tourists, economic activity soared along with demand for local goods. Barangay Tangbo, for instance, showcases its main plant resource, the saksak, a type of palm. Irwin Gamallo, former barangay captain of Barangay Tangbo and now Samboan’s municipal tourism officer, explains that the saksak’s shoots are ground and used as an ingredient for a number of delicacies such as the palagsing (steamed pastry with coconut meat) and sinakol (steamed cake mixed with corn). “The saksak leaves are used for thatched roofs just like the nipa. But the saksak thatches are stronger, as they last 20 years,” Gamallo says.
Although eco-tourism has spurred economic activity, Calderon stressed the need for sustainability and ecological balance in the town that’s blessed with at least 12 waterfalls and numerous unexplored cave systems. Because of the sensitive ecosystem, each of the trained guides are assigned an area to clean up each day.
“Actually, the municipality has declared the whole of Samboan as a bird sanctuary,” Calderon reveals, adding that the town’s forests are home to diverse flora and fauna, such as fruit bats with two-meter wing spans that spread seeds to replenish the forest.
Calderon cannot stress enough how eco-tourism has provided livelihood to local folk and how vibrant life in the town has become. Along with the rest of the Samboanons, she welcomes the town’s visitors with open arms and is proud to show them the natural beauty this remote town has to offer.
To visitors, she has one simple request: “I appeal to guests not to leave trash behind and not to pick flora and fauna as each of them serves a purpose.”
And that’s because despite the number of tourists, the natural attractions of the town have remained pristine. The people of Samboan want to keep it that way.
HOW TO GET THERE
You can take a van or bus at the Cebu South Bus Terminal or drive 150 kilometers to reach Samboan via Oslob. Travel time takes three to four hours. To get around, motorbikes-for-hire are available in the town.
To find Aguinid in Barangay Tambo, you won’t miss a banner at the corner of the highway and a road that leads to the briefing area a few meters away. The first level of Aguinid is a mere five-minute walk.
The briefing area of Dau Falls in Barangay Suba can be accessed by car or motorbike a short drive from the highway.
Binalayan or Hidden Falls
The briefing area of Binalayan Falls in Barangay Bonbon is just a few meters from the highway. The falls is a leisurely 15-minute walk away.
Guides and Tipping
The guides of Samboan, especially in Aguinid, are among the nicest and most helpful you’ll meet. Aside from the P20 entrance fee for locals, there’s no mandatory fee for guides, so tip them well as a gesture of appreciation.