Some 90km west of Cagayan de Oro, the port city of ILIGAN has been working hard to shed its drab industrial image in recent years, rebranding itself as the “city of waterfalls”. Little more than a village in the early 1900s, Iligan boomed as an industrial centre after the creation of a hydroelectric power scheme in the 1950s. With a population of around 300,000 it’s a friendly, laidback place these days, with a peaceful mix of Christian locals and M’ranao Muslims visiting from nearby Marawi, though the biggest draw for visitors lies outside the city proper in the form of those justly famed cascades.
Iligan’s biggest draws are the waterfalls that puncture the surrounding countryside, as there’s little to see inside the city itself; most of Iligan was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1957. The best cluster lies on the west side on the highway towards Ozamiz and Zamboanga; take any jeepney (P6–12) towards Buru-un and tell them where you want to get off.
The most impressive cascade is the Maria Cristina Falls, 8.5km to the southwest of Iligan, which also serves as the main source of power for much of Mindanao. One hundred metres high, the twin falls (named after two heartbroken girls that are supposed to have jumped from the top), plunge into the torrential Agus River, but are at their best Saturday and Sunday at 11am, when the Agus VI Hydroelectric Plant upstream releases the most water. The falls are located with the NPC Nature Park, which also contains some shabby animal exhibits and a three-stage zip line across the river. From the jeepney stop on the highway it’s around 150m to the park entrance; walking on to the falls from the entrance takes around 20min (800m), or there’s a park shuttle for P10. The falls can only be viewed from a deck inside the power station building – you can’t get up close.