Kawasan Falls: A paradise lost to Queenie

By: Michelle Joy L. Padayhag November 30,2014 - 10:03 AM

RIVER WILD.  Cebu Daily News correspondent Michelle Joy L. Padayhag (left) together with tour guide John Thomas Capacio cross the river to reach the Kawasan Falls.  (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

RIVER WILD. Cebu Daily News correspondent Michelle Joy L. Padayhag (left) together with tour guide John Thomas Capacio cross the river to reach the Kawasan Falls.

KAWASAN Falls – the multi-layered waterfalls considered as the pride of Badian town – was an unimaginable picture of devastation as the weather cleared the day after tropical depression Queenie unleashed its wrath over southern Cebu.

Badian — less than an hour away from the diving paradise of Moalboal and about an hour and a half from Cebu City via the Natalio Bacalso  South National Highway and the Santander-Barili-Toledo road – was among the nine towns that bore the brunt of the 20th cyclone to hit the country this year.

Fifteen hours of continuous heavy rains that started Wednesday night pounded southern Cebu as Queenie crossed Central Visayas after it made its first landfall in Surigao del Sur.

The cold and clear water that cascades through layers of waterfalls from Kabukalan Spring before going to Matutinao River and the Tañon Strait was gone when Cebu Daily News visited the place Friday.  In its place was a seemingly unlimited serving of coffee as debris from loosened rocks mixed with soil that eroded from upstream continue to flow down the Matutinao River prompting municipal authorities to temporarily prohibit the entry of visitors.

Rock formations at the top of the falls were deformed.

Emma Saldua, one of the three tour operators at Kawasan Falls, compared the storm damage to a violent demolition.

“The demolition is way better because we can still save more things compared to what happened on Thursday,” she told CDN.

As the river started to overflow at 6 a.m. Saldua and her employees tried to save whatever they could, but the rampaging waters swept away tables and chairs.

“Ang mga life jackets, kahoy, mesa, lingkuranan, naa pud refrigerator na apil ug kaanod sa baha (Life jackets, trees, tables, chairs and even a refrigerator got swept away by the flood),” Saldua added.  A few life jackets could be seen hanging from the branches of trees while a tree on top of the falls was nearing tipping point, its roots protruding from the side of rocks.

Only one of the three bamboo rafts that were used to ferry visitors to the mouth of the river has remained. The others were either crushed like matchsticks or were washed away.

Luckily, Saldua’s retail store and rooms which she rents out to visitors were spared the deluge.

The day after the storm, a few men have started clearing the debris that littered Saldua’s kiosk near the first layer of the falls.

Saldua said that it was the strongest flood that they experienced in her 21 years of doing business at Kawasan Falls.

“Actually naanad naman me kung naay baha kay halos kada tuig maka experience me ug baha diri pero lahi ra gyud run mas kusog siya (We’re used to encountering floods every year but this one’s really strong),” she told Cebu Daily News.

Saldua said they will try their best to repair the damage to their facility before December, but she’s worried that visitors might not be able to make it to the falls as roads and bridges leading to it are still impassable.

“I still don’t know when we can resume our operations. It still depends on the situation,” she added.

Barangay councilmember Delia Capacio said the damage at the falls including the roads and bridges could reach more than a million pesos. Vehicles and even motorcycles couldn’t pass through the road leading to the falls because of the damage.

Although a water pipeline was cut, supply was normal. Power was restored at 1 a.m. Friday.

CDN walked the one kilometer road from the highway going to Kawasan Falls. The first of the three bridges was spared from destruction as it was elevated while the railings of the second were detached.

The third bridge was totally gone. Without the bridge, people cross the river holding onto ropes laid across the banks to guide them.

Capacio said she couldn’t say when they will reopen  Kawasan Falls to the public as they have yet to make a  thorough assessment of the damage.

About 70 -80 tour guides are affected with the closure of the falls.

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TAGS: Badian, Cebu Daily News, closed, damaged, Kawasan Falls, Queenie, tourism

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