White House tour in the dark

?? `WE were late for our scheduled house tour by several hours, lost in time island hopping in Cantilan earlier and it was already past 7 p.m. when we stopped by the Century-old, Herrera Ancestral House in Lanuza. The house is one of the attractions that draw hundreds of tourists to Surigao del Sur province.

We were willing to go inside the house, except that there was power outage and the whole town was blanketed in darkness. The caretaker of the mansion was waiting for us but only two of our companions who felt the emergency need to use the restroom decided to brave the darkness.

The white old mansion looked forbidding in the darkness outside, and I was almost sure someone was going to open the French windows a bit a peek at us from the darkness above.

Then the caretaker issued the challenge for a night tour of the white house and most of us reluctantly agreed. I was more scared to be left outside so I joined the pack. The darkness swallowed us and all we stuck close to each other. Manang, the caretaker led the way with a small lamp and we mounted the two flights of stairs into the main hall

 

The gas lamp cast scary shadows on the old chandelier dominating the ceiling, making me renew my vow never to have any chandelier of my own. Still stuck to each other, we trooped to the kitchen and the rooms and were ready to go when the caretaker said we should check the ground floor where the library is. We were hesitant but we followed her down the dark wooden stairs and into a garage. She unlocked a door and we crowded into a room filled with shelves and dressers, mirrors and an assortment of old knick-knacks.

I discovered that they have relocated most of the relics to the ground floor including the century old iron, pitchers, stoves and other utensils, an antique typewriter, a whole row of religious statues, and I was shocked to find out I was leaning on a cabinet full of dolls. I never had a doll in my entire life, even as a kid. I was always scared of them and seeing them in the dark shadows.

I clicked the shutter randomly, not knowing if I got anything in focus or not. I kept aiming my camera at the open doors and flashed without even looking what was in there, too scared to peek. Aiming my camera at one of the dolls, I clicked, not aware that Roland had lowered his flashlight, giving the doll a more scary effect.

I visited this mansion for the first time in 2007 with photographers Rhonson Ng and Jojie Alcantara, in broad daylight and it was not scary at all, except for one of the rooms where I felt goose bumps but in the dark, it was different. An old rocking chair also fired my imagination, and I can feel it rocking by itself anytime like there was someone invisible sitting on it.

Situated just a block away from the Prospero B. Pichay Sr. Boulevard, the Herrera Ancestral House was built on May 28, 1898 for business purposes. The “White House” as it is popularly called is owned by the late Don Gabriel Uriarte Herrera, the first mayor of Cantilan. The White House is well-maintained and is now managed by his heirs.

Any visit to Surigao del Sur won’t be complete without a tour of this historical White House. Come on a regular day to view varied antiques and relics as it also serves as the museum of the municipality.

A few meters away from the White House is the Surf Camp and Boulevard Café, a favorite surfer rendezvous that offers reasonable rates for overnight to longer stays for tourists.

Getting there

By air: Lanuza is accessible by air through Bancasi Domestic Airport in Butuan City and Surigao Domestic Airport in Surigao City. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Airlines fly regularly to these routes.

By sea: Regular sea trips are available through various shipping lines like Cokaliong, Cebu Ferries, WG&A, etc. from Surigao City and Nasipit ports in Agusan del Norte.

By Land: Lanuza is accessible by land through buses, jeepneys, vans and other vehicles for hire from any point in the Caraga Region, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.

Advertisements

Hinatuan Enchanted River

?? `   I left my heart at the Enchanted River, and now I am dying to go back…

OR maybe not anymore?

SURIGAO DEL SUR, Philippines—Far away in the Northeastern coast of Mindanao is a 300-kilometer stretch of picturesque coastal roads, pristine beaches, quaint villages and historic towns; a place where time is of no essence and you move in your own sweet pace. The province is called Surigao Del Sur.

Dubbed by locals as the Shangri-La by the Pacific, the province is a land of enchantment, cloaked in fascinating history and rich in natural attractions still practically uncorrupted by the advent of commercialization and mass tourism.

A few years back, professional photographers Rhon Ng and travel writer Jojie Alcantara whisked me off on a three-day rough and bumpy road trip adventure in a pickup jam-packed with all their gear. Not serious about photography, I did not understand yet why they had so much baggage which Rhon guarded with his life.

I came with a backpack containing my change of clothes and personal belongings for three days, and my photography gear—a Sony point and shoot and my overworked laptop. Only later did I realize what photo opportunities I missed on that trip.

The adventure took us from one end of the province to the other, sampling the paradise it has to offer to locals and tourists, an experience that would beckon you to come again and again. One of the most unforgettable stops we had was at the famous Enchanted River of Hinatuan, and I was to know why it was named so.?? `

The Enchanted River of Hinatuan is about an hour’s ride from Bislig City in Surigao del Sur. We drove the rough and narrow trail, navigating a few twists and turns before stopping near a rocky mountain wall where the blue waters of the enchanted river flows in the crevice below. The place was deserted, and there was something about the eerie silence and that blue darkness that is quite hard to reckon with, something bigger and strange that I could not put a word to it.

The lagoon beckoned temptingly, issuing a silent but irresistible invitation as though challenging anyone to explore the secrets of its undiscovered depths.

The mystery and beauty of the Enchanted River of Hinatuan has been featured in TV programs, YouTube and stories and photos published in websites all over the world. Divers have gone on expeditions to uncover the mystery in its depths but no one succeeded. Strong currents no one has ever experienced before, sand or pebbles block the passages whenever somebody tries to dive, making people believe that enkantos are really guarding the river. Over the past years, expeditions ?? `have been made by divers to search for undiscovered tunnels and passages.

Our guide told us a group of divers once tried to reach the bottom but they were forced to surface after exhausting three oxygen tanks each, reaching only 150 feet down. He also told us that no one would dare swim in the river alone when it gets dark because sightings of enchanted beings had been reported to show up before locals or strangers.

Stories had it that three people were seen to have walked into the river and disappeared into waters, and at certain times, huge multi-colored fish surface but one has yet caught a single fish no matter what method they used. Whether or not they believe the river to be enchanted, they are unwilling to take chances.

Rhon was unable to resist the temptation and took a swim, jumping from a rocky ledge and into the blue waters.

Mystical no more?

A year or so?? ` ago, I learned the air of mystery in the river could be forever gone forever with the advent of commercialism. The place has become one of the top tourist destinations. There is already a 30 pesos entrance free per person, and restrooms have been installed where you can change if you want to swim. Life jackets are rented out, and fish feeding has become a popular activity. Recent online photos showed cottages and ramps erected near the river bank. Gone was the feeling of enchantment that engulfed me when I first stepped on the riverbank over five years ago.

Check one this expedition on YouTube to get an idea of how Enchanted Underwater Cave looks like. I’m not sure if the spirits and enkantos believed to be guarding the river still wants to stay with the everyday activities and the influx of tourists to the place.

Getting There

From Davao: From Davao Ecoland Terminal, take a bus bound for Mangagoy (Bislig) and transfer to a bus, jeep or habal-habal going to Hinatuan.

From Butuan : From Langihan Terminal, take a bus bound for Mangagoy (Bislig)

Buses ply the routes of Tandag-Butuan, Tandag-Davao and Tandag-Surigao City regularly. Vans for hire are also available.