Years ago in 2003, we shot Hinatuan’s Enchanted River on our film camera. I wrote about it in my local paper (SunStar Davao), and eventually in Mabuhay Magazine, Manila Bulletin, M Magazine and other glossy publications.
My “money shot” and most published photo was that of Rhonson diving in the blue abyss in abandon, here published in DOT’s Mindanao Fun 101 Magazine. I was holding on to a branch of a lone tree hanging precariously by a precipice as I captured him in mid air back in 2007. I asked him to do it again, twice.
This may be a very tempting scenery, but unfortunately, the lagoon does not exude the same serenity and mystical air it used to have.
Mindanao Fun 101 Magazine
I described its enchantment from my interview with Mang Isko, a caretaker since World War 2. He regaled me with fascinating stories about how he fought against Japanese soldiers and witnessed them fall down the deep blue body of water (which may just explain a bit why you feel like you are imagining so many face imprints in the river on the photos), of encounters with the lady of the lake and swamp men through the years, of why huge fishes are never caught. He talked of a once huge tree illuminating the night with fireflies, and of a song written for this river with the startling blue color. He capped the interview by singing for me that particular song.
Soon after, a movie was filmed there, its once unfathomable depths were explored by divers, and cave chambers were discovered. People soon came from all over in curiosity. Developments were made, paved roads leading to its bank, a line of huts, a gate, stores, cemented edges and a staircase built by the water. Signs and billboards are everywhere that says: “Welcome to Hinatuan Enchanted River!”
But the enchantment has long faded away.
Me in Hinatuan 2003-2007 (shot in film)
Recently, I finally revisited after years of avoiding the stories told me. I read blogs rewriting my story over again but I wonder if they saw it the way I once did. I’m glad I experienced it before its fame, and to have recorded local tales with a “cassette recorder”.
Today, you are lucky if you get the place to yourself. When you do, good for you. It holds so many secrets that may show up once again. Maybe then you will understand its losing mystique.
You can view more old photos here. I will post my recent photos soon…when I get past the disappointment of looking at them now. And by the way, the old dusty road that leads to the hidden paradise is gone now, replaced by paved roads lined with directional signs. The allure of discovery has also faded away.
A habal habal ride in 2007 without signs along the road
Hinatuan River published in M Magazine
Hinatuan River published in Manila Bulletin, 2011
Hinatuan River published in Manila Bulletin, 2007