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May 26, 2014

The Untold Story of the Enchanted River of Hinatuan

     Days before my trip to Hinatuan I was already giddy with excitement. I have heard about this small town in Surigao del Sur which is a province in Mindanao. I have heard about its precious treasure and currently a worldwide tourist destination, the Enchanted River. I saw the pictures of how breathtaking the place is, almost unbelievable even. A river with crystal clear waters flowing from an unknown source. It was used to be hidden inside the forest of Hinatuan but when it was discovered, it became an instant tourist destination.

     I was having dinner with the Mayor of Hinatuan at the house of his brother who is the current chief of hospital of the Hinatuan District Hospital. Together with us at the dinner table was the Municipal Health officer of Hinatuan, the executive assistant of the mayor and one of the nurses from the RHU. We were talking of course about the current partnership between the town and the organization that I work for. Of course, we talked about the Enchanted River. I asked the Mayor if the river has a local name.

     "It has always been called the Enchanted River," he said. "It got its name from an old poem which eventually was turned into a song." Intrigued, I probed even further and the Mayor told me a story which I think no outsider has yet heard of.

     Back in the pre-World War II years, there was a certain man named Ramon Farolan who incidentally left his family in Manila to work in Surigao for the Madrigal Logging Company. Back then the place was dotted with logging mills and mining companies. After all, Mindanao is rich with resources. Mr. Farolan obviously missed his home although it wasn't clear whether or not he left a girlfriend back in his original hometown. What was clear though was while working for the Madrigal Logging company, Farolan met a young lady. Maybe it wasn't love at first sight but definitely Farolan grew fond of this young girl that they started to build this romantic relationship.

     The current Mayor of Hinatuan was trying to recall the name of the girl, "I think it was Concepcion or something, I could no longer remember, but her family name was Jimenea." Ms. Jimenea, according to the Mayor, was an Ilongga. It is usually assumed that the an Ilonggo is a person who hails from Iloilo but it was not clear as well whether or not this was true of Ms. Jimenea. The way the Mayor was talking about her as well it seemed to me as if Ms. Jimenea was way younger than Mr. Farolan.

     Definitely, Mr. Farolan fell in love with Ms. Jimenea and I would fancy that somehow the relationship got into a blossoming start. Unfortunately, the ending was not in favor of the two. The relationship did not prosper. The girl had to leave Surigao when her father stopped working for the logging company. Mr. Farolan stayed on. They were never to see each other again. In his lonesome, Mr. Farolan would stray along the banks of this beautiful river which used to have a local name. It was in this beautiful place that Farolan found sanctuary. It was in the banks of the river that he, out of his love for Jimenea, wrote a beautiful poem.

     I am not sure if Jimenea got to read the poem written by Farolan for her. Eventually, Farolan became a teacher and one of his students then was the current mayor of Hinatuan, Mayor Bacuing Viola. Farolan never got married. Farolan's poem was later discovered by Mr. Francisco Rio who was then a local musician. He was inspired to compose a melody for the poem. Now, the poem, "Enchanted", became a song. The poem described Farolan's pining for Jimenea using the river's beauty as a metaphor. The poem was circulated among the locals and when they saw the river themselves they would then relate to the unfulfilled romance between Farolan and Jimenea. The poem then became the name of the river: the Enchanted River.

    When I saw the river for myself, it was truly enchanted. It is so clear that I was both mesmerized and afraid by its beauty. The surroundings of the river have been developed to accommodate the growing number of tourists who would come to bathe in its unparalleled streams. It is said that no one has yet to reach the river bed especially its deepest part. Fish are plenty in the river whether in the deeper areas or in the shallow waters. The trees and ferns and wild orchids around the river gave it an out-of-this-world ambiance.


To go to the Enchanted River, one can hire a van or take a bus from Butuan heading for Hinatuan. The river is located in Brgy. Talisay. It is managed by the local government itself. A minimal entrance fee is collected. There are cottages for rent. There are also food establishments a few meters away from the entrance. They would also have goggles and life jackets for rent for those who are not good swimmers. There are of course lifeguards located along the river. At around 12 noon, everyone would witness the feeding of the fish in the river. Huge fish would come up the surface to grab some food being thrown by the lifeguards. And the song, the poem of Farolan, would be played on the sound system, reminding everyone that this Enchanted River is a witness to love and romance of long ago.

Here's the youtube video of the poem-turned-song sang by the chorale of the Hinatuan LGU.

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