Ever since I was in grade school I had the mistaken impression that the tallest waterfall in the country is the Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City. Well, there are apparently quite a few more taller ones in the country but Maria Cristina Falls is certainly the most famous one in the whole of Mindanao. This two-cascade 320-feet-high falls is located about 1.5 kilometers from the mouth of Agus River, which is the only outlet of Lake Lanao, the second largest lake in the Philippines. The Agus River-Lanao Lake system is quite important to Mindanao because along it are several hydroelectric power plants that collectively supply about 70% of all the electricity used in Mindanao.
Of these plants, it is the Agus 6 Hydroelectric Power Plant that harnesses Maria Cristina Falls itself. The falls can be seen to the lower-right portion of the this article’s thumbnail, while part of the hydroelectric power plant’s facility is seen on the upper-left corner. Shown below is an aerial picture of the falls and the power plant. If you would explore the satellite imagery in Google Maps, you’ll see that the river is actually dammed to the south and 90% of the water is diverted to power the hydroelectric plant. The water is collected into a reservoir and then fed into underground pipes leading to turbines in the building at the bottom of the fall’s gorge. The whole facility generates about 200 MW of electricity and has been operating since 1953. (Another childhood misconception of mine: I thought that the hydroelectric turbines were located under the waterfalls.)
Photo from NAPOCOR.
Because of the economic significance of Maria Cristina Falls, it has been nicknamed the “Mother of Industry” and also as the “Fountainhead of Progress.” The waterfalls is economically significant in one another aspect—it is one of the top tourism draws in Iligan City. Despite having only 10% of the river’s water flowing over it, the waterfalls with its twin cascades is a beautiful sight. In fact, Maria Cristina Falls is the centerpiece attraction in this city affectionately called the “City of Majestic Waterfalls” because of the presence of about 20 other waterfalls in the city.
According to legend, the waterfalls were supposedly named after two sisters, Maria and Cristina. A young son of a sultan fell in love with both of these ladies and in the ensuing love triangle, the two sisters committed suicide by jumping over the falls. Weird. Anyway, you can learn more about the falls from this student project website and you can also see pictures from Flickr. You’d notice from the Flickr pictures that sometimes, the waterfalls loses is twin cascades. This is because NAPOCOR can control the amount of water flowing over the waterfalls in order to manage the electricity demand.