Category Archives: Davao del Norte

THE BEAUTY OF MINDANAO

In 2014, I started traveling within the Philippines more frequently. I was looking at a Philippine map and realized I haven’t been to Mindanao at all. So I made a resolution in the middle of the year that I would try to put more focus in this part of the country.

But my first trip to Mindanao was almost by accident. At that time, I was dying to go to Batanes but I just didn’t have enough funds for the plane ticket. Right on cue, I found a “piso fare” promotion of a certain airline and they had it available for Manila-Zamboanga-Tawi-Tawi flights. I couldn’t go up north so I might as well go down south. I immediately booked round trip tickets.

TAWI-TAWI

When I told my closest friend that I was going to Tawi-tawi, she forcefully asked me to not go. Because I got a strong reaction from her, I calmed her down by telling her that I was just joking. Of course, I wasn’t. She only found out that I was serious when I was already in NAIA waiting for my flight to Zamboanga. My mother, on the other hand, knew that I was only going to Zamboanga. She was shocked when she found pictures of me posing on top of a mountain in Tawi-tawi.

When I finally arrived in Zamboanga, I was too excited. It was my first time in Mindanao after all and I was alone! I had to stay overnight in the city but I didn’t get to explore much of the place.

It was then time to fly to Tawi-tawi.

I arrived in Bongao, the capital of Tawi-tawi, in the morning of August 30, 2014. I had some expectations about their province, but when I got there, I was surprised to see that it looked like any other urban area. Pardon me for my imaginations, but media hasn’t really shown much of these urban areas in ARMM.

The hotel where I stayed, Rachel’s Place, was kind enough to provide me their own staff to be my guides. On my first day, they toured me around the public and private beaches along the highway. Their beaches were clean and untouched.

IMG_0677The next day, we left the hotel early to hike Bud Bongao, the highest peak in Tawi-tawi. It was also my first hike up a mountain in years. I had fun with the monkeys and the view from the top was breathtaking.

IMG_0917We hit the beach again when we got down.

IMG_0987What made me love Tawi-tawi more was its people. Almost everyone was very friendly to me. They know how outsiders look at them and they find humor in it. I would have loved to go to the other islands but I was short in time. I’ve heard about Panampangan so I might go there next time.

BUKIDNON AND MISAMIS ORIENTAL

A couple of months later, I decided to visit my uncle and aunt in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. They brought me to Dahilayan Park, where I tried their zipline, and to the Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental where there was a giant statue of Jesus Christ.

Ziplining at Dahilayan Park
Ziplining at Dahilayan Park

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SOCCSKSARGEN

In January 2015, a few friends and I went backpacking in the Cotabato region.

Our first stop was Cotabato City, which we reached after a three-hour passenger van ride from General Santos City. We paid a visit to the Grand Mosque, otherwise known as Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid.

IMG_6386After this quick visit, we made our way to Midsayap, North Cotabato where we were staying for the night before going to Asik-Asik Falls in Alamada the next day.

From Midsayap, we hired habal-habals to go to Brgy. Dado in Alamada. We reached the center of Brgy. Dado after almost two hours, mostly on very rough roads. We hired more habal-habals from there so there could only be one passenger on each habal-habal. This was because the remaining part of the ride was on even rougher roads. The habal-habal ride was an adventure in itself. Asik-Asik Falls was worth all that pain though. We were lucky enough to have the place all to ourselves.

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IMG_6424We went back to Midsayap after lunch and took a van going to Kabacan, then from Kabacan to Tacurong and finally from Tacurong to Marbel, which is the more popular name of Koronadal, the capital city of South Cotabato. We stayed overnight in Marbel.

Early the next morning, we left by bus for Surallah and then from Surallah, we took a van going to the town of Lake Sebu. From the terminal, we took a much shorter habal-habal ride going to Falls Number 1 of the Seven Falls of Lake Sebu.

 

Photo courtest of John Rey Cuyos.
Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

We then took the zipline to see the other falls from above (as seen on the video below).

We had lunch on the floating restaurant of the Mountain Lake Eco Resort while touring around the lake, which the town was named after, and being serenaded by Yegas, a T’boli artist.

 

The island on the foreground is that island

 

We also went to see the famous Langdulay in the next town of T’boli. She is this renowned dream weaver of the T’boli tribe. The cloth that they make is called T’nalak which they were selling for P600 per meter. Considering that it takes them up to four months to finish a piece of cloth, the price was reasonable.

IMG_6481 copyWe headed back to General Santos City afterwards and spent the next morning at Sarangani Highlands before flying back home.

IMG_1396Jao, one of my travel buddies during this trip, created a video showcasing the fun we had during this whole trip and the magnificence of the Cotabato region.

SURIGAO DEL SUR AND THE ISLAND GARDEN CITY OF SAMAL

My most recent trip to Mindanao was last April 2015. I tagged along a friend and his family to go to Surigao del Sur and Samal.

We first stopped by the Enchanted River in Hinatuan. We reached it after a six-hour bus ride from Davao City (Butuan City is a nearer gateway but flights to Davao were cheaper when we booked).

My friend Jao, whose hobbies include free diving, spent most of his time underwater.

Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos. Taken by me. :-p
Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos. Taken by me. :-p

He again created a video of our (mostly his) adventure at the Enchanted River.

A little past 2pm, we drove to Bislig City to see the Tinuy-an Falls. Because of the heavy downpour earlier in the day, we found raging and brown water instead of the dreamy rock with slow moving water flowing from the top that I was imagining. The falls still looked grand and imposing though.

Risking my camera just to get that signature pose.

For our second day, we went to Samal and spent the entire day at the Maxima Resort. We were planning to explore more of the city but there were so many fun things to do at Maxima.

IMG_7498Their snorkeling spot is also a must-see.

Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.
Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

Mindanao is definitely a rich place. I have only made four trips so far but I’m already in love with it. Aside from these destinations I have visited, there are more things to see in Mindanao.

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Samal, Davao del Norte

Our initial plan after Bislig was to go to Britannia which is still in Surigao del Sur. However, my friend Jao said that it’s too far from Bislig and even farther from Davao which was our entry and exit point.

When we found a post about Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel, Davao Oriental, we changed our plans to that since it is just two hours away from Bislig. However (again!), our friend Dottie mentioned that the road going to Cateel is not exactly safe due to rebel activities in the area. I really wanted to go to Cateel but I didn’t want to drag a group of people, let alone a family, into a danger zone, so I wanted to go solo. Up until the last minute before our flight to Davao, I was still thinking about Cateel but I had to let go of that thought since the time I had would make it really difficult for me.

Jao and his family kept discussing about where to go on our second day. Mati, Samal and some places within Davao City were mentioned. Final decision was Samal.

We left Bislig at 2am. We took a Bachelor Express bus going to Davao. Fare was P360 and travel time was five and a half hours.

We arrived at the Ecoland Terminal in Davao around 7:30am. We took a taxi who took the five of us, as long as we give him P40 extra, to go to the house of Jao’s sister, Ate Eves. Things went problematic when he took us to the wrong place on the other side of the city. Since Davao is too big, getting lost in the city would really cost a lot. What could have been just a fare of P150 (based on what I paid the previous day) ballooned to P360. Jao had to argue with the driver considering it was mostly the driver’s fault.

We arrived at Ate Eves’ house around 8:30am. We had breakfast, cleaned up and prepared to go to Samal. Their whole family was going this time. Aside from Judielin, Ate Cathy and Kiboy, Ate Eves and her children, Kate and Steven, were joining us.

We left around 11am. We rode on their neighbor’s multi-cab to go to the wharf (I didn’t get the name of the wharf, but from what I read I’m assuming this was Sasa wharf). We paid P10 for the barge which took us to Babak wharf in Samal in only 10-15 minutes.

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We then took habal-habals going to Maxima. The habal-habal drivers were charging P75 each, so P150 for each motorcycle.

We found a lot of activities when we got to Maxima, so instead of going to other sites in Samal, we decided to stay for the rest of the day. Entrance fee was P200 (if I remember correctly) and we were free to use almost everything (tables, life vests, the tarp slide, the jump-bounce thing).

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We had lunch first before going to the water. I did the tarp slide which was fun and scary at the same time, so it was exciting.

Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.
Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

Perhaps the most popular was that balloon bouncing thing in the water. No one among us tried it but it was fun to watch other people doing it. One person would go to the far end first then somebody would jump on the near end. The bigger the person jumping on the near end, the higher the person flies on the other end.

Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.
Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

Jao had no idea that Maxima had a diving spot so he felt disappointed that he wasn’t able to bring his fins and his snorkeling mask. So we decided to rent from the resort – P100 for the snorkeling mask and another P100 for their fins.

The wildlife underwater was flourishing despite the number of people swimming around. We even found a sea snake which was thankfully just resting on one spot but was too close for comfort.

Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

Ate Eves, Ate Cathy, Judielin, Kate and Kiboy decided to do the banana boat ride later in the afternoon. Fee was P330 each. They had so much fun as seen on this raw video:

Around 5:30pm, we left Maxima. By the way, Maxima has its own passenger boat that could take its guests directly to Davao for P75. However, their last trip was at 4pm.

So we rode on another habal-habal to go back to Babak wharf. While on the way, rain started pouring so most of us really got wet. That was another set of fun though.

There were a lot of people going to Davao so the barge was full and the wharves were chaotic. We managed to arrive in Davao around 7pm, had dinner, watched videos from Jao’s GoPro at Ate Eves’s house and went into really deep sleep. Fun fact: I’m scared to sleep in other people’s houses when I’m really tired because I talk and sometimes even walk in my sleep. I think I snore too.

We were planning to visit other places in Davao on our last day but we were still tired and we were short in time so we decided to just rest. After lunch, we started getting ready for our flight back to Cebu.

We stopped at the mall to have pizza before heading to the airport. Since we were on our 5:30pm flight, we all selected window seats to get a good view especially of the sunset.

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I also want to add that the view of Bohol from above was really nice with all the hills covering most of the island.

We arrived in Cebu around 6pm. I spent the night at a friend’s place and made my way home to Negros the next day.

I’m really thankful to Jao and his family. I am open to travel with anyone nowadays, but I’m still shy, quiet and awkward around people I just met. I really had fun on this trip though. 🙂