Category Archives: Misamis Oriental

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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Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental

Aside from joining the fun run during the previous weekend, I did not have anything else to do so I got bored and wanted to go somewhere the next weekend. Then on Monday, while I was a little tipsy, my uncle Tito Nonoy called. I then had the idea of visiting them in Bukidnon. Since I was feeling bored and drunk, I told him I’d go on Saturday. By Monday night, already sober, I had booked my plane tickets.

I was already planning to go to Cebu on that weekend because I had to claim my prize at RUNNR – I won their contest earlier this month. I just didn’t know where else to go beyond Cebu. My uncle’s call was just right on time.

During my Cebu stopover, I met with my friend Jennybelle and her husband Edward. I had to give Jennybelle her singlet from the fun run last week – again, perfect timing. They also accompanied me to RUNNR when I got my prize and had lunch with them.

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By 1pm, I was headed to Cagayan de Oro. Geez, their airport was too far from the city, just like our own airport in Bacolod and the one in Iloilo. The airport is in Laguindingan which is almost an hour away from CDO proper. From Laguindingan airport, I rode the Magnum Express for P199 to get to the Limketkai Mall (Magnum’s terminal) in downtown CDO where my uncle was waiting for me.

After some quick snacks, we drove off to their place in Bukidnon, which is actually just right outside the boundary of CDO. It was still an hour drive though. They live in a farm where my uncle’s wife, Tita Shirley, is the manager or something. I’m pretty sure they don’t own the farm but my aunt is the boss there. They have their own house just about half a mile away within the boundaries of CDO. Both are within an area called Alae.

This sign is just right outside the farm that my aunt manages.
This sign is just right outside the farm that my aunt manages.

My uncle and aunt own a bunch of dogs and more than a dozen lovebirds. My uncle owns 30-something fighting cocks and breeding hens, which my aunt wants to have nothing of. Plus the farm has tens of thousands of egg-laying chickens. I learned a few things from them about managing poultry, so I might start my own in the future.

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One of the workers in the farm had a birthday so we went to their house for dinner. Tita Shirley was concerned that I would get uncomfortable there but my uncle was more concerned about getting free food for us. Although it was still a bit awkward, I wasn’t really uncomfortable thinking that my tito and tita already expected me to be shy around people.

After dinner, we went to their house on the other side of the CDO-Bukidnon boundary. They bought that property so they could have somewhere to live once my aunt retires. It was a nice place.

We went back to the farm where I slept the night.

The next day we got ready for a visit to Dahilayan Forest Park. After doing my search in places to go in Bukidnon, it looks like this is the main attraction in the province. It is still in the same town where my uncle and aunt live, but it’s about an hour away.

On the way to Dahilayan, we passed by Camp Phillips.

The iconic pineapple at the entrance of Camp Phillips.
The iconic pineapple at the entrance of Camp Phillips.

Camp Phillips is owned by Del Monte. My uncle told me the story that it was attacked by the communist rebels early last year. I don’t want to go into details about my opinion but I do not like any form of violence.

Camp Phillips looked like a big community with its own school, park, etc. The houses of the workers were very colorful. The pineapple plantation was really vast. I wish we saw the fruit but it was all plant sans fruit when we were there.

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Right after Camp Phillips, there was a long stretch of rough road. My aunt timed it at 9 minutes. My uncle doesn’t really drive fast so it might be a short drive through that rocky road if you have a faster driver and a bigger car.

When we got to Dahilayan, I immediately registered for the 840-meter zipline. It’s for P500. They also have a 320-meter and a 150-meter ziplines which you can both take at P250. They have a zip-all package at P600. I only took the longest zipline because I was thinking I would not be enjoying the shorter ziplines if I have already taken the longest one. I was the only one who signed up because my uncle and aunt didn’t want to.

By the way, they boast of their zipline for being the longest dual zipline in Asia.

I had to get the gear from the landing area and we were driven to the takeoff area. They would have two people get into the line at a time so it sort of felt awkward not having a pair. I was anxious, as usual, as I’m scared of heights. When I was at the takeoff ramp, I was asking myself why I was doing this when I didn’t have to. I guess I’m more adventurous now.

It felt uneasy while I was going through the zipline. You’d see the river and the tracks and the forest under you while you felt like you were flying. I was thinking about my childhood wish to be able to have the power to fly. I guess this was how scary it would have felt if I could fly.

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Before I got more scared, it was over. I wanted to do it again but the P500 price was pretty steep. I really didn’t want to sign up for the shorter ziplines.

There was a photo booth at the landing area where you can buy your picture along with a certificate that you have experienced the longest zipline for P100. My tita started to rant about the photographer not taking good pictures. Before she could cause a scene, my uncle whisked her away.

There was another “ride” at the other end of the park. It was called drop-zone and I believe it is priced at P750 for double and P550 for single. We saw someone at it and it looked pretty scary being pulled to a certain height then dropped. It must have felt like free fall. I would probably have done it if I had been egged on by friends but thankfully, my tito and tita were not insistent enough.

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After touring around the place, we ordered some food and booze (only for me) as we sat to watch the Pacquiao-Algieri fight. It was a good match watching someone you’re rooting for have the upper hand in all rounds.

After the fight, we headed home. We were supposed to go to the Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador City but we were already short in time.

Thankfully, they have a treadmill at home so I got to run and sweat for 30 minutes. My uncle then cooked chicken tinola for dinner and had a few bottles of beer for the night. I discussed to my uncle my plans to go to Sulu and he said he could accompany me there. He also gave me an idea of Mindanao and how one place can be reached from another.

It was time for me to go home the next day. My uncle would drive me to the airport so I said my goodbye to Tita Shirley.

The plan was to visit the Divine Mercy Shrine before heading to the airport as El Salvador is just in the middle of CDO and Laguindingan.

They had a dress code. I had to borrow a pajama at the entrance because the pair of shorts I was wearing was not long enough to make it to my knees. They would only ask for donation so I gave P20 and, at the urging of my tito, I bought two raffle tickets for P20 each.

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We arrived before 9am but the orientation so that we could go up the heart of Jesus would not start until 9:30am. We didn’t sign up because we didn’t want to attend the orientation for what we thought was lack of time. I would realize later that I had plenty of time to spare.

The only thing to do at the “heart” is pray so it was a good choice not to go up there. I don’t pray.

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We toured around the place and you could really tell some money was spent there.

It also had an overview of that part of Misamis Oriental.

That island on horizon may be Camiguin, or not, as my tita's driver argued.
That island on the horizon may be Camiguin, or not, as my tita’s driver argued.

I like the design of the church. The roof is rimmed with the giant replica of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified.

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My Tito Nonoy.
My Tito Nonoy – Retired Staff Sergeant Romy Bulanon.

After a very early lunch, we headed to the airport in Laguindingan. My flight was at 2:40pm but I arrived at the airport at 10:00am. I was almost five hours early. I waited until 10:40am so I could check in and waited another three and a half hours for boarding.

A problem arose when I got to Cebu for my flight to Bacolod. Since they were using a small plane for the flight, they had to weigh me and my bag. Unfortunately, my backpack, after my tito and tita had me pack a few shirts for the people at home, was now very heavy. It was more than 9 kg and the airline had a limit of 7 kg for hand carry bags so I had to check in my backpack which would cost me P560. I panicked. I didn’t want to pay that amount for something I didn’t plan to pay. I really appreciated one of the staff who suggested that I just remove some pieces from my backpack and place it in other bags. That was what I did and I was not made to pay.

Because of my panic though, I became too absent-minded. So I could unpack the shirts and my shoes from my backpack, I had to place my wallet, my phone and my boarding pass on the counter. After the weigh-in, I proceeded directly to the pre-departure area but before I got there, other passengers were calling my attention because I left my valuables right in front of them. I was sort of embarrassed but, hey, I can be really scatterbrained sometimes. I drank two cans of beer before boarding to calm my nerves.

I got home in Sagay at 7:30pm.

My trip to Bukidnon was more of a visit to my tito and tita. I did enjoy Dahilayan but I wish I could have been to more places. The white water rafting in CDO was out of the picture. I did not have a group of friends with me to enjoy it. I may be back to Bukidnon to visit them again.