Category Archives: North Cotabato

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

IMG_4439

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.

IMG_6407 copy

 

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.

Advertisements

Asik-Asik Falls, Alamada, North Cotabato

*We were in the Cotabato region when the Maguindanao Encounter happened. We had to pass through several Maguindanao towns the day before the unfortunate incident. Part of the purpose of this blog, among other things, is to encourage others to travel to these wonderful destinations in the Philippines, but please do assess the situation in Mindanao before making any plans.

Video courtesy of John Rey Cuyos

From Cotabato City, we rode a van to Midsayap. The fare was P50 and the trip did not last for an hour. It was already dark so I couldn’t see a thing on the road but after checking the map when I got home, I found out that we had to pass by a couple of Maguindanao towns again.

We arrived in Midsayap, North Cotabato a little past 7pm. We checked in at White Hut Inn and Resort upon the recommendation of this blog. They had an air-conditioned room for P1500 that accommodated the six of us. At that rate, they also had a hot shower. We had to check out late the next day and they charged P100 per hour after 12noon.

We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant and after eating, my companions spoke to a tricycle driver to see if he could get us three habal-habals, two people on each, to take us to Asik-Asik Falls the next day. Then we went back to the inn to sleep the night off.

Early the next morning at 6am, we left for Alamada. There were three habal-habals waiting for us outside as promised by the tricycle driver the previous night. They charged P1000 for each habal-habal. It was a long and rough ride so this was reasonable.

I’m not usually comfortable riding a habal-habal anywhere but that was the only option. When it was on the highway, it was fine. But when it made a turn for the rough road, things just went awry.

The first part of the rough road was still manageable. Then we got to the part where rocks on the road started to get larger. I was just riding a motorcycle but I was sweating like hell. My butt and thighs were hurting and when we stopped, I could barely walk. Please note that this wasn’t the worst yet.

We reached Brgy. Dado in Alamada around 7:30am. The habal-habal ride felt like forever.

We had batchoy and coffee for breakfast in a store owned by an Ilonggo family. I was surprised to see that people here spoke Ilonggo with the same accent as I have.

It was strange being in the Cotabato region. People spoke different languages in each town. You can ride a van and hear four different languages being spoken. One town would speak Ilonggo, then the people in the next town spoke Bisaya, some spoke Tagalog and a few spoke a language I don’t understand but I assumed it was Tausug.

Anyway, after breakfast, we got ready for another habal-habal ride to the jump-off point to Asik-Asik Falls. We had to hire three more habal-habals for P75 each because it would be difficult to have two passengers on one habal-habal. Unlike the habal-habals we hired from Midsayap, the habal-habals in Brgy. Dado were built for the rough road. Some even had chains wrapped around their rear wheels.

I was assigned to the same habal-habal that I rode from Midsayap because as the driver put it, I looked light. A few meters ahead from the center of Brgy. Dado was the start of a dirt road. That road was slippery because it rained the previous night. A few meters into the dirt road and my habal-habal fell. Then one by one, the two other habal-habals from Midsayap started falling too.

The drivers and their motorcycles weren’t used to this type of terrain so they really had difficulties. The two women I was with, who were the ones assigned to the Midsayap habal-habals, and I were forced to walk because our drivers couldn’t manage to get their vehicles up the road. Thankfully, the Dado drivers fetched us and I was made to ride along with another companion for the rest of the road. One of our female companions still rode on the same Midsayap habal-habal and unfortunately, she fell four times.

We reached the jump-off point around 9am and at that time, we felt we already had the adventure of our lives. I took the warning about this lightly but boy was I wrong. It was the habal-habal ride of my life!

The view of the mountains around the jump-off point was scenic especially that lone house on top of a hill.

IMG_6400

There was a registration fee of P30 each and we had to write our names on a logbook. There were a few stores at the jump-off point and one was even selling what would become our go-to meal, pastil. We bought a few pastils for lunch.

After a few minutes of rest, we started the walk down to the falls. The start of the trail was still mud but they had already started cementing most of it so it wasn’t that bad. They said the steps numbered 500 but I didn’t bother to count. Maybe there were indeed 500 steps.

We forgot about all our pains when we got to the falls. It was the most beautiful falls I have ever seen so far.

IMG_6407 copy IMG_6430 copy IMG_6424

This photo is courtesy of Jao Cuyos
This photo is courtesy of Jao Cuyos

The water was just shallow but the current was strong especially under the tallest drop. I amused myself by walking along the rocks and getting dumped by the cascading water.

DCIM114GOPRO
This photo is courtesy of Jao Cuyos

We were the only group of people in Asik-Asik the whole time we were there so we had the place all to ourselves. Other people only started arriving when we were heading back.

After more than an hour of enjoying the scenery and the water, we made our way back. But while we were crossing a log bridge, we found a snake eating a frog. This was the first time I ever saw this live. Even if the snake was small, it was still interesting to see it.

IMG_6436

Climbing down the steps to the falls was pretty much easy but climbing up wasn’t. I was gasping for air when we reached the jump-off point.

We rested for a few minutes and paid the guide P100. Then we rode our assigned habal-habals back to the center of Brgy. Dado. The road this time had now dried up so the habal-habal had an easier time navigating it, although we almost fell once. We went back to two passengers on each habal-habal after stopping in Brgy. Dado. At this point, my tailbone was already sore and bruised so I was just so happy when we reached the highway.

We stayed at White Hut Inn until 3pm so we paid P300 for the extension of time that we spent there. We then proceeded to the terminal to ride a van going to Tacurong en route to Marbel in Koronadal where we were staying for the night before we go to Lake Sebu the next day.