Category Archives: Surigao del Sur


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


Tinuy-an Falls, Bislig City, Surigao del Sur

We left the Enchanted River around 2:30pm and we immediately proceeded to Bislig to see Tinuy-an Falls. It took almost an hour to get there but hey, we had our own private vehicle so it was still very convenient. Thanks to my friend Dottie and the Millan family.

We passed by a lake, which reminded me of Lake Sebu, on the way to the falls. We would make a stopover here later to take pictures.

I was actually more excited to see the falls because of those ambitious shots I had in my mind. An untrained wannabe photographer can only dream so much though. I’m realistic enough to know what I’m capable of so I didn’t bother bringing my tripod at home, not that I ever used it before.

We found raging and brown water when we got to Tinuy-an Falls. It wasn’t the dreamy rock with water slowly flowing from the top that I was picturing in my head. This was because of the downpour earlier that day.

The lowest tier viewed at the entrance.

There was an entrance fee of P50. There was a funny story about this but I don’t want to over-brag so I won’t share it on this blog.

We then saw the second tier falls which would have been more picturesque had it not been for the rain.

Risking my camera just to get that signature pose.
Risking my camera just to get that signature pose.

Despite the flood-like waters, it still looked pretty to me. I probably just have more positive thoughts. But really, how often do you see pictures of Tinuy-an Falls with this amount and color of water flowing?

We didn’t bother riding the raft to go near the drop. We could already feel the huge drops of water from where we were standing so we thought we had enough.

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

The volunteer guides offered to take us to the top of the falls. Fee is based on what you deem appropriate. Ate Cathy was hesitant at first because of the number of steps – the guides told us there were 100. But when they said it would only take two minutes to get to the top, she was persuaded. So off we went to see the third tier.


When we got to the top, the guide noticed I was going up on rocks to get a better shot so he offered to take me higher.

Buwis buhay sa baha. Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.
Buwis buhay sa baha. Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

But the best I could do was this:


I think the pictures taken from Jao’s GoPro were better.

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

After a few more pictures, we went back.

On the way back to the city proper, we stopped over that lake we passed by earlier. No one knew what the name of the lake was so my companions named it Bislig Lake or something.

Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

We then proceeded to the Millan’s residence where we were staying for the night.

According to my friend Dottie, the place was originally a garage that was just turned into a small house where maybe backpackers visiting Bislig could stay. At P300 per head, you’d get a nice bed plus a kitchen with a stove, a dining table and a common veranda. Plus, doesn’t it look nice?

Photo courtesy of Dottie Millan.
Photo courtesy of Dottie Millan.

If you need a place to stay, just contact Mrs. Lucy Millan at 09209545366. If you ever contact Mrs. Millan, just let her know that you got her number from the blog of Ferdie, who is a friend of her daughter-in-law Dottie.

We were by the way the first one to use the house so we felt a little special. They provided three rooms for the five of us. Ate Cathy, Judielin and Kiboy shared the biggest room with two beds, while Jao and I each took our own rooms. So at P300, I had my own private room!

Another funny story that I’m willing to share now. The moment I hit the bed after showering, I fell into really deep sleep (yes, that’s how good their beds were). I did not sleep the previous night while we were in Davao and I only caught a few hours of nap while on the bus, so I was really knocked down. When it was time for dinner, my companions had a hard time waking me up because I locked the door. They were not able to wake me up. But I guess while they were already out, I managed to unlock the door while still half-asleep because when they got back, they were already able to get inside my room to wake me up.

We could’ve explored more of Bislig had I not slept the night off.

They brought me dinner and after watching some videos taken by Jao earlier in the day, I went back to my room and fell into deep sleep again. I made sure though that the door was unlocked so they were able to wake me up at 1:40am. We just made it in my time for the 2am bus going to Davao.