Tag Archives: 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

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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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General Santos City

*We were in the Cotabato region when the Maguindanao Encounter happened. We had to pass by 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.

From Lake Sebu, we rode a van for about 70 each that would take us to Marbel. When we got to Marbel, we rode a Yellow Bus going to General Santos City for P95 each. It was about two hours of travel from Lake Sebu to GenSan.

It was decided that we would just spend the night in GenSan so we wouldn’t have to hurry for our flight the next day. Besides, we could just explore another city as a sort of a side trip.

When we arrived in GenSan, we hired a tricycle that took us to the downtown area to find a cheap accommodation where we could stay for the night. According to our companion who checked it, it was not very clean so we had to find another hotel.

Upon the recommendation of a friend of another companion, we went to Driggs. We got a room for P1800 that was able to accommodate the six of us. It was clean and nice and they had hot shower! Woohoo!

After everyone had freshened up, we went to KCC Mall to have dinner. For some reason, I was starving. We ate at the food court. Nothing fancy. I just wanted to order everything.

We then had a few bottles of beer outside the mall where there was a band playing. They were selling six bottles of beer for P165! It’s rare to find beer at that price nowadays.

We went home a little after 10pm. I was pretty satisfied to get my fill that night so yey!

The next morning, the two guys woke up early to go to the GenSan Fish Port. I and the rest of the group decided to just stay to get more sleep. I should have gone with them. I would have had more stories to tell. According to the guys, you need to wear long pants and boots to get inside the fish port.

About an hour later, the girls decided to go to the Sarangani Highlands. Jao and I went along with them.

We hired a tricycle and we paid the driver P100 each (as far as I remember, my memory is not that good though) to get us to the Sarangani Highlands and back to the hotel. It was about 30-45 minutes away from the hotel.

The fish port was very near the Highlands so you might want to stay away from tricycle drivers who would tell you otherwise and ask for an exorbitant fare.

When we got to the Sarangani Highlands, the two guys were already there. The resort has a scenic view of the Sarangani Bay. The koi ponds, the man-made falls and the bonsai trees provided a zen vibe to the place.

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What I didn’t like about the resort was the length of time we had to wait before we were served with the food we ordered. It took them forever to serve us sausage and omelet. We were getting impatient because we still had to go back to the hotel and catch our flight in under three hours.

Because we had very little time, we had to finish our breakfast fast. We got out of the resort around 9:30am and got back to our hotel at 10am.

We were able to get a taxi at 10:30am and the driver was kind enough to let the six of us get into his cab. He asked for a P350 fare but we gave him P400.

Our flight for Cebu was delayed for more than four hours – the longest delay I have ever experienced. Since there was no certainty that our plane could take off, we decided to just be rebooked on a flight to Manila, then to another flight to Cebu. We were able to get to Cebu around 8:30pm.

I met up with a couple of old friends to get a free dinner that night and slept at another friend’s house. I’m that poor nowadays. I was able to get home in Negros around 7pm the next day.

My parents assumed I was taking a plane from Cebu to Bacolod. I told them I was leaving Cebu at 9am and failed to tell them I was only taking the bus. My battery ran out and when I got home, they told me how worried they were that I didn’t arrive from Cebu soon enough. They weren’t worried at all when I was still in Cotabato.

This was a great trip that I had. The journey to Asik-Asik Falls is something I would always be proud of. It was also a big bonus that I was with people who had this great sense of adventure.