Tag Archives: enchanted river

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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Enchanted River, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur – Part 2

Swimming time! Or in my friend’s case, diving time!

Since I’m not a good swimmer, I had to rent a life vest. The office had life vests for rent at P15 per hour. You’d then have to leave an ID as a collateral or guarantee or whatever.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post, it was a little crowded so you’d have to pass through throngs of people on the way down to the water.

Photo courtesy of Jao Cuyos.
Photo courtesy of Jao Cuyos.

I didn’t want to show off my swimming skills or the lack of it so I went around and started at the shallower part where most kids were hanging out. I was an instant standout being a tall adult among them. Kidding.

I thought that since I was wearing a life vest, I could just kick my way to the middle of the Enchanted River. But geez, the current was too strong it was funny for me to even try going against it.

For some reason despite the current, I wanted to go to the other side of the river so I held onto the rope where the buoys were tied and I managed to cross. There was not much current on the other side so I stayed there and every once in a while, I would try my luck going against the current again much to my frustration.

There were natural ledges where people, including me, would stand on while in the water. This causes the limestone to disintegrate and the lime particles would ooze down to the bottom. The rain would also take these lime particles (anapog in Cebuano) down to the water. Since the Enchanted River prides itself with its underwater scenery, these white lime particles pose a threat to the future of the beauty of the Enchanted River. I’m not sure what can be done here but something must be done.

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

Ate Cathy, Judielin, Kiboy and I were gathered in one spot on the side of the water to avoid getting swept away by the current.

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Photo courtesy of Jao Cuyos.

Jao, meanwhile, was enjoying his time underwater. That was what he came here for. 11159921_10206321560535858_2573955659513740291_o Jao brought some bread to feed the fish (this is not allowed). The fishes would indeed gather around us. While Jao’s nephew Kiboy was feeding the fishes, a huge fish took a bite of his finger. Jao was able to capture it on video (included above) and it was thrilling (I’m not sure if this is the right word) to watch. The fish’s teeth made some long wounds on Kiboy’s fingers it might have been traumatic.

A few minutes later, the lifeguards noticed us feeding the fishes so they told us not to continue. If only they told us a little earlier, Kiboy wouldn’t have been bitten. Yeah, blame the lifeguards! Harhar!

*I would like to emphasize that fish feeding is not allowed. We weren’t aware and we immediately stopped as soon as we were told. We apologize if this has caused any damage. It will not happen again. 

Despite the incident, the relentless rain, and the cold, the guys still had fun.

I had a secret embarrassing moment of my own while trying to go back to shore. I went back to that rope to get myself back to shore but once I was in the shallow part of the water, I let go of the rope thinking I could just stand. I forgot about how strong the current was. It was pushing me to that part where the mud was flowing from the top because of the rain and was mixing in with water. The mud was a little smelly so I struggled to stay away from it. It was all happening near the lifeguards’ station so the lifeguards were staring at me. I thought asking for help would be more embarrassing. Finally, after a few minutes, I got a hold of the rope again and got myself up. Phew!

I went back to our cottage to wait for lunch. Jao had to go back to that store at the entrance where we ordered food to get the number which they failed to give us after we made the order. We asked them to serve food at 11am but food didn’t arrive until 12pm, while everyone was gathered around the Enchanted River to see the feeding of the fishes.

A few minutes after 12, the bell rang which signaled the start of the feeding. They had music playing in the background which to me sounded like some apparition was happening.

Before a staff member threw food at them, the fishes were already gathered near the surface of the water, so they must have already gotten used to being fed at noon. Once food was thrown, the fishes were scrambling to get them. The people, especially those on top, were also scrambling to see the spectacle.

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Photo courtesy of Jao Cuyos.

After the feeding of the fishes, we went back to our cottage to have our own feeding of ourselves. We had shrimp and tinolang isda for lunch, along with some leftovers from breakfast and the puto that Jao’s sister Ate Eves made before we left Davao.

After lunch, we learned while talking to a local that there was a landslide that occurred a few months ago, which is why what is left of the hill beside the cottages is now being secured by a net. I think this is another source of concern for the future of the Enchanted River.

The rain stopped in the afternoon, although the weather was still gloomy. Jao went back to the water, this time with his fins. I followed him and I was now able to cross the middle of the river. I was also able to see the bottom thanks to Jao’s snorkeling mask and the clarity of the water. Hooray for me!

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Photo courtesy of Jao Cuyos.

Jao set up his GoPro on a part of the riverbed where he was able to capture photos and a video showcasing the nice view underwater.

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Photo courtesy of Jao Cuyos.

After my brief difficulty with the snorkeling mask, I was able to help him capture shots of himself enjoying underwater.

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

For those who are curious how he can do that, he knows how to equalize whatever pressure is necessary underwater. He took a free diving lesson. I’m a little envious so I might take that lesson too. But I need to improve these swimming skills first.

We left around 2:30pm to make our way to Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig.