Tag Archives: general santos


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.


Cotabato 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.

My friend Jao invited me to join his other friends to a trip to Asik-Asik Falls and Lake Sebu. Since these are in provinces I still had not visited, I immediately said yes and booked a round trip ticket to General Santos which was going to be our entry and exit point.

I am used to making reservations in advance but Jao warned me that this was going to be an entirely backpacking trip. I was just going to tag along so I did not make any itinerary. Except for reading a post about Asik-Asik Falls, I did not check anything else. I did not even bother to look at a map so I had no idea we were passing by some interesting places.

I arrived in Cebu before 8am where I was going to meet Jao and his friends to take the flight to GenSan. I was in a sort of a dilemma because my bank was offline for several hours and I had no idea whether my money was available or not. I had already resigned to spending a penniless trip with people I just met. Good thing the bank went back online when we arrived in GenSan.

When we got to GenSan, we boarded a van going to the bus terminal of Husky bus. We paid P350 for the van that accommodated all six of us.

Fare for the Husky bus was P300 going to Cotabato City. The van nearby was only charging P250 with fewer stops along the way. So we decided to take the van.

We had to pass by several Maguindanao towns including those that we often hear in the news such as Shariff Aguak and Datu Unsay. While I was not extremely scared, I couldn’t help but get nervous each time the van we were on was stopped to pay something. That was exactly how I pictured those who were just passing by when they were unfortunately became casualties in November 2009.

After almost four hours (or maybe that was three hours, I couldn’t recall exactly), we reached Cotabato City.

Cotabato City is an interesting city, at least for me. It is geographically part of Maguindanao but is not politically part of the province. It is also the regional center of ARMM but is not under the jurisdiction of the region. It is also not part of either North or South Cotabato but is grouped in the same region, SOCCSKSARGEN, with them. For this blog’s purposes, I have filed this post under Maguindanao.


We alighted in front of the bus terminal of Husky. We then stopped by a store to get something to eat. My companions bought pastil, a rice dish common in Cotabato that is topped with chicken strips and wrapped in a banana leaf. It just cost P7 but it was enough to get you full. That is rice after all. At that time, I still wasn’t that hungry so I just bought a few sticks of barbecue.

We then hired three habal-habals, two people on each habal-habal, to take us to the Grand Mosque. I did not have any knowledge about this mosque beforehand so it was quite a surprise to see how grand it was indeed.

There were a few things prohibited inside the mosque:


I was wearing shorts and did not bring any pair of pants so this warning worried me when I saw it. But then we were told that this was not being strictly enforced and we could still go in. The caretaker however asked our female companion to wear pants because they might get in trouble if she would be seen on the CCTV. We men were allowed to wear shorts. I’m a self-proclaimed male feminist so this got me quite uncomfortable but I thought against saying anything.

The Grand Mosque was constructed under the funding of the Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Thus, its official name is Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid.


We were supposed to see the sunset there but it was a little cloudy. Then we were told that the trip going to Midsayap, where we were staying overnight, was at 6pm and since it was already past 5pm, we had to hurry. We found out later on that the last trip wasn’t at 6pm.