a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Valentine Weekend Adventure

I’m back!


Last weekend was my so-called Davao-North Cotabato Valentine adventure (hehehe..I know it sounds so cheesy to call a trip as such but that’s what it exactly was) . I incurred sore muscles and several bruises, some of which, I don’t even know how I got but my heart is beaming and my face is not in its usual haggard state. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot, though occasionally I missed my friends and wished they were with me.
I was able to explore a bit of Davao City, Davao Del Sur, North Cotabato and Davao Del Norte in two days! That’s one of the perks of traveling alone, time moves so slow and you get to cover more ground.
I didn’t have any itinerary. I just brought three maps (Philippine map, Davao map and a Mindanao map..hehehe) and some printouts of travel information I got from the internet. Once the plane landed in Davao International airport, I just listened to my heart’s desire and went to places that intrigued me.


Davao Del Sur
First stop was water tubing in Davao Del Sur which I first saw from a friend’s blog. Water tubing involves riding a rubber tube in a raging river with shallow water. (By the way, if you’re traveling to Davao and want to save on taxi costs, you can just walk outside of the airport and flag a jeep or cab, but if you’ve got a lot of load, insist on having the meter up when you get a cab inside the airport)


After a quick breakfast, I asked a Jollibee personnel how to get to the water tubing spot and he generously gave me directions. Here’s some travel information on how to get there.


Coming from Davao International Airport:
1. Go to Ecoland Bus terminal, it’s about 45-60 minutes away from the airport.
2. Ride a bus with a sign board that says Digos and request the conductor to let you off at Ayala Agricultural development or simply Ayala in Brgy. Sibulan; or you can just tell them you’re going to the water tubing site. Almost everyone I talked to knows where it is. From Ecoland Bus terminal, it’s about 60 minutes or even less depending on the pace of the bus. I rode a jeep coming from Matina and the ride was so slow.
3. Once you reach Barangay Sibulan, walk 10-15 minutes toward a copra processing site or hire a habal-habal. I suggest you just walk, it’s super near. The base of the water tubing is across the Ayala Canteen (the canteen is on your right side). When people look at you strangely, just smile at them and they’ll give you a warm smile back.


Water Tubing Fees:
Guide fee – 200 pesos (good for 3-4 hrs). You are required to have a guide because they’ll be the one to navigate you down the river. The Sibulan river has strong currents and lots of boulders but don’t worry about drowning, the water is just shallow.
Rubber tubing rental – 40 pesos/piece
Schedule: Water tubing is available Mon-Sun 6am-4:00pm.
Where To Put Your Stuff: They don’t have locker areas so if you don’t have a car, you’re going to have to leave your stuff at a trusted local’s house. 
Where to Dress up: I don’t know if they had another restroom but I had to dress up in a bare, mosquito-infested shack which was more challenging than the water tubing. Hehehe!
About the Experience: I want to do it again!!! I absolutely love it. I have to go back and try the longer route which would take about 3 hours of gliding down the river. Try it, it’s such a liberating experience!






Kidapawan, North Cotabato
After water tubing, I decided I wanted to see Kidapawan Ciy in North Cotabato. I didn’t know how to get there coming from the water tubing site and so I asked the guides and they gave me instructions.



Four hours total of waiting for a jeep, bus and traveling along the highways, I finally arrived in Kidapawan city which is a mix of rustic and urban charm. I love it. Again, I went down to the nearest Jollibee (hehe, what can I say, I love Jollibee) and was shocked to see how full it was. I walked out, disheartened and found a decent eatery with an intriguing name – Noodols at Iba pa. It wasn’t so bad because the food was cheap and decent and I was able to ask a lot of questions to the attendant. After talking to her, I decided I wanted to see Mt. Apo. She suggested I check out Barangay Ilomavis, about two hours by jeep from Mega Market terminal. I also did some asking around and everyone told me to check out Barangay Ilomavis.



Prior to getting on a jeep, I decided to do a little roaming around and found this park across Jollibee along Quezon Boulevard. It had some bazaars where I was able to buy some intriguing stuff like carrot soap for my mom. They also sell woven cloth.


After my short stop, I boarded a motorela towards the terminal in Mega market (7 pesos/head). I decided to ride on top of the jeep because the air was so stuffy inside.





About two hours later, I finally arrived in Lake Agco in Barangay Ilomavis. After taking some pictures, I decided to head back to Kidapawan. Unfortunately, the last trip back to the city had already left which left me no choice but to hire a habal-habal (a motorbike), which I don’t really like because I’m scared of motorbikes. There was a nice local who recommended I hitch a ride to this other jeep which was waiting for some mountaineers who had just gone done from mt. Apo. Aw, fellow mountaineers, I felt relief pouring over me and so I went inside the resort to introduce myself to the mountaineers. I saw their group having some snacks and I abashedly approached them and begged to ride with them back to Kidapawan. They agreed and I left to take pictures of Lake Agco.
More Lake Agco Pics Here
A few minutes later, I sat with them and they turned out to be a jolly, friendly, warm bunch. They were the alumni of the Adamson University Mountaineering Society and they just went through a typhoon ordeal while in the summit. Their group was comprised of ten guys and two strong-willed women and everyone had a lot of story to tell about their adventures. Talking with them felt like talking to an old friend. I still felt a little shy but I easily warmed up to some of them. They were even teasing me to this guy since it was February 14 and incidentally, he was taking the same flight back to Manila with me while the rest of the group were scheduled to fly back Feb. 17. What a strange coincidence!

The other thing was – we almost missed each other because their group almost had to delay the ascent for another day, and as for me, I actually wanted to go to another town called Magpet but every time I ask a local, they would insist that I check out Brgy. Ilomavis. 


After they dressed up, I joined them on a jeepney ride back to Kidapawan where we had dinner at this chicken eatery where you can eat with bare hands. It’s along Quezon boulevard, where plenty of buses to Davao pass by. They rented a van back to Davao and I also went with them on their way back to the city. We passed by two Task Force Davao checkpoints which was also a different experience. We had to stop and let an army guy check us out. This is one of the reasons why Davao is dubbed as one of the safest, if not the safest, place in the Philippines.

Back in Davao City
They were inviting me for a drinking session when we got back in Davao city but poor little me was so beat up, I wanted to turn in early and so I booked a room at GV Hotel along Magallanes. It was also a blessing because since it was Feb. 14, almost all the rooms where booked and I was able to grab the last single room! Yay! I only paid 450 pesos for an overnight stay in an aircon room with private toilet and bath and cable t.v. Their staff are friendly and I don’t have any complains. The room was clean and the price was a bargain. Actually, it was supposed to be 650 pesos but since it was February, they ran a lover’s promo so I got the discount. Hehehe.




Where to Shop for Cheap Sarong, malong and Souvenirs in Davao CityI highly recommend checking out Aldevinco shopping center along CM Recto. It is the oldest shopping center in Davao city. This is where you can buy sarong for as low as 100 pesos. Malongs are sold from 120-180 pesos. The brightly colored scarf, I forgot the local term for it, are sold at 3 for 100 pesos. That’s so cheap! In other provinces, they sell that at 70-100 pesos a piece. The adult white souveneir shirts are priced at 85 pesos each. There are key chains for only 10 pesos each. You can get your money’s worth shopping for souvenirs here.


Other Must Do in Davao City:
Eat a lot! They have plenty of eat all you can buffet for as low as 99 pesos. I tried the eat all you can buffet in Iron Horse located along Rizal Street. I paid 124 pesos for the buffet plus a Pepsi Max in Can.


Tagum City, Davao Del Norte
After roaming the streets of Davao city which was practically empty on Sundays, I still had four remaining hours to burn before I check in at the airport. I boarded a jeep to SM Davao and thought of watching a movie since I haven’t seen one in months. When I got to SM, I didn’t feel like going in anymore because I realized, watching a movie was something I could have just done back at home and so I flagged another jeep to Ecoland Bus terminal which is the hub of transportation to other provinces such sa Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Leyte, etc. The name Ecoland amuses me that’s why I decided to check it out. When I got there, there were military personnel conducting the baggage inspection. I checked out the buses hoping to catch a ride to some destination that was just an hour away from the city. I saw a signboard for Tagum City and I asked about three people how long the ride took, an hour, they all say! Ding-ding-ding! I got myself a destination! I deliberated for several minutes and then I boarded a bus.


Right before the bus started its journey, several vendors were trying to sell me durian pastries and candies. I don’t really like durian but there’s this amiable vendor who reminded me of a relative and so I bought from her. It turned out to be a great decision because the stuff I got from her were good! She wasn’t just trying to sell it. It’s really yummy. So that's another tip - buy the Durian candies from Ecoland bus terminal. They're good. The brand is Je-Mark for the durian candies (sold in nice boxes at 3 for 100 pesos) and Emy's for the durian tarts (I think it was also 3 dor 100 or maybe cheaper).


More than an hour later (should have been just an hour but the bus broke down) , I finally reached Tagum City which is dubbed as a garden city. I saw a lot of mangroves along the way and I immediately liked the place. I got down when I saw a Chowking branch. Hehehe! I didn’t get to eat anymore or do much because it was already 5:00pm and I had to go back to Davao city. I chatted with a local name Junjun while waiting for a bus back to Davao. He gave me some information and he even gave me tips on which bus to take.


He advised me to wait for an aircon bus toDavao because they’re the quickest way back. I flagged a yellow Bachelor aircon bus and bid goodbye to Junjun, who waited until I was able to board one. The bus opened its door and I opened my mouth in amazement. Unlike the usual provincial bus, the bus steps deploy as soon as the door opens, like a Transformer. II was because I was able to snag the last empty seat. The bus had two TV’s playing a Chuck Norris movie. The temperature was comfortably cold and another amazing feature was the footrest which is not onrmally found in most Philippine buses. The bus moves like a car, smoothly gliding along the highway. I love it! I am willing to travel back to Mindanao to be able to ride it. I hope they have trips to Compostela Valley which I want to check out in the future. The best thing was , that bus goes infront of Davao International Airport. From Tagum City to Davao airport, the fare is 98 pesos. In about an hour, the conductor dropped me in front of the airport and it was before 6:00pm, too early for my 8:30pm flight.


The Davao Del Norte trip was my last stop of my weekend adventure and the wonderful bus ride was a great way to cap it off. Another nice thing about the entire trip was I met a group of people sharing the same interest as I do. Another nice surprise was that I started this trip alone and went home with a new friend. Hehehe. When I entered the airport doors, I saw one of the mountaineers I met in Kidapawan and we boarded the flight back to Manila. Flight was delayed too which provided us more time to talk.


By the way, to catch incredibly cheap airfares, please log on regularly to:
http://www.cebupacificair.com/



Would you believe I was able to book my flight for only 456.02 pesos?! It's true. No catch. That's for a roundtrip fare from Manila to Davao with 15Kg free baggage allowance. They had a ticket sale for two days last December 2008.





























































































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