a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Top 5 Mindanao Adventures

Mindanao is the second largest of the 3 major islands in the Philippines. Its land area spans 37,657 square miles and although its reputation is marred by news of conflicts occurring in several provinces, a traveler should not take this against the entire island. It is politically divided into 26 provinces, and of this number, you can only hear about 5 of them constantly in the news. This leaves the other places absorbing gossip that Mindanao is unsafe for visitors.   Not fair!

Let me share with you my favorite adventures, personally tested during my previous travels to Mindanao. Hey, I’m still very much alive and ready to hit  my 30th birthday as of this writing! :)  (in fact, I am flying to Zamboanga two weeks from now...I am excited! Great weather please!)

1. Davao Del Sur - Water Tubing in Sibulan River
As I walked from the main highway towards the tubing site, I was met with curious stares from bystanders, to which I returned a warm smile. I wasn’t sure where to go so I decided to ask. I was led to a local’s place where I was told to leave my backpack. I was introduced to my young guide. After packing my cellphone and money in a waterproof pouch, we started with a short hike down the river which took less than 30 minutes.

The waters were raging but the view was gorgeous – mountains on one side, stone walls on the other.

The guide gave some instructions before we boarded our tubes, which was attached to each other. I sat in front. We started off smoothly and then it got intense. We traversed the river at a quick speed and I can see boulders a few inches from my face. We were like leaves vigorously towed by the strong currents. It was awesome!!! I wish I had a waterproof camera at the time so I can relieve the experience through videos. Unfortunately, the intensity of the experience was only stored in my head. Hope I can do this again!



2. North Cotabato - Toploading in Kidapawan
Barangay Illomavis in Kidapawan is one of the popular and safest jump-offs in climbing Mt. Apo. It features Lake Agco and a resort with man-made pools.

The terminal is at Mega Market and will take two hours of negotiating through rough road and concrete to get to the resort. I sat on top of the roof, beside onions, chickens and other people.  Though my butt was in pain the entire time,I was so excited because I would be able to see Mt. Apo, even from a distance. The ride passed through the highway and into a community along the mountains. The Philippines’ highest mountain regally loomed ahead of us as the vehicle zipped down the road and I can only stare with my mouth half open, amused like a kid.



3. Camiguin - Motorbike Tour
I met a persuasive local in a hot pink jacket as I emerged from a convenience store. I just arrived at the Benoni Port and had no idea where to go. She helped me find a cheap place to stay and contacted a friend with a motorbike. The 3 of us toured Camiguin, even hiked the Old Volcano which I enjoyed. We also went to the sunken cemetery which gave an eerie vibe and finally, to the foot of Mt. Hibok-Hibok as the moon started to rise. Riding motorbikes, though kinda freaky, is such an amazing way to see unobstructed views of your surroundings and quite easy on the pocket too! :P



The last 2 on my list are from Bukidnon, my beloved, a playground for adventure seekers! Here there are mountains, waterfalls, caves, canyons, pretty horses, cheap restaurants, great coffee, budget accommodations and friendly people, basically everything I want!

4. Spelunking at Sumalsag Cave – “When you land from the plane, be in your caving attire”. That was one of the instructions I received from our Bukidnon contact, Doc Chi. At that time, I was with a different company and part of my job was to test outdoor activities (my fave part!).

I took the first flight from Manila which was at 4:15 AM and was picked up by Doc. Chi and Ben, a local adventurer and race organizer, at the Lumbia Airport in CDO. You can just imagine how energetic I felt at that time. I was so not in the zone to get wet. However, my mood changed as soon as we descended to the entrance of the cave. It was dark but the chambers were huge so there was plenty of room to move around. We spent about four hours inside the cave where we saw gours, stalactites that glistened in the dark and enormous pools where you can dive! My favorite part was when we had to swim underneath a natural pool to exit the cave. That was cool.

The caving experience ended with a short hike down the mountain to where our vehicle was parked. From  afar, massive  valleys in rich shades of green were our views.



5. Waterfalls Adventure – CEDAR
Here's a video of me and a friend under one of the falls. The boulders were slippery and the water dropped against our bodies with strong force that I was both afraid and thrilled at the same time.  Amazing! 



The Center for Ecological Development and Recreation (CEDAR) is  a reforestation project located in Brgy.  Impalutao, Bukidnon and covers a land area of approximately 1,703 hectares.

One can enjoy a variety of adventures such as taking a forest trail that will lead to 5 waterfalls, ride horses, camp overnight, swim in man-made pools amidst trees or climb Mt. Kibuwa which stands at a height of 1,200+ MASL. It is also an area of interest for those people who want to research about the different species of plants, trees and insects within its forests. 

Video shot by Doc. Chi Abellanosa who was also our guide.  Thanks Doc!

As with any activity,  safety must always be a priority. However, we shouldn't limit ourselves within our comfort  zones. One should research  and make an informed  decision on where they want to go,  not from hearsay but through reliable sources of information (people who live and know the area). 

This was prepared as an entry to November 2011 PTB Blog Carnival with the theme, “Mindanao Bliss”. This is a collaborative effort to promote Mindanao as a fun and safe destination. Thanks to our host, Olan of The Travel Teller



Statistical Resources :
1. National Statistics Coordination Website - Philippines
2. Wikipedia - Mindanao
3. Bukidnon Government Website

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