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


  1. your waterfalls video looks super fun!

    like you, i hope people don't generalize that the entire mindanao area isn't safe and peaceful.

  2. Im from Kidapawan! Weee!
    Glad you had fun in Lake Agco :)

  3. isa pa lang naputahan ko sa mga sinabi mo. camiguin. marami pa talaga pwedeng i-explore sa mindanao

  4. nice, lavet. Nakapunta ka na pala sa kidapawan. anoano mga activities dun?

  5. exiting the cave in that manner is quite a challenge. malalim ba? or was it a long underwater swim to get out?

  6. @James - ahhhhh! celeb in the house! hahaha, first comment mo to sa blog ko (from what my poor memory remembers. nagPM ako sayo. check mo. I am very much willing to help.

  7. @Gladys - yes! very, if you wanna do it too, I will give you the name of our contact there. :) He can get you through safely and trained sila sa first aid. :)

    @Marcus - Haloooo Marcus! Loved your post about the top Mindanao beaches (wanna go to Tawi-Tawi someday)..Btw, aside from the scenery, love ko din ang Kidapawan coffee, tapang! :)

    @Chinchan - I didn't get to explore much except for Lake Agco. Hehe, bitin nga. Ang sikat na activity dun eh umakyat ng Mt Apo. Si Marcus pala taga dun so maybe he can share more tips. :)

    @Dee - not a very long swim. As in dive, tapos less than 5 feet, makakaexit ka na sa cave. Mali pa nga yung exit ko kasi nakapikit ako underwater. When I thought I was out na, tinaas ko ulo ko - bog! sabit sa bato..hehe..needed to dive again.

  8. I have never done toploading before (just because our vehicles are always provided by our project partners)...hmmm why not? maybe in one of my future project endeavors in Mindanao...nice post!

  9. Ang lapit lang namin dito sa CEDAR pero hindi ko na explore yong place. Magaganda daw talaga dun ang landscape.:-). Thanks for featuring Bukidnon....:-).

  10. @Ding - thanks Ding! Try it! mas enjoy yung view,walang nakaharang, haha:P

    @ Bonz [Con Tour] I love Bukidnon! :) I wanna go back and ride a horse because they have nice riding trails there. Natry mo na?

  11. Following the Dila Falls roadside signage on my way from Cagayan de Oro to Davao, our vehicle traversed through an earth road leading to CEDAR. Due to the absence of a tour guide as there was only a single male staff available during our visit, we were only able to reach the first falls near the bamboo bridge as we decided to turn back due to the uncertainty of our trip, only to be told by another staff at CEDAR that we should have pursued to see the Dila Falls frequented by showbiz celebrities. Better luck next time, I said to myself . . .

  12. Hi Edsan! :) All the more reason to go back to CEDAR.

  13. Nakapag-Sumalsag kami because of your Bukidnon entry. :) It was THE BEST spelunking experience we've had. It was a challenging cave, but it was AMAZING! :)

  14. @Jools - thanks...YAYYYY Buti natuloy kayo! Sino contact nyo? :) Saya dyan no? I love spacious caves na may tubig.hehe

  15. Nice... waterfalls and caves. Ganda dyan sa mindanao, sana maka punta din ko dyan soon.

  16. @Titus - heya Field Trip boy :) must visit talaga ang Bukidnon. It's underrated.

  17. Wow! I grew up in CDO and Bukidnon but I haven't been to those places. Hehe. And small world, Doc Chi is a family friend! Haha, I guess I have to ask him to bring me to those places! :))

    I just knew about your blog today... thanks to Google - I was actually looking for places to stay in Zamboanga... and I can't stop browsing through your posts! Nakakainggit! :D

  18. Hi Barbiekins! Regards to Doc Chi, Ms. Maite and Chinchin. I met their dog too, si Roxy, cute, cute! You should ask doc Chi to take you to these places. He's an amazing companion. I wanna go back to Bukidnon for D2-Kitanglad. Btw, saw the cupcakes you made on your site. Wooooow! I drooled. I love pastries especially chocolate chip cookies!

  19. I'll definitely call them the next time I go home! :) aww, thanks for dropping by my site! If you need a sweet fix, lemme know! Hehe

  20. @Barbiekins - nahiya naman ako but thanks! I'm contented with checking out your cupcake photos, I bet masarap lahat. :)


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