Travel Seven: Northern Mindanao

To the reader: Don’t miss the fun! All of the images here are GIFs. Let the images download completely to enjoy this travel story.

There are several lanes on the road of letting go. Just focus straight ahead. Don’t wander off. Don’t swerve. Take it easy and don’t go fast. But the most important thing to do is not stay on that road for too long or you will never find the way out and destroy yourself.

Let’s set aside the drama and move on to storytelling.

After a short two hour flight, Cagayan de Oro greeted us with a sunkissed smile. Excited for our first and only activity for the first day, we decided to grab our lunch right after we checked in at GC Suites Hotel. CDO has plenty of barbecue restaurants, and we tried just the one across. An hour of jeepney travel followed to start our white water adventure. We bought some rafting gears from a store located at the starting point. It was at exact noon when we were collected down for a short orientation on safety measures and how to panic properly when somebody gets thrown out by the rushing water, kidding. Our guide had a pretty good sense of humor.

White water rafting is an activity which involves an inflatable raft to navigate downstream river. Our itinerary was placed with a beginner’s course but we jumped to the next level just to have the extra challenge. Since there were numerous rough waters, it was an incredible death-defying (almost) adventure.

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Brace yourselves, the rough waves are coming!
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Sit-down position!

Paddling was not that easy. There were six of us and we had to row our way everytime our guide yelled “forward!”. We endured a few rough water tricks like sitting down the raft, standing up, and paddling our way out from a danger zone. There was also some part where the water sits still, and we witnessed some local kids trekking alongside the steepy steps of the hillside going back to their home from school. Our guide also told some stories of inspiration and tragedy as we paddled along the resting water.

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Careful not to fall back and get dragged away along this dangerous path.
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Surviving a huge drop by sitting down.

The adventure last for more than three hours. It was definitely tiring but was totally worth the depleted stamina, even though that was our only activity for the whole day. We did not have had some bad experiences such as getting washed away or something like that, fortunately. Everytime we successfully passed an obstacle, we ‘high-fived’ our oars up the air and yayed like little kids. It also felt incredible like we owned the entire river, since we were the only one rafting. Two thumbs up for that.

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Oars up! Yay!

It was already dark when we got back to the hotel. After refreshing ourselves, we looked for somewhere to have dinner. The night belonged to our free time, so we decided to play Exploding Kittens before taking a rest.

We only spent a single night at GC Suites, after breakfast, we had to travel for two hours going to Balingoan Port for our Camiguin Island escapade and another two for the sea travel to Benoni Port. While there are plenty of resorts and villas at Camiguin, ours was located an hour away from the port. We had nothing else to do yet after checking in, so we just enjoyed the pool at the resort after taking our lunch there. The room where we were assigned to was ok. It was a perfect room for families or barkadas even though it just had a single restroom, but we had a good option of cooking our own food in the kitchen area.

Just as dusk crept in, our senses made us walk a bit far out to the market area to buy dinner and some groceries. Good thing I brought a flashlight to help pave our way in the dark street. A few beers and alcohol joined us through the fun night of playing Munchkin, too, which the tutorial took twice an hour longer than the game itself. It was hilarious, we did not have the time finish the game so we agreed to break the game in half.

The following morning, we got up early and prepared for our island tour. We started off with the walkway to the old volcano after a cliffside photo op. The trek was fun but it did not last. Just as the pave way became rough, rain started to pour down. We were almost at the top but we decided to go back down and also we did not anticipate the long trek up to the view the crater of the volcano. Although one of us made it and took some shots to show us what it looked like. The rain stopped eventually. We naughtily danced and sang Everything You Do by M2M just to enjoy the way back down, a decade old song really. It brought back our childhood in some way.

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The walk in the woods makes you do silly things.
Crazy things.

A visit to the Camiguin Old Church Ruins followed after the trip to the Sunken Cemetery. It was tragic to imagine how did these two became what they are today. Almost a hundred and fifty years ago, Camiguin’s Mount Vulcan erupted, destroying a whole town of Cotta Bato and sinking its cemetery twenty feet down the sea along with hundreds of unsuspecting people.

On our way to the cross at the Sunken Cemetery.

We regained our cool from the prickling heat when we arrived at Katibawasan falls. A lot of tourists were already there, so we did not have the time to take some plunge below the falls. After spending just a few minutes for taking pictures, we arrived at Cold Spring Resort for lunch. Again, there were a lot of people, some of us did take some swimming at the wide pool, but for me, I decided to take a nap. The food was not that good either. Anyway, we were hungry from the tour so we ate what we could. We transferred to Soda Pool for some carbonated bath after Cold Spring Resort.

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People enjoy the cold water below the falls.

The whole island of Camiguin could be seen from the white island, named for its fine white sand, a few minutes away from the mainland. That was our next stop for the afternoon. We had a good time at the island dancing along good music, and snorkeling far in the shallow waters. Before we got back to the resort, we made a stop at Ardent Hot Spring to calm our nerves down, it was already night time and the hot spring did not offer many areas for all its visitors because the mountain did not provide enough spring.

White Island view of Camiguin Island.
White Island Henna Tattoo.
It’s more fun and crazy in the Philippines.
and more dancing.
Drone-like efforts with the camera.

I managed to cook our dinner for the six of us, ground pork with corn kernels in tomato sauce. We bought the ingredients at the nearby market just as we freshened up from the day’s trip. Bedtime bonding was not complete without playing some games, so we crawled down the living room pull-outs and used up all the cards from Cards Against Humanity before sleeping.

It’s not yet our last day, the fourth day was still filled up with more places to visit. That day was our trip to Bukidnon. Early up in the morning, we packed up and away to say goodbye to Camiguin Island. The road to Bukidnon was not a gentle trip. We spent almost all of the morning hours and came to Dahilayan Adventure Park in Bukidnon at sun’s peak. The park offered so many activities to enjoy. We started off with the longest dual zip line for warm up. Then we climbed up to the forest park and passed at the hanging bridge up to the Luge’s starting point.

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Feel the rush!
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The heavier you are, the faster you go.
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Steer clear!
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Watch where your going, this ain’t some bumper ride.

The Luge was a fun ride too, and there was a short track of zipline which we took afterwards. But the most breathtaking ride we had to endure was the dropzone, a 120 feet free-fall drop that definitely shook our nerves.

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Getting a bad feeling about this one.
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Release the kraken!
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More zipline!

Up the road at Bukidnon were hectares of pineapple farms, our driver allowed us to stop for a few minutes and take a stroll. Before nightfall, we reached CDO once more and got back to GC Suites, the same hotel from our first day. Having not enough time to buy Pastel to bring back home, we decided to find where Vjanders Store was located, and we found it at the Agora Bus Station just within the city.

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Spike farm!

The last day of our CDO-Camiguin-Bukidnon-Iligan tour was not the least adventurous journey of the five-day trip. Rather it was a day not enough to enjoy the thrilling adventure that awaited us. We packed up and waved goodbye to Cagayan de Oro as we were traveling to Misamis Oriental. Our first 200 steps were to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy where a statue of Jesus and his sacred heart stood. We spent a few minutes for admiring the architecture and litting some candles for small prayers. There is also a beautiful chapel behind the statue. Just an hour at most was the ever gorgeous Maria Christina falls at Iligan City, Lanao del Norte. The said falls were the powerhouse of almost the whole of Mindanao. The powerplant also has a small canteen for visiting tourists. For a small fee (which I got with a student discount), anybody can see the beauty of Maria Cristina.

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Shrine of the Divine Mercy
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Gorgeous overload!

Our last, but definitely was not the least stop before going home was Tinago Falls, located also in Iligan City. It is named as such because it is hidden away from the urbanized area of Iligan. We enjoyed our crispy and juicy lechon lunch there after trekking some uneasy steps down to the hidden falls. We climbed on a small bamboo raft to the bottom of the waterfalls. The heavy force of the falling water felt unusually incredible as it pushed against our backs and faces. We yelled out excitedly in amusement.

Our time was not enough to enjoy the hidden paradise. But the smile on our faces did not wear out until our departure from the airport. The last day and the last minute at Tinago falls was definitely something not recommended to be on the last day itinerary. We wanted to spend more time but we rushed out fast before we could miss our 4pm flight.

The five-day odyssey in Northern Mindanao was our only trip for the year 2016. In the past two years, we had three travels each. But this episode was indeed the most spectacular than any of our past travels combined.

For our complete five-day itinerary, visit the ITINERARIES page.
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