Siargao (Surigao del Norte, PH)

The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun. – Phil Edwards

6742_513658825360579_1761671288_n

Siargao, a tear-drop shaped island in Mindanao, Philippines, is one of the internationally renowned surfing spots in the country. The coastline of which is marked by a succession of reefs, small points and white, sandy to powdery beaches.

21109_513659218693873_1439473479_n

58849_513658805360581_459202384_n

Also, Siargao Island contains the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao.

644659_513665808693214_1133632089_n

922681_525119300881198_1910749732_n

537816_513659248693870_1604002362_n

One of the well-known surfing waves in Siargao with a reputation for its thick, hollow-iike tubes is “Cloud 9”. This right-breaking reef wave is the site of the annual Siargao Cup, a domestic and international surfing competition sponsored by the provincial government of Surigao del Norte.

552985_513658978693897_766536934_n

521891_513947055331756_555524169_n

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Cotta Fort & Shrine (Ozamiz City, PH)

When an opportunity to do a speaking engagement in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental came about, I gladly accepted the invitation. For one, I haven’t been to Misamis Occidental and two – of course, I always love talking in front of people.

01

And so I immediately searched the net as to what I could possibly visit in the city dubbed as The City of Good Governance. One specific place that popped through my search is Cotta Fort – known to be Ozamiz version of Fort Santiago/Intramuros (only that it is way smaller).

So during my last day, I woke up pretty early to catch the sunrise at the port which is beside the fort. I did some brisk walking while waiting for the sun to hover over Panguilo Bay. It’s great to see a lot of locals jogging along the baywalk. Some even go inside the Cotta Shrine and Cotta Fort to run around. I, myself went up where the lighthouse is found and captured the morning’s first glow.

02

After satisfying myself with the sun’s glorious rising, I walked around the fort which is officially named Fuerte de la Concepcion y del Triunfo. Upon entering its impressive gate, I noticed already the square shape of the fort to which as there were bastions in each of the four corners.  There is a small outdoor chapel and a museum inside. It is smaill so a few minutes of walking will do.

03

After taking some photos, I walked my way to the nearby shrine where I was greeted by vendors selling prayer candles. The candle area is pretty unique as tin cans were used to place the lit candles. Adjacent to it are benches painted in the Marian colors of blue and white that faces an altar with a shrine. I spent sometime to pray in the area before I headed back to my hotel and pack my things.

04

How To Reach Ozamiz Cotta Fort and Shrine

From Manila, fly your way to Ozamiz City (Labo Airport). Once at the airport, ride a tricycle and inform the driver to take you to “The Fort or port” (as these to or just beside each other). There is an entrance fee of Php5.00. It is open as early as 5:30am.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri”juan”…

Malamawi Island (Basilan, PH)

“Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.” — Amit Ray, Meditation: Insights and Inspirations.

During my 1st visit in the island province of Basilan wayback 2005, I was very afraid to roam around. With news about insurgents thriving in the province, I was just satiated by the thought that, at least, I was able to set my feet in one of the country’s less traveled places.

_012

Fastforward some 10 years after the 1st encounter: The thought of going back to Basilan and see the splendor it can offer came about after a friend invited me to go to Tawi-Tawi. We thought of squeezing in a Basilan side trip. And so during the last day of our Western Mindanao sojourn, we went to experience Basilan’s best kept secret – Malamawi Island.

We took the earliest ferry ride to Isabela City (Basilan’s capital) from Zamboanga City port and arrived after an hour. The feeling is pretty much different compared to my 1st visit. This time, it is much more peaceful and I , myself is more  confident to walk around (unlike before that I was too afraid of bringing out my camera to take a snap)..

_01

From mainland Basilan, we rode an outrigger boat that took us only around 5-10 minutes to reach Malamawi Island. Upon docking, our group (together with a tourism officer, Ate YanYan) chartered 3 motorcycles for us to reach Malamawi’s white sand beaches.

The trip to the other side of Malamawi had us passing through a dirt path and some bucolic rural scenes. After 15 minutes or so, the sight of aquamarine, inviting waters flashed before our very eyes. I remember running towards the beach excitingly like a kid.

DSC_2200

Before I started taking photos of the place, I had to spend a few minutes marveling at its beauty. At the back of my head, I was silently uttering – “how could anyone think there is something soooooo spectacular in a terror-laiden place like Basilan?” Somehow, the bad image of the province has suffered through the years somewhat helped in the preservation of its tourist destinations like that of Malamawi.

The cove like beach dotted with fine white sand, hugged by crystal clear waters, empty wooden cottages and few visitors, was beyond perfect. And as soon as the sun came out of the clouds, the beach and its water further glimmered in its beauty. The vista made my sense of sight more than satiated. It was just so peaceful and serene and really captivating!

_04

We only spent a few hours in the island, and I felt kinda sad when we were leaving. All the negative things thrown on Basilan started to fade. It made me further realize that the Philippines is really a place so much endowed with immense natural splendor. As a travel enthusiast, I think we should learn how to appreciate the beauty of every place we have and should stop from tainting its reputation.

How to Get to Malamawi:

From Manila, fly to Zamboanga City. Once in Zamboanga City, ride a tricycle to the Zamboanga City port. There are several ferries bound for Isabela City in  Basilan. Once in Isabela City, walk towards the right side of Isabela Port. Boats to Malamawi are found just before you reach the fish market. Once in Malamawi mainland, ride a motorcycle to its white beach.

_03
Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Bud Bongao (Tawi-tawi, PH)

You haven’t been to Tawi-tawi if you didn’t go climb its highest peak (422 masl) – Bud Bongao. This is what most travelers would say when advising someone who plans to go on a sojourn down the Philippines’ southernmost province.

0bb

And so during our last day in Tawi-tawi, we decided to trek our way to the majestic and sacred Bud Bongao or simply Bud. Actually, upon arrival at the Sang-Sanga airport, this imposing landmark would already catch one’s attention for it dominates the landscape of Tawi-tawi’s capital – Bongao. The mountain looks like a miniature version of Table Mountain in South Africa from afar (especially if you’re coming from the Celebes Sea area), although some people would say it looks like a turtle too.

0tt0

The mountain is forested and is home to different exotic flora and fauna like wild cattle and pig, and the ever famous white and brown monkeys. (Do not forget to bring some food to feed the friendly and cute primates you’ll meet along the way). Being a sacred ground and a burial place, there are hallowed sites along the way. Having an accessible jump-off point, and an established trail, the climb to the peak is pretty easy and can be done in half a day.

0tt3

Upon reaching the peak, you will have a stunning view of the sea that stretches up to Borneo, a bird’s eye-view of Sanga-Sanga island/airport, the islands of Sibutu and Simunul, and of course the quaint Bongao town. Truly, a climb to Bud Bongao is an amazing experience.

0tt

How to Reach Bud Bongao:

There is no direct flight from Manila to Tawi-tawi, so you need to first take a plane ride to Zamboanga, and from Zamboanga, there are flights to Tawi-tawi. Once at the airport, ride a tricycle that will take you to Bongao town proper. From the center, take either a tricycle or habal-habal to the jump-off point.

_________)0DSC_0980

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

The Sunken Cemetery (Camiguin, PH)

“I dig art. With a shovel. In the cemetery.” — Jarod Kintz

0sc4

Perhaps, one of the most interesting tourist attraction I have been to is an underwater cemetery. Most of you might get shocked but there is such a place called The Sunken Cemetery in Catarman, Camiguin, Mindanao, Philippines.

0Q

This unique cemetery features tombs underwater. It was believed that it was buried due to the eruption of Mount Vulcan Daan during the 1800s with only one giant cross seen above water. This landmark in the island province has become a picturesque spot to remember the deceased buried there.

0sc5

At present, very few of the remains of these gravestones can be seen during low tide. If you want to witness the underwater features of this place, you can snorkel or skin dive. Some may find it creepy, but because of the clear waters and teeming marine life in the area, it is still a delight to see. The place also becomes more magical during sundown.

0sc2

How to Get to The Sunken Cemetery:

From Manila, you can fly to Camiguin via Cebu. Also, you can fly to Cagayan de Oro City. Once in CDO, take a shuttle to Agora Terminal. From there, take a bus bound for Balingoan Port and ride a ferry going to Camiguin. Upon arrival in Benoni Port (Camiguin), you can either take a multi-cab or tricycle to the town of Catarman. From the highway, one can already see the giant cross.

00PicMonkey Collage

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Cagayan de Oro White Water Rafting (PH)

Are you a water adventure junkie? The Philippines being surrounded by a lot of water bodies offer infinite choices for a fitting adventure. From sea water (SCUBA, surfing, skin diving) to inland water (kayaking, river rafting, lake paddle boarding) adventure, the list could go on. For the more bold traveler, white water rafting is veracious up your brook.

1-776191342l

There are 3 well-known water rafting spots in the Philippines, 2 of which are in Mindanao. The most established one is in Cagayan de Oro City in the province of Misamis Oriental. It is considered by most rafting enthusiasts as the best white water rafting destination in the country. I was fortunate that I had my first rafting experience in this city way back 2009.

1-147925419l

The Cagayan de Oro White Water Rafting is an adrenaline-inducing experience that also allows visitors to see the striking scenery of the Cagayan River. There are several rafting companies that offer this adventure and would usually pick up people in the city center. Then, the rafting mostly begins at the starting location in Barangay Dansolihon.

1-510139475l 1-370424753l

The Rafting Know-How

Upon reaching the starting point of the river, we were prepared with the proper gears and had basic lectures on water rafting. We then did a short trek down the river which was a pretty easy walk and was greeted by our colourful rafts. We were introduced to our guides and further safety briefing (like essential do’s and don’ts) were given. Each raft consisted of 5-6 people, guide included. We then proceeded to start our rafting trip.

1-595457070l1-146353972l

The beginning was actually quite smooth, that gradually became wilder as we go on. I am not very good with words (in terms of describing how the epinephrine rush the activity was giving me). At one point, we were cruising at a steady pace, and the next thing we all know, we were already screaming and our hearts thumping. Waters splashing and slamming against boulders!!! Amazing experience! There were times when everything was smooth and it gave us a great deal of time to marvel at the surroundings. The mostly verdant scenery was absolutely stunning and made me appreciate the beauty of nature even more.

1-224649995l

Overall, we had a blast, I had a blast! I just loved the wonders along the river and the amazing experience of paddling through the river! I promised to do this activity again (which I did the following year in Davao). So, for those of you have this yearning to try something new and adventure-filled, go and grab an oar and try this exciting rafting adventure on the Cagayan River.  Whether you are 10 or 60, experienced or newbie, white water rafting is definitely a fun and a magnificent experience to be enjoyed.

1-280965852l

White Water Rafting companies in Cagayan de Oro City

The following companies offer white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro City:

1-689653039l

How to Get to CDO:

From Manila, fly your way to Cagayan de Oro. Philippine Airlines. Air Asia and Cebu Pacific fly regularly to CDO. Once in Laguindingan Airport, which is roughly 46 kilometers from Cagayan de Oro, several shuttle services offer transportation options for travelers. Boat travel is also available. Cebu Ferries travels to Cagayan de Oro once a week from Cebu, Dumaguete, and Jagna (Bohol). Lastly, if you are coming from mainland Mindanao, you can come to Cagayan de Oro by bus. There are two major bus terminals in the city, one in Bulua and one in Agora. Once in CDO, choose a WWR company and arrange for reservations and agree on the schedule of your choice.

1-715009811l

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.

Sitangkai: Seaweed Capital (Tawi-tawi, PH)

If there is one place in Tawi-tawi that was initially at the top of my list, that has to be the island municipality of Sitangkai. For several years, I have read that this sword-shaped island is the Philippines version of Venice where there are waterways and bridges, instead of roads and streets with a touch of Asian culture. With this narrative alone, it has confined my thoughts for quite some time. (Well who would not have wanted to see Venice?)

0sit7
And so, when I had the opportunity to visit Tawi-tawi (the Philippines southernmost province) I did not  let pass by the idea of visiting the famed floating market in the Philippines. During our 2nd day in Tawi-tawi, we made our way to Sitangkai. From afar, one would already notice how the island seems to float on water. It is very noticeable that most of the houses were standing on stilts.

0sit2

As we come nearer, we have noticed that despite the very clear waters surrounding the place, a lot of garbages were scattered floating. But I did not allow these sights to affect my excitement. We reached a wide canal to which our boatman remarked that we are now entering Sitangkai’s market. It was as if I was brought to a new world.

0sit4

Several smaller boats further greeted us until we docked at an area where there were lots of seaweeds being dried. Sitangkai is also known as the “seaweeds capital of the Philippines” due to the large production of seaweeds. From there, we started to walk our way further inside the market. According to our guide, before, one can reach the end of the canal by riding a boat. But now, that is no longer the practice since some areas of the canal has become more congested.

0sit5

It was a humbling experience seeing the life of our Tausug and Sama Dilaut brothers and sisters despite having mixed feelings during our quick walking tour of Sitangkai. The “Venice” I initially had in mind may not be the same with what I have seen personally, but the utter exquisiteness of the town’s core built on coral reefs plus the natural water passageways is purely beyond explanation. However, I am fervently wishing that the people and their leaders do something about the town’s garbage problem. Based on my observations, it looks like the people have the habit of just throwing their trashes into the waterways. I am not certain but I feel that the people are thinking the sea will anyhow wash this garbage away from them.

0sit3

I wish that the locals realize how this appalling issue on trashes impact our environment and their future. And that an environmental catastrophe might sooner or later threaten this paradise in the middle of the Sulu Sea.

0sit6

How to Get to Sitangkai:

From Manila, ride a plane to Zamboanga City and another plane to to Bongao, the capital town of Tawi-Tawi. From the airport in Bongao, ride a tricycle to the Chinese Pier and look for the ferry (lantsa) going to Sitangkai. The boat (lantsa) ride will take you around 5-6 hours depending on the cargo load of the boat. It leaves Bongao around 10am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Alternatively, if you are already in Sibutu, you can charter a boat from Tandu Owak which is only about 45 minutes ride.

For assistance: Contact Ma’am Salve Pescadera of Tawi-Tawi Tourism Office at +63 910 671 6367 or +63 905 154 7865.

0sit8

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust.

Saluag Island (Sikulan): Tawi-tawi, PH

My most recent trip made me channel the maritime explorer in me and set out to navigate the farthest reaches of the Philippine archipelago. Last year, I was fortunate to have set foot on the Philippines northernmost island province, Batanes. This year, I was able to explore the far-flung islands of Tawi-tawi. With untainted beaches, amazing culture, and more – Tawi-tawi’s 100 + islands is indeed a fascinating destination with endless surprises for the brave traveller.

000IMG_20150814_085917

Scattered across the Sulu and Celebes seas like emerald gems, this tiny archipelagic province at the southernmost tip of the Philippines has been tainted with not-so-good reputation over the years together with its neighboring provinces (Sulu, Basilan and the entire Zamboanga Peninsula) due to unfortunate Moro raids, and some outbreak of attacks by extortionists. I myself was quite apprehensive of the thought of visiting it. Nonetheless, the wanderlust in me was more than decisive to see what treasures Tawi-tawi has to offer.

00IMG_20150814_084655

This is my third write-up about Tawi-tawi. (The first two can be read here: https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/omapuy/ and https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/lets-eat-tawi-tawi-food/). This time, I am sharing my thoughts when I got the chance to reach the southernmost island of the entire Philippines – SIKULAN (Sicolan) or SALUAG ISLAND. Just like most Philippine islands, Saluag (as it is more commonly known) is fringed with powdery, white-sand beaches and palm trees. Approaching the island, one would immediately notice the commanding presence of 2 lighthouses (a 100++ year old lighthouse and a 10-year old modern lighthouse). As our “speedboat”draws nearer, I caught myself endlessly repeating the word “wow”.  The surrounding water of the island is crystal clear with vivid sightings of the sea grass beneath. I was so excited to dock and experience this island’s charm.

00IMG_20150814_091114

We docked at a nearby area with stilt houses and a mini sandbar. And as soon as I was able to set foot on the shore, everything felt surreal and triumphant at the same time. I felt blessed more than ever. I mean, not every person is given the opportunity to see places like this or reach places this far. And there I was, standing at the southernmost tip of the Philippines with Malaysia just a gaze away. Thank you Dear God, I silently said.

00IMG_20150814_091656

We walked our way to the other side of the island and passed by the two towering lighthouses. Since I have a penchant for something old, I was very much in awe with the older lighthouse.  We were greeted by several egrets playing along the vast shore of shallow, clear waters. Our guides told us that the piece of land seen over the horizon is already Malaysia.

CSC_0654

In this small island, two indigenous tribes (Tausug and Sama Dilaut) are said to live together in harmony with the sea. As we walk around, it was apparent that the main source of living includes fishing and seaweed farming. In as much as I would have wanted to mingle with some locals, we had limited time to stay so I just captured as many photos as possible.

0egret2

As we leave the place, the mental images of the hovering birds, the tall coconut trees that unreservedly harmonize with the dazzling luminous sky and the cerulean to emerald water gilding the island shore, continue to play inside my head. Remembering these as I write this piece made me feel indulged.

00IMG_20150814_091908

How to Reach Saluag Island:

From Manila, ride a plane to Zamboanga City and another plane to to Bongao, the capital town of Tawi-Tawi. From the airport in Bongao, ride a tricycle to the Chinese Pier and look for the ferry (lantsa) going to Sibutu Island. The ferry ride takes 3to 4 hours and costs ₱200 one-way. The ferry bound for Sibutu may dock at the island town’s main port or at a small port in Tandubanak. Ferries going to Tandubanak and Sibutu proper don’t have definite schedules so it is important to confirm trips at Chinese Pier.

From Barangay Tandubanak, a 30-minute motorcycle (habal-habal) ride brings you to Barangay Tandu-owak, the main jump-off point to Saluag. From here, the island is just a 30 to 40-minute boat ride.

For assistance: Contact Ma’am Salve Pescadera of Tawi-Tawi Tourism Office at +63 910 671 6367 or +63 905 154 7865.

DSC_0244

Don’t be a wasted soul. Be ‘juan’’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.

Kaamulan Ground (Bukidnon, PH)

Located at the heart of Malaybalay City, the capital of Bukidnon Province in Mindanao is the Kaamulan Ground – a nature park that serves as an activity area, refuge and recollection, picnic and outdoor area for everyone to enjoy. Being a land-lock province, Bukidnon is surrounded by greeneries.

0kg

Kaamulan” is derived from the tribal word “amul” which means “gather”. It is during these gathering where in the different tribes’ people of Bukidnon celebrate something special, like a ritual for becoming a Datu, a feast of thanksgiving or even a wedding ceremony. These tribes living in the region are named Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon and Umayamnon. Kaamulan Park was created to show appreciation to these tribes for their efforts to maintain their culture.

DSC_0664

Being in the highlands of the province, the area has a cool temperature. I find the park really scenic with its rolling hills and pine trees scattered everywhere. The smell of pines and the unsullied air is such a respite from urban life. During my visit, it felt like I was at home in Baguio City.

DSC_0708

One thing I enjoyed the most was the easy trek to the Bukidnon Provincial Tree Park or as some would call it, the Kaamulan Peak. It was just around 30-45 minutes’ walk. From the top, I got to see a bird’s eye view of Malaybalay – from its farm lands to Bukidnon’s mountainscape, and even a sight of the entire city and its verdant surroundings.

DSC_0694

So, if you happen to visit Bukidnon – spend a day at this park to relax, to learn more of the people’s culture or just commune with nature.

White Island (Camiguin, PH)

“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” – David Viscott

DV IMAGE

Wanna get kissed by the sun as you bum around a sandbar that seemingly floats in the middle of the sea? With an unobstructed view of the sea and sky… with your feet being tickled by the very fine white sand and relaxed by the cool turquoise waters?

cam

White Island, an uninhabited sandbar, located about 1.4 kilometres off the coast of Mambajao (capital town of Camiguin Island, Philippines). Also called Medan Island or Medano Islet, the shape and size of the sandbar changes depending on the tides. At times, it looks like a boomerang or a horse-shoe, and at times, the center part is submerged making it appear like 2 separate pieces of land.

DV IMAGE

Being unpopulated, there are no structures of any sort. Not even a single tree/plant can be found here. The mid portion of the C-shaped Island is a radiant, clear, cerulean lagoon-like body of water. The backdrop of the island is the verdant slopes of Mt. Hibok-hibok and Mt. Vulcan on one side, and an ostensibly continual view of the sea on the other side.

talon ok P8163729

This is one of Camiguin’s main attractions, drawing in a large number of tourists all-year round. The island can be accessed from Brgy. Agoho or Brgy. Yumbing in Mambajao. Outrigger boats can be hired from any of the resorts adjacent to the island.

Boat rentals are available for P400 – P500 (two-way trip). The locals also rent out beach umbrellas for P200 each.

P8163723 DV IMAGE

Do not forget to bring with you food and drinks and your sunblock specially when you intend to spend several hours in the island. The place is indeed perfect for swimming, snorkelling, camwhoring, bumming or waiting for both the sunrise and the sunset.

Truly, White Island is an embodiment of a postcard-perfect tropical delight.

1,2,3... Jump!!!
1,2,3… Jump!!!

How to Get to White Island:

From Manila, you can fly to Camiguin via Cebu. You can fly to Cagayan de Oro City. Once in CDO, take a shuttle to Agora Terminal. From there, take a bus bound for Balingoan Port and ride a ferry going to Camiguin. Upon arrival in Benoni Port (Camiguin), you can either take a multi-cab or tricycle to Brgy. Yumbing or Agoho. Finally, rent an outrigger boat to White Island.