I never believed Mindanao can be more awesome until I venture out with my friends the provinces of Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin Island and Bukidnon last August. This is my second time I’ve been in Mindanao, since I’ve been to Davao City for a conference during the time I am still active in Youth for Christ. Thus, the stereotype “that Mindanao is a dangerous place” never actually came to my mind. Actually, after this whole trip, I am more encouraged to go to other provinces like Iligan, Siargao, Zamboanga and other hidden gems that are meant to be embraced and discovered!
Beware, this post will be a really long one 🙂
Actually, I thought this 3D2N trip will not pursue due to many things that came up a week before the scheduled trip. Anyway, since we were already booked and with the help of Chesa, we still managed to get a budget itinerary from Buhangin Travel and Tours (visit their FB page for more info!) which was P5000 per person (group of 4) including the ff:
-Overnight stay at Pabualan Cottages (no breakfast), land transfers from Laguindingan Airport to Balingoan Port, Benoni Port to different tourist attractions like Sto. Nino Cold Spring, Soda pool, Sunken Cemetery, Church Ruins, Ardent Hotspring and Katibawasan falls, boat ride and tour to Camiguin white island
-Land transfer from Balingoan Port to Dahilayan forest park, the package also includes the park entrance and all zipline rides
-Water rafting in CDO c/o Kagay Rafting Team including free CD for the pictures and videos during the activity
We opted to book our own hotel in CDO via Agoda hotels which was Saint Nicholas Inn. P850 per pax (no breakfast). Other things excluded in our tour was the ferry fare from CDO to Camiguin and vice versa, and the meals. The one way trip via ferry costs P170 plus terminal fee of P15 per pax. Our meals were not included in the whole itinerary. It’s a bit funny for us because the travel agency seemed to cut out all the meals during the whole trip. It even became our inside joke which was “walang kain-kain” thus, as my friend said, we didn’t even have any “instagramable” food pictures.
The four of us met at NAIA terminal 3 since our carrier was Cebu Pac. Our airfare was a promo fare which costs P700 per pax. As usual, our flight was delayed for 30 minutes. Consequently, it made our travel time from Laguindingan airport to Balingoan port also delayed so we missed the 12:30pm schedule of the ferry going to Camiguin. It was actually a blessing in disguise because we had the chance to eat lunch! haha. We bought our tickets and waited for the 1:45pm ferry. We arrived at Benoni Port around 3pm and our multicab was already waiting for us. Since we were already late, we skipped some of the attractions and just went to the cold and hot spring, old church ruins and sunken cemetery.
Our first stop was the Sto. Nino cold springs. It was a very large pool with cold water in it which flows from the mountain. Camiguin is the second smallest island in the Philippines and it is known for its active volcanoes. In this small island lies 7 volcanoes and one of which, the Mt. Vulcan that erupted in the late 1800s submerged the old town of Catarman leaving behind the Old Church Ruins and Sunken Cemetery.(click here for more info about Camiguin!)
Our multicab driver (sorry I forgot kuya’s name) said we will just skip the soda pool because we need to reach the sunken cemetery before the sunset. We reached the old ruins, took some photos, and also there was a kid who really likes to take our pictures and told us some of the background story of the place. After that, we headed to the Sunken Cemetery, just a few meters from the ruins. The place was truly marvelous and the sunset made it more awesome. Words cannot describe how much i loved the place, the cross, the sky and the people around us. The locals there greeted and entertained us. They even helped us took some photos, different and funny poses we never imagined. They asked us if we want a boat ride to the cross which costs P100 for all 4 of us. We decided to go to the cross since we never know when can we go back again to that place.
The sky, oh i love how the sun sets and how the clouds formed, I really thanked God for giving us such wonderful creation. A hidden gem indeed!
After the short stay, we bought some souvenir magnets. (yes, it’s automatic for me to buy one!) I forgot to have a snapshot of it but, it was a beautiful handicraft made of shells. Since it was already night time, we decided to have our dinner in Ardent Hot Spring Resort before submerging ourselves into the hot springs. They have different pools with different temperatures. All are naturally made, since as I’ve said before, Camiguin is full of volcanoes and Ardent Hot spring is situated on the foot of Mt. Hibok-hibok. Actually, I discovered that they also offer guide to climb Mt. Hibok-hibok. But, since we have a tight schedule, maybe we’ll just try next time. We even skipped the waterfalls because its dark already 😦
Anyway, we woke up very early in the morning for our White island tour. Literally, the island was really white sand island with no trees and plants. It was different from what I expected since I really did not research every place that was included in our tour. We also tried eating sea urchin for breakfast, cause unfortunately we did not eat breakfast again (hehe). Then, since one of the boatman was persistent to give us a tour on where we can snorkel around the island, we gave in for P300 as I remember and P100 for the table. The snorkeling gear and life vest that we rented from Pabualan Cottages were P100 per person.
After a sunny morning, the clouds began to darken and it started to rain. This was also a sign that we needed to go back to CDO and to start travelling to Bukidnon. We left Benoni port around 9am and reached Balingoan around 11am then we decided to eat lunch. However, we were not so lucky to eat again in a more decent restaurant since there were only canteens available near the port. Anyway, I think we reached Bukidnon around 2pm. Again, it was another long drive! (may forever, as we say!)
Our vacation was mostly consists of long drives and wet and wild adventures because even in Bukidnon, the rain did not stop. Bukidnon is well known for the vast plantation of pineapples and when I saw the Del Monte sign, I knew we reached the place already. The enormous field was filled with sprouting pineapples. And upon seeing the sign of Dahilayan forest park, we alighted the van and our tour guide took the wristbands meant for the three ziplines that were included in our tour package. All of us enjoyed the 840m dual zipline in Dahilayan forest park, and the other two ziplines. We also tried riding Luge (P600 per pax) and then went to mini golf (which was free btw since we avail Luge) even if we were already soaking wet due to unstoppable rain.
Then, we drove back to CDO after a very tiring day. We ate our dinner at Lokal Grill & Seafood at Corrales St. The food was just okay, but not exceptional. Upon going back to our hotel, we side trip first to Cogon night market which was just near Saint Nicholas Inn. We bought Mangosteen which only cost P20 per 1/2 kilo. Veey cheap indeed compared to its price in Manila. The next day, which was also the last day of our vacation, we went for our last YOLO adventure which was the water rafting. The Kagay Team fetched us via jeepney, and again, it was a long drive uphill to reach the starting point of our water rafting adventure. Anyway, the idea made us nervous at first but, in the end we enjoyed the overall experience. The rafting was about four hours to complete but we still felt a little “bitin” as it came to an end. It was truly a “You Only Live Once” experience but, I am willing to try again next time. Goofing around, we felt we’re really prepared due to some kayaking skills from our past travels 🙂 We went back to our hotel, changed clothes and prepared our things to leave since our flight back to Manila was 4:30pm. On our way to the airport, we claim the photos and videos from the office of Kagay team, ate lunch, and bought pasalubong including the best seller Pastel bread by VjANDEP bakery. Here are some photos from our rafting adventure:
We never expected to have such a good time, especially because we’re not expecting a lot after all the cramming, rushing and planning. Also, next time I will try to go back and explore other places here in Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon, since we only had limited time, we just went to all the places included in our tour. It was a very good experience for the four of us, thank you Chesa, Daryl and Ian! And for me, I will continue exploring Philippines as long as I can! 🙂 Yeah, cause we live only once!
Actually, I made a video using my gopro app, which summarizes our entire trip. 😀
Disclaimer: Sorry if I missed out some information, as all of these are based on my memory and some notes I’ve taken down:)