Sunday, November 25, 2012

Conquering the Cagayan de Oro River–Water Rafting

The City of Cagayan de Oro is the provincial capital of the province of Misamis Oriental in the Philippines. It’s known to be the “City of Golden Friendship”. Its also noted to be the melting pot of Mindanao because of its accessibility, business growth, attractions and notable warmth and hospitality of the people. Also, known as the shopping capital of the northern Mindanao region. There are several shopping malls in the city and the notable ones include the following Ororama Chain of Stores, Limketkai Mall, SM City Cagayan de Oro, Robinsons Cagayan de Oro, Centrio, Paseo Mall, Gaisano City Malls. The Divisoria Night Market is set up on Friday and Saturday nights where people can buy great bargains from the nearby Night Market.
Cagayan de Oro is considered as one of the Tourist' spots in the Philippines. It is also a favorite among nature lovers and adventurers because of its famous whitewater rafting and kayaking. Whitewater rafting has been one of the tourism activities being promoted in the Cagayan de Oro River.
There were 3 major reasons why I want to got to Cagayan de Oro: First, I wanna experience the White Water Rafting, next is to Jump off to Camiguin and lastly to go to Dahilayan Adventure Park. I was able to cover 2 on my first visit but not the Dahilayan Adventure because of time constraints, nevertheless I find the experience very memorable, topping off that its my first escape to Mindanao provinces. I realized that there are more places to visit in Mindanao and Im eager to conquer them the soonest possible time.
Talk about the White Water Rafting, I had fun cruising the Cagayan de Oro River. I took a beginners course as im a bit hesitant to jump to extreme as this is my first time, but mind you guys, the beginners course is Boring. The rapids are not that exhilarating.. I wish I could’ve signed up for extreme as manong River Guide told us that are a lot who have tried the extreme courses even though its there first time.
I paid Php 700.00 for this course, value for money indeed because this includes pick up and drop off to and from the hotel plus the rafting itself. We were picked up around 8 AM and we arrived at the rafting site past 9 AM. We settled ourselves and geared up for the adventure. About 15 minutes of briefing were we learned about safety cruising and what to do in cases of emergency. After which, we headed to our rubber boats and start our adventure. Four things to remember: Paddle Forward, Paddle Backward, Stop and High Five. There were 9 paddlers and 1 river guide per rubber boat. A photographer carried by a single kayak rubber boat is responsible for checking the way and at the same time capturing moments while we paddle. The beginner’s course contains 14 rapids in a 12 kilometer stretch. It’s kind of funny because they named some of the rapids after a celebrity who falls during the ride. The 4th rapid was known to be the Paolo Santos’ rapids.
While paddling and cruising the Cagayan de Oro river, I cant help but notice the rich landscape along the river banks, aside from that, you are actually cruising in between two places, CDO and Bukidnon. This may not be good for sight seers though coz the locals do their laundry and dry their clothes on the rocks along the rivers. I also noticed kids waving at us while were passing through, it puts a smile on my face. We got the chance to swim in still waters and experience a cool splash, I met new friends that makes this ride enjoyable and memorable for me.

An Enchanting Island , Camiguin – An Island Born on Fire

Sunrise View in CDO Bound for Camiguin It’s my second day here in CDO, and of course today is Camiguin Day.  I don't get to sleep well if I'm too excited about something and that's what i noticed. I had my cell phone alarm set at 3 AM for me to prepare my stuff but around 1 AM I'm awake, going back to sleep and then woke up again after 30 minutes. Darn! I'm just too excited to travel and see what's in store for me in Camiguin. I took a motorela to Agora terminal where i can catch a bus bound to Balingoan Port, my jump off port to Camiguin. There are several ways for you to get to Balingoan Port, you can take a Bus, Van or a cab if your that rich :). I took the Van hoping that it’ll be faster compared to the buses and way cheaper, but darn, I am expecting to leave CDO 530 AM but we left around 7AM. Tsk tsk, an hour and a half wasted! It was a bright day, and I just kept the complaint to myself. I seated at the front seat (alone) and one of the passengers asked me,”Miss usa lang ka?”(Miss are you one? heheheh, are you alone?) I told the old lady, yes I'm alone. I could only see surprise on her face when I told her that I wanted to just see and land in Camiguin, do some sight seeing and go back after. Even the Van driver got amazed when I told him.   The kind lady asked me if I do have contacts on the area, and I told her, none and I will just try look for some drivers to take me to the places and I wanted to see, then she offered a good deal. Told me that she has a son who can lend the motorcycle to me for a fee but of course with a driver to guide me along the way. We agreed at Php 700 which is not bIMG_1843ad after all.  Standard rate for this in the area is around 800.
Despite all the hassle, the trip was smooth and enjoyable. I IMG_1847 got to see a glimpse of Misamis Oriental, good thing the Van Driver is very informative, he is explaining a lot of things about Misamis, I just got lucky as he is a member of Camiguin Tourism Board. After about two hours, we reached the port, unscratched but less giddy. Riding a van was perhaps a better option compared to bus, as it made its stop near the port so we didn't have to rent a tricycle to go to the port.
Ferries are scheduled to leave every hour from Balingoan to Camiguin. Tickets cost 170 per person, discounts apply to students and senior citizens. We arrived just in time, i think 5minutes before the ferry will leave the po rt. I got amazed with Balingoan’s facilities, high tech, they have Baggage Xray Machines. In all fairness, its well maintained.  On board MV Hijos bound to Benoni, Camiguin. Few minutes of waiting and we were cruising towards the Island Born on Fire, Camiguin. I love the fresh air as it touches my face. There were few passengers for the trip. The vessel has two decks, i prefer the upper deck of course so I can get a better glimpse of the view of the surrounding and of course the islands that we may pass through. Though stranger, i didn’t felt threatened for this solo trip because everywhere i looked, people were smiling. They spoke Bisaya, i can understand a bit but I'm not confident answering back in the same dialect so id rather respond in Tagalog. It’s a good day to cruise and doze off, anyway the travel took 2 hours so I took a nap. When I woke up we’re few meters away from Benoni Port.
Much has been said abIMG_1867out the enchanting beauty of Camiguin, a small island north of Mindanao. Considered as an off-the-beaten-path destination especially by foreign travelers, Camiguin is diminutive in size, (the smallest province both in population and land area after Batanes) but it absolutely doesn't reflect the richness it has to offer. Here, you will find seven volcanoes ( most of them are active), scenic waterfalls, hot springs, church ruins, a sunken cemetery and friendly locals. With such attractions scattered around the island, anyone who's looking for adventure will not be disappointed. Whether it's lazying on the beach, trekking the rainforest, trying out local cuisine, Camiguin can be an ideal spot for respite and quality vacation.  I have experienced that myself.
We waited for couple of minutes for my tourguide and service to arrive. Few minutes and we’re on the road and getting ready to explore Camiguin. With a Map and a Camera, the Blue Rider is now ready for a Road Trip Adventure.    Along the road, i cant help but notice the cleanliness of the place and at the same time how green colors dominated the entire island. Just the perfect day for a day tour. Camiguin is just a small island so 1 day Itinerary is perfect.

IMG_1883First stop is the Katibawasan Falls – is one treasured gifts nature has blessed the island of Camiguin. According to the locals, the Waterfalls measures about 250 feet high, cascades to a rock pool surrounded by ground orchids, wild ferns, trees and boulders.The falls rushes down into its green pool that is really refreshing for a good swim. Tourist are welcome to swim. It is an ideal place to cool off during hot and humid days. There is however an entrance fee of 30 pesos per person since the falls is maintained by the province. Giant ferns decorate the surrounding land, carpeting the spaces and huge trees and dropping vines provides the backdrop the falls.
As far as the meaning of the word is concern, I have have not found its meaning in Cebuano or bisaya, but I can relate it with the illonggo dialect for the word "Katibawasan" which means: "To have overcome".
I didn't swim but i soaked my feet in the cold water and its very relaxing. I found some foreigners taking a dip in the water during that time.

IMG_1931IMG_1920Next is the Ardent Hibok-Hibok Spring Resort – located in Mambajao , the water of the Ardent Hot Spring is 40°C warm. It is heated by the volcanic activity of Mount Hibok-Hibok.  It is then mixed with some colder water and guided into 4 seperate pools which are arranged in cascades.  The highest pool also has the highest temperature of 40°C while the second pool is the biggest with about 35°C and perfect for swimming. The water in the other pools is colder and offer some refreshment after a hot bath.

 After the Spring Resort, we come across a lot of cold spring and hot spring resort but i didn't stop over,  we just passed by and went to our next destination, the ultimate destination in Camiguin Island, the Sunken Cemetery. It topped my list of must see destination in Camiguin.

The Sunken Cemetery of Camiguin Island marks the swept remains of the island’s rested locals. Driven underwater when Mt. Vulcan Daan erupted in 1870’s, the large cross has served the town's people, as well as the tourists, a scenic spot to memorialize the departed's buried there. (Wiki)

Tourist have the option to go near the cross, a boat will carry you to the large cross. The local boatmen are very friendly and safety-conscious, that no one shall be allowed entry after 4pm.  The water is shallow in the afternoon, but it can rise higher as twilight approaches. It is best to arrive at the Sunken Cemetery around after lunch as more natural light will emphasize one’s visit to the cemetery, and the water level is ideal, not too high to be unsafe returning on shore. On the way to the cross, one may catch a good view of Mt. Hibok-hibok in its mysterious aura. This volcano is the most active of the seven volcanoes in this pear-shaped island. The island also boasts its immense balance of flora and fauna, the soil is gifted of minerals, thanks to the volcanoes.  Touching down on the Sunken Cemetery gives an overwhelming feeling of excitement and curiosity. This is somewhat a popular enchanted spot per local folklore.  Being a location reminiscent of the deceased, it is no wonder that the sunken cemetery is dramatic to imagination. 
IMG_1949The terrace and the cross are aged structure, and the reserved and mystifying air of the Sunken Cemetery only adds to its appeal especially for nature lovers. A Camiguin trip is not complete without experiencing the peculiar feeling of the place.  From a distance, one can see how lonely and solemn the place is. Entombed below the Cross are the lives lost to the history the people had been through, and place in itself already gave birth to the residents’ culture, history and tourism.
IMG_1951After taking pictures and breathing in some fresh air,I went back shore. If the timing permits, it is also captivating to take a view at the waters below where one can put his imagination at work. There live some fishes and reefs that share the same abode to the tombs of the Sunken Cemetery.  Visiting the Sunken Cemetery allowed me to appreciate more the many interesting things about the whole Island of Camiguin. The history of the sunken cemetery is undoubtedly tragic but the way the people of Camiguin valued this historic site and its heritage made me see the kind of people they are. It truly defines their courage, resilience and faith to survive the challenging tests of times.

 Some creative shots taken when I went to the sunken Cemetery
IMG_1946 IMG_1947 IMG_1954 IMG_1969 IMG_1972 IMG_1973

IMG_1992IMG_1994Just few meters away from the Famed Sunken Cemetery is the Catarman Church Ruins.  The devastating volcanic eruption in 1871 wiped out the Spanish settlement of Catarman that was established in 1697. The remains of an Old Spanish church, ruins of adobe walls, belfry and convent are mute witnesses to the wrath of nature. It also allows us a glimpse into the culture of Spanish-era Camiguin. When i went inside the premise a little girl approached me and sold some candles, she said its 3 pesos each candle. I gave her Php 20 and told her to give me just 3 pieces and she can keep the change.  I don’t know but while i was praying in front of the crucifix, a tear fell down, tear of joy maybe that I was able to reach that far and experienced God’s greatness through the wonderful things I just discovered.

Off we went to our next destination, the Sto Nino Spring Resort, its a hot day so its a great escape to go to a cold spring. Santo Niño Cold Spring is a water park for the whole family. It has pools with a refreshing 20 °C cold water. I don't have any plans to swim but I wanted to get inside to take a look at how its done and get some snap shots. I paid 20 pesos for the entrance fee, sat in one of the cabanas, ordered some drinks to rest and soak my feet in the cold water. I haven't had the chance to try it but the lady said that the water has live tiny fishes. If you stood still, the fishes would clean your body or feet by removing excess skin. Something only Santo Niño Cold Spring has in Camiguin.
IMG_2005 IMG_2010 IMG_2013

It’s quite a long and tiring day but I got to discover a lot of wonderful places in Camiguin. Locals should feel proud that they have all of these in just one little island, you have mountains, beaches, hot and cold spring resorts, heritage places and a lot more.  At exactly 3 in the afternoon I headed back to Benoni Port to catch a ride back to Balingoan. Another 5 hours travel to get back to CDO.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

In Transit - CDO | Camiguin

Bacolod - CDO (Direct Flight) I just noticed that they only have 1 flight everyday. 1600 :)
55 mins to 1 hr flying time and you will land in Lumbia Airport.

Transportation in CDO:
From the airport you can rent a Cab, be very careful though, some of them will really take advantage and giving you an overrated trip.  There are Cabs, Motorela and jeepneys that can take you to places you wanna see in CDO.

Tip: What I did, I walked towards the arrival area so I can get a metered cab and save bucks for my transportation.

Accomodations: I stayed in a Dorm Type Room at Budgetel, paid Php 250.00/night. If you are not really particular in blending with other tourist, you can get this one. Anyway, the room is fully airconditioned.  They also offer private rooms but at a higher rate.

ADDRESS Corrales Extension
TELEPHONE (88) 856-4200 ; (8822) 72-6643
FAX (88) 856-4300
PAYMENT Accepts all Major Credit Cards
•Dormitory Rooms: 250.00 (per bed)
•Standard Single: 600.00
•Superior Twin: 900.00
Dormitory rooms have common bathrooms :-)

Accomodation Guide in CDO

From CDO, I took a motorela to Agora Terminal Bound for Camiguin.
Summary of Expenses:
Airfare Php 946.50 (promo fare)
Cab from Airport - Budgetel Php115.00
Accomodation Php 500.00 (2 days)
Other Misc Tranportation - Roaming around the City Php 200.00  (Motorela, cabs. jeepneys)
Food - Php 900.00 (Kagay-anon Restaurant, Fastfood Chains, Savory Chicken)
Camiguin Tour - Php 700.00
Roro to Camiguin - Php 340.00 (roundtrip)
Van CDO to Camiguin Php 300.00 (roundtrip)
White Water Rafting Php 800.00 (package)
Pasalubong Php 1,000.00
TOTAL EXPENSES (3 days and 2 nights) Php 5,801.50

Who said CDO - Camiguin trip is expensive?

The More the Merrier and the Cheaper :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Finally Realized the Dream – First Land in Mindanao - CDO

I have planned this multiple times, I got discouraged by people saying that I shouldn't be going to this place because of the some untoward incidents reported on TV. Yes, I am a bit hesitant as well, a bit nervous when I first booked my flight on the first City in Mindanao. But, hell yeah, when will i start conquering my fear? Will I just stop staring at books and reading blog posts about this place because I fear for my life? Will I just end my adventure in Visayas and Luzon?
I came to realize that wherever you may go, if you aren't careful on what you are doing, its still going to be dangerous.  So i finally set aside whatever apprehensions I have about Mindanao and decided to finally let it go, and I never regretted it.
Its really true, Mindanao is a paradise, it is a beautiful place.  Its an untouched heaven that will captivate your soul once you landed.It is an interesting island in many respects. I am determined to discover this island whatever it may take.
My Destinations in Mindanao (I will make sure to set my feet in these places)
Davao | Cagayan de Oro  | General Santos | Zamboanga | Iligan | Surigao | Butuan | Dipolog | Mambajao | Pagadian |Koronadal | Cotabato | Dapitan | Tagum | Camiguin | Bislig |Samal Island | Bukidnon | Ozamis
November 22-24, I finally601549_4515211151976_1324643267_n found mysel20294_4515222912270_1316106235_nf in the first City of my Mindanao Explor579215_4494814562074_1059807181_nation – Cagayan de Oro City.
Cagayan de Oro City is located at the northern coast of Mindanao, Philippines. It is the capital of Misamis Oriental province and the regional center for Northern Mindanao (Region 10). Cebuano or Bisaya is the city's main dialect. English on the other hand is widely used in schools, media, government and commercial transactions.
Cagayan de Oro is known as "The Gateway to Northern Mindanao" because of its location and good transportation facilities. However, it is through her warm and hospitable people that the city became more known as "The City of Golden Friendship". Ops, before i even forget, its also known for the White Water Rafting Adventure.
I left Bacolod late afternoon flight for Cagayan de Oro City through Cebu Pacific Airlines. I didn't realized that they are now on time *_^ (wink).  I had a great time chatting with manong driver (cab driver) who brought me to the airport. My flight was scheduled 4PM but the plane took off around 3:40PM (way ahead of time) Note to self starting now: “MAKE SURE TO BE IN THE AIRPORT 2 Hrs Before the flight schedule.390247_4515393636538_582831843_n
After an our of flying, i finally touched down Lumbia Airport. Yey! Im in Mindanao already :) The adventure starts the moment i touched down the airport. I don't know exactly the place, though I have an idea about it. But this feeling make me more excited. I promise myself not to take the cab more often so i can rove the place taking public transportation. Its indeed true, their are no old model cabs  in CDO.. they mostly have Nissan Sentra, Toyota Vios, take note I've seen a Camry used as a cab, oh, what can you say about it? :) Yeah, Epic failed, I took a cab from the airport to city proper but its the metered one, I got lucky still.  On the way to the city, we passed by SM CDO, i don't know who set the idea to build the mall far from the downtown area. Its located in El Pueblo, 30 minutes away fromIMG_1832 the city.  Never305534_4524952635507_488420239_ntheless, its st378809_4524941875238_1286321287_nill a mall, so people will come by and shop.   I chose to stay in Budgetel, its a hostel built for back packers and budget travelers. Not bad, you can gain a lot of friends if you stay in these places.  It’s also near malls and 5 minutes away from terminals and markets.    Just across Capitol University. Its a safe place as there are food chains operating 24 hrs and the premise has roving guards. There is also a 24 hour coffee shop owned and managed by budgetel management.  Upon arriving, you will notice that the reception area is patterned like a passenger terminal, its for people whos always on the go. You have the option to choose whether you want a common dormitel or a private room. All room were air-conditioned and with built in Wi-Fi. The ones i got is a dormitel type room with 8 beds that can accomodate a maximum of 16 persons, fit for group travelers or field trips. As what you can see, the room looks like a ship cabin.  There are also lockers for rent  to keep your things and valIMG_1841uables safe. 
After I arrived, i rested for an hour and I started roaming CDO, i don't have much time so I need to spend it wisely. First stop, I walk around and check their malls. The most common means of transportation along downtown area is the Motorela.   It can carry a maximum of 10 passengers. 2 will be seated in front beside the driver and 4 on each side of the vehicle. Amazing!
FYI : Raphael Floirendo invented the Motorela in 1964 from the word “motorized” and “caretella”. This Filipino inventor came from Luzon and transfer here in Cagayan de Oro; he was able to study high school at Xavier University-Ateneo De Cagayan. Raphael Floirendo earned 500 Pesos after selling the first unit which is not here but in Ozamiz City. After selling and it was known to the public the locals are using the “caretella” or the Motorela.
First night, i went to SM CDO and check out my souvenir shirt. My travel will not be complete without a shirt and of course I checked out the stores available. On my mind “Swerte pa ang CDO my Bratpack and Northface, ang Bacolod wala gid” (CDO is luckier, they have Bratpack and Northface which we don't  have in Bacolod). I also searched for the famous delicacy here in CDO and Camiguin, Pastel, and yeah, its delicious! PASTELICIOUS :) . Vjandep is best known for its filled buns called “pastels”. Hailed as the “Pride of Camiguin”, its famous product is now one of the most sought after goodies and pasalubong treats from the island province. Aside from the original yema flavor, its pastels now have several flavor selections, including strawberry, durian, chocolate, ube and pineapple.
First day ended with a smile here in the City of Golden Friendship. Tomorrow will be another perfect adventure, on my way to Camguin, the “Island Born on Fire”