My trip to Mindanao is a very memorable one. It was the last place I visited in the PI before moving out of the country for good.
It was sort of a spur-of-the-moment thing that my friend Jen and I decided to visit these three places in the North of Mindanao. At that time, neither of us had ever been to this island that most people fear to visit, even for us locals. But we were brave and young and free. 🙂
I remember that I only booked my flights from Manila to Cagayan de Oro and back. I didn’t even book any hotel. I just asked the taxi cab driver when I landed at the airport in CDO by myself (my friend only joined me the following day) to take me to a nice hotel at the city center. This was nine years ago, so forgive me if I don’t remember some details in the trip, like which hotel I stayed in or whether I really liked this hotel or not. But what I do remember is that the cab driver was very nice and honest. And that the hotel was right next to all the restaurants and food stalls, which were very much like the hawker centers in Singapore, where I am currently based.
I remember eating some chicken inasal for dinner at one of the eateries close to my hotel. Trying to be generous to the nice waiter, I left some tip on the table. But then he ran after me when I left, telling me that I left some money on the table thinking that I left the money by accident. I guess they were not accustomed to tips. I felt a little bit embarrassed.
The next day, my friend arrived in CDO to join me on the long bus ride to Iligan City. I wanted to go to this city to see the famous Maria Cristina water falls. It’s the tallest in the country. When I was in grade school, we would talk about this magnificent waterfall in class all the time that I became obsessed about seeing it.
It was as majestic in person as in the text book pictures. There was even a museum at the site. The curator told us that they use it as a source of electricity for the whole of Iligan City and surrounding provinces.
In Iligan City, we also visited Tinago water falls. They call it “tinago” because it seems to be so well-hidden. You have to descend into a long, winding, slippery path to get to see it. But that knee-breaking descent was really well worth it.
From Iligan City, we took a bus going to the port in Butuan City where we took a ferry to take us to Camiguin Island. It was a very long and tiresome journey. And also, a little bit scary. Our driver/tour guide told us that just a few days ago, one of the buses from the bus line that we took from CDO was burned down by one of the Muslim rebel groups. I do not want to discourage people from going to Mindanao, but I just want to remind everyone that you have to stay alert and sensitive to the local folks with their customs and beliefs while you are there. Also, there are some places that you should never ever go to if you don’t know any locals in that area — this bit of information was shared first-hand by our local guide.
In Camiguin, we went to the beautiful sand bar at sunset and then again late afternoon the following day. I loved this tiny lonesome stretch of pure white sand in the middle of the blue sea that they call, White Island. It was absolute paradise.
There are also some waterfalls to see in Camiguin, some hot springs and interesting treks. But my favorite is White Island. I always have this longing to go back there. I heard that there is now an airport in Mambajao, Camiguin. Unlike ten years ago, it wouldn’t be so difficult now to reach this paradise.