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Saturday, January 30, 2010

White Island @ Camiguin


Camiguin is known as "island of volcanoes" because of its seven volcanoes. The most popular is Mt. Hibok Hibok, believed to be the only active volcano on the island today with the rest being pegged as inactive, although in 1871 Mt. Vulkan Daan erupted and sank nearby places including the now "Sunken Cemetery". Camiguin is an island that almost if not entirely, matches one's protruding expectation of a paradise-like place.

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Not far from Camiguin, a dreamland of a place on Earth can be found and it cannot be named more appropriately.

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White Island is a small sand bar found near the coast of Agojo, Mambajao in Camiguin and can be easily reached by a 10 minute boat ride. Approaching the island from afar, you could already see the blinding white island which forms a letter "C" from above and sometimes, the letter "I" depending on the tide conditions. The island itself goes underwater by late afternoon when it gets high tide. That makes early morning to mid-afternoon as the best time to visit the island.

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There are no trees or any man made structures at White Island, bare as one can see. We arrived there and saw only a few people on the island. Most of them were fisherman who have docked their fishing boats for a brief rest, while some of them awaits visitors, to whom they will offer to sell sea urchins that can be fished out of the surrounding waters.

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After picking up a spot where we laid down our things and having consumed a couple of Red Horse drinks, we figured there's no more holding us back from jumping unto the ultra clear waters of White Island.

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The waters surrounding the island is an ideal spot for snorkeling, trudging slowly and looking down, one does not need 20/20 vision to see the corals and other fishes. After swimming for half an hour I explored further and I walked towards the other end of the island where I was met by a flock of birds who flew over me everytime I came close to them. It wasn't a surprise to see a party of birds choosing the island as their resting place from flying all over Camiguin Island.

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However, as I write this trying to recount my visit to White Island. I can't help but be grateful that I've gotten the chance to go there. Traveling to other places really brings comfort to my mind, that regardless of what life is throwing out at me. There's always a time and place that resets everything to its mere rightful mind set and just perspective. White Island most definitely fits that role like a screenwriter would write a character specifically with an actor in mind.

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After that, a few more shots of Red Horse - On any other occasion, I'd ran away from Red Horse, but during that moment It didn't mattered as It sure beats getting drunk on some over crowded bar in the big city. I lost the slipper I was wearing as I really can't remember where I left it, but it's alright as I gained another unforgettable nomadic experience, this time it was on my birthday weekend and with the company of great friends. Hands down, it goes up there with my top 3 birthday celebrations.

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( that's Lot, Tina and Me with a bunch of Patrick Starfishes - don't worry we brought them back to where we found them )

A thought crossed my mind while walking back to our spot from the other side of the island. My dog Jack would probably enjoyed running around white island, then it occurred to me everyone will surely do, animals, humans, and who knows even Martians. The feeling of the sun shining on your back, your bare feet kissing the millions speck of white sands hard enough to leave sets of foot prints; and with the sea wind billowing against your face. Ultimately, the experience becomes so satisfying it'll leave a lasting image in your mind.

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This is nature at its best. I really do hope that such places like White Island continues to amaze visitors and for people to do their share in making sure that the nature around us wont be sacrificed, abused and neglected in exchange of development, so the next generations would enjoy it as much as I am doing so right now.

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On the Road to Camiguin Island

Camiguin is an island province on the northern coast of Mindanao and was the last stop of that "epic long weekend" in January 2010. Everything has been great so far up to that point and the sojourn to Camiguin made it even better. We've managed to undertake all we could ever do in a span of five days from river rafting at CDO river to riding the zipline in Bukidnon and Camiguin gave us the chance to bask delightfully under the bright sun, (in my case) learn more to swim in the crystal clear waters and roam freely around the island.

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We woke up early in the morning of January 18, after taking a heavy breakfast at Lot's house, we proceeded to our next destination. Sunblock and all, the thought of white sandy beaches lighted up our sense of wonder of discovering a new place found on our map. It used to be that one tiny dot on the Philippine map that I used to see during geography class way back in elementary and now, finally- after all this time, at that moment I was going to see it up close. We left as the sky was just waking up from a night's long darkness and shades of red and orange was just starting to color the sky as the sun was about to take over from the moon.

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Going to Camiguin from Cagayan de Oro city takes up about an hour and a half from the city to the port of Balingoan, Misamis Oriental and from there we took the 1 hour ferry to Benoni wharf in Camiguin. From the port of Balingoan you can already see the island of Camiguin and with Mt. Hibok Hibok, the only active of the seven volcanoes in the island, towering above it.

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Aboard the ferry, the hour sailed by like a jet-ski, soon the island on the horizon becomes bigger and nearer we fixated our attention to the new place. (except for Lot, who had been there numerous times before), for Tina and I, it's our first time to be visiting Camiguin.

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We were picked up at Benoni port by Lot's friend, Gerard who let us ride their jeepney to roam the island of Camiguin together with his girlfriend, May. During our day's stay there we were able to visit White Island, the Sunken Cemetery, Ardent hot springs, cold spring and Katibawasan falls.

Sunken Cemetery: - located in Brgy. Bonbon, Catarman in Camiguin. It is called as such because it used to be a community cemetery before it went underwater after the volcanic eruption of 1871. Today, a huge cross marker stood above it and is also a popular diving site.

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Ardent Hot Spring: - Coming from the depths of Mt. Hibok Hibok a natural pool of about 38-40 centigrade Celsius makes up for an ideal hot spa. Picnic huts and trees surround the hot spring.

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White Island: - a sand bar of the coast of Agojo, Mambajao and is popular for its blinding white sand and crystal clear waters that will make even goats and those who swore off swimming wanna jump in and take a plunge.

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On my next blog entry, I will write down a short narrative of our particular trip to White Island.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Postcard Series: Balintawak Overpass


It was a good morning indeed and amidst the bustling streets, of people going to work and random strangers passing each other by, I realized I had to freeze the moment using my Holga camera. I took a peek at the steel railings overlooking the busy EDSA highway while I cross the Balintawak foot bridge. The vignetting was able to add some character and drama to the image, when in fact it was a lively and ordinary day presenting such fluid movements of automobiles and people on foot.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

River Rafting at CDO


One of the more popular things to do in Cagayan de Oro city, is to raft your way through the twenty three rapids of the Cagayan de Oro river. Choosing "Mild" brings you a smooth ride against the ebb and the flow of the white waters of the river, while settling for the more exciting "Wild" gives you the thrill of enduring the capsizing of your raft while passing through a rapid.

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Guess, after swallowing a fair amount of river water and tumbling with our raft; seeing the whirlpool at the bottom of the water and struggling for breath; being dragged back to our raft by our reliable guides, you could say we opted for the more volatile yet adventurous river rafting experience. The "Wild" one.

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The rafting guides has this technique of causing the raft to flip over when passing through turbulent rapids. For the mild one and without interference it is fairly easy to control the raft from flipping over, given that proper balance and a continuous paddle is practiced.

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However in our case, we were able to go down with our raft a few times. I've lost count but I remember four different experiences of being immersed into the river water and feeling like I was inside a washing machine. The first one, as we reached a rapid that sort of carried our raft higher by three to four feet up in the air and the moment it kissed back the water violently jerking sideways our guides made the move of countering the flow therefore causing our raft to flip over throwing Tina, Me, Lot and Rocky into the river water.

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For a moment I saw bubbles, whirlpool and a set of feet kicking away. Next thing I know, one of our guide has plucked me from the bottom and with the help of the safety life vest that I was wearing I was floating safely above water and was being pulled back to our raft.

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It was really an adrenalin pumping moment. Once we settled back on our raft, we went back to paddling and was looking forward to another rapid, half worried of another capsizing experience and half gleeful with anticipation. When we reached the middle part we all rested a bit for a snack that consists of Zesto juice and Pastel, a sweet delicacy popular in Cagayan de Oro that originated from the island of Camiguin.

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After that, we went back to rafting - going over board - being under the raft - drinking river water - and the likes that all made up for a wonderful experience.

This was my second time to experience river rafting, the first one being at Davao City River. That time it was like semi-wild as I experienced fewer turns and drank lesser amount of river water. This time, it was more thrilling and for about 4 to 5 hours it was all you can gobble up in terms of excitement and joy.

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It started at around 9:00 AM and it ended almost 2:00 PM, after that we went back to the rafting operator's headquarters (Great White Water Tours - near Xavier Estates - rafting packages ranges from 700.00 - 1,200.00 per person) and feasted on pork, chicken barbecue and kilawin.

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So, when you find yourself being a nomad in the beautiful city of Cagayan de Oro, mingling with the residents of this "City of Golden Friendship". Make sure to give river rafting a try.

Zipline at Dahilayan Park, Bukidnon


My friend Tina and I share the same birthday which is January 15. We decided upon another friend, Lot's invitation to celebrate our birthday at her hometown, the "city of golden friendship", Cagayan de Oro City.

I arrived at CDO on the early morning of January 15 (Tina flew there a day earlier), Lot picked me up from the airport and we went straight to their house (which is huge as in you can get lost inside). We spent Friday relaxing in a clubhouse pool in a subdivision called Xavier, played "Rock Band" and had a delicious dinner at "Candy's Restaurant" at Limketkai center courtesy of Lot's lovely mother.

The next day we went river rafting (Saturday), then went to Dahilayan Adventure Park in Bukidnon on Sunday.

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Dahilayan park located at Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon is about an hour drive from Cagayan de Oro City. Along the way you will pass by in what seems like miles and miles of pineapple fields. It stretches as far as your eye can see against the backdrop of the Bukidnon mountains. That stretch of field is called the "Pineapple Country" and those pineapples are the source of Del Monte products in the Philippines.

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We arrived there at 7:30 AM, bunch of early birds as the place opens up for operation at 8:30 AM. It's a good thing however, because we got the number '1' and we soon found out that by lunch time many people are lining up for the zipline rides.

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The zipline at Dahilayan is composed of a 320 meter and 150 meter vertical ride and the "longest dual zipline in Asia", the 840 meter zipline, where unlike the vertical one, this one gets you flying like Superman.

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This was my second time to ride a zipline. The first being the one at Camp Sabros, Digos City in Davao which also boast an 800 meter zipline and a vertical zipride to a tall treetop. Both offers marvelous sight along the way, gives the sensation of flying at a high speed and produces an exhilarating feeling yet two different unforgettable experiences nonetheless.

Dahilayan currently offers an "introductory" price of 500 pesos for all three ziplines so better visit right now before it increase its rates. The place is surrounded by pine trees which can elicit thoughts of "New Moon" and the nearby hills. It was nature at its best and the place is well maintained by its staff with nary a piece of trash on sight.

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The highlight of course was the 840 meter zipline. On average it takes a person about 50 seconds of flight time to complete the whole 840 meter distance, enough speed to bring a rush of excitement as you pass by tall trees, deep ravine, the forests, the clearing and unto the landing path on the other side of the hill.

We first took the 380 meter + 150 meter zipride then we saved the best for last, the 840 meter zipride.

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By lunch time we were all done with the ziplines and chalk another memory to my nomadic experiences - this time with the company of great friends in a wonderful place somewhere in Mindanao.

Being able to travel to Davao and Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon the past year has totally changed my perception of Mindanao. Growing up I thought it was one giant land mass caught in a maelstrom of war zone, I am now finding out that it's the complete opposite.

Going back to Lot's place we again passed by the pineapple country and feasted on gigantic steaks at the Del Monte Country Club (again with Lot's mom footing the bill - can't thank them enough)

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Museum of Three Cultures – Cagayan de Oro City


During our first day in Cagayan de Oro City, my friend and our gracious host Lot showed me and Tina the Museum of Three Cultures which is located inside the Capitol University of Cagayan de Oro. The museum and the University was founded by Lot's late grandmother, Madame Laureana San Pedro Rosales who first arrived in Mindanao in 1951. An educator gifted with a heart keen for helping others and a drive to conserve the different lively cultures in Mindanao, Madame Laureana San Pedro Rosales first taught at a small school in Butuan City before expanding into Marawi where, together with her husband - she founded a small Islamic school.

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Founding schools in a far-flung place in Mindanao was just a part of Madame Rosales' dreams of empowering people across cultures and creating a unity of sort in Mindanao, afterward she embarked on a trip across Mindanao convincing the young women of Mindanao to embrace the idea of attending a school and to attain for themselves an education needed to empower women across cultures, religion and social class. Throughout the years, her resolve succeeded and through her educational programs, many of today's women leaders from Mindanao has acknowledged her as their mentor.

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In 1962, Madame Rosales established the Iligan Capitol College which became the foundation of an education system that will further set up a number of other schools and universities in the Philippines such as the aforementioned Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City, Bataan Heroes Memorial College and Lyceum of Iligan among others which also include the Capitol University Medical City - a high tech medical facility in Cagayan de Oro City.

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It was at this monumental achievement which spanned many years and decades that Madame Rosales was able to collect numerous artifacts that encompasses and bridges the three distinct cultures of the Mindanao region. These are the Muslims, the Christians and the Lumads. The Museum of Three Cultures houses all of these various artifacts from these wonderful cultural and artistic representation of the whole of Mindanao.

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The museum first opened to the public in May 2008 and is already a member of the International Council of Museums based in Paris, the International Committee of Museums of Archaeology and History, and the International Movement for a New Museology.

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The Museum of Three Cultures showcases a collection of rare antiques from the Manobo and Higaunon cultures, archeological digs found in Butuan, jewelry, wooden crafts, furniture, musical instruments, weapons  as well as a vast collection of Christian lowland artifacts and Lumad arts and crafts.

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A section of the museum shows visual aids composed of photographs, slideshows, Spanish era documents and other memorabilia that represents a large historical archive of Mindanao. 

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It was a great gesture from Lot to introduce me and Tina to her late grandmother's lifelong quest to spread education and the preservation of heritage and culture among the people in Mindanao regardless of religious upbringing and bloodlines. Madame Rosales as I remember from Lot, passed away less than two years ago, but I'm pretty sure that her legacy among the people she helped and the educational and medical institutions she founded will serve more people in the coming years.

The Museum of Three Cultures is a nice starting point for anyone like me who'd find the history of Mindanao and its rich heritage as something to further study upon. So if you find yourself within Cagayan de Oro City, make sure to drop by at this museum which is open to public on weekdays except on Mondays.

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