Beer, Chill and Urchins at White Island | Camiguin

January 30, 2010

Camiguin is known as "island of volcanoes" because of the seven volcanoes dotting this tropical paradise. The most popular is Mt. Hibok Hibok, believed to be the only active volcano on the island today with the rest being classified 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 expectation of what an ideal island setting would be.

Lot Deleste and Kristina Hamdorf

On the Road to Camiguin Island

January 30, 2010

Camiguin is an island province on the northern coast of Mindanao and was the last stop of my "epic birthday 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 sandwiched all we could ever do in a span of five days from river rafting to riding the zipline in Bukidnon. Camiguin gave us the chance to bask delightfully under the bright sun, and (in my case) learn to swim in the crystal clear waters of the island.

Reese Belarmino

Wild White Water Rafting | Cagayan de Oro

January 23, 2010

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

It was really an adrenaline 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.

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.

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.

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.

This is part of my 2010 Birthday trip in Mindanao series

        - Museum of Three Cultures | CDO

        - Zipline at Dahilayan Park | Bukidnon

        - On the Road to Camiguin Island

        - White Island | Camiguin

Zipline at Dahilayan Park, Bukidnon

January 23, 2010

Since my friend Tina and I share the same birthday on January 15, we decided to celebrate it together. Upon learning about our plan, our friend Lot invited us to spend our birthday at her hometown, in the "city of golden friendship", Cagayan de Oro City.

Lot Deleste

Museum of Three Cultures | Cagayan de Oro City

January 22, 2010

During our first day in Cagayan de Oro City, my friend and our gracious host Lot toured us in the Museum of Three Cultures 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.

Lot Deleste and Kristina Hamdorf

The Blinding White Sands of Panglao Island | Bohol

January 08, 2010

Panglao is an island located in the Central Visayan province of Bohol. A bridge connects the island to Tagbilaran, making land travel possible. Panglao is known to have a rich marine biodiversity. More than 2,500 species of mollusks and 250 species of crustaceans are said to be found around the island according to the latest findings of marine biologists who worked on the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project in 2004.

Celine Arenillo

Bantayan Island: Stamping Passage into Each Other’s Lives. Almost!

January 02, 2010
We were supposed to go together and ultimately stamping an official passage to our blossoming relationship, which as far as I could remember had its innocent start years ago when we were both fifth graders. Years have passed by and we both headed somewhere and weaved our own threads of life. We reconnected during the midst of an onslaught on my personal life; you were in your own words “flowing along a current” and mine was "awashed with distortions"

We first met in 5th Grade

Bantayan Island | Cebu

January 01, 2010

After landing at Mactan Airport, I went straight to Bantayan Island. From the airport I flagged a cab going to North Bus Terminal where I caught a bus going to Hagnaya Port. Finally, I took a ferry boat to Bantayan Island.

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The trip from North Bus Terminal took 3 hours. It sped through the scenic countryside of Cebu passing by sleepy coastal towns.  

The ferry ride from Hagnaya port was calm and uneventful. Watching the open seas, I saw small fishing boats along the way. I sat at the back of the boat where I stretched my feet and rested while anticipating my arrival on the island. I managed to steal some sleep in between waking up from the sound of the water splashing from the back of the ferry boat.

After a total travel time of 6 hours from Manila to Mactan, to North Bus Terminal to Hagnaya Port and culminating in Bantayan Island, I arrived at about 12:25 PM at the port of Bantayan.

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Finding a place to stay is relatively easy. I asked someone where I could get a cheap room for about 500 pesos a night and I was directed to a resort called "Beach Placid" in the town of Sta Fe. I opted for a fan room knowing I'll do more exploration than sleeping.

Despite being tired from the long trip, I put my backpack on the bed, changed my shirt and picked up my camera and I went out to explore the beach. The resort has a long stretch of white sand along the coast with half a dozen and more expensive duplex type rooms situated on the beachfront. It was low tide at that time in the afternoon so the seaweeds are clearly visible from the shore where I was standing. Nevertheless, I really didn't mind as I was in no mood to swim yet, instead, I kept on walking until I ended up on rows of nearby resorts like St. Bernard and the nearby fishing villages.

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After doing much walking I rented a motorcycle to take me around the island. I rode at the back of the driver, Mang Antonio, who was friendly enough to also serve as my tour guide. He explained with rich details the history and informative facts about the places we went to. For 300 pesos plus 100 pesos worth of diesel you can have the motorcycle take you around the island for the whole day. In my case, I spent the remaining afternoon riding with Mang Antonio at a high speed. We rolled along smooth paved roads as the strong wind try to erase my face. Blurred images of sleepy towns, golden rays of sun, poultry houses, corn fields, rice paddies, rolling hills and smiling people became the slideshow view from the motorcycle.

We stopped by the Saints Peter and Paul Church - the oldest parish church in Visayas and Mindanao — which was founded on June 11, 1580 and was built with corals and stones. It is one of the must see places at Bantayan Island and is located near the town plaza, market and town hall.

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Mang Antonio also took me to the town of Madridejos, one of the three municipalities in Bantayan Island where one can also visit the "fort ruins of Madridejos". Actually, Cebu is known for having many "forts" built around the province as it was used to be one of the hot spots of Muslim uprisings in the early 1700 and 1800's. These forts served as the main point of defense not only by the Spanish, but also by the Christian residents and traders from the Muslim invaders who oppose the Christianization of the Philippines that time. A detailed explanation can be read here: (click this link)

We also passed by Ogtong cave, the Bontay baywalk and other beachfronts in the area before heading back to Beach Placid where I took a fulfilling dinner buffet (for only 250 Pesos) at a nearby restaurant.

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Most of the time when I travel to one of the islands in the Philippines, I just sit back and relax at the resort not knowing that the best experience can be attained through exploring a big part of the island. Now I learned that its best to do it either by riding a motorcycle or "habal-habal" (which I also did with my then-girlfriend at Samal Island in Davao and with my friend Jacobsladder at his hometown of Marinduque), or by foot. And also, by hitching a ride on the back of a truck. It doesn't matter as long as you move your feet and try to see as much as your time would allow.

Island experience in the Philippines is most rewarding when you keep in mind that staying in one place is not paramount to making your trip truly worthwhile.