Lately I have been publishing mostly bookworm related stuff so today I am going to break the monotony by looking back at the year that was in terms of travelling, exploration and adventures. Although it is already midway through the month but I believe it is never too late to write a new piece about 2018 (just another one in a growing pile I surmise). Unlike the previous years, 2018 went a little too slow; adventures and travels were very few and far in between. Nevertheless, here is a throwback to my 2018 travels.

This is the second part of a three-part series. I hope you enjoy reading! For the first and third parts of this series, please click on the links provided below:

2018 Travel Recap: A Year of Firsts and Reflections (Part I)
2018 Travel Recap: A Year of Firsts and Reflections (Part III)

Into the Land of Promise

I grew up fascinated by pictures of places I wanted to visit once I grew up. Growing up, I was curious of how it would feel flying 30,000 feet above the ground However, I simply wrote it off as childhood fantasy. The year, 2015. Seat sales and airline promos were very prevalent. Luckily, my friend was able to cop a round trip ticket to Cebu. I was beyond ecstatic (and nervous at the same time) at that point because I never thought that my childhood dream would actually come true. It was my first travel out of Luzon and my first into the Visayas, the second of three major island groups in the Philippines.

The realization of this dream made me realize that everything is possible (hopefully I could complete the full article on this because it has been sometime since I have conceived of it), including traveling to Mindanao, the third major island group in the country. I placed it as part of my 2017 traveling resolutions and goals; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do so although I came close – I was supposed to travel to General Santos with a bunch of friends, but my vacation leave was denied. As a result, traveling to Mindanao is yet again a priority in my 2018 traveling resolutions and goals. Thankfully, it finally came true.

She sells seashells at the seashore,” as the tongue twister goes. Or corals.

On a rainy June day, while the rest of the country was celebrating Philippine Independence Day, Joy and I were on our way to the airport. Our destination: Northern Mindanao. There were supposed to be four of us but two of our companions backed out. Joy and I were too adamant, so we pushed through with our original plan, especially me because I badly wanted to tick off that item in my travel resolutions. I guess I am lucky that Joy is always up for the challenge.

While the rain was making its presence felt outside, our plane flew above the skies and was on its way to Cagayan de Oro’s Laguindingan Airport for our six-day excursion. Like a child, I was giddy in anticipation; I was even happier once we landed because it wasn’t raining – the sun was shining brilliantly. If only I could stamp my footprints on the airport runway, I would have because nothing can contain my excitement for the next few days of bliss and relaxation ahead.

Because it was Joy and I again, we traveled without any decent or set itinerary; we are kind of used at planning on the spot. Since we reached Cagayan de Oro in the afternoon, we decided to just simply chill out and explore the areas near where we were staying. The first impression that struck us about the metropolis: it has numerous malls! There were four or five within walking distance of our hotel in downtown CDO. We were not much of mall-goers though but it is in its four corners that we sought refuge from the heat.

The vestiges of a church tattered by the explosion of a nearby volcano.

The next day, we were on the road again as we travelled to Camiguin, an island province just off the coast of Misamis Oriental. Travelling to Camiguin was an unpleasant experience because we have to ride a bus for about four-hours going to the port before riding a roll-on, roll-off barge that sailed over the sea for about an hour or two. Upon reaching Camiguin, we immediately headed to our accommodation, a couple of minutes away from the center of Mambajao, the province’s capital. For the second day in a row, we spent the day just hanging out in our hotel room, the quintessence of a vacation. We went out during sunset, which, with its fiery display, reminded us that we were on the “island born of fire.”

The monotony was finally broken on our second day in Camiguin. Together with a couple we met in our accommodation, we set out for our first day of adventures (finally!). The day’s adventure, to say the least, amazed us and filled us with joy. It was fully packed with activities that made us say gape at Camiguin’s beauty. A waterfall, a church ruin, and a couple of cold pools were part of our itinerary but the real treasures lie under the sea. Twice in the day we found ourselves suiting up for a snorkeling experience – at the Sunken Cemetery and at the Blue Lagoon.

At the Sunken Cemetery, we could have gone farther out into the sea and see the original sunken church, but I was too apprehensive. Sea kraits, (very) venomous (albeit tame) sea snakes, are known to wander in the area. Moreover, the sea that day was especially rough. Our snorkeling experience at the Blue Lagoon, on the other hand, was just amazing! It was truly out of the world and is indeed one of my best snorkeling experience! We even saw a pawikan in the depths of the blue! Joy, who isn’t a swimming enthusiast, was more excited and more amazed than I was. I believe she was happier of this trip than I was although I am in euphoria, really, by simply being there.

I can equate Camiguin to bodies of water; not just the sea but pools, springs and waterfalls as well.

The next day, we woke up early to witness that sunrise at the White Island Sandbar. It was again, a spectacular sight and the sandbar was just, well, amazing! We were sad though because later in the day, we are going back to Cagayan de Oro. But hey, we spent a couple more of hours enjoying the beauty of Camiguin. We went again to see a hot spring and another waterfall. We capped our two-day adventure by snorkeling (again) at Mantigue Island and at the Giant Clam Sanctuary.

I skipped Mantigue but joined the crew again at the Sanctuary. The giant clams at the sanctuary were, like the blue lagoon, otherworldly. No words can actually describe the scene under the sea. It was just too unfortunate that we didn’t have any action cameras so that we could capture those amazing sights. Sadly, the sanctuary marked the end of our Camiguin adventure as were on our way back to Cagayan de Oro. In two short days, Camiguin has endeared itself to us.

We were back again at Cagayan de Oro to tick off another item in our bucket list – white river rafting, an extreme activity that CdO is quite known for. It was the only activity we had on our fifth day of vacation, but it was, nevertheless fulfilling. At the start, I was nervous of the rough waters but when the adventure started, I was immersed in a rush of adrenaline, the heart of the adventurer seized me. I screamed, I laughed, I smiled, a lot. It is an adventure I am more than willing to do again, and again!

Riding the waves while pulling off a decent pose; now that is some skill my friend.

We spent our last day in another province, Bukidnon, of which we only had one particular destination in mind: Dahilayan Adventure Park. It was quite far from CdO so we had to leave early so that we can make it in time for our flight later in the day. Dahilayan is the epitome of an adventure (amusement) park, with numerous rides. However, as we felt we were too old for all of these rides, Joy and I only went for the zipline. It was my first time, and, as expected, I was anxious (I am really nervous about a lot of things!). I gathered my wits, rode the zipline and just flew with the tide of time.

After our Dahilayan adventure, Joy and I were finally on our way back to Manila where we have to face reality head on. But being able to visit three provinces I have never been to before is a big step in my Project 81. Moreover, I am thankful for the restful, adrenaline filled, adventure laden six days I spent in Mindanao sprinkled with a lot of firsts:

  • First time travelling to Mindanao
  • First white river rafting experience
  • First zipline ride

I have so much to be thankful for because, beyond these firsts, I am just happy being out there, learning more about my country, exploring its beautiful sights, appreciating its diverse culture, and ultimately, getting to know more about myself.

I will talk more about this in my future travel blog piece. Do watch out for them. 🙂

Think of all the joy you’ll find, when you leave the world behind and bid your cares goodbye.” ~ Peter Pan