The Promised Land

Mindanao is the Philippines’ third major island group; the other two are Luzon and Visayas. With its vast potential, Mindanao is often referred to as the Philippine’s promised land. However, this promise has been stymied by armed conflicts that permeated all throughout the island. Through the lenses of the media, it is a breeding ground for terrorists and insurgents. The Mamasapano incident and the Maguindanao massacre will be perpetuated to tales about the island.

These incidents, two of many, paints a grim picture of the island. Nonetheless, it is a destination that I want to explore, considering the efforts poured in to ensure the safety of everyone in the island, especially visitors. Mindanao enchants me, it is a part of the country that remains foreign to me. Because of this, traveling to Mindanao was part of my 2016 and 2017 travel goals. In late 2017, I was supposed to travel to General Santos but I had to cancel because my client didn’t approve my leave. I rue that missed chance.

Visiting Mindanao again topped my 2018 travel goals. So when a friend asked me if I wanted to join her for a travel to Northern Mindanao, I willingly agreed. No second thoughts, no qualms. Cognizant that anything can happen in the intervening period, I didn’t want to get my hopes up but I was crossing my fingers.

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A view one misses, especially in this time of pandemic.

June 12, 2018 – The Constant Travelling Companion

It is the 120th anniversary of the Philippine Independence Day, a day I often associate with images of General Emilio Aguinaldo waving the newly sewn Philippine flag at his residence in Kawit, Cavite. It also means that I will be boarding my first flight to Mindanao! I proceeded to the airport, feeling nervous and excited at the same time. The outcast sky remind me of the rains that have been dousing the big city the past few days. Is the bleak weather an omen?

As I have feared, unexpected events happened between the time we booked our ticket and our actual flight. There were supposed to be four of us flying down on this day. However, one had to cancel due to personal concerns while another had to back out as she recently resigned from her job. I was expecting Joy to back down as well for she resigned from her job as well. Fortunately, she didn’t; I guess the thrill of the escape possessed her. Although I resolved to pursue the trip even if I had to do it alone, having Joy with me in this trip is a relief.

With everything done in haste, Joy and I didn’t have an itinerary but we were willing to gamble. HAHA. I can still remember the last time we traveled together, to Gyeongju, Busan and Jeonju in South Korea last October/November 2017. We didn’t have any formal itinerary. We trusted in the good nature of the Koreans or browsed the internet for places to go, on the spot. I am not really worried. So, off we go!

After about an hour of navigating the skies, we finally landed on Laguindingan Airport. The airport lies roughly 47 kilometres from the city center of Cagayan de Oro, our jump-off point for our Northern Mindanao adventures. To get there, one has to commute. Outside of the airport, one can ride the vans/shuttles plying the city. Since it is the most comfortable (albeit most expensive) choice, we chose to ride the van/shuttle. The hot weather is a welcome change from the damp atmosphere we left in Manila.

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Northern Mindanao is waving! It is teeming with activities so take your pick!

On the way to the city center, we stopped at a checkpoint. We were visiting a post-Marawi siege Mindanao, and with the Martial Law in effect, military checkpoints were all over the island. The locals we were traveling with didn’t seem to mind so it helped quelll our concerns. After providing our identification cards, and logging in, we were given the green light to go ahead.

Joy and I didn’t have anything planned for our first day. After checking in at our hotel, we went out to have lunch and spent the rest day planning what we’re going to do for the rest of our stay. We also took the time exploring the area near our accommodation. The area is surrounded with shopping malls, refuges from the scorching heat.

June 13, 2018 – Off To The Island Born of Fire

The following day saw us hitting the road again. We were on our way to Camiguin, one of the 81 provinces that comprise the Philippines. It is located off the coast of Misamis Oriental, the province Cagayan de Oro (CDO) is situated in and is the provincial capital of.

Even before we departed from the port, we can already make out the outline of the island-province. Joy and I are very excited for we are finally officially starting our Independence Day long weekend. About an hour and thirty minutes after departing from Balingoan Port, we reached Benoni Port, the “gateway” to Camiguin. After alighting at the port, our next dilemma was traveling to Mambajao, the province’s capital.

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Let’s get this vacation rolling.
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Even from afar, we can already make out the outlines of Camiguin.
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The ferry lapping with the waves produced tranquil sound.

Thankfully, the locals are hospitable and accommodating. We simply asked around how we’re going to travel to our accommodation which is located a bit further away from the center of Mambajao. From the port, we rode the multicab just like a local. The ride costs about PHP 25.00. After a 45-minute trip, we alighted at Mambajao town center from where we rode a tricycle to reach our lodging.

After a half-day of traveling, we finally settled down in our new room. At the lodging, we learned some hard facts about the island. Electricity is a precious commodity and there are times in a day when the entire grid is shut off. Noted, we’ll just have to adapt to that. Just like what we did in CDO, we explored our surrounding first so that we can have a better sense of it. We then took the afternoon to rest and went about again when it was time for sunset.

The sunset that day was magnificent, reminding me the moniker given to Camiguin. It is popularly referred to as the Island Born of Fire, derived from the fact that the island houses about six volcanoes that have history of eruptions. It was breathtaking and idyllic. Even though it was our first day in the province, I can already feel that it was an omen of the great things that are to come. Things are looking up! I hope it will last until our last day!

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The Sea, The Sea.
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There are many lenses upon which to view the marvelous beauty of the sunset.
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He sells seashells by the seashore. Not really seashell but a dead (?) starfish. And we didn’t sell it. We have to abide by the LNT principle.
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Okay, a shameless pose.

What are the other ways of traveling from the airport to Cagayan de Oro?

  1. One can opt to ride public buses. First, ride a public utility vehicle from the airport to the National Highway, which is about four kilometres away from the airport. Alight at the junction and wait for buses heading to Cagayan de Oro City. If unsure, ask the driver or the conductor where the bus is headed to.
  2. Riding a city taxi is always an option.

How to travel from CDO to Camiguin?

  1. Proceed to Agora Bus Station.
  2. At the bus station, ask for buses or vans going to or passing by Balingoan Port, which is located about 100 kilometres from CDO. Fare is around PHP 110 to PHP 150.00 per person and travel time is around two to three hours.
  3. Alight at the port and reserve tickets for a ferry travelling to Camiguin. Boat fare is around PHP 170.00 to PHP 205.00. Depending on the weather, ride can take one to two hours.
  4. Before entering the port, it is a must to pay a PHP 5.00 terminal fee and and PHP 4.00 environmental fee.
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The sunset will never not be idyllic.
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In a turbulent world, inner peace is a luxury.
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A grand gesture, making us feel blessed to witness a riveting view. Nature never fails to impress us.