Camiguin, come again

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an island born of fire

Camiguin is the second smallest province in the country, next to Batanes. Its charm lies in its being an unexciting place for people looking for a wild night on the town. Even the capital town of Mambajao tends to sleep early at night, with just a videoke pub on Roof Top for those who would want to spend an evening outside of their  resorts.

The island is a perfect eco-tourism destination. Beaches, nearby islands, volcanoes, hot and cold springs, waterfalls, and lots of hiking and trekking opportunities.

Mantigue Island, off Mahinog, Camiguin

Accommodations are also varied. From high-end resorts offering amenities similar to Metro Manila hotels, to back packers’  hostels at P250 per night. Island tours can be done in air-conditioned comfort by renting vans, or in the sturdy jeepney-like Multicabs, on motorbikes that can be rented for P500 for the whole day, on motorellas (like the tricycles of Metro Manila), on habal habal, or simply by walking.

On a visit ages ago, I walked around the island, all 64 kilometers of the coastal road, spending the night in resorts in whatever  town I am in by end of the day.  Only to move out in the morning and continue walking – –  on to the next town where I would spend another night.  I spent two nights outside of Mambajao then, and was back in this capital town on the third day.

On this latest visit, I rented a multicab to cover as much sights as I could in one day.After picking me up from the resort at 9am, we proceeded to the tourist-listed  destinations:

Ardent Hot Spring is at the foot of the Hibok Hibok volcano, some 3 kilometers from the main road. The water is normally at 40 Celsius, making it an ideal overnight swimming destination. Accommodations are available within this resort.

one of the hot spring pools at Ardent

We passed by a very familiar old house, with the same sign “Paradiso” that I saw some 15 years ago. Apparently, the owner of the old restaurant has maintained the lease on the old house, but now does business nearby, using another business name – – Luna Ristorante Italiano.

Paradiso reminded me of a visit to Camiguin 15 years ago

Old Vulcan was next, with the Way of the Cross as a stop. There are 300 steps to complete the Via Crucis, but I made do with the first 2 stations.

they call this the old volcano, maybe until it one day decides to prove to them it is not that old, and explode

the agony in the garden

Immediately next is a fish sanctuary where a cemetery was sunk by a volcanic eruption, and where a cross now stands as a marker to define the area of the Sunken Cemetery.

Nearby is the Guiob Church ruins, with a small chapel inside the ruins.I thought that the church or the government should have kept the character and feel of the ruined church, and should not have built that chapel inside the  ruins. Maybe an altar using old stones would have been more appropriate.

I bought a pack of lanzones for P90 from vendors near the ruins, not wanting to pass up the chance to savor Camiguin’s most famous produce.

P90 because it is not exactly in season

Next stop was the SODA Swimming Pool, that I will make sure I skip on a next tour, and advise friends not to waste time on. Nothing extraordinary here, and the pool is not even spectacular.

But Sto Nino Cold Springs is a stop I will recommend to friends. Not only is the water refreshing, the place has picnic sheds for P50 and there are women outside of the complex who would arrange to cook dishes for you – – – freshly cooked lunch (1/2 kilo kinilaw, 1/2 kilo tinola manok, 1/2 kilo inihaw na baboy, rice, and 3 pcs fresh buco was only P540, including the cooking and the utensils that they themselves will set up, and move out, of your picnic shed.

a nice place to stop for lunch, and have food freshly cooked by locals

 

P540 worth, must be good for 5-6 persons, freshly cooked and delivered to my P50 shed by the pool

 

We also visited the town of Guinsiliban where I took a photo of a row of boats on the shore.

Guinsiliban boats

Part of Guinsiliban is Barangay Cantaan, home of the giant clams, with some measuring as long as 2 meters. The clams can be viewed live on the water, with fees arranged thru the volunteers of this park.

live giant clams in this DENR-supervised local initiative

 

rates to view the clams – in their habitat

 

It was the feast of St John (San Juan) and it was a holiday in Camiguin. People went to the beach, including White Beach in Cantaan.

the white sand beach in Cantaan (the only other white sand beach is White Island, 10 minutes by boat, P500 boat hire)

Somewhere near the beach, in a cluster of shrubs and a tree, I saw this sign that struck me for the way it expressed the truth and the inevitable consequence of being irresponsible with nature. Forget the grammar, but I urge everyone to keep this in their hearts.

A big group was having a program, when a dirty ice cream vendor passed by. He was immediately surrounded by the entire beach population, and it took rather long before my turn to buy 3 scoops at P5 came. It was like a scene straight out of EDSA, with the vendor literally being mobbed.

as if this was the last ever ice cream on earth !

I patiently waited for my turn

 

We then stopped for coffee at J&A Fishpen, a popular seafood restaurant. So popular they charge a P5 entrance fee to those who come just to take photos. I ordered coffee instead, so the entrance fee was waived.

the lagoon is NOT man-made

Enigmata is an artists’ haven. I liken it to Tam-awan Village in Baguio. I met two resident artists, Vincent and Venson, who toured me around the area. I commented about the name, and how appropriate Enigmata, from the root word enigma, is to the place. Until I was told that while it was a good coincidence, Enigmata is actually Bisaya for “open your eyes”. Because that is their mission:  to open people’s eyes to their various art forms. painting, including using sand as the medium, sculpture, installation art, the creation of things like bongoes, beads, etc. Anything creative.  They even have accommodations for backpackers, dormitory-type or private rooms. I said I will definitely stay in this place at least one night when I return.

Open your eyes!

Our last stop for the day was near Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin, the resort I was staying in on the day of the tour. We went to Katibawasan Falls. It is 240 meters long, cascading from the top of a mountain onto a lagoon. It is a breathtaking sight, with the forest around it lending serenity to the gushing water. Picture perfect.

240 feet down

Accommodations

I stayed on the first night in Camiguin Golden Sunset Beach Club, booking what I thought was a beachfront cottage. As it turns out, it was a room in a structure with 4 rooms facing the sea, at P2,600 per day when off season. Other rooms cost P2,000 per day.  I was welcomed by the guy who took my booking, and was ushered to my room. I also met Philip, an Englishman who owns the place, married to a Filipina. He goes by the local name Pipong, speaks Bisaya and Camiginon, having been in the Philippines very long. He even wrote a clear perspective of the Pinoys to brief foreign guests. Try to click on that when you go to their website :    http://www.camiguinisland.com         phone (+6388) 3879613

I stayed on the second night at Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin, BBC for short. Clearly THE place in Camiguin. Nice de luxe rooms like 5-star hotel rooms for P4,375 per day, with room rates going down to P3,700 as you go farther away from the pool. Standard nipa-hut style rooms, air conditioned, go for P2,359 per day. Wi-fi is available. The restaurant and the bar overlook the sea. Lovely place. Book them by phone (+6388)3871057 or go to their website http://www.bahaybakasyunan.com. I am definitely staying at BBC on all my next visits, and recommend this and only this resort hotel  to friends. Until, of course, a better place comes along.

Bahay Bakasyunan

de luxe cottage, facing the pool and the sea

big room in a de luxe cottage, nice amenities

regular cottage, at half the price of de luxe

not luxurious, but comfortable and clean, aircon, with hot and cold shower and a TV

nice restaurant

a well-stocked bar

BBC is the best in Camiguin

I also checked on the popular Paras Beach Resort. It is, for me, the second best choice in Camiguin. Room rates start at P1,950 with a suite going at P3,450. There are also 2-bedroom cottages for P5,500 (standard) and P5,900 (de luxe).  Phone (+6388) 3879008 website: http://www.parasbeachresort.com

Paras is the second best

de luxe

 

While I did not check in at Jasmin by the Sea, I went there to check it out, being listed on Lonely Planet as the best value place in Camiguin. Indeed, they could very well be. A room facing the water goes for P800 per day, no airconditioning. There is a fan, but it may not have to be used as the breeze enters the room.  I plan to stay here one night when I return. Contact (+6388) 3879015

seaside accommodation for two at P800 per day

 

Ardent Hot Spring has rooms for P3,200, air con. And a dormitory for P440/day, up to 7 persons in the dorm. Contact (+6388) 3870508

Finally, another place I will stay in at least one night – – Enigmata. They have rooms for P950 and backpackers’ quarters for P250 per head per day. website is http://camiguinecolodge.com/  Contact them at (+6388)3870273

Enigmata

How to get to Camiguin

The usual route is via Balingoan, an hour and a half away from Cagayan de Oro. Take a  ferry from Balingoan to the port of Benoni in Camiguin. Travel time is 1 hour.

the ferry I took from Balingoan to Benoni

Mambajao, where most of the resorts are, can be reached by motorella, if you have not arranged for pick up with your resort. My pick up cost me P400 on a Multicab.

From Cagayan de Oro to Balingoan, you can get into a bus at Agora terminal. Or take a taxi that will charge a flat fee of P2,000.

Moving around

You can make arrangements for pick up, island tour, or boats to nearby islands from the resort. Or even arrange to hire a motorbike.

transport options

You may want to contact the driver who toured me around. He owns the multicab. Whole day tour of the island is P1,500 (P1,800 if booked from the resort). His name is Criz Jabay, with mobile phone number 09215637788

Criz Jabay and his multicab

Here are sceneries from Cagayan to Balingoan.

fishport in Kimaya

 

taken at Jampason town. But the view is like this all the way to Balingoan, and onwards to Gingoog

 

Camiguin is beautiful. It almost tells you “Come again !”. I say, surely.

Dipolog City, right next to Dapitan

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Like Ozamis, Dipolog was never in my hit list. No one talks about Dipolog affectionately. I went there on the suggestion of my former staff who were going to mount the Tanduay First Five concert tour in the city. So I went.

Everyone of them – – my former staff, clients, and the members and production staff of the 5 bands stayed in Mibang Hotel.

my former staff liked Mibang Hotel

Mibang Hotel is at Sta. Filomena Street, telephone (+6365) 2126689

I was not part of the group and did not have a room, so I left the group and looked for another hotel. I chanced upon Camila 2, which looked like a bigger and more impressive hotel, at least thru its facade. The hotel was full, and I got the last remaining room, a “double standard” for P1,080, but  I did not exactly like this room..I just knew I would transfer to another hotel the next day.

Camila 2. The hotel's impressive facade made me expect good accommodations

my room at Camila2 had no cabinets, and had 2 monobloc chairs

their friendly staff made my stay in the lousy room more tolerable, but I opted to look for a better hotel after one day here

For inexpensive accommodations, you can call Camila2 at +(6365)2125534. Rates start at P840, single.My room cost me P1,080. Their Business Class rooms cost p1,980 per day, and presumably are more decent accommodations.

TOP PLAZA HOTEL

I went to Top Plaza Hotel, and booked a suite. Within the suite is a photo signed by President GMA, taken with I guess the owners of the hotel, when she stayed in this suite on a Dipolog visit.

their best suite, Room 301

dining area

lounge, needs shampooing

Book this suite for P3,780 per day, or book their standard single rooms for P1,100 per night, de luxe rooms for P2,050. Contact Top Plaza Hotel at (+6365) 2125888.

Around Dipolog City

Rather happy with my room, I started to explore Dipolog, walking around the city. I noticed they did not have big malls, preserving a provincial city atmosphere. The biggest mall is more like a department store.

Dipolog Center Mall

Dipolog "central business district"

Boulevard

Then I found my way to their Boulevard. The place is probably the center of Dipolog’s social life. People jogging, families just sitting around with their kids, some peer groups in a huddle, balut hawkers, etc. There is a permanent flea market on one side selling Dipolog souvenirs and trinkets. There is also a playground where children can keep themselves busy and amused. A clean public toilet is at the midpoint of the boulevard, where you pay to use the facilities.

At the south end is a row of food stalls selling mostly “ihaw-ihaw” and cold drinks, with beer as the most popular order. Yes, the area is one bog eating and drinking venue – –  the road is closed and on the street are chairs and tables for diners. Better than Dumaguete’s boulevard, I thought. But then again, they don’t have tall trees on the boulevard, just coconut that aren’t yet tall and mature. I noticed, too, that the place is decent – – no streetwalkers nor vagrants. It is a feel-good place.

good food, cold beer, cheap,

huge place, lots of choices

watch the sunset with beer on hand

On the side streets are more ihaw-ihaw places, more like proper restaurants. And videoke pubs.

The friends I made there talked about islands to visit, like ALIGUAY which can be visited on a one-day picnic. Or overnight, with tents as sleeping quarters. I did not have the time to do an islands tour. I know I will be able to do that when I go back to Dipolog. I like this place. Maybe also because Dapitan and its Sunset Boulevard is just a hop away.

nearby Dapitan adds charm to this small city called Dipolog

On my return, I will make sure I visit the Dipolog tourist spots, photos of which I took from the Dipolog tourism brochure. The Sta Cruz marker, the Cogon Eco-Tourism Park,  and the Pgsalubuk Circle.And buy canned Dipolog sardines, a product they are extremely proud of.

And when I return, I shall camp in one of the islands, or at the very least stay in Galas beach.

For more information on sights to see in Dipolog, visit their website. You can copy paste the link below and you will be on your way to discovering more of what this small city has to offer.

http://dipologcity.com/Attractions.htm

Ozamis – Dolphin Island

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I never planned to go to Ozamis, but went there anyway when 2 of my former staff said they were going to be there to mount Tanduay’s First Five band tour.

Once settled, I called a friend whom I have not seen in 25 years. Fortunately, he was in town, so I had a local for a host. He was able to get in touch with another friend, so I was touring Ozamis with 2 friends from way way back.

First stop was Cotta, an old fort with major portions already rebuilt. But one can still see the old, original stones in some sections. The fort is right beside the pier on Panguil Bay. An old cannon stood there, presumably to ward off invaders in those days.

Cotta

A statue of the Virgin is within the perimeter of the fort, with believers lighting candles as they pray for blessings.

We next stopped at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, where a huge pipe organ stands in the choir area at the back.

pipe organ is being repaired, missing the pipes at the center

photo of pipe organ from the Dipolog website

My hosts then took me to the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park in Tudela, about 15 kms from the city. This is clearly the top tourist draw of Ozamis. Crude boardwalks are laid out in the premises and walking thru this maze takes the visitor to a mini zoo, with monkeys, birds, and even eagles in cages –  a wildlife sanctuary. They also have fish ponds,  hatcheries and mangroves.

interesting board walk

The highlight of the visit is the trip by boat to the Dolphin Island. The fare is P250 per person, round trip.

a long and lovely walk to the boat station

Dolphin Island is NOT an island. It is a complex that started form a solitary “bantay dagat” station. The government then created more structures that included a restaurant, a swimming pool, a grandstand,  and an area enclosed by net where dolphins are kept and fed. Visitors can feed the dolphins, or swim with them, for a fee.

approaching Dolphin Island

restaurant serves excellent kinilaw na tangigue, but no dolphin meat

2 of 5 dolphins in the complex

The are also has a section shallow enough for swimming, on a sandbar. There are designated areas, too, for diving and snorkeling. A photo of President GMA visiting the complex to dive is prominently displayed in the restaurant.

Food is good, especially the kinilaw na tangigue.

My friends later told me about Lawis, a barangay in Ozamis known to be the home of the Kuratong Baleleng. They were shocked to learn I walked in this lair earlier before they came to join me.

Accommodations:

I  checked in  in what was said to be the best hotel in the city, Royal Garden Hotel, and got their Imperial Suite. It was a beautiful room with the bedroom separate from the living and dining area. For a provincial hotel, the suite was impressive.

living room and dining table in my suite

nice seating area

King size bed. Overall, nice suite, but . . . . .

Food service at the hotel was terrible. When I ordered for food to be brought to my room, I was told that it was going to take 30 minutes. I thought that was longer than usual. After 30 minutes, the food was still not in my room. On follow up, they said it will be ready soon. Another follow up and they said they were looking for a roomboy to deliver my food. Another follow up, threatening to dump the food in the waste basket because I was already so hungry and agitated, the food came. After a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes. And that is for a single order of crabmeat  foo yong.

When I went down to the lobby, I saw my former office staff and their clients, also very hungry and agitated. They said they have been waiting like forever.

If you want convenient location, and are willing to wait long for your food, then the hotel is a good enough place to stay. My Imperial Suite was on a promo rate of only P2,295 per day. Their single rooms cost only P795 per day. Contact Royal Garden at (+6388) 521 2888. Website :    http://www.royalgardenozamis.com

I should have stayed at Bethany, another hotel that is rather off the city center. I went there for a look-see, met the owner, and saw to place, especially the restaurant, to be properly staffed. The Tanduay bands stayed in the hotel.

the restaurant at Bethany

rooms are like units

and a good-sized pool

Or maybe I could have stayed at the Aquamarine Park. they do have accommodations. A suite costs P2,950 a day on weekdays, P3,300 on weekends, andP3,500 on national holidays. They also have family rooms, as well as non-aircon native huts at P1,500 per day. Contact them at +(6388)5860292

Rewind: The Road to Ozamis

There are buses that go there from Cagayan de Oro, but I decided to hire a taxi, at P3,500 so I could stop along the way and do sidetrips and take photos.

The taxi took the road that passed Opol, a beach area within Cagayan de Oro. That area has become a tourist destination in itself, with restaurants along the sea wall.

I also stopped in El Salvador where I went up the venerated Shrine of the Divine Mercy. I was stopped at the gate, and told that shorts are prohibited. I was provided a skirt for free, that I had to wear over my shorts to be allowed to go up the shrine.

shorts not allowed, wear a free skirt

Another memorable stop is in the town of Lugait, famous for bibingka (rice cakes). Surprised to see that the international company Coca Cola has penetrated even the lowly bibingka stall with offers, much like the combo meals in fast food chains.

famous Lugait bibingka, coconut husk for fuel

even bibingka stalls have Coke combo meals !

Iligan can not be missed –  – it  is a huge industrial city.

From there, it was another province – – – Lanao. Towns that i only read about, or mentioned on television with stories like police stations being attacked by Muslim extremists – –  made the trip exciting. Heard of Kolambugan?

Oh, I never thought before this trip that Bacolod is also town in this region, and is very different form the very progressive Bacolod City in Negros Occidental.

More towns, until we get to Mukas where a barge transports passengers and vehicles to Ozamis.

inside the barge to Ozamis

Tanduay First Five Concert Tour

Sharing shots taken from the successful concert, with the crowd estimated at 45,000. The biggest show ever to hit Ozamis.

first act was Chicosci

Sandwich

6 cycle mind

Jay of Kamikazee doing a head stand

Bamboo, after a major fireworks display

.

Dapitan : visit Dakak and Jose Rizal’s second home

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there were wellwishers ahead of me last June 19 in Dapitan

RIZAL SHRINE

Jose Rizal surely knows how to pick a place for exile. I was imagining how the place must have looked like in his time. How forested that piece of land facing the sea must have been. And how conducive it must have been to romance . . . Josephine Bracken was then there.

His house looked simple, and had separate structures for the kitchen, for the toilet, for storage, and he had other huts that served as his clinic, and huts that served as quarters for his pupils.

reproduction of the house where he lived

his clinic

Dapitan today has Rizal’s Shrine as its top tourist draw, with Dakak probably second, and Sunset Boulevard as the third top tourist draw.

Dakak has seen better days. The building where they have billiards, darts, and bowling look like no guest has used the facility for ages. There are signs of decay, or poor maintenance everywhere. A local even said that Dakak now just looks good on the website.

ok but nothing spactacular

I did not stay in Dakak, after the initial excitement. I felt like there was nothing to do there, and the place is not even something close to fantastic. Alright, it is still the best in the area, but having seen the place, I don’t think I will ever book myself there.

ok but not spactacular pool

ok but not spactacular beach, and it is not a long beach

The first encounter was bad. My friends and I were touring Dapitan prior to a Tanduay First Five Concert in Dipolog at night. We thought we’ll check out the famous Dakak, and even thought that maybe Tanduay can do a company outing, or business planning or something. We wanted to see the place and how it could be a venue for anything. We did not have food, drinks, nor clothes. Then the guards at the entrance said we needed to pay P200 per head. We said we were there just for a look-see. Besides, we needed to go back to Dipolog pronto. But the guards insisted  we must pay P200 per head, even if we will just be inside for a minute. So we paid, walked around for less than 20 minutes, and left. There goes our P200 per head. Maybe business for the decaying resort has turned bad, that any other income will help. Good bye Dakak, and never again. Not even for a minute.

games pub with billiards, darts, bowling, but not a soul was there except for a few tambay-looking staff

Dakak was the only thing that spoiled my Dapitan experience. Lunch when we got to Dapitan was good, at Erlinda’s, along Sunset Boulevard. Cheap and very good, how can you lose.

Erlinda's: good food, and cheap. Perfect location.

The view along the boulevard is relaxing. Picnic huts on the shore. Fishermen pulling a huge net, looking like an Amorsolo painting. Pension houses dot the area. It is a backpacker’s paradise.

Sunset Boulevard, in Dapitan, not in LA

the bay is not just for tourists, but also for locals making a living

worth another visit, may be longer next time

As always, there is never enough time to spend in one place, no matter how beautiful. We left Dapitan for nearby Dipolog to attend to my former company’s client’s business of mounting the free Tanduay concert that night.

Cagayan de Oro

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the new Cagayan de Oro at night

I did a stopover in Cagayan de Oro so this post is limited to the sights within the city. If one has the time, one week will not be enough to explore and enjoy the adventure tours available from Cagayan de Oro (CDO), not to mention a separate visit to nearby Camiguin, which I am going to in a while.

My last visit to CDO was ages ago, so I naturally went straight to the old reliable VIP Hotel along Velez Street. Then I walked to the Golden Friendship Park in Divisoria which looked exactly the same as it was 15 years ago – –  cigarette butts everywhere, “istambays” here and there. I held on to my belt bag tight.

Divisoria, the face of the old CDO

I went to the northern end of the park and found Park Cafe, with tables and chairs al fresco, with a canopy to protect customers from sun or rain. This is a good spot to sit and rest, while sipping on an avocado shake.

Park Cafe, at the Xavier University end of Divisoria

I spotted a new structure, the Tourism Showcase, and gathered tourism info from the lady on the desk. Picked up brochures, and inquired about arrangements for Macahambus where I wanted to do the zip line and walk on hanging bridges. Only to be told that the park is now closed, and asked if I would consider an alternative zip line venue. No, thanks.

The Andres Bonifacio statue was, in a way, desecrated, and no one seems to mind. A tricycle tire was apparently thrown into the statue, and it looks like the hero is carrying that rubbish on his shoulders.

see the bike tires on his shoulders? Andres Bonifacio vandalized !

Took a tricycle to Limketkai Mall. This place looks like the NEW Cagayan de Oro. The place is like what uptown is to Cebu, or maybe what the Ayala Center is. By the same token, Velez and Divisoria have become the old, unfashionable downtown, pretty much like how Colon in Cebu has become.

fashionable Limketkai

On a return visit after doing Ozamis and Dipolog, I checked into Mallberry Suites, a new and modern hotel at the back of Robinson’s in Limketkai. Checking into the hotel dramatizes the two faces of Cagayan de Oro – – the old versus the new.

Eating out is something else. An old cake shop – fastfood in Divisoria is my current favorite, better than eating in the many beautiful restaurants in Limketkai.

Hanabel is in front of MetroBank in Divisoria. I went in and ordered humba, rice, a vegetable side dish, mango float, and softdrinks. My bill was only P160. The restaurant was small, with only a few tables at the ground floor, so I went up the spiral staircase to the second floor, where there are another few tables. I liked the place. It is charming, and my table by the glass window overlooked the park. The decor is simple, but tastefully done. The food was great.

good food here, and cheap!

Hotels

VIP Hotel is a sentimental favorite, and is centrally located. When I went to the front desk, I was told that their rooms were on a 40% off promo. I took a suite for P2,100. Not bad. The room looks brand new, and it became apparent that the hotel is serious about competing with the new hotels. At this rate, the room is a steal. On the downside, breakfast does not come with the room rate. And the hotel lobby smelled of durian when I entered. Except for the nice suite, the hotel has looked like a budget hotel, a far cry from its glory days when it was THE hotel in CDO.

my suite at VIP Hotel, room 407

dining area

lounge in my suite

To enjoy this suite at only P2,100, you may call the hotel at (+6388) 8562505.

Mallberry Suites

The new face of CDO. Wide, spacious lobby with a lounge and bar  on one end and a restaurant on the other.

I checked into a de luxe room (P2,400) and felt relaxed. The room is new, and very clean. I called the front desk for a copy of the hotel tariff, and a bellman was knocking on my door as soon as the call ended.

my Mallberry de luxe room

Downside: I went to the ground floor for the complimentary breakfast, and was told that breakfast is served at the seventh floor. Hmmmm, I thought it would be the top of the hotel, with a view of the city. I was grossly mistaken. The breakfast venue is apparently the far end of the ballroom where dividers create different sections. No view, and the windows were even closed with Roman blinds. I felt claustrophobic, and had my breakfast quickly. The venue contrasted sharply with my idea of hotel breakfasts where guests have a view of the garden, etc.

All things considered, Mallberry is, to me, the best CDO hotel at the moment. Contact them at (+6388) 8549999. Or visit their website  http://www.mallberrysuites.com

Other useful info:

Whitewater rafting can be arranged thru Kagay at Corrales Avenue, fronting Bombo Radyo. Beginners Course is P700 with 3 hours of actual river run. Call 088 310 4402, 088 856 3972, 0917 712 2323. Look for Dan Kaamino.

There is also CDO Bugsay River Rafting. Beginners Course (P700) is on a 12 km river stretch with 14 rapids and scenic view, ideal even for family trips. Contact 0917 3284729

Posters at the Tourism Showcase, for other things to do:

adventure tours in CDO

Gotta go. The driver who will take me to the port of Balingoan, for Camiguin, will be downstairs in 15 minutes.

Roadtrip: Davao-Bukidnon-Cagayan de Oro

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From Davao to where?

Never before have I traveled by land for a whole day in Mindanao. I have been to all these points before, each time flying in from Manila. Separate trips, really. I had planned to go to Ozamis, cutting the trip in parts, staying overnight in Malaybalay, overnight in Iligan, and finally to Ozamis.

Malaybalay: P360 , CDO P490

At the Ecoland Bus Terminal in Davao, I queued to get a Malaybalay ticket. It would have cost me P360. Out of curiosity, I asked the man on the counter what time the same bus will get to Cagayan. “5pm” he said. I said ” 1 ticket to Cagayan”. I paid P490, and boarded the bus. Not exactly – – – I thought I’d buy myself food in case I got hungry and thirsty. 3 packs of Otap plus 2 bottles of water. And then a hawker sold me hard boiled eggs, I bought 3 pcs.

The bus looked safe – – – rather new and sturdy. Airconditioned. We took off at 9am.

to Cagayan de Oro instead

This was one difficult trip for someone taking photos from my glass window. I would find a view interesting and click  – – – and find a tree instead on my photo gallery. Of course, the driver won’t stop, nor slow down so the passengers can take photos. Huh.

I also couldn’t put a caption in most. I don’t even know exactly what those things that I photographed were, nor remember exact locations. Oh well, a picture paints a thousand words, or so they say. here now are some of the views a passenger on a bus, sitting on the right, will see.

what a nice countryside

We got to the provincial boundary called Buda, short for Bukidnon-Davao. I wish I could stay longer here  – – – it is soooooo beautiful. Up on the mountains, with pine trees that make one feel he is indeed in Baguio. And coincidentally, my seatmate happened to be an Igorot. He, too, kept repeating “Parang Baguio”.

Immediately after,the bus stopped and all passengers were told to disembark. And step on a wet mat with a solution to prevent foot and mouth disease. And then I realized that Bukidnon has a big cattle industry, and most likely the same procedure will prevent infection of their huge pineapple industry.

stop foot and mouth disease !

First town was Quezon, where we stopped for lunch. Lunch is in a low-end fastfood. Rice plus choices of beef, pork, poultry and vegetables, and leche flan or fruits for dessert.

lunch stop

I noticed that some passengers who did not want to eat in the rather dirty cafeteria stayed in the nearby store and had instant noodles and bananas for lunch.

more sanitary alternative: instant noodles, bananas, and bottled water from this nearby store

We passed other towns like Valencia, where the bus was too fast for me to take a photo of a sign that says “3G Inn. Cheapest : P350, Highest P550”. Gives you an idea when you want to explore Vaelncia. I noticed, too, that all towns and cities in Bukidnon have an Integrated Transport Terminal. We passed in all of them.

brief stops in ALL transport terminals

until we got to the Malaybalay terminal

In Malaybalay, I took a quick snap shot of the Monastery of Transfiguration, a famous landmark where visitors go to to buy Monks’ Blend Coffee.

snap shot of the monastery

The last town before Cagayan de Oro was Manolo Fortich. The town happened to be celebrating Manolo Fortich Day. When I saw the colorful banners proclaiming Manolo Fortich Day with June 12-21 written below, I thought that maybe they did not know that June 12-20 is not a “day”, but 10 whole days.

Eventually, the bus made its way to Cagayan de Oro. In Gusa, the bus conductor stopped and asked who was getting off. About a dozen passengers got off and boarded taxis waiting in that stop. Not knowing exactly where I was, I asked the locals if I should get off from here to go to my usual hotel, VIP Hotel. They said I should get off in the terminal instead.

We found our way to the terminal, and it was total chaos. The terminal was in some public market, with thousands of characters going around. hawkers, pedicabs, motorcycles, a lot of men without shirts, muddy roads, looking really dirty. There was no taxi queue. And then some “agents” asked if I wanted a taxi. Do I walk from here to the hotel? Three, repeat, three boys stopped a taxi for me, each one asking for a fee. I gave P5 and shut the door, with the two other boys asking for money, too. I said I should have stopped in Gusa and boarded a taxi from there, even if it was a bit farther away. The extra fare would have been more than worth it.

All told, the roadtrip was 9 hours and 15 minutes, including the “foot and mouth disease” stop and a stop in Quezon town for lunch.

What an experience.

Samal, a must-see island

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the boat to Paradise

Samal Island, just off Davao City is a city by itself. The island has a population of 90,000 in 30 hectares of land. It is a favorite beach destination among the people of Davao, and a must-see destination among visitors to this region.

Samal Island is not just Pearl Farm

Pearl Farm is at the far end of Kaputian, way past the many other resorts

Many equate Samal Island to beach resorts. And most visitors to Davao equate Samal to Pearl Farm, the high-end resort owned by the Floirendos. But Samal Island has much more resorts to offer, and many interesting sights to see other than the white sand beach.

Just like most Manila visitors, I was booking at Pearl Farm. But I could not be accommodated on my scheduled visit to the island, so i grudgingly booked other resorts I found on the net.

I first called Blue Jaz, on the recommendation of the driver of my rented Avis. His cousin works there. I called and was told about various types of accommodations, all the way to a backpackers’ quarters where there are double deck beds. They said they were going to call me again about availabilities. The call came, and I was told the only accommodations left on that busy long weekend was the backpackers’ quarters that can have 8 guests. I was ok with the prospect of meeting fellow travelers, imagining my stays in hostels while backpacking in Australia. But my jaw dropped when I was told I had to pay for all 8 beds. I replied that I can’t possibly sleep on all 8 beds for the night, and that other backpackers could come and share the facility, with each of us paying for our beds. They said, with finality, that that is the procedure – – – I should pay for all 8 beds. To this day, I wonder why they called the unit the backpackers’ quarters. Did they always have a group of 8 backpackers in the past? Hmmm.

Blue Jaz, gate from inland

I then called another resort, actually the most popular – – Paradise Island Resort. I had this on low priority because I have been told that hundreds of families and groups of friends go to this resort to spend the day, I was told, though, that they have the second-best facilities after Pearl Farm. I booked their best room (called premier) for P3,000 a day, with only a cup of coffee to go with the room rate.

Assured of a room, I took a taxi to the exclusive wharf of Paradise Island Resort. Boat fare is P15 and you may opt to charter the boat for P100 if there aren’t enough passengers. But there are always many passengers – – – it is the most popular destination.

On the way to my resort, I was told that a private beach house I saw on the shore belonged to Pastor Quiboloy. Next to it is Blue Jaz, and then Paradise Island.

left of this island, not caught by my camera, is Pastor Quiboloy's private beach house

Paradise Island

a vinta for accent

and here we are

The resort is very organized, and staffed by enough employees who knew exactly their functions. At the entrance, reservations are verified, and those who are staying just for the day are charged an entrance fee. From there, bags are inspected by security personnel, like you are checking into an airport, minus the x-ray machines. I was then advised to proceed to the reception area. My VISA card was swiped, and then I was led to my room, 27-G.

A veranda in front

The room was spacious and very clean, with a veranda at the front. The bathroom had all the usual hotel amenities.

spacious, clean and feel-good room

the dresser, and a safe

the dresser, and a safe

a flower on a vase in the bathroom

Time now to check what is in the resort. Right outside of the rooms, before getting to the busy dining area by the beach is a well tended garden with a lot of giant ferns, green grass, shrubs, trees, and other ornamentals.

beautiful garden leading to the cluster of rooms

covered pathway

Further away from the gardens is a playground where kids who do not want to swim can still have fun.

playground at Paradise

And then there is a zoo which can be enjoyed by kids and the adults, too.

a portion of the Paradise Island Zoo and Aviary

Near the beach, there are lots of lounge chairs,  tables and benches  almost by the water. It seemed like every little space was occupied. The place looked very busy.

Busy busy place

Near the water is a long open-air dining area with native materials for roofing. With so many long tables and chairs, I figure they could sit 500 or a thousand at any given time.

live band at the huge dining area

There are various shops where you could buy drinks, fresh buco, merienda, or rent watersports equipment.

store

watersports facilities

In strategic locations there are Monobloc chairs near ash trays – – – these are the designated smoking areas. No smoking in the dining areas, or on the chairs and tables by the beach.

you know you are still in Davao, even if Samal is a separate city

The sand is white, the water turquoise, and the garbage is multi-color. Unfortunately, the debris from the city, jsut 10 minutes away by boat, find their way to the Samal Island resorts. There are nets to minimize the plastics, and boatmen continuously scoop out the rubbish. With these efforts, the beach is passably, reasonably clean.

Friendly, professional staff

While I do not like the throng of people, I must say that the staff make an effort to please their guests. Over dinner, I commented to the waiter that I couldn’t enjoy my beer without my cigarettes. After dinner, he said he could set up a table for me within the canopied section of the designated smoking area. He brought me my beer and made my beer and cigarette experience complete.

When I realized that the room had only one power outlet, in the lavatory,  the friendly staff quickly gave me a long extension cord so I can use my computer even in the veranda, with the plug all the way to the bathroom.

Island Tour

What else id there to do, other than swim drink and eat?

for those who want to stay on the water

and for those who want something else

I booked an inland tour, on a rented van, around Samal. It is at this point that I realized that Samal is not just Pearl Farm, and not just beach resorts.

The van hire, was arranged by Paradise Island, at P2,500 for a maximum of 8 people. I couldn’t possibly scout for other guests to share the tour with me, so off I went with the van all to myself. I was given 2 bottles of water as part of the tour package.

My tour of the island

First stop was the Bat Cave within the Monfort property. It is certified by the Guiness Book as the largest home of the type of bats inhabiting the area. The official estimate is 1.8 million bats. Entrance fee is P20.

saw 5 openings of the caves actually underground

We then went to the city center, passing by the City Hall and the public market, for a feel of how locals live, outside of the uniforms they wear inside the resorts.

City Hall: best proof that Samal is, indeed, a city

Next stop was Hagimit Falls. Entrance to the park is P40, but I saw the driver pay another fee before we got to this gate. He said it was a fee to help conserve the environment. The driver and I went down 120 steps to the park. And then we went up to another area to see the source of the water, actually a spring. To my surprise, a lady collected another P10 entrance fee, saying the area is another private property. I realized later I shouldn’t have gone to that “source” area – – – there was nothing interesting to see. So we went back and headed to the picnic area where families go to picnic. Small huts are rented out for P250. The area feels good, and reminds me picnics in Liliw and Nagcarlan in Laguna.

Hagimit Falls park

Next stop was the White House, hardly looking white with the paint having chipped off. The house looks like a wreck, and stands only as a testament to Hilario Moncado, a man from Cebu who founded a cult in the area where believers are all vegetarians. Inside are old photographs of activities participated in by the group in its heyday.

sacred place to the "Moncadistas"

"General" Hilario Moncado, founder

no entrance fees to the White House, just a "doneys yon"

The location is excellent. Standing at the veranda, one can see the Davao Gulf and beyond. I asked why the house is in such disrepair, and why no one has offered to buy the property. He said that the believers consider the house sacred. And that the Floirendos once made an offer to buy, and were politely refused.

a perfect spot that I would buy if I can afford it, and if they will ever sell

Not part of the tour, I requested to see other small resorts. The driver took me to what he said offered the cheapest accommodations in the island. Popular among visiting students on a shoestring budget, Isla Beach Resort.

ISLA Beach Resort in Bgy. Caliclic

cheapest on the island

but over here, you must "follows" the rules

makeshift overnight cottages (not the tent) at P400 each

don't expect much, at these rates

As we were heading back towards Paradise island, he gave me a tip: a beautiful spot at the other side of the island has a very long stretch of white sand beach, and only a few, low-priced beach resorts operate from there. It is not popular because access is limited. He suggested that I check out the place on my next visit, knowing I was ready to check out of Paradise Island. The place is called Canibad. Watch this space  – – I might just make an update in the next few months.

The driver is actually an excellent tour guide, He was born and raised in Samal Island, and his father used to be the caretaker of the land that became Paradise Island Resort which, he says, pioneered in the business and is the very first beach resort in Samal. He talked knowledgeably about the White House, about Samal’s land area and population. He even gave tips on how to hire habal habal from the poblacion at 50% of the rate charged by those waiting at the inland gates of the prime resorts.

Jun Dungog, born and raised in Samal

His name is Jun  Dungog, and you can message me to get his mobile number. He could be contacted to give you a tour, or to take you to Canibad, even before I am able to return to Samal.

EXPLORE SAMAL on a budget

Having started out as an unknowing tourist, I now know better. And I will gladly share how I should be doing Samal next time, on a budget.

Go to Samal on a bus. Fare is P25 to the Samal pier, P45 to the Samal City terminal, and P60 if on an aircon bus. Yes, there are buses from Davao City that go on ro-ro, together with the passengers, to Samal City.

Get into any eatery to get settled, and to case the joint. Look for a habal-habal driver to take you around to the inexpensive accommodations. When I return, I will go around 3 or 4 before I decide which of the cheap ones I will find decent enough, and clean enough for me.Make sure I stay in Canibad at least one night. And in the next island, Talikud, for at least another night.

And then I will go around the island on the habal habal, to work out a walking tour in my mind. I will then walk around and cover as much ground to feel the place. So that I could stop and smell the flowers.

And maybe stay there for a week or so, spending just a night in Pearl Farm, or Paradise Island.