Monday, August 28, 2006

Surigao del Norte: Maradjao karadjao Surigao!

Here is another those trips from my archives. I attended an annual convention of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) in Surigao City in October 2003. Since there are no direct flights to Surigao, I had to fly to Butuan City first. From the airport, we were met by the organizers who had a ready vehicle for us to Surigao City, the capital of Surigao del Norte, which was two hours away.

For the first two days, I had to endure the boring part which was the convention proper filled with speeches, lectures and keynote addresses! Hehe! But I was able to venture around the downtown area late in the afternoon when sessions were over. They have an American colonial period city hall in front of what is known as Luneta Park. Some of the better features of the park is a large sundial and pre-war acacia trees bordering the plaza.

As part of the convention, there was also a showcase of ethnic Mamanwa-inspired dances from Surigao's Bonok-Bonok Maradjao Karadjao Festival in the grounds of the Surigao Provincial Capitol, another elegant colonial building.

On the last day, they took us around the city and one of the places we visited was the Mabua Pebble Beach. The beach, which is about 30 minutes from the town proper, is most known for its kilometer-long stretch of fine round stones, native huts set in a natural backdrop of coconut tree-laden hills. We arrived just in time for its famous dramatic sunset.

If only I had more time, I would have joined the trip to Siargao Island the next day. But I had decided to move my return flight to Manila from Butuan to Cagayan de Oro in order to explore more of Mindanao.

So the next day, I took the bus back to Butuan City, the capital of Agusan del Norte, where I stayed for a night at the relaxing Almont Inland Resort thanks to promo rates for Cebu Pacific passengers. Among the places I visited was the Butuan National Museum, the "repository of historical and cultural materials and artifacts that proves Butuan’s prehistoric existence and rich cultural heritage."

One place I missed, and its such a shame that I did, was the Balangay Shrine Museum which is the attraction Butuan in most known for. The balangays of Butuan were declared national cultural treasures. I even bought myself a really nice miniature balangay to take home for display.

The next day, before leaving for Cagayan de Oro, I made a trip to the local market to look out for more cultural souvenirs. I was quite happy to find a shop selling different kinds of local salakots. And I bought several of them for my collection. After lunch, the hotel service took me to the bus station for my three hour trip to Cagayan de Oro, the capital of Misamis Oriental.

In CDO, my SSEAYP batchmate MJ picked me up at the station. The plan was for us to visit the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village. But it was raining really hard when I arrived so we weren't able to do much. We met up with another batchmate Andy later in the evening and had dinner at the outdoor ihawans and food stalls along Magsaysay Avenue. But I was lucky since it was fruit season and I got to savor a Mindanao fruit which many of us in Luzon do not know about. I had one whole marang fruit all to myself! Hehe! Yummy!

My flight back to Manila was the next morning so I was not able to really do much. Again it was such a quick trip and I was not as adventurous then as I am now. Hehe! I'll hopefully be back in Cagayan de Oro this September en route to Camiguin.
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