Showing posts with label Mindanao. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mindanao. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Updates from the Agusan Marsh Indigenous Cultural Tourism Program in Agusan del Sur

Since 2010, we have been working on the Agusan Marsh Indigenous Cultural Tourism Program in Sitio Panlabuhan, Loreto, Agusan del Sur. We are helping them establish homestay facilities, purchase materials used to provide board and lodging, organize tourism and hospitality training programs and transfer cultural knowledge to the younger generation.

Cultural tourism is a potent tool for poverty alleviation. There is a potential for indigenous communities in the Philippines to benefit immensely from cultural tourism if given the information, proper training, infrastructure and guidance. This project will empower the Agusan Manobo indigenous group of Sitio Panlabuhan to create sustainable tourism programs for their community.

Here are photos from our trip over the weekend.

A photo posted by Ivan Henares (@ivanhenares) on

A photo posted by Ivan Henares (@ivanhenares) on

Here is a video of what we are doing at the Agusan Marsh.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Santa Cruz Island, Zamboanga City's pink sand beach!

Yes that's right, pink sand! The prospect of visiting Zamboanga City's pink sand beach – Great Santa Cruz Island – was more than enough reason to hope that the rains that had been pouring down on the city would stop even for a brief moment. Zamboanga Hermosa, the city's fiesta, and rain come hand in hand. But they say when the image of the Nuestra SeƱora del Pilar is brought out for her procession, the skies clear up. I was hoping the skies would clear up for our trip too!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Davao Occidental: Beach adventure in Jose Abad Santos

Before I flew down south to Davao Occidental, a new province carved out of Davao del Sur, the area had been experiencing torrential rains. People were actually discouraging me from pushing through, suggesting to move the trip a week later. But gut feel told me to go. And I was blessed with several days of sun. For my third day, we explored Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental, the southernmost municipality of Mindanao Island.

I had arrived the day before after a three-hour drive from Malita, through rough mountain and coastal roads in Don Marcelino, before reaching Jose Abad Santos or JAS. After breakfast that morning, we visited the old municipal hall of JAS, over fifty years old, which the locals preserved and hope to get declared. Note that they built a new municipal hall a few meters away and kept their old one.

We drove to the next barangay and spent the whole morning in Culaman Beach where the Joyce Ancestral House is located, exploring the nearby beaches, a picturesque mix of sand and rock. It was a pleasant trek through the rocky shoreline. But you need to be careful though since you can easily lose your balance.

Further down the coastline, there was one relatively white sand beach in a small cove. Near it, we sat under a tree, enjoying the warm sea breeze and the sound of waves hitting the shore.

Some locals brought us coconuts, a refreshing treat after that short walk under the hot sun.

Before going back to the Joyce House, we passed by the parola, the recently-built Culaman Lighthouse, which offers a spectacular view of Culaman's shoreline. Lunch was at a kubo beside the house. I could have stayed there the whole day and just stared at the view!

After lunch, I was brought back to Malita for me to catch a bus to Davao City. But I took more photos along the way, especially in Barangay Mangile and the Lawayon Plantation. Of course, I enjoyed the views of the vast coconut plantations and rice fields from high up the National Highway. But every now and then, you'd get reminded of the old forest cover of the area that was cleared for these plantations, when you see a large centuries-old tree.

I made it back in time for the 3:30 p.m. bus (no more aircon buses) to Davao. I decided to get a ticket to Digos and wait for a more comfortable and faster ride from there which was a good move since it only took me an hour to get back. All in all, it took over five hours from JAS to Davao City. By the time the bus arrived at Ecoland, it was raining again.

That was a good trip! I'm definitely coming back to Davao Occidental to see Balut Island and Sarangani Island, and the southern barangays of JAS which I was told has better beaches!

Part 1 - Davao Occidental: Road adventure to Santa Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino & Jose Abad Santos

How to get to Davao Occidental
There are regular buses to Santa Maria and Malita from the Ecoland Bus Terminal in Davao City. I paid Php213 for the air-conditioned ride from Davao to Malita. From Malita, there are buses to Don Marcelino. To get to Jose Abad Santos, you can take a van from Malita (although the service is not regular) or from Davao City which costs Php500. But you will need to know the number of the van drivers since they are private vans which will pick you up from your hotel in Davao. Contact Junjun at (0928) 2645527.

Where to stay in Jose Abad Santos
There is only one place to stay in JAS. You may contact Traveller's Inn at (0908) 8855687.

Thank you to the family of Rep. Franklin P. Bautista, JAS Mayor Jimmy Joyce and Atty. Jason Joyce for their warm hospitality!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Davao Occidental: Road adventure to Santa Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino & Jose Abad Santos

It's been quite a while since I've gone on an adventure to a remote area of the Philippines. I looked at Jose Abad Santos on the map, at the southernmost end of Mindanao Island, as I planned this spur of the moment trip to what could be the country's newest province. How on earth do I get there?

Davao Occidental had just been created a week before, five towns separated from Davao del Sur. Only a plebiscite separates the province from formal existence. But despite the uncertainty, I still decided on a whim to fly to Davao and explore these rarely-visited municipalities at the southwestern end of the Davao Gulf.

Getting to Malita, Davao Occidental's future capital was no problem since there are regular buses from Davao City's Ecoland Bus Terminal. Unfortunately, the bus I was on seemed to stop at every town. So it took me over two hours to get to Digos, and another two hours to Malita. While there is accommodation and small beach resorts available in the area, I was graciously hosted by the local congressman's family.

The next morning, I was taken around Malita and Santa Maria by motorcycle. The communities along the coastline of Malita, particularly Musa Compound and Fishing Village, must be predominantly Muslim since I noticed several mosques can be seen in the area. I particularly liked the bright blue and gold Jamiri Musa Mosque.

We visited Little Boracay Beach in Santa Maria, about 40 minutes from Malita. Off the National Highway, it's several kilometers of rough road to get to the beach. The beach is secluded with rough cream sand. There are several huts, including air-conditioned ones for those who want to stay overnight. It's a decent beach resort, but they need to pick-up the plastic wrappers more often. Plastic seems to be a plague even in rural areas of the Philippines where many locals just throw their wrappers anywhere.

By lunch, we motored back to Malita where the former municipal administrator of Jose Abad Santos was waiting for me. I was introduced to him by a common friend. And lucky me, he was on his way to JAS from Davao City which made my trip more comfortable. My other choice was to hire a habal-habal from Malita to JAS, a trip that would take almost three hours! Good thing I had a ride since the roads were really rough. And I would have gotten really wet at the river crossings!

We stopped by Captain's Lake in Don Marcelino. It's a resort with a stream and freshwater pond that drains into the beach. Looks fun to swim in. And the beach is just outside the fence.

From there to JAS, we were incommunicado. The ride took another two hours (or more because of the picture stops) through rough mountain and coastal roads. It was mostly coconut plantations. And I would think the original forest cover was wiped out during the colonial period when Mindanao became the land of agricultural promise.

There were several river crossings. And unfortunately, when it rains hard, the southern end of Don Marcelino and the whole of JAS are cut off from the rest of civilization. Some people have earned a living from these river crossings. I've only read of stevedoring in old books and the term is still actively used in these crossings. Roads are being constructed as we speak, and hopefully bridges. So this rugged adventure drive won't last for long.

As we were driving, we saw a group Manobo kids selling lansones. We asked how much and they told us they were selling them for Php3 a bag. We bought the whole lot and gave them a bonus. The smiles said it all. Don't you just love the simple pleasures of traveling through rural Mindanao.

All throughout, views of the coastline were picturesque. We finally made the border between Don Marcelino and JAS which was another river crossing.

We passed through the Lawayon Plantation and noticed the plantation carabaos converged at the mouth of the river. A flock of egrets were there as well, most probably feasting on mites feasting on the carabaos.

In the next barangay, we saw a basketball court right on the unpaved National Highway by the beach. In this area, there is no electricity. So this must be a very important pastime. The players have to clear the court every time a vehicle passes. But it doesn't happen very often. There should have been electricity in this area late last year. But I was told the extension of power lines all the way to JAS was delayed due to opposition from a local politician because the northern barangays of JAS were not his supporters.

It was getting dark, so we rushed straight to the town center of JAS. We charged our phones as soon as we got to my host's home. Since power in the poblacion is served by generator, it's only available from 2 p.m. to midnight. They also have solar power units available in some houses. Satellite cable TV is the only choice since they are too far away to receive signals from the free channels. But what surprised me was that there were Internet shops and WiFi, also served by satellite signal since mobile phones hardly have any signal (only Smart functions there).

We had a sumptuous dinner at the mayor's house before calling it a night. I spent the rest of the time uploading photos on Instagram before going to bed. More on Jose Abad Santos and Davao Occidental in my next post.

Part 2 - Davao Occidental: Adventure in Jose Abad Santos

How to get to Davao Occidental
There are regular buses to Santa Maria and Malita from the Ecoland Bus Terminal in Davao City. I paid Php213 for the air-conditioned ride from Davao to Malita. From Malita, there are buses to Don Marcelino. To get to Jose Abad Santos, you can take a van from Malita (although the service is not regular) or from Davao City which costs Php500. But you will need to know the number of the van drivers since they are private vans which will pick you up from your hotel in Davao. Contact Junjun at (0928) 2645527.

Where to stay in Jose Abad Santos
There is only one place to stay in JAS. You may contact Traveller's Inn at (0908) 8855687.

Thank you to the family of Rep. Franklin P. Bautista, JAS Mayor Jimmy Joyce and Atty. Jason Joyce for their warm hospitality!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Davao Occidental could be 81st Philippine province

I was reading the papers last Monday and saw that they had published Republic Act No. 10360 - An Act Creating the Province of Davao Occidental. Signed into law by President Noynoy Aquino on January 14, 2013, the creation of this new province now depends on the people of Davao del Sur. And thus, Davao Occidental could become the country's 81st province.

So I decided to visit over the weekend, going as far south as Jose Abad Santos, the southernmost municipality of Mindanao Island. And what an adventure it was! Talking to people in the south, you could sense their longing for a new province. They have been left behind by the rest of Davao del Sur because they are not allied with the current leadership of the province. Talk about vindictive and feudal!

I wish them well and hope that their aspirations for a separate province become a reality. Their future province is pristine, rugged but beautiful. I'll be writing about the trip in detail. But in the meantime, check out the @ivanhenares photos in Instagram.

Part 1 - Davao Occidental: Road adventure to Santa Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino & Jose Abad Santos
Part 2 - Davao Occidental: Adventure in Jose Abad Santos

Monday, May 14, 2012

Aldevinco Shopping Center, Mindanao handicrafts in Davao City

Cultural markets are an important element of any tourist friendly city. I was glad to find one in Davao City, the Aldevinco Shopping Center. Right across Marco Polo Hotel and the Ateneo de Davao University, Aldevinco is host to over 100 handicraft and antique shops, many of which have been there since it opened in 1965.

In the shops, one can find local Mindanao products, local indigenous costumes and textiles, various batik products, textiles imported from Indonesia and Malaysia, antique and brass items, and even indigenous musical instruments.

Right outside Aldevinco are fruit stands where you can get some really good local fruits such as pomelo and mangosteen. It's definitely a place you have to explore when you visit Davao City.

Aldevinco Shopping Center
Claro M. Recto cor. Manuel Roxas Avenues, Davao City

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ivanhenares for the latest on my travels!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cagayan de Oro: Whitewater rafting and the Dahilayan Adventure Park

Earlier this year, I flew to Cagayan de Oro to try out the famous CDO whitewater rafting courses and visit Bukidnon's newest adventure attractions, the Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park. Little did I realize that I would be back again this month for more fun!

Straight from the airport, we motored to Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon for the trip to Dahilayan. But we made sure to stopover the Del Monte Clubhouse for breakfast (I missed this when I was here in January). Yes, we had their famous steak for breakfast! I'll discuss more about the food we had in another entry.

From there, we went through the Del Monte pineapple plantations and Camp Phillips to get to Dahilayan, quite close to Mount Kitanglad. The Dahilayan Adventure Park is famous for the longest dual-cable zip line in Asia. While the Dahilayan Forest Park has a host of recreational facilities and activities including ATV and buggy rides through a challenging but fun off-road course around the park, Astrozorbit and Aquazorbit rides, and picnic grounds among many others things to do.

After finishing our activities, we had lunch at Cowboy's Grill (popular choices are grilled lamb or ostrich) before proceeding back to CDO. Anyway, here's more information on Dahilayan.

The next day, we did the Advanced 1 whitewater rafting course along the Cagayan River. The last time, we simply did the Basic course. There's also Advanced 2 and Extreme which I'll definitely try next time. The jump-off point for the Advanced 1 course is at the highway boundary between CDO and Bukidnon.

It was a fun morning as we went through at least 21 rapids. To mute the monotony, we did some crazy stuff too such as surfing the rapids. The guide would signal everyone to stand up on the raft during select rapids. And if you don't balance well, everyone tumbles down the raft too which is equally fun.

Sometimes, the raft would slam a large wave which makes things even more exciting. When you reach calmer areas, the guide would allow you to jump off the boat for a swim.

At the end, lunch awaits. It will all depend on the arrangements you've made or the tour company you've booked with (there are two end-points). But you'll definitely be hungry by the time the trip ends. So make sure you've arranged a sumptuous lunch. Ours was none other than CDO lechon, tuna panga, pansit and binaki (steamed corn cakes), one of the best native desserts I've ever had. Here's more information on whitewater rafting in the Cagayan River.

Dahilayan Forest Park
(0917) 7154399
Accommodation: Family Suites (4 to 6 persons) Php5,000; Standard (good for 3) Php2,800; Twin (good for 2) Php2,800; Deluxe (good for 4) Php3,200; Barkada Room (minimum of 10) Php400/person
Activities: Buggy Ride Php800/person; ATV Php500/person both inclusive of Php100 entrance fee; Astrozorbit and Aquazorbit Php250/person; Bungee Trampoline Php150/person; Tree Top Adventure Php250/person

Dahilayan Adventure Park
(0922) 8801319
Accommodation at Pinegrove Mountain Lodge: Family Room (good for 6) Php5,000; Standard (good for 3 with free breakfast for 2) Php2,800; Deluxe (good for 3 with free breakfast for 2) Php3,200; Suite (good for 3 with free breakfast for 2) Php3,500

Swift Travel + Tours
14 G/F Pelaez Sports Center, A. Velez Street, Cagayan de Oro City
(088) 8573897 / (08822) 727629 / (0922) 8333136 to 38

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Zamboanga del Norte: Old Town of Dapitan is the first declared Heritage Zone

With the enactment of the R.A. No. 10066 - National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 last year, a new designation for built heritage was created: the Heritage Zone or Historic Center. On May 24, 2011, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared its first Heritage Zone, the Old Town of Dapitan, through Resolution No. 03, s. 2011, in time for the 150th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal.

The NHCP, in its resolution, notes that "Dapitan is one of the oldest settlements in Northern Mindanao inhabited by Subanens" and that "according to Horacio de la Costa, S.J., the Dapitan mission was founded by Pedro Gutierrez, S.J. (in) 1629."

We all know the connection of Rizal with Dapitan. As the resolution states, "Jose Rizal lived in exile in Casa Real, the official residence and administration building of the politico-military governor of the District, from July 1892 to March 1893; and transferred to Talisay, now the Rizal Shrine Dapitan, where he spent a productive life."

The Old Town of Dapitan Heritage Zone includes "the established Heritage Dapitan district, the Rizal Shrine in Talisay and the buffer strip of creek along northern and eastern Heritage Dapitan." It is where "historic sites and structures such as Rizal National Shrine, Rizal's Disembarkation Site, Dapitan Plaza and Rizal Monument, Rizal's Relief Map of Mindanao, Town Hall Building (City Hall), Old Rizal Memorial District Hospital, Ilihan Hill, Parochial School, Casa Real, Gabaldon Building, St. James Church, the Sta. Cruz marker, Gabaldon school building, and old ancestral houses are located."

In fact, the zone is quite significant because the Relief Map of Mindanao and the Dapitan Town Plaza were previously declared as National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark respectively. Dapitan's declaration as a Heritage Zone is indeed a welcome development.

Anyway, we look forward to the declaration of more Heritage Zones or Historic Centers in the near future!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Cagayan de Oro: Whitewater rafting in the Cagayan River

Whitewater rafting is a very popular activity for those visiting Cagayan de Oro. It was actually a visit of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon several years back which created a lot of buzz for Cagayan de Oro's top adventure activity. Today, there are several companies which offer whitewater rafting trips down the Cagayan River, seven companies I was told.

The good thing about the whitewater rafting trips in Cagayan de Oro is that you don't need to form a group to schedule one. All you have to do is book a trip at least a day in advance through your hotel or directly with any of the companies, and they'll pick you up from your hotel and drive you over to the Cagayan River. If you're just one or two, they'll group you with other guests, just like what we did.

In fact, this experience is so convenient, you could actually take the first flight to Cagayan de Oro, go whitewater rafting, have lunch, then take the last flight out of Cagayan de Oro.

It takes about 45 minutes to get to from downtown Cagayan de Oro to the jump-off point. Everyone is given a helmet, life jacket and paddle for the trip down the river. After a safety briefing by the crew, the group is off.

I was quite surprised that there were really young kids in another group. I asked if there was an age limit. And I was told it's the discretion of the parents since they are the ones who sign the waivers. Dangerous as it may seem, whitewater rafting in Cagayan de Oro is quite safe.

The three-hour trip takes you through a series of fourteen rapids for the regular course. If your guide is a bit naughty, he'd purposely cause the rubber raft to capsize to add to the thrill. Good thing that didn't happen to us. In some of the rapids, our guide would ask us to stand which was really fun.

In areas where the river is calm, we were allowed to get off the raft for a swim. For an extra fee, you can ask them to take photos and videos of your trip which we did.

At the end point of the trip is a restaurant called the Cabula River Grill. Their best seller would be the Lechon Baka (Php180) which we made sure to try. After lunch, we proceeded back to CDO. In fact, I had time for a power nap before taking the last flight out.

Never miss the whitewater rafting experience when in Cagayan de Oro. In fact, I'll try the advanced whitewater rafting course when I return to CDO.

Swift Travel + Tours
14 G/F Pelaez Sports Center, A. Velez Street, Cagayan de Oro City
(088) 8573897 / (08822) 727629 / (0922) 8333136 to 38

Thanks to Karlo de Leon for editing my videos from Cagayan de Oro.
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