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

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bukidnon: Asia's longest zipline at the Dahilayan Adventure Park

On the way back to Cagayan de Oro from the Monastery of the Transfiguration, I made sure to stop over at the Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Unfortunately, you will need to arrange transportation to get there. So I met up with Tito Mora of Swift Travel + Tours along the National Highway in Barangay Alae. And we proceeded to Dahilayan from there.

To get to Dahilayan, you have to pass through Camp Phillips and the Del Monte Plantations. I heard they serve really good steak at the Del Monte Clubhouse. But I'll reserve that for another trip since we had lunch at Cowboy's Grill up in Dahilayan. On the menu was Ostrich (Php220), Lamb (Php260), Pink Salmon (Php270) and Wagyu Beef (Php450) among others.

After lunch, we proceeded to ZipZone at the Dahilayan Adventure Park for the 840m zipline, the longest in Asia so far. They actually have three ziplines in the park, the 840m (Php500) and 320m & 120m (Php250) ziplines. If you want to try them all, they have an All Ride Package at Php600. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it was quite foggy and drizzling. But we still proceeded with the zipline which was quite fun even if it meant 'flying' through thick fog.

There are other adventure activities further down the road at the Forest Park. I didn't expect that there would be a Zorbit (Php250) all the way up in Dahilayan. But there was. And it was the first thing I got to try. I'm actually motion sick. So trying out the Zorb was a test of my limits. They sometimes refer to the Zorb as the 'astronaut-in-training' ride. I'm not surprised why since I was screaming like hell all the way down, more to get my mind off the motion sickness.

It took quite a while for me to recover from that. But despite the rains, we proceeded with the ATV Trail (Php500). Taking the ATV around the 3.1-kilometer trail in the Forest Park was an experience in itself. It was a challenge driving up the muddy slopes but fun nevertheless.

On sunny days, the Forest Park also offers great picnic grounds and playgrounds for kids. I was told the trees they planted in the park came all the way from New Zealand. So the ambiance and feel of the Forest Park is quite different from that of Baguio or Tagaytay. For those who want to spend the night there, rooms are available from Php2,800 (good for 3 persons). There's a cafe there too which serves some great comfort food. Make sure to try out their pizzas!

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

Dahilayan Adventure Park
(0922) 8801319

Dahilayan Forest Park
(088) 8555346

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bukidnon: Overnight stay at the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay

Have you ever wondered how it is to live a monastic lifestyle? I've heard a lot of good things about the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. While most people just do day-trips to the monastery, I got a chance to stay overnight at the guest house.

The centerpiece of any visit to the monastery is the church designed by Leandro Locsin, National Artist for Architecture. Although Locsin did not live long enough to witness the completion of the church, the plans of the church were the last he signed before he passed away.

If you stay overnight, you can actually join the monks in prayer. They pray seven times a day beginning at 3:40 a.m.

Staying at the monastery is actually a great opportunity to get away from city life and reflect. Personal retreats at the Monastery of the Transfiguration are quite popular. And it's quite affordable too since they charge just Php750/person (Php700 for twin sharing) for a one-night stay inclusive of really delicious meals.

The monastery is quite famous for its Monks’ Blend Premium Coffee (which is the coffee used for a popular ice cream brand), Monks’ Peanut Butter, roasted peanuts, and piniato (peanut brittle).

And it also serves great food which I got to savor while during my stay. With Dom Martin Gomez, OSB, a Kapampangan, in-charge of the kitchen, it's no surprise that the food they serve is superb. I was lucky they served me the Pinutos na Humba which is among their specialties.

In fact, one of the more popular activities they organize at the monastery every second Sunday of the month is Breakfast with the Monks, a sumptuous buffet spread they prepare for Mass-goers after the 8 a.m. Mass. Every month follows a different theme such as Spanish, Chinese, Kapampangan, Ilocano, Visayan, and other types of cuisine.

Another attraction of the monastery is the Museum of Transfiguration Monastery which houses an exhibit of Filipino liturgical vestments. A project of Dom Martin for the Philippine Centennial, it highlights the various weaving traditions all over the country elegantly used in church vestments. Dom Martin or Gang Gomez, was a top couturier before he chose to live the monastic life. I was impressed with the intricacy of the different Philippine hand-woven fabrics and how they were creatively harnessed for religious vestments.

To inquire and reserve for a stay at the monastery, contact Dom Martin Gomez, OSB at (0917) 5105585.

Monastery of the Transfiguration
San Jose, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon 8700
Tel. No. (088) 2212373 / 2214708
Monastery Farm (0927) 3975350
Gift Shop (0915) 9860167
Guest House Reservations (0917) 5105585
Wedding Reservations (0915) 9860167
Breakfast with the Monks (0916) 4545916
Vocation Inquiries (0916) 3650147

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Surigao del Sur: Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City

Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig, Surigao del Sur is one of the most majestic waterfalls in the country. It's not just just the height of the falls but the width that makes it really spectacular. Tinuy-an Falls is 55 meters high and 95 meters wide. And some say that it is the widest waterfalls in the Philippines.

From Bunawan, I took a van to San Francisco where I had to switch buses to get to Surigao del Sur. The buses go all the way to Mangagoy which is the commercial district of Bislig City. You know you are in Bislig when you start seeing clusters of centuries-old hardwood trees that tower over the landscape. It's a good thing Bislig still has a good amount of its original forest cover. But the sad part is you'll see a lot of felled trees and cut logs by the road side. I got off at the Bislig City Hall where I was to meet the tourism staff who would take me to Tinuy-an Falls.

Unfortunately, Tinuy-an is quite a distance from the National Highway. So you will need to hire a habal-habal or tricycle to get there. But it's definitely worth the trip. There is no hiking required since parking is right beside the falls.

Aside from the main drop, there are other smaller cascades upstream and downstream from the main falls. Just as always, I couldn't stay for a swim since I had to catch the last bus back to Davao.

Unfortunately, we did not have the correct information. It turns out, the last bus for Davao City from Bislig leaves at 4 p.m. and it had just left 20 minutes earlier. So I had no choice but to backtrack to San Francisco since the Butuan-Davao route which passes by San Franz (as locals refer to it) runs 24 hours a day. The bus rides took a total of nine hours!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Agusan del Sur: Overnight with the Manobo community of Agusan Marsh

If there was a hidden paradise in the Philippines, it must be the Agusan Marsh. That's because visiting it is no walk in the park since it requires several hours of land and river boat travel to get to the marsh itself. Arranging the pump boat ride would also require some effort and a lot of funds too if you don't have the right connections. But no doubt, the Agusan Marsh is paradise.

In fact, it is such an important part of our natural heritage, the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is among four Philippine sites in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. I hope the local community there initiates moves for its inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Much of the Agusan Marsh is ancestral domain of the Manobos. So to get into some of the better portions of the marsh might require permission from the local community. There are several communities in the Agusan Marsh and a lot of ways to get there. I was lucky to be a guest of the Manobo community in Sitio Panlabuhan, Loreto, Agusan del Sur. In fact, they hosted me for one night.

A trip to Agusan Marsh starts with land travel from the nearest airport which could either be Davao or Butuan. That would take several hours depending on where you are coming from. The jump-off point for the river boat ride is Bunawan, Agusan del Sur. From the pantalan of Bunawan, it took another three-hours on a pump boat to reach Sitio Panlabuhan in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

We actually had to change boats when we neared the entrance of the marsh since in October, pump-boats have a hard time entering Sitio Panlabuhan due to the high concentration of lilies, hyacinths and other water plants. People say it looks like an enormous green quilt.

It was quite an experience riding on the boats made from hollowed-out logs as we pushed our way through the lilies. And especially since one wrong move meant an unplanned swim in the dark tea-colored water of the marsh.

The Manobos in the Agusan Marsh live in floating houses. The houses, which are quite sturdy, are built on hundreds of pieces of bamboo and rise and fall together with the level of the marsh. And depending on the current, the houses are also moved to different locations.

Take note also that there is no electricity. So you really commune with nature while you are there. Interestingly though, the mobile phone signal was very strong in Sitio Panlabuhan.

I was also quite surprised that they community had a lodge where visitors could stay. They don't come in very often. But at least visitors don't have to worry about accommodation. I was warned that mosquitoes would be a problem even with the mosquito net or kulambo. So make sure to bring a lot of insect repellent.

The community of Sitio Panlabuhan has two sectors. After settling down, we boarded the log boat to proceed to the main sector where a newly-constructed floating classroom is located. As part of required tradition, I had to meet the community elders for a Manobo ritual to pay respect to the spirits, ask permission for my presence and request for safe passage while I was there. I was told that some visitors who simply entered the ancestral area without doing the ritual met a disaster of some sort, even as they arrived back home.

I was actually asked to bring a live chicken and candles for the ritual. But the village elder decided not to sacrifice the chicken. So we offered an egg instead. The ritual began with the elder conversing with the spririts, mentioning that I was in the community. On the table was lighted candle, the egg cracked open on a plate, a bottle of beer plus a glass with a serving of beer, and a lighted cigarette. After the conversation, the village elder stood up, took the glass of beer, proceeded to the window and emptied its contents into the marsh. Then the glass was filled-up again and again and passed around so that everyone in the room was able to drink.

After the ritual, we had a town hall meeting with the community to discuss plans to open their community to tourism. They wanted visitors to come and were very frustrated with the local government because they never benefited from any of the visitors who came into Sitio Panlabuhan. Some foreigners were even rude enough to say they already paid the LGU when prohibited from entering the ancestral domain, not knowing that the community had rights to their part of the Agusan Marsh.

I've always been telling my students that tourism is a powerful tool for poverty alleviation of government makes sure that its benefits reach the grassroots. This is my way of helping the community around the Agusan Marsh benefit from tourism. So in February, we will be organizing a tour of Sitio Panlabuhan that will benefit the community directly. Tourists will have a chance to stay with the community for a night or two. If you are interested to join the tour from March 4-6, 2011, please e-mail so I can send you more details as they come.

Anyway, the sun had just set when we took the boat back to the opposite sector. After dinner and some lively discussions on the planned tourism program, we called it a night.

The next morning, I was up early since they community wanted to show me the floating gardens. These were literally floating plant boxes where they would have flowering plants, fruits and vegetables. Unfortuantely, I did not have time to join any of the fishing activities since I wanted to be back in Bunawan before lunch to catch a bus to Surigao del Sur.

Aside from joining the locals go fishing around the marsh, bird watching is also another activity of the Agusan Marsh being host to over 200 species of birds. The numbers swell especially during the cold months when the marsh hosts communities of migratory birds.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Compostela Valley: Rafflesia flowers, Marangig Falls & Tagbibinta Falls in Maragusan

Gold had attracted me to Compostela Valley. Gold mining is actually a major industry of Compostela Valley. And Mt. Diwalwal is its most popular gold-rush site, especially after the film I Come with the Rain starring Josh Hartnett was shot there. But the gold I'm talking about is the natural beauty of the province.

Traveling by bus around Mindanao is quite orderly and easy because there are centralized bus terminals in each town, not like Metro Manila's chaotic system where each company has its own bus terminal.

From Mati, I took a bus to the Tagum Terminal. Then from there, I boarded a Butuan-bound bus which had several stops in Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur. I got off at Nabunturan, the provincial capital, since I had an appointment at the tourism office. After making arrangements for Maragusan, I went back to the Nabunturan Terminal to catch a bus to Maragusan. Mati to Tagum was 3 hours, Tagum to Nabunturan was 1 hour, and Nabunturan to Maragusan was another 2 hours.

Later I would find out that there is actually a jeepney route directly-linking Mati to Maragusan. It was dark already when I arrived in Maragusan. So after dinner, I called it a night.

The next day, I went around Maragusan's attractions with the help of a guide arranged through the local tourism office. We also hired a habal-habal to take us to the different destinations since they were very far from each other.

My first stop for the day required some trekking. In the forests of Maragusan are pockets of Rafflesia clusters. We visited the one in Purok Malinawon, Barangay Mapawa. It was a moderate 15-minute trek up to where the Rafflesia mira buds could be found. Unfortunately, none of the flowers were in bloom.

The only time I got to see a Rafflesia in full bloom was during a visit to the Bogor Botanical Garden in Indonesia. They rarely flower so seeing one in bloom is reason enough to consider yourself lucky. The hike also afforded me some nice views of the banana plantations that dominate the Maragusan landscape.

From the Rafflesias, we proceeded to Barangay New Albay to check out Marangig Falls. Again, this one required some trekking too. Not bad since I like waterfalls. But I've seen more majestic ones.

The next waterfall seemed like it was on the opposite end of town. We motored to Barangay Coronobe to check out Tagbibinta Falls. This was the larger falls and thank God the trekking was minimal. It's actually very popular to locals and facilities have been built in the area for rest and recreation.

Although Maragusan is all about bananas, none of the bananas actually reach the local market since they all go to Dole. After having visited Kalsangi several years ago, I wanted to check out the processing facility to see how things are done.  But unfortunately, visitors need prior permission to gain access. What I didn't like about the whole thing though was their security (the ones on motorcycles) were very rude.

After lunch, I took a bus back to Nabunturan where I was to stay for the night.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Davao Oriental: Surfing & skim boarding at Dahican Beach in Mati

As I write this, surfing season has started in Dahican Beach in Mati, Davao Oriental where waves could reach as high as 10 feet. This beach facing the Pacific Ocean is also very popular among skim boarders and is often referred to as Skim Paradise.

I took the 2 a.m. bus from Davao City and found myself in Mati at about 6 a.m. The bus actually goes further northeast to Cateel. At the bus station, I hired a tricycle that would take me to the beaches of Mati since they are quite far from the town proper and the main roads.

We actually saw the sign to Dahican Beach but decided to go further down the road first. My first stop was Masao Beach which is about 45 minutes away. I was a bit disappointed though since I did not see the fine sand one would expect in a beach. But it's quite popular because of the pavilions and huts which stretch into the sea.

From Masao, we headed back to Dahican Beach which turns out to be the home base of a very vibrant local surfing and skim boarding community known as the Amihan Surf and Skim Team. In fact, you could get surfing lessons there for Php400/hour inclusive of board rental. Surfing season in Mati is from November to April. But since I arrived in mid-October, the waters were relatively calm. I was told that once the Amihan winds come in, the swells do too!

Note also that Dahican Beach is a sea turtle or pawikan sanctuary. And you just might be lucky to see one when you go snorkeling in the area. They even have an awareness campaign called Pawikan sa Dahican.

There are some comfortable rooms around the Dahican Beach area. But if you are on a budget, you can pitch a tent too. Anyway, I didn't have much time to stay since I wanted to be in Compostela Valley by afternoon.

Botona Beach Resort
(0918) 5255227 / (0916) 7968054

Monday, September 27, 2010

Zamboanga del Norte: Dipolog Cathedral & restaurants in Dipolog

Dipolog is the provincial capital of Zamboanga del Norte. When Jose Rizal was exiled in Dapitan, he also left his mark in neighboring Dipolog, particularly the Dipolog Cathedral. Although it has a heavily-renovated facade, the interior of the church is pretty much preserved. It is said that the church altars were designed by Rizal himself. A statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola can be found in the right side altar of the church, a reminder that the Jesuits once had control of this area.

Another town with Rizal influence is Katipunan since he had a farm there. We were trying to locate it but people in the area unfortunately didn't know where it was. We weren't able to do much in Dipolog. But in any case, here are some places you might want to try out when you get hungry.

Where to eat in Dipolog
Here are four restaurants in Dipolog you might want to try out if you're looking for a place to eat. I'm sure there are more and please feel free to suggest.

Chenny's Fast Food (former Chip'N)
Osmena Street cor Bonifacio Street
I was so enticed by the lechon manok I saw around the city, I decided to have some for dinner. So we asked the tricycle driver to bring us to a good one. Many of the locals may not know Chenny's and that's because it used to be called Chip'N Lechon Manok just a few months ago. There may have been a change in owner but it's the same old recipe the locals enjoy.

And if you're after the local flavor, this is the place to go. Try out the local dishes such as chicken halang-halang (a spicy soup made with minced chicken neck), bas-oy, paklay and balbacua.

Grandma's Best
Mabini Street corner Arellano Street
(065) 2123396
This place is most known for it's desserts and pastries. But serves a wide range of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu had so much in it, it was so hard to decide what to eat. I tried out their Beef BBQ which was really good. If you have a problem picking out a dessert, just head on over to the fridge and see what's available. I got myself a Revel Bar and some Yema.

Big Joes!
General Luna Street
(065) 2122259 / 2124539
It's got burger and fries, fried chicken, Shawarma, rice meals and Filipino favorites such as Crispy Pata, Sisig and Lechon Kawali. But a must-try would be their steaks and Grilled Baby Back Ribs. And they have a delivery service too!

An Seafoods House
Arellano Street corner Zamora Street
(065) 2123252
While I'm not a seafood person as most of my friends know, I can't leave this restaurant out of the list. I checked out their menu and everything is seafood, even the burgers! Specialties include Sinugba, Tinola and Kinilaw (their version of STK it seems), plus the Seafoods Roll. They also have a branch along Capitol Drive.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Zamboanga del Norte: Fantasyland & Gloria de Dapitan

Surprisingly for a provincial city, Dapitan has a nightlife area. Remember that theme park built by former Congressman Romeo Jaloslos which he named Gloria's Fantasyland? Well, that's it. The park is usually open from late afternoon until midnight. And I must say, the rides are quite good!

We were given a tour by the park manager (they have two managers in fact, one for operations in the evening, and one for maintenance during the day) and one thing he noted to us was cleanliness was very important to them. In fact, there wasn't even a piece of candy wrapper or dried leaves on the floor because if there was, he would pick it up.

Make sure to try the Horror House because I'm giving it an A for effort! There's a story actually when you enter as a guide narrates and takes you through the house. Her companion was supposedly lost inside and your job is to help him or her find the companion as you weave your way through the house. It's the usual scare tactics but very well-done.

I heard there's a screwdriver coaster in the works! Not even Metro Manila and its environs has that!

Aside from Dakak, the other place for dining options in Dapitan is Gloria de Dapitan, which is right beside the park. They have live bands there and several restaurants which offer dinner, drinks and pulutan. And surprisingly, the whole area has WiFi Internet access!
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