AWESOME 2014: The Year That Was

2014 was an awesome year for me traveling around the Philippines and discover many interesting places especially those that I’ve never been. But I guess the highlights of my travels are those journeys and experiences that have left indelible marks in my heart. My journey around these beautiful islands of Mindanao on the other hand was an enriching experience. Not only because I’ve got to see and discover new places but because of the different culture I’ve learned and somehow lived along the way – something that has changed me in a way today. I did so many amazing crazy never-wracking things that I never even imagined I would be doing. Above all, the great people I met along the way who share the same passion and love for travels and culture like I do. And some of these awesome people became my instant family and together we swore to the loyal brotherhood of #ByahengMindanaw, capturing the beauty and culture of Mindanao and share it to the world. These photos below are some of the funnest and memorable moments I had in 2014. Enjoy! It was an awesome 2014!

THE TRAVEL TELLER’S BEST OF 2014

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Revisit the Walled City of Intramuros in Manila during my birthday. Awesome 2014.

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I have long wanted to visit the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna and I made it there last year. Thanks to my loving cousin Ate Marybeth  and Kuya Ed who brought me there. Awesome 2014.

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CARILAYA, QUEZON, who would have thought I could be here? Awesome 2014.

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I have been around places in the Philippines but it was only last year that I finally set foot in the highlands of Tagaytay City. Awesome 2014.

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The Province of South Cotabato became my second home province last year. Visited the province and its towns for more than ten times. Awesome 2014.

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I fell in love with Lake Sebu in South Cotabato when I spent four days and three nights there last year! It was a magical experience. Awesome 2014.

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2014 is the birth of Byaheng Mindanaw, a group of travel bloggers, writers and photographers joined together traveling around Mindanao for one goal – capture the beauty of Mindanao Island and share it to the world. Here, we become FAMILY. Awesome 2014.

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I’ve been to Glan in Sarangani Province for couple of times but it was only last year when I got to appreciate the old laid-back charm of the town. Truly, this Heritage Town of Soccsksargen Region is a jewel to Mindanao. Oh yes, they celebrated its centenary last year. Awesome 2014.

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Officially this is the first festival I attended last year – the Tinabangay Festival of Socorro, Surigao Del Norte. Socorro is the home of the famous Bucas Grande Islands, my personal favorite here in Mindanao. Awesome 2014.

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Behind me is the vast pineapple plantation of South Cotabato situated in Tupi. And that imposing volcano in the backdrop is Mount Matutum, the landmark of SoCCSkSarGen Region. Awesome 2014

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I made it to the largest Provincial Capitol Compound in Mindanao, the Province of Agusan Del Sur. Awesome 2014.

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These are the united colors of T’nalak Festival in the Province of South Cotabato. It is one of the festivals that amused me in so many ways last year. I’m looking forward to witness it again this year. Awesome 2014.

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Pintados Y Carabao | UGMAD Festival in the City of Tagum is just one of many festivals on this Palm City of Davao Region. Lucky to have witnessed some of those festivals of this city. Awesome 2014.

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…and I made to the ORG-ARMM Compound in Catabato City. This is the center of Government of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Thanks to my friends at HRC-ARMM for bringing us here. Awesome 2014.

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This is the flysite of Sarangani Paraglide. And yes I had awesome flights not once but twice. Thanks Titoy and Carlaa for the awesome experience! Awesome 2014.

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The Tuna Capital of the Philippines staged once again the annual Tuna Festival and this year is my second! General Santos City is ♥. Awesome 2014.

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I braved climbing a huge Sampaloc Tree towering at 50 feet high and made it to the top. And up there I marveled at one of most beautiful sights I’ve seen in years. Oh God, I wish I lived here. This is Baras Bird Sanctuary in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. Awesome 2014.

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It was full of controversies but still Davao City’s Kadayawan Festival gave me stunning photos that show the vibrancy and vividness of this Mother Festival of Mindanao. Awesome 2014.

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ACHIEVED! This is in my bucketlist and finally I made it to the GRANDEST MOSQUE in the Philippines – the Grand Mosque of Cotabato City. Awesome 2014.

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When Lolong, a one-ton, 21-foot crocodile caught and caged in Bunawan, Agusan Del Sur on September 21, 2011, I bucketlisted the place where it was caught – the vast Agusan Marsh. It was only last year that this wish came true. Sadly, we didn’t see any crocodile when we visited Agusan Marsh last year. Still, awesome 2014.

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This is Lagoon Tiktikan of Bucas Grande Islands in Soccoro, Surigao del Norte. This is one of my favorites in the whole BGI. On my second visit here last year, the locals told me that they spotted a submarine in the middle of the lagoon. It stayed there for couple of hours. Hmmmm. Awesome 2014.

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If there is one thing that paid off all my efforts in documenting different destinations and adventures in the Philippines, it would be the Lake Sebu Zipline in South Cotabato. My video riding this extremely exciting zipline went viral not only in the Philippines but around the world. US-based JukinVideo listed it in the top 50 viral videos in the world. Awesome 2014.

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I love ARAKAN VALLEY. This is where I find truest meaning of peace and serenity amid nature’s embrace and the friendly Manobos living in this place. The most challenging waterfalls trek I have ever done is also here at Matigol Falls. It was a death defying trek. Awesome 2014.

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Where is the white house? A question I’ve been asking for many times whenever I visit the Island Garden City of Samal. Luckily, I made it last year. This house is the headquarter of the Moncadista, a local sect, living in the island many years ago.It is sometimes considered a cult. The house is more than 50 years old and now dilapidated. I hope the LGU will do something to restore this house. After all, this is a heritage site of the Island. Still, awesome 2014.

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My love affair with mountain climbing started with my trek to Puting Bato, the highest peak in Samal Island. Since 2010, I have been coming back here. There is something in the summit that I fell in love with. Like the previous years, I spent another night here with my crazy loving travel buddies. Awesome 2014.

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The Maxima Aqua Fun in Samal was a blast for me. I only did not enjoy this banana boat ride but truly had fun with their super drop and water blob. Looking forward to do this again. Awesome 2014.

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This photo started the #ByahengMindanaw proejct. It is very simple, travel around Mindanao and wear authentic Mindanaoan attire. Thus, my first #ByahengMindanaw experience is in the beautiful beach of Babusanta, Talicud Island.

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One of  my top selfies of 2014 – me boating in the tea-colored waters of Panlaguhan Lake in Agusan Marsh amid seas of lotus and water hyacinths with lonely bangkal trees and floating houses on the background. I will never forget this place. Awesome 2014.

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This is my first #ByahengMindanaw dance in the vast pineapple plantation of Tupi, South Cotabato. Mount Matutum in the background was covered by thick clouds. But it wasn’t only me dancing, my #BM team also did. Twas hilarious for all of us in the start. Hahaha. Awesome 2014.

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When I visit Kiamba in Sarangani Province, I failed to set foot and frolic in the sands of Tuka Bay Marine Sanctuary. Last year, with my #ByahengMindanaw team, we made it there and enjoy every bit of its pristine splendor. That lovely house by the beach is owned by Pambansang Kamao Manny Pacquiao who is also the Congressman of the province. Awesome 2014.

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This is a Chili Solar Dryer of Dumang Makers in my hometown of Cateel. This is very special to me because this represents the resiliency and strength of my fellow Cateelenos one year after the massive destruction of Typhoon Pablo. Chili Production and Processing is the leading alternative livelihood source of our people their now. The story I made about this industry gave me my 2014 Davao Media Excellence Award as Blogger of the Year and Social Media Advocate of the Year. Awesome 2014.

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This is Boston, not in Massachusetts but in Davao Oriental. It’s a neighboring town of my hometown of Cateel and this particular place is the first community-managed resort supported by DSWD and other NGOs a part of the livelihood program after the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo. Awesome 2014

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Along with my crazy friends, we invaded Davao Crocodile Park Ground for this epic Kadayawan Invasion, an electronic music festival attended by thousands of people from different parts of the region. I did craziest things here that I lost my phones and my GoPro remote control. I was wasted I ended up sleeping in my car when the party ended. But it wasn’t just me. My crazy friends were wasted too. We were all wasted. Hahaha. What an awesome 2014.

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I swam and dived in the waters of Tagbaobo in the Island Garden City of Samal. This is a marine protected area and just one of the many things to do in this community-based tourism site in the Island. Thanks to Ms, Generose Tecson for bringing us here. Awesome 2014.

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My good friend Edwin Lasquite aka Madayaw Wow Dagway brought me to this well manicured botanical garden of his home City of Tagum. I didn’t expect this to really amaze me. Awesome 2014.

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With my friends in the media Kenneth Ong and Jinggoy Salvador, I was sent to Manila by the DOT-Mindanao Office to cover the Philippine Travel Mart in MOA Manila. This is the biggest and longest running travel mart in the country. It was a privilege to be there and have witnessed such a spectacular event. I had the chance to meet, greet and talk to the key people in the Tourism Industry. Awesome 2014.

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It was also in 2014 that I got to finally visit the National Museum of the Philippines and worship beautiful visual arts laid before my very eyes. I cried when I got to finally stand before this painting of Juan Luna called Spoliarium. I only see this on books and now it was just before my very eyes. Awesome 2014.

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Inside the Nation Museum is also the Manansala Collection.  This is just among the many amazing art collections housed inside the Museum. I’m not contended. Looking forward to come back and enjoy more time at the Pambasang Museo ng Pilipinas. Awesome 2014.

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I visited the one of the grandest and most beautiful Capitol Building I’ve been the entire country. This is Capitol Building of the Province of Sultan Kudarat. Just sooooooo beautiful. Awesome 2014.

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And i love to be here at the Highlands of Sarangani Province overlooking the calm Sarangani Bay. So peaceful. Awesome 2014.

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This is Duka Bay Resort, a spacious beach hotel, restaurant, beach resort and dive site with a view of Camiguin Island located in the very heart of Medina, Misamis Oriental. Thank to my Fernandez Family, I made it here last year. Awesome 2014.

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Matigol Falls in Arakan, Cotabato is ♥. One of personal faves in Mindanao. Revisited it last year. Awesome 2014.

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One of my favorite festivals in the Philippines is the Kaamulan Festival in the province of Bukidnon. Last year was said to be the grandest as they celebrated its 100 years as a province. Two days were spent for the Street Dancing competition and it was mind blowing. Awesome 2014.

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Lake Holon was just a dream but it become a reality last year when I said YES to climb Mount Melibingoy in T’boli South Cotabato to see this magnificent natural attraction of the ScoCSKSargen Region. This is one of the highlights of my trip last year. Awesome 2014.

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Been to Samal Island for countless of times but it was only last year when I set foot at the Southernmost tip of the Isalnd – in San Remigio. Pristine beaches they have there! Awesome 2014.

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Attended the colorful Talakudong Festival in Tacurong City. I went home with one of these Kudongs (hat) as one of my souvenirs. Thanks Maam Emelie. 🙂 Awesome 2014.

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The world around me. My first visit to the Mind Museum. Thank you Darwin Cayetano for bringing me here. Awesome 2014.

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This is where I prayed on my Valentine Birthday 2014 – the Calamba Church just beside the Rizal House in Calamba, Laguna. It was a very memorable birthday for me spent somewhere away from my hometown of Cateel and my home city of Davao. Awesome 2014.

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Sorry this is not BATANES. This is in TUMALIKTIK in my hometown of Cateel. Been to this place hundred times but twas only last year when I realized how picturesque this place can be. 🙂 Awesome 2014.

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I was never a temple runner but I’m a certified tree hugger. This Toog Tree is tallest tree in the whole Province of Agusan Del Sur and is located along the national highway making it one of the most popular landmarks in the Province. Awesome 2014.

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Meet the legendary LANG DULAY. Checked. She is a National Living Treasure (Manlilikha ng Bayan) awardee from the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for her contribution in the preservation of T’boli culture and for her fine craftsmanship of the delicate abaca fibers. I met her not only once but twice. Naaaaaks. Awesome 2014.

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It took us 6 hours to find this SICAO FALLS in the verdant mountain of Tamayong just to be here and did this pose! Hahaha. Tamayong is still part of the vast Davao City. Awesome 2014.

#ByahengMindanaw Team at Gumasa Beach

THANK YOU 2014! YOU ARE SO AWESOME!

AWESOME 2014: The Year That Was.
Now, bring it on 2015.
I’m so excited for you!

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