Imagine you’re in the middle of a vast tea-colored swamp where an ocean of water hyacinths, lotus and water lilies stretches out like large bedspread. You are rowing your old dugout canoe lavishing your impatient eyes with a mind-blowing waterscape you only see in movies. Your thoughts are nowhere but your eyes are glued to such spectacle you never even imagine to exist. The mighty sun is up grilling you mercilessly but you couldn’t care less. You are just there on that poor old boat detaching yourself from your urban life and slowly drowning yourself to the unhurried pleasures of a world where life literally rises and ebbs with the water level. You become speechless and what keep running in your head are language of admiration and bewilderment.
This is the kind of state that the wetland paradise of northeastern Mindanao takes you – a kind of blissful experience I never even wanted to end. This is the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in the province of Agusan Del Sur.
Once dubbed as the “Enchanting Marshland of Agusan”, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary teems with a kind of life so different from the life we all know. Here, time stands still. It is where you can escape into a world surrounded by lush aquatic foliage and tranquil tea-colored waters while the chirping of birds becomes your music and green life floating on the waters your playground. When the sun sets, you are transported to a world where deep silence wraps you even your very soul – a kind of tranquillity so contagious it’ll make you feel good about yourself and the world around you. As you wake up in the morning, you feel the freshest air embracing you while the golden sunrise in its full glory bathes this haven of pureness. Heaven on earth, I say – Mother Nature’s masterpiece.
Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is situated at the very heart of Agusan basin. It is considered as one of the most ecologically important swamplands in the Philippines. Declared as a protected area and wildlife sanctuary, it is home to hundreds of species of birds, freshwater fish, bats, soft shell turtles, rare aquatic plants and trees, salt water and fresh water crocodiles. This enormous spread of marsh unimaginably covers an area of about 20,000 hectares – equivalent to the size of Metro Manila.
Deep into the marshland is a small floating village of the Manobo tribe whose lives and homes literally rise and fall with the tides of the swamp. This small floating community is situated in Lake Panlabuhan. Unlike the other group of Manobos who build their homes on stilts in the hinterlands of Mindanao, the Manobo of Agusan Marsh live in floating houses, pray at floating chapel, attend to classes on floating school and move around paddling their way from houses to houses. It is such strange scenery for me who live a life of comfort in the concrete jungle to witness such way of life so different from mine.
But what stunned me most is how these people live in harmony with the Marsh. They have this unfathomable connection with the water and all that comprises it. They respect it and take care of it. Clearly, they don’t have dry lands to call their own but what they have is this aquatic world that serves not only their home but a sanctuary they considered immensely sacred. And yes, the marsh provided generously everything they need.
Manobos are innately welcoming. They are very warm people they feel so delighted whenever visitors come to see them and the wonders of their marshland. And like those other guests who were welcomed by the community, our stay at the floating village commenced with a ritual performed the chieftain. The tribe is christened Christians but the ritual centered to God and to the elementals they called “Amigo”. They offered food, drinks, and cigarettes for our protection and guidance. At the end of the ritual, everyone of us joined the chieftain in partaking the some of the drinks offered to the Amigos. I stood there dumbfounded witnessing such things I never imagined being practiced even in these modern times. This is one of the perks of being a traveler; it will open your eyes to mind-boggling things around you.
Wandering deep into the waterscape of rivers, creeks, freshwater marshes connected to multiple lakes and numerous ponds transports you to an unusual world – a bizarre world that soon you’ll realized you never want to leave.
Thus I never missed the chance paddling around the floating village all by myself and that was the most uplifting feeling I ever sensed there. For years since the first time I’ve learned about this mystical place, I dreamed exactly this image of myself amid this strange beauty of flowering lotus and dried bangkal trees floating abundantly on the tea-colored waters of Agusan Marsh. An overwhelming feeling of joy wrapped me when I was paddling that dream for real. I felt more than blessed knowing that the universe connived to take me to this very place and bring that image into life.
Have you ever experienced crying for no reason because you seemed to connect yourself to a place you’ve just been for first the time but seemed to be your home for many years? That was actually what I felt – home. I was home. And bit by bit, I drown myself to that feeling – the feeling of contentment and humility. That home is where Mother Nature dwells.
I was wearing my Mindanaoan outfit that day and I wore it with great pride. But I wasn’t only wearing the colors of Mindanao, I was relishing every bit of that feeling – the sheer feeling of great pride knowing that our home, our Mindanao, is blessed with vast natural attractions and bizarre destinations of never ending quest for nature. Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is Mindanao’s proof to that affluence of nature.
Life in Agusan Marsh despite its isolation from the modern world we know is good. There is an atmosphere of stillness and sheer bliss that awaits you there – a magical feeling that will make you feel so connected with the earth. It will make you appreciate the kindness of the world and will make you realized how blessed you are to have reached this hidden part of the planet. It will change you. It has changed me. I’ve learned the truest meaning of humility. And wherever life takes me, I will never ever forget that one fine day I journeyed to this mystical wetland of the country.
NOTABLE FACTS ABOUT AGUSAN MARSH:
Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area and wildlife sanctuary declared by the former President Fidel V. Ramos. In 1999, the area was enlisted in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, an intergovernmental treaty of different countries committed to maintain the ecological character and plan for the wise and sustainable use of their respective Wetlands of International Importance. In 2006, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary was submitted along with other twenty-seven sites in the Philippines to the Tentative List for possible nomination as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A special shout-out of thanks to the Mindanao Tourism Council, Provincial Tourism Office of Agusan Del Sur andLGU of Loreto for organizing this trip. Same goes to the Tourism People of both Loreto and the Province. To my #ByahengMindanaw family (Jon, Louie, Leah, Madayaw, Caroline, Sarah, Dan, Claire, Kelzie Nicole, Jayvie, Matt, Jeniel, Jovic, Ida, Jea) such a great pleasure journeying with you in this wetland paradise . Until next time!
HOW TO GET TO LAKE PANLABUHAN IN LORETO, AGUSAN DEL SUR:
Perhaps the most popular entry point to Agusan Marsh is the town of Bunawan. It came to fame because it is where Lolong, then world’s largest crocodile in captivity, was captured. But Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is more accessible passing through the town of Loreto in Agusan del Sur. In fact, Lake Panlabuhan is part of this town. If your point of entry is Davao City, you can take a bus going to Trento, Agusan Del Sur at Ecoland Bus Terminal. Bus fare is around Pgp 250.00 and will take you approximately 4 hours. First trip is 3:00AM. When you get to Trento, hire a single motorcycle or habal-habal that will take you to the town of Loreto. Travel time is about 1 hour.
Get a guide to lead you to Lake Panlabuhan via a two-ride trip on two different motorized bancas. Contact the provincial tourism office for special tour packages: [email protected] or contact Shirley at 0910-6712797. You may also contact the community leaders at 09072324307 (Boyet), 09305287194 (Maritess), 09262053052 (Ruben). There are lodging houses in the town proper. In Lake Panlabuhan, the floating Tourism Hall will serve as you home as you romance the beauty of Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.
♫ “Pinoy kapwa Pinoy ang naglalaban doon sa Mindanao
Marami ng dugo ang dumanak sa lupa ng Mindanao
Whenever I hear this song played on radio, I often wonder if the great Freddie Aguilar had really spent a day or two, or perhaps lived a month or a year in all the places in Mindanao to claim that the Philippine’s second largest island is generally in chaos, in conflict or in war. I have so much respect for the guy, but for this particular song, I deem it deceiving. You see, Mindanao is such a gigantic island. Agreed, there are conflicts and insurgencies occurring in some of parts of the Island but to say Mindanao as a whole, a proud Mindanaoan like me will absolutely disagree. However, this post is not about Ka Freddie or Mindanao, the song. This is about my Mindanao, our Mindanao, and its heavenly bliss that has exceptionally captivated the hearts of those who brave to come and relish the beauty of the “Promised Land”.
Much has been said about Mindanao. This dreadful sweeping generalization threatens tourism progress and economic growth of the whole Island. Enough, we clamor. Mindanao is such a gigantic island. There is peace in Mindanao. There is harmony in diversity in our Island. Mindanao is an island of blissful wonders to behold away from those generalized negative views about her. Ask those who came, those who braved, and those who experienced Mindanao – they’ll all say; there is “Mindanao Bliss”.
The Travel Teller’s Blissful Images of Mindanao
Having born, raised and lived my entire life here in Mindanao, I have so many stories to tell about the many beautiful things about our Island – its people, picturesque places, diverse culture, proud heritage and other attributes said to be “Trademarks of Mindanao”. But my one single voice is not enough to attest the truth of what I say.
So, the brightest, the smartest and the bravest Pinoy Travel Bloggers unite together to prove that Mindanao is “a blessed land to an unpolished gem, the beauty is within, and only the keen traveler can see, and find charm even in the most mundane situations.” This is the November Edition of Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival with the theme “Mindanao Bliss”.
30 Pinoy Travel Bloggers, 30 Travel Stories, 30 Sets of Photos, 30 Reasons To Prove A BLISS CALLED MINDANAO.
JOIN ME and my fellow Filipino Travel Bloggers as we take you to the best destinations in the Islands of Mindanao where beauty of nature, richness of culture, warmth of its proud people are beyond compare! This is our collective efforts to showcase the many blissful things to experience, discover and see in the 97,530 square kilometers land area of the Island once dubbed, “The Land of Promise”.
Journeying James’ Kaalim Family of Samal Island, Davao
Journeying Jamesduring his Mindanao Challenge 400 for 16 days embraced a true Mindanaoan hospitality given away by Kaalim Family while couchsurfing in the Island Garden City of Samal. His short stay ended up having a second family ready to welcome him back on his next visit to the Island. Kaalim Family hosted James throughout his stay and accompanied him in exploring the many spectacular places to see in the Island City. Experiencing this, the Journeying James said the warmth and hospitality of the people are enough to attest the goodness of the Mindanaoan people that truthfully is bliss to stranger like him.
Marly Ramone Go’s Nomadic Experiences at the 7 Falls of Lake Sebu
Marky Ramone Go grew up listening to his favorite folk band Asin and their Song “Cotabato” that speaks conflicts and religious differences of the province. Somehow, it gave him the bad reckoning reputation of Mindanao as a whole. But during his Nomadic Experiences at the Lake Sebu in the South Cotabato where he met the community of peace loving Tibolis, beheld the beauty of 7 falls of Lake Sebu, rode on the two heart stopping ziplines, savored the nature and wonders of this mystical town gave him a positive perspective about Cotabato and Mindanao as a whole. He said, “It’s true that there are still parts in Mindanao – just like in every place in the world, where peace remains elusive – BUT mostly it is the opposite”. Had he listened to the derogatory media reports about Mindanao in general and not braved enough to come our island; he wouldn’t have experienced that yet another different Mindanao Bliss only Lake Sebu can give.
Jason Montana’s Amazingly Davao!
Jason Montana, the Explorer, on his very first solo trip to Mindanao, chronicled what he called a total jam-packed of nature tripping. Having gone to the many exciting places to see in Davao City and the fun filled visit to the thrilling places in the Island Garden City of Samal, Montana The Explorer acclaimed this visit, Amazingly Davao! A blissful Davao!
Rain Amantiad’s MINAULON: Recollections from a Small Town’s Big Star
Rain Amantiad’s article about her little barrio of Minaulon in Bacolod, Lanao Del Norte proves that even little rustic barrios like hers can be a blissful destination to visit. Minaulon may not have famed tourist spots but its friendly community of peace loving and hopeful people is enough to experience an authentic Mindanao bliss. Like other barrio’s children, Rain used to be a little star of hope of her people. And as tribute to her roots, she wrote this article in the hope of luring travelers to go beyond the big cities of Iligan, Pagadian or Ozamis and discover her little humble beginnings. This is blissfully inspiring.
Fung Hu’s Islands of Simunul, Sibutu and Sitangkai
Fung Hu’s virtual journal takes us to the Islands of Simunul, Sibutu and Sitangkai in Tawi-Tawi. He described these peaceful islands in the south as great potentials for tourism development because of its historical and cultural interests. Simunul, being the seat of Islam faith in the Philippines; Sibutu, being the home to the Sama people known to be skilled seafarers and boat builders of pre-colonial time; and Sitangkai, known as the “Venice of the Philippines” are three of most important Islands in Tawi-Tawi worthy to be explored and experienced. Three blissful Islands of Tawi-Tawi.
Audrey Tamayo’s Seeing Samal Island in New Light
AUDREY GLADYS TAMAYO of Byaheng Barokvowed she would never travel back to a specific place once already visited. But her passion and love for photography made her travel back to the places she’d been including the Island Garden City of Samal to capture what she called “chasing the light moments”.Her photos of a glorious Sunrise at Balet, cascading waters of Haguimit Falls and that Blue Christmas at Bluewaters absolutely attest on what she called “Samal Island in New Light”. A blissful Light!
Christine Fernandez’s To 5 Mindanao Adventures
CHRISTINE FERNANDEZ, the Jovial Wanderer, listed her Top 5 Adventures during her various visits to the many places in Mindanao. Water Tubing in Sibulan River in Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur; Toploading Ride in Kidapawan, North Cotabato; her motorbike Tour at the Volcanic Island of Camiguin; Spelunking at Sumalsag Cave in Bukidnon; and, her Waterfalls Adventure also in Bukidnon tops this list. Having experienced all these, the jovial wanderer finds Mindanao a blissful destination of perfect adventures!
Jerome Baluyut’s Surigao! Surigao!
JEROME BALUYUT spent 9 days backpacking some parts of Mindanao including the provinces of Surigao Del Norte and Surigao Del Sur. Surigao! Surigao! He yelled out in amusement experiencing adrenaline, fun and excitement in the two Northern Provinces of Mindanao. Not only the beauty of Surigao that captivated Balintanaw but the kindness and warmth of the Mindanao people that he met along the way. He left Mindanao with a grateful heart knowing there are a lot of things to discover and kindest souls to meet in the Island. Indeed a blissful Surigao!
Wendell Cagape’s The Lost Legacy of the Dayawan Torogan
WENDELL GLENN CAGAPE, a proud Mindanaoan, featured DayawanTorogan located in the Islamic City of Marawi in Lanao del Norte. DayawanTorogan, which literally means sleeping place, is one important historical place that played a pivotal role in Mindanao. This piece of architecture unravel the Muslim-Filipino ingenuity and creativity of building a structure without the use of even a single nail and yet remains earthquake proof. It has historical significance worthy to be learned and discovered. Journeys and Travels lures every travelers to come and visit this place to get to know Mindanao’s rich culture and heritage. A blissful discovery of Mindanao’s heritage!
Marcus Castle’s Sun, Sea, Sand – The Top Beaches in Mindanao
MARCUS CASTLE, a beach bum from Kidapawan City who is also a proud Mindanaoan, listed the Top Beaches he visited in Mindanao. Being the second largest island in the Philippines, Mindanao is endowed with beautiful pristine beaches one “son of a beach” would die to bum and laze around. Mindanao is generally typhoon free where mighty sun shines throughout the year. Among these top beaches Marcus visited are the beaches of Kisulad, Davao Del Sur, the pink sand beach of Sta. Cruz Islands of Zamboanga City, the untouched beaches of Tawi-Tawi, Camiguin Island, Bislig, Suriago Del Sur, Siargao Beach, Dahican Beach of Mati, Davao Oriental, Dakak Beach, the Island Garden City of Samal. Topping the list is the pristine beaches of Gumasa, Sarangani Province. These are the blissful beaches of Mindanao!
Renz Bulseco’s A Promised Land
RENZ BULSECO, the Traveling Nomad from Mindanao, used a fictional character named Luis Serafico in his articled “A Promised Land”. Here, like any other individuals living outside Mindanao, the idea of living in the island filled with negative news is downright scary. But Luis’ job as a journalist demanded him to be relocated in Mindanao. Hesitant, he flew to Mindanao filled with desperation. But his relocation to Mindanao paved way to see the many hidden wonders of the Island, beautiful and hospitable Mindanaons and superb destinations truly amazing to behold. From the beaches of Samal to the waterfalls of Iligan, from the valleys for Bukidnon to the historical city of Dapitan were among the places Luis explored. Two years have passed and Luis is still based in Mindanao, in Davao, madly in love with the beauty of the Islands and genuine hospitality of Mindanaons. Luis finds true bliss in Mindanao. Renz finds true bliss in Mindanao.
Chin Chan’s There’s More to Dipolog than a Bottle of the City’s Renowned Spanish-Style Sardines!
CHIN CHAN, a Juanderful Pinoy, traveled to Mindanao to discover Dipolog City. Alas, when he got, he found out there’s more to Dipolog than a bottle of the city’s renowned Spanish-style sardines! He toured around the many interesting things about Dipolog. He learned that the City is the home of the longest boulevard fronting the beachline in entire Island of Mindanao. Foodtrip, church visits and city tour fascinated the Juanderful Pinoy. But the mixing and mingling with the Dipolognon made Chin Chan’s visit to Dipolog most memorable. At the end he exclaimed, “Dipolog blissfully rocked my world!”
Ding Fuellos’ Enchanting Lake Mainit
DING FUELLOS, the Pinoy Explorer, finds the Enchanting Lake Mainit in Surigao del Norte an imposing natural beauty one should not miss when in this northern part of Mindanao. She’d been to Laguna Lake, the man-made Burnham Lake in Baguio City, and Lake Sebu of Caotabato but she finds the beauty of Lake Mainit just naturally awesome that vivid reflections of the blue skies can be visibly seen. Ding recommends to visit Lake Mainit, whether a short trip or a quick stop. Lake Mainit is worth visiting and surely one can be captivated and enchanted by its beauty. A blissful natural beauty endowed to the Province of Surigao.
Enrico Dee’s An Afternoon at the B’laan Village at Lamlifew
ENRICO DEE, the man behind the Byahilo, spent an afternoon at one of the B’laan Villages in Malungon, Sarangani Province. Having read an article in the Lonely Planet Magazine Philippines featuring this Tribal Village, Enrico decided to visit the Village situated in small sitio named Lamlifew in Barangay Datal Tampal in Malungon. When he got there, Enrico was fascinated by how B’laan women gathered and work together to put up the School of Living Tradition, a school that traditional way of life of the B’laans is continued and taught to the younger generation. Preservation of tradition and culture abounds the place. This is one best example how Mindanaons value their love for culture and the arts passed from generations to generations. They are blissful B’laans.
Lai Marie Mirasol’s Maranao Culture Educated at Aga Khan Museum
LAI MARIE MIRASOL, a Pinay Travelista, revisited the Islamic City of Marawi and discovered herself the rich cultural heritage of the Muslim Maranao preserved at the Aga Khan Museum located at Mindanao State University Marawi. Here, the Pinay Travelista who also is a proud Mindanaoan took pride in learning the affluence of culture and heritage of our Maranao brothers and sisters. Museums like Aga Khan are perfect venue to educate oneself about significance of culture and tradition of one place. Gladly, in Mindanao, there are numbers of museums preserving Mindanao blissful culture.
Izah Morales’ Lake Sebu: Home of the Peace Loving T’bolis
IZAH MORALES, the Tripadora, journeyed to the land of the peace loving T’bolis in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato to experience culture and traditions at its best. The T’bolis of Lake Sebu are known to be among the remaining IPs in Mindanao where its rich culture and tradition are still practiced even to this day. During her visit, the Tripadora was treated to an authentic T’boli dance and had given the chance to meet the famous dream weaver Lang Dulay, the living national treasure of the T’bolis. In Mindanao, Lake Sebu is indeed a perfect place to discover both culture and nature at its finest.
Bonz Panganiban’s The Monastery of Transfiguration: Behind the Pyramid, Unveiled
BONZ PANGANIBAN, the man behind the Con Tour Blog, traveled one weekend to the valleys of Bukidnon to unveil the mysteries behind the Pyramid of the Monastery of Transfiguration in San Jose, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. He listed 10 significant traits behind the Pyramid that made him considered the Monastery of Transfiguration as “The Bliss of Central Mindanao”. Not known to many, the Church of Transfiguration was the last architectural work of the National Artist for Architecture, Leandro Locsin. Inside the church features interesting pieces of arts and designs that truly defines its uniqueness the many churches in Mindanao.
Earl Bolivar’s Bukidnon: Highland Bliss in Impasugong
EARL BOLIVAR of Suroy Pilipinas, is one of those travelers enticed by the beauty of Impasugong, a town in the northeastern part Bukidnon that is said to become the next important eco-tourism destination in this landlocked province of Mindanao. Impasugong is a quaint first class municipality whose rugged terrain is defined by scenic mountains; deep canyons and gorges. Earl, like other travelers who traveled to Impasugong, instantly fell in love upon peeking inside and seeing the wonders of nature that Impasug-ong possesses. Coming from a Mindanaoan like Earl who has explored the many wonders of his home province of Bukidnon, certainly, this part of Mindanao is blissful haven of spectacular highland sights guaranteed to take one’s breath away.
Micaela Rodriguez’s Camiguin Island: Mysterious and Beautiful
Senyorita MICAELA RODRIGUEZlisted the island born out of fire, Camiguin, as one to the Top 3 destinations in the Philippines she would love to visit again and again. For her, Camiguin Island remains mysterious and beautiful even if she keeps on coming back. The island never bores her. Camiguin being one island but packed with natural wonders and great tourist spots is undeniably an ideal destination for blissful adventures.
Mhe Anne Ojeda’s Mindanao Bliss: Cateel, Davao Oriental!
MHE-ANNE OJEDA, a seasoned traveler, was convinced to visit my hometown Cateel after reading my entry to the PTB’s Blog Carnival Hometown Theme of which she hosted. My article features my humble beginnings and the many spectacular places to discover in my birthplace including the famed Aliwagwag Falls, the Philippine’s highest waterfalls. In her journey to my hometown Cateel, she discovered that this coastal town of Davao Oriental has a lot to offer not just the Aliwagwag Falls. Her passion for her Comings and Goings made her realized that the whole island of Mindanao is so blessed with ample of natural attractions just waiting to be explored and experienced. Experiencing Cateel, Atty. Mhe-Ann understands why I am so proud being a blissful son of my hometown and Mindanao.
Francis Balgos’ Camiguin | Mt Hibok Hibok Hot Spring
FRANCIS NUNEZ BALGOS, the Pala-lagaw, finds the volcanic island province of Camiguin as one of the best places to visit in the entire Mindanao. And when in there, a visit to the Mount Hibok Hibok Ardent Hot Spring is a must. He considers this a perfect jump off site for mountaineers and a family hot tub. Indeed, there are plenty of things to do and see when in Camiguin. But after one’s day tour to the whole island, bathing and soaking at the warm healing waters of Ardent Hotspring is truly a great treat. And from my experience, I must agree there’s bliss in this part of Camiguin.
Kara Santos’ Finding Bliss in a Tribal Fiesta
KARA SANTOS,in one of her travels to Mindanao, was brought to the foothills of Davao to witness the fiesta of the Matigsalog Tribe, who reside in the forests and remote barangays of Marilog. She called this as one of the most blissful and memorable places that she’s been in the country. That trip was few years back, but she still vividly recalls how special it was to feel and witness such blissful tribal fiesta. Having experienced ritual dances, heard stories, commune with the members and kids of the tribe, she realized that even people who are away from the modern world and digital age can find bliss in the own little way. That trip gave Kara one innate blissful experience.
Berniemack Arellano’s Mindanao Saga: Return to the Land of Promise
BERNIEMACK ARELLANO’s Habagat Centralchronicled his various travels to the different provinces, towns and cities in Mindanao entitled “Mindanao Saga: Return to the Land of Promise”. Like others, Bernie considers Mindanao as “The Wild West” of the Philippines. It was this year when the man behind Habagat Central traveled back Mindanao, the land of his ancestors, to learn more about its culture, commune with its people and appreciate more its unexplored wonders. From Marawi to Cotabato, Zamboanga to Davao, from Iligan to Gensan, these are among the many places Bernie traveled in Mindanao to rediscover his roots. Summarizing his journey through his article and photos, Bernie truly showed the uniqueness of every place he’d been in Mindanao and takes pride about the blissful things it can offer.
Edelito Sangco’s Bucas Grande Island – 3 Compelling Reasons To Visit The Mindanao All-In-One Destination
EDELITO SANGCO, the man behind Island Vacations, is lucky to be among the residents of Socorro, Surigao Del Norte. Socorro is the home of the Bucas Grande Islands, the islands I consider truly a gift to the whole Mindanao. Edelito defines the Bucas Grande Island as a destination of various natural attractions. I was among those who were lured by the beauty of these Islands and I say it is beyond doubt worth visiting. The up close and personal encounter with the non-stinging jelly fishes of the Bucas Grande Islands is by far the most unforgettable Island experience I ever had. But there is more to see, more to explore in this blissful part of Mindanao.
LOST BOY LLOYD finds Dakak Park and Beach Resort in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte a blissful place to stay when in this part of Mindanao. Being a premium resort, Dakak Park and Beach Resort’s great deal of facilities and amenities make it the perfect place to relax, unwind and commune with nature. The exclusivity and tranquility of the beach make it the ideal place to stay especially for those who are seeking for peaceful and serene getaway. Having experienced it himself, Llyod believes that his blissful place must be visited when coming to Dapitan.
Estan Cabigas’ Why visit Maitum in Sarangani?
ESTAN CABIGAS, a certified Langyaw, finds the rustic town of Maitum, a gem in Sarangani Province, an interesting place to explore in Southern Mindanao. Discovering its interesting history, rich culture and picturesque sights is bliss in itself. Visiting the Pawikan Nesting Sanctuary, the anthropomorphic burial jars, watertubing in Pangi River, bat watching in Pinol and the close encounter with town’s T’boli are the among the must-experience things to do in Maitum.
Nathalie Penados’ A Visit to the Little Venice
NATHALIE PENADOSin her Chronicles of My Wandering Soles highly regards Barangay Day-asanin her home city of Surigao as one of the best places to visit while in the City. Barangay Day-asan, a typical floating village situated at Arellano District, is considered as the Little Venice of Surigao. The simple houses of more than 400 residents of this water village stand on wooden stilts or piles of rock and mostly with fish cages. Visiting Day-asan can be blissful experience in this part of Mindanao because it is one ecotourism destination that showcases great reforestation and conservation of mangrove forest.
Aleah Phils’ Danakit Cave: Spelunking in Tandag, Surigao del Sur
ALEAH PHILS, a Solitary Wandererfrom Surigao, considers spelunking at Danakit Cave at Tandag, Surigao Del Sur another great blissful experience to try when visiting this northeastern part Mindanao. When Aleah was home for vacation, she braved to explore some of the most unexplored and unexploited caves in her town. For spelunking enthusiasts, Danakit Cave is a must-explored cave. Amazing stalagmite and stalactites formations abound the cave. Tandag is very accessible from Butuan City, Surigao City and even Davao City.
EILEEN CAMPOS, the friendliest girl behindPossibly Pinay, traveled to Davao to experience the lures and beauty of the Island Garden City of Samal. With my help, Eileen was able to make her Do-It-Yourself Samal Tour one huge success. In two days, Possibly Pinay visited the awesome colony of Fruit Eating Bats at the Monfort Bat Sanctuary, climbed the Mount Puting Bato, Samal Island’s highest peak and a lot more. “What a blissful tour!” Eileen commended after enjoying the must-try things to do in Samal.
Daniel Karlo De Leon’s 10 Things I Miss About Mindanao
DANIEL KARLO DE LEON, an experienced traveler who’s been in and out of Mindanao, listed 10 things that he misses about the Islands. He had great memories while visiting some of the key cities and towns in the Island. Mindanao becomes an important Island destination for Karlo. It gives him a lot of experiences he learned for the first time. It gives him photographs that he considers masterpieces. It gives him gastronomic experiences until now he craves. It lets him experience authentic culture and tradition. Things he now misses. Above all, Mindanao gives him the blissful reason to come back, again and again.
The Travel Teller’s Blissful Images of Mindanao
AS FOR THE TRAVEL TELLER, Mindanao is my home. My blissful home. Mindanao is an abode of my ancestors who like me are passionate about living a life full of happiness, serenity and respect. Simply put, a blissful life. Cliché as it may seem, Mindanao is indeed a “land of promise”. It is a land of Mindanaoans who promise to live in peace and harmony despite of differences and diversity. Like my fellow Filipino Travel Bloggers who believe that Mindanao as a blissful place to find great adventure and worthy travel, we Mindanaoans believe that our Island is a gift to every Filipino in this country. A gift that needs to be seen, experienced and loved.
COME TO MINDANAO. THERE IS BLISS IN THIS ISLAND. THERE IS “MINDANAO BLISS.
To all the PINOY TRAVEL BLOGGERS who contributed to this Blog Carvinal, I sincerely thank you for showcasing the beauty of our Island. Mindanaoans like me will always be grateful. To my fellow Mindanaoans, this post for you. We are great blissful people living in this great blissful island of Mindanao.
To read previous BLOG CARNIVALS of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers, you may visit Estan Cabigas’ LANGYAW for the full complilation.
Aboard a passenger van, I traveled for almost two hours from Hayanggabon Port in Claver, Surigao Del Norte to Surigao City. Upon arriving at the City bus terminal, I hurriedly took a passenger multi-cab to bring me to the Ferry Port located at The Boulevard. Getting there, I immediately rushed to the location where boats bound to Dinagat Island are stationed. It was 11 in the morning then. Luckily, the boat was scheduled to leave at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. That was the only boat servicing Surigao City and Dinagat Islands on Sundays.
Basilisa, Dinagat Islands
A week before I planned this trip, fellow traveler Dr. Emilio Dela Rosa introduced me to Mr. Danilo Bulabos, the Provincial Tourism Officer of the Dinagat Islands. Mr. Bulabos also manages Bahay Turista Mini Chalet, a province-owned chalet considered to be the best place to stay while in the Island Province. Mr. Bulabos will be my official tour guide/host for my entire stay and adventure in the mystical Dinagat Province. That day, Mr. Bulabos was at Surigao City. So we decided to meet at one place and together we headed to our boat. Shortly, the boat started to sail going to our main destination, the Municipality of San Jose, capital town of Dinagat Islands. The boat trip from Surigao City to San Jose was about an hour and a half passing across the famed Surigao Strait. Dinagat Islands lies on the south side of Leyte Gulf. Leyte is to its west, across Surigao Strait, Mindanao is to its south and Pacific Ocean is to its east. Looking at the vastness of waters of the province, Dinagat Islands is composed of hundreds of breathtaking Islands and Islets waiting to be discovered and explored by travelers like me.
The view of the Islander’s Castle from the Boat
Entering the waters of Dinagat Islands, Mr. Bulabos started to tell me about the many interesting facts about the province of Dinagat Islands. From him I learned that Dinagat Islands had been a part of the First District of Surigao del Norte Province until becoming an independent province on December 2, 2006. The Province of Dinagat Islands is composed of seven municipalities namely Dinagat, Loreto, Cagdianao, Libjo (Albor), Basilisa (Rizal), Tubajon and its including the provincial capital, San Jose. Among the seven towns, the Municipality of Dinagat is the oldest community formally established in 1855.
Nearing the capital town of San Jose, Dinagat Islands
Approaching the town of San Jose, I immediately felt the coastal charm of the Province. There was an innate charisma that the Islands possess and it instantly hit me. Group of different Islands and Islets abound the place. Without me knowing, Mr. Bulabos was observing me keenly. He saw me so amazed at what I saw. So then he said. Dinagat Island is called “The Mystical Island Province of Love”. It is blessed with untouched natural wonders from pristine white sand beaches to unrevealed caves and coves, marvelous bonsai forests to stunning group of islands and islet. These gifts of nature are treasures that the people of Dinagat Islands are taking care of. Their love for the Islands developed protecting and preserving its natural wonders. Some of these wonders are until now still undisclosed. Hearing this from no less than the Tourism Officer of the Province, I can’t help but appreciate its people for their efforts to maintain the exquisite beauty of the Islands. During our conversation, I honestly told Mr. Bulabos the many negative things I heard about the province. I was truthful about my apprehensions. He said all of them in the Island including himself are aware of these bad publicities. But he assured me that my stay in Dinagat Islands will definitely change my perception about the Island and prove those malicious news are false. Hearing it, I felt relieved.
The Port of San Jose
Arriving at the Port of San Jose, we headed right away to Bahay Turista Mini Chalet, my official home for two days in Dinagat Islands. Bahay Turista is a very charming Chalet that also serves as a Tourist and Culture Center of the whole province. It showcases different handicrafts, various memorabilia and other tourism-related materials related to the Islands.
This Blogger at Bahay Turista Mini Chalet
The Facade of Bahay Turista – Tourism and Culture Center of Dinagat Islands
After checking in, Mr. Bulabos took me right away to the must see place in capital town of San Jose, the PBMA Founder’s Shrine. The Province of Dinagat Island is the home of the famed Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) and the town of San Jose serves as its center. PBMA is a SEC registered, legitimate, non-sectarian, non-profit, humanitarian and a brotherhood organization that came to existence since the early parts of 1960s. It was founded by the late Ruben Ecleo, Sr. its first Supreme President on October 19, 1965. Until today, PBMA is still headed by the Ecleos. The Ecleo’s as well are the political leaders of the Province of Dinagat Islands. The PBMA Founder’s Shrine was a masterpiece created by its members, done out of love and respect for its Supreme President. It is the where the body of the late Ruben Ecleo, Sr. was laid to rest.
PBMA Founder’s Shrine
The Shrine where PBMA former Supreme President Ruben Ecleo, Sr was laid to rest.
Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association Founder’s Shrine
Another spot in the Province that has become a tourist attraction of its own is the Islander’s Castle that sits atop the hilly portion of San Jose. It is a beautiful mansion owned by Governor Glenda Ecleo. It is not open to visiting public but they allow tourists to take pictures outside the gates of the Castle.
The Islander’s Castle
The Islander’s Castle of Governor Glenda Ecleo
Another attention-grabbing landmark is the PBMA President’s House located within the vicinity of the PBMA Founder’s Shrine. It has an interesting wall with carvings of different animals. The carvings on the wall appeared to me like group of different animals parading towards the President’s House. According to Mr. Bulabos, the carvings on the wall have significance to the organization.
The PBMA President’s House
Interesting Wall of the President’s House
Came dusk, a very magnificent orangey sunset consumed the whole Islands. From the where I stood, the dazzling color of the setting sun reflected down on the calm waters. It was very dramatic. I couldn’t stop staring the glorious sun gradually setting in front of me.
Sunset at San Jose, Dinagat Islands
This Blogger worshiping the stunning sunset of Dinagat Islands
After that quick tour, we headed back to Bahay Turista. On our way back to the Chalet, there are two things I learned that really amazed me about San Jose. Among the seven municipalities of the Province of Dinagat Islands, the capital town of San Jose strictly imposes a “smoking and drinking ban”. It is strictly prohibited on public areas. Smoking and drinking can only be done inside the houses of the residents. Hence, I’d seen no one smoking or drinking the whole time I was there.
This Blogger with Mr. Danilo Bulabos, the Provincial Tourism Officer of Dinagat Islands.
Back at the Chalet, I immediately prepared my things for the next day’s Dinagat Islands Exploration. From Mr. Bulabos words, the Island Tour will bring me to the pristine white sand beaches, gorgeous rock formations and untouched Islets that truly are Nature’s Gift to the people of Dinagat Island. Those words made me so excited.
The Bucas Grande Islands of Socorro, Surigao Del Norte is undeniably a paradise to experience. Blessed with many mystical attractions to see, Bucas Grande Islands offers excellent ways to experience nature at its finest, away from the bustles and hassles of city living and away from disheartening pollution. Among the many attractions in the Islands that offer exciting things to discover, Sohoton National Park tops the list. Sohoton is declared by the Philippine Government as a National Park covering a total area of 70 hectares. The park features mystical Sohoton Cove, amazing Sohoton Blue Lagoons and the picturesque seven Islets. What’s enchanting about the place is that Sohoton National Park can only be reached passing through a 60-meter cave-like entrance which can only be accessed during low tide. The cave-like entrance looks like an underground river. According to our tour guide, only those boatmen who have explored the area for years can safely access the place. I have never been to an underground river. That experience gave me an awesome thrill. Entering the scenic Sohoton National Park, it was the tranquility and serenity of the place that first caught my senses. Paradise, I murmured. The waters were so clear. Fishes were all over. We were even amazed seeing stingrays freely swimming in the waters. The untouched verdant forests that covered the seven Islets inside the Park added unspeakable natural beauty of the whole place. Paradise, I murmured again! Going further, our tour guide led us to yet another must-see place in the Park, the underground cave. During high tide, one needs to swim underwater down a small passageway to get inside. Luckily, it was low tide when we get there. But still swam going inside though the passageway was not fully covered by waters. The water inside the cave was so cold. It was very refreshing. From inside, reflections of the light from the underground water were so striking. They were like crystals sparkling in the waters.
The Opening of the Underground Cave
Stalactites and Stalagmites
This Blogger at the Underground Cave
From that underground cave, we were brought to yet another cave passing through a small opening. Inside the cave were various stalactites and stalagmites formations. In getting out, we went up passing a tiny hole leading to a six-foot high diving platform built up in a small cliff outside the higher portion of the cave and from there, we jumped into the cool, clear blue waters. After luxuriating ourselves with the beauty of nature embellished around Sohoton National Park, we decided to move on to our next destination. Besides, one should leave the park before the high tide, otherwise they cannot go out. Exploring Sohoton National Park was an extraordinary experience for me. The whole thing was packed with thrill and action. It offers not only natural beauty but it also guarantees ultimate adventures that a thrill-seeker like me wants to experience.
Friday night. Ten o’clock. I was overwhelmed with excitement as the passenger van started to leave Davao City. Point of destination was the Port of Hayanggabon in the Municipality of Claver, Surigao Del Norte. I was among the group of eleven outdoor enthusiasts heading to Socorro, Surigao Del Norte to explore the famed Sohoton Cove of the Enchanted Bucas Grande Islands. Hayanggabon Seaport is the jump off harbor going to these Islands. It was one fine evening when we left Davao City. The weather was excellent giving us hope that our journey to the Bucas Grande Islands will be fun and exciting. I have never been to the Province of Surigao Del Norte. But I’ve heard so many beautiful stories about the countless natural wonders of the province. It thrilled me thinking of going there and seeing these wonders in its full glory. The trip from Davao City to Claver took about 7 hours passing through the different municipalities of Agusan Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte and finally Surigao Del Norte. I was hoping to see the view of these towns but since we were traveling by night, we opted to sleep while on board to gain enough strength for an anticipated strenuous yet fun filled Island Tour in Bucas Grande. At five o’clock in the morning, I woke up realizing we were now traveling along the coastal road of Surigao Del Norte. The sky was beginning to light up. What was amusing was the amazing view of the seascape blending the pinkish orangey color of early morning sky that appeared like a painting to me. It was a welcoming treat to my eyes. A beautiful dawning of a new day was just in front of me. I learned we were already at Claver, Surigao Del Norte and heading towards the Port of Hayanggabon. The scene was too perfect we couldn’t afford to miss. We stopped at one side. Grabbed our cameras out and started capturing what I call a “dramatic sunrise”.
This Blogger worshiping this magnificent Sunrise.
When the sky was lighting up, its pinkish orangey color started to reflect on the still waters of Claver Bay. It was a stunning scene. Moments later, the first light of the daybreak came out creating magnificent rays that really struck us. And then another glorious reflection of the rising sun reflected on the waters. It was gradual. The more it rose, the more it became striking. The colors turned more vivid. The scene became so dramatic. I was carried away by a delightful feeling of catching the perfect round shape of the mighty sun rising and shining in front of me. As the sun rose to its full glory, I realized the whole environs became alive. Truthfully, sunrises promise to give hope, light and life to everything. I was never a sunrise person. I can’t battle waking up early and brave to catch the first light. But I always dream of capturing one beautiful sunrise that I can take pride of – one sunrise I can truly say close to perfection! SUNRISE AT CLAVER made that dream came true! To this day, this is my PERFECT SUNRISE. As we headed to the Port of Hayanggabon, the rising sun was still in its full grandeur giving us assurance of a good weather for the day. It gave us hope for an exciting Island Exploration. That SUNRISE AT CLAVER was a good start of our day. A good start to begin an unforgettable Enchanted Bucas Grande Island Exploration.
This is the first part of “EXPLORING CARAGA REGION: The Travel Series”