Fear, danger, killings, kidnappings, and other inhumane acts are just a few adjectives that most people, not a locale, use to describe Mindanao. It’s hard for a native to defend when there’s some truth to it. I wish I could erase and vanish it all from you, the negative association linked to our beautiful, prosperous, and humble home, Mindanao. But one has to understand that Mindanao is more than these undesirable comments. The further truth is, we live amicably and peacefully, those states of great disturbance, confusion, and uncertainty only occur singly, just like in any other places in the world. It is ill-fated that sensationalized delivery of unfortunate happenings hides the true beauty of Mindanao.
Traveler, tourist or not, wherever you go as you travel, utmost caution will always be inevitable and is highly suggested. So, if you think of breaking into whatever negative impact you heard about Mindanao, allow me to share these five cities I fell in love with which you can explore and experience for yourself. As follows are my top picks as I’ve experienced them for myself, firsthand.
Unknown to many, there’s a hidden gem for beach goers, snorkeling junkies, and diving fanatics, two hours away from the main city of Gensan. Tuka Marine Park held in the town of Kiamba. It’s a sanctuary they have deep-down-under and it’s well protected. It’s covered by hills, definitely isolated from the rest of Mindanao.
Getting there could be possible by 15-minute boat ride or two hour hike through the forests.
This is certainly a home for travelers, tourists, and the like who’s not fond of crowded beaches. Staying overnight is possible through people’s champ old beach house open for rent. If somehow, the main beach park is still too crowded for you, just ask a boat operator to take you to a more private parts for a certain fee. There are four white sand beaches hidden in its coves to choose from and a sure relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of the main cities can be expected.
4. Cotabato City
Most negative comments cited are directed to this city. As I always say, I’m no pro traveler, but passing by this city from time to time for work purposes brought so much pride on how it’s safe to visit this city. But, of course, it will be best to test the waters and assess the current situation before realizing any plans. So, what is it to see in Cotabato City? So much! You can find a lot of rice fields here, especially in Dukay, Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat which produces the best quality class of rice. Unidentified to many though, North Cotabato is even tagged as the “Rice Bowl of Mindanao.” Many of the crops it produces supplies all parts of Mindanao and some parts of the Philippines as a whole. You can a zip line up in South Cotabato and have a great view of the seven falls topped with a scenic rainbow in Lake Sebu.
And more to that, you can switch back to North Cotabato. It is home to the majestic Asik-Asik Falls located in Alamada.
Chase this waterfall and I’m sure you’ll be amazed with its beauty and its enchanting stance. The water of the falls comes springing from the rocks. Truly amazing!
It’s a hell of a ride to get there though, unless you have a private car ready to take on a rocky and bumpy road with you. From Cotabato City, a van could take you to Midsayap in an hour and from there you can take the big buggy jeepney,for approximately two hours, to Barangay Upper Dado, Alamada. From Upper Dado proper, hire a habal-habal to take you to the falls’ drop off point. From there, hike down to the waterfalls yourselves. Please, please remember “The Camper’s Creed” when you get there. Let’s all preserve it.
3. Surigao City
Surigao City is the capital of the province of Surigao del Norte. It’s the entryway by land from the Philippines’ largest island. This city is blessed with plenty natural picturesque spots that most Mindanaoans patronize as it’s only accessible by land. Seafoods cooked in different styles from big lobsters to crabs and prawns are rich in this city. You must already hear about Siargao, a home to surfers with its big surfing waves known as “Cloud 9.” If you visit this city, a call for week-long stay is needed because not known to many, Surigao City’s abundance grows to more attractions that you shouldn’t all miss. They have Sohoton Cave, Cuyapnit Cave, Magpupungko Rock Formation, Mapawa Cave, Buenavista Cave, Basul Island, Lake Mainit, Guyam, Daku and Naked Islets, and my personal favorite as of writing, Laswitan Lagoon in Cortes, Surigao del Sur.
An unbelievable rock formation is situated in this part of Surigao that when the sea waves are too high, a salty waterfall like flowing water to the main lagoon could be seen.
It’s awesome as it’s nothing like I’ve seen before. It’s best to catch the waves, creating waterfall-like scene around October to March as it’s the season of Amihan. I didn’t catch it myself when we went for a side trip around May and I vow to come back when I get the chance.
2. Samal (Island Garden City of Samal)
While I am saddened by the latest news concerning the abduction of our fellow brothers, I cannot just let you be blinded with that happening. Although I am sure that it would make you think twice about experiencing this island city. My well wishes and prayers are one with the nation that the victims are hopefully safe and that they may be saved in no time. But, you see, this city has been my easy go-to place to do away with the busy hustle of the metro. I have been there for a hike to Puting Bato just last Friday as of writing. And I have not experienced any harm; never had, never did. It’s unfortunate that this event has happen. I am not paid to promote the island but if you could look pass this mishap, please do and be your own guard.
The island city has really a lot of potential to offer and it’s a big loss to the community if it fails when it’s already booming. The city is the quickest, cheapest (if you choose, the less commercialized spots), and sweetest escape to most Davaoñeos and its visitors. It’s home to beach bummers, sun worshipers, snorkeling junkies, and even dive enthusiasts too, with its pristine and unspoiled beaches. It’s a 30-minute ferryboat away from Davao. There is also a barge that operates 24 hours a day costing P10 to regular individuals, which will take you at around the same time. There’s a liquor ban in Davao City up until 1 AM the following day and Samal has been the go-to place to continue every barkada good time sessions. When traveling to this city, bringing of Mangoes are prohibited because Samal has its own breed of mangoes. They’re keeping it protected and ensure the best of Samal mangoes. If you get the chance, make sure to catch the unharmed beaches of Canibad, Samalan Camp Park, and Kalinawan Resort. These three would surely provide the best cheap yet quality adventure to anyone. You can have your first 25-30m cliff dive in Canibad. The beach is filled with pebbles instead of sand.
You can run skinny dipping under the sun in Samalan Camp Park with its long stretch of shoreline.
Kalinawan Resort, on the other hand, is best for snorkeling and diving activities as the resort’s boundary has been a privately protected marine life sanctuary.
The owner of the resort pays the local government of Samal a certain fee so that water vessels won’t pass by their area. Thus, it remains to be preserved. Don’t have a good photo down under. But you should meet all sorts of “Nemo” there. Arffff.. Surreal!
My personal favorite, the city of waterfalls, Iligan City. At least almost two hours away from CDO, this very city happens to deviate the lyric of a song that goes like “don’t go chasing waterfalls.” Because if you get the chance to explore this city, make sure to catch the cascades that it’s best known for. Let’s go chasing waterfalls! There are actually seven of them: Maria Christina Falls, Dodiongan Falls, Pampam Falls, Kalubihon Fall, Dalipuga Falls, and this one waterfall that I vowed to advocate about, Tinago Falls.
Tinago is by far the most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen situated on the boundary of Barangay Purakan of the town of Linamon and Barangay Ditucalan of Iligan City. Getting there is cheap and so as the entrance fees.
Its name, Tinago, might mean “hidden,” but it’s one waterfall that’s not bound to be concealed. Expect at least 500-steps winding staircase, getting to the falls. It’s quite exhausting to chase but rest assured that when you see the place, it’s all going to be worth it.
There you have it. Expect this list to go a long way. I’m thinking of constantly updating this article in the future if I have time. I still have lots to write about. Pending alert!
I may have tossed myself from here and there around Mindanao, but I know that there’s still so much more to explore. Mindanao has a lot to offer. My tone may sound biased because I’m a locale here. But, while you fear and hesitate to give Mindanao a chance and yet remains curious, take a leap of courage! We’re more than the guns and wars. Pay us a visit and experience Mindanao for yourselves. Chaos, adversities, and any sort of crimes could be everywhere, even in your homelands too. Test the waters if you may, as much as you can. Stay cautious for your own safety just like how you would explore any place. But, kindly give Mindanao the benefit of the doubt and an open mind. Plus take me with you! Let’s go around, yeah?! Would love to show you around.
P.S. Contact me for details on how to go around these places my style, always the DIY style. Because I’m lost of words already. Haha! Until my next post!