Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, and Camiguin: The Northern Mindanao Adventure

Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, and Camiguin - this is the trio of a Northern Mindanao trip. Catch a plane from Manila to CDO, ride a van or motorcycle (if you're that adventurous) to Bukidnon and back. Then from Cagayan de Oro, ride a bus or rent a van to the port wherein you can catch a ferry to Camiguin. That's the usual route/adventure for those interested in white water rafting, ziplining, and basically a fun adventure!

This can be done in (just) 3 full days! (Imagine the vacation leaves you can save...) It only takes one long weekend and some cash to enjoy so much. Three days two nights: one day for rafting and ziplining then overnight in CDO and then travel for Camiguin for tours and swimming then overnight in Camiguin and you still have the third day free before your flight!

First stop is Cagayan de Oro, the City of Golden Friendship and the gateway for nearby provinces. When we touched down CDO Airport we opted to ride the zipline in Bukidnon first because (I think) if we started with the white water rafting we would be so spent that we won't fully enjoy Bukidnon as much, so upon pick-up from the airport we went straight to Bukidnon for some serious ziplining.

Bukidnon
You'll pass by DOLE's pineapple farm on the way which is a good spot for taking scenic photos. Or okay, jump shots.

There are 3 lines in Dahilayan Adventure Park for ziplining, including their "Asia's longest zip line." Their latest "ride" is the DropZone Sky Swing wherein you'll be pulled all the way up and you have to pull the cord to release yourself from all the pent-up girly voice in you. They only have one tip for us, "Remember to scream like a baby!" The guide didn't say "scream like a girl," but mentioned "baby"; I think he's not sexist. Props to kuya.
Mar has too much exposure already.
Since we're there, I was up for the DropZone challenge!! I would be the one pulling the cord for us because Sarah said if she's going to be the one to release the lock, we would be up there until it's time to go back to Manila. If anyone freezes from fear, s/he can stay all day up there. Release on cue or prolong your agony. Pick your poison!
Oh, it looks soooo safe.
Posing for the camera is optional. Shouting your lungs off is a requirement.

Cagayan de Oro
We're ready for the waves! White water rafting is one of the key attractions in Cagayan de Oro. We employed the services of Great White Water Tours (see Contacts portion below) whose package includes airport pick-up and ziplining at Dahilayan Adventure Park at Bukidnon, not to mention lunch (or dinner) and snacks.
Pre-war of the worlds...with the river. Our guides are really hilarious by the way.
Remember to keep your legs up when you're in the water, those rocks are nasty! I was one of those thrown into the river and got to experience seeing a rock come closer to your face (is this how they felt when Titanic hit the iceberg?). Seriously, I thank God the water was not murky or brown when we were there (depends on the weather) as I was sure I involuntarily drank a lot of water. A lot.
There are days when you fall from the raft.... It's freaking life changing!
Victory at the end of the day! Well, wait until the next day for the muscle pain. It's definitely worth it. Embrace it like a badge of honor! (And good luck on moving.)

We stayed at a nice (with regards to room quality and price) hotel named Budgetel. It's a new place so I highly recommend it. After being dead for some time, we woke up really early to catch the first ferry trip to Camiguin. Benoni Port is located at Misamis Oriental so we rode a van (since we're 5 in a group, it's not heavy on the budget plus it's more convenient) going there instead of waiting for the bus.

In a nutshell for How to Get to Camiguin from CDO and Vice Versa: Go to Agora Bus Terminal (everyone in CDO knows where this is so you can just take a trike going there) and ride either a bus going to Butuan or rent a van (PHP 1,400 is a good price). Both buses (tell the ticket dude you're going to Camiguin) and vans will drop you at the Balingoan Port in Misamis Oriental where you will be purchasing tickets for the ferry aka roll-on-roll-off (RORO) which will end at Benoni Port at Camiguin. Camiguin is just an hour away!
Balingoan Port of Misamis Oriental. Jump off to Camiguin!

Port of Benoni at Camiguin.
How to get back? Ask to be dropped off at Benoni Port and then ride the ferry back to Misamis Oriental. There is a bus terminal right across the street (you can walk this) and there are lots of trips back to Cagayan de Oro.
Our ferry ride back to CdO. Check out the first trip in the photo below.


Camiguin
Day tour of the whole island of Camiguin. The island born of fire. Niiiice! Old Volcano pretty much did a lot of damage in this humble province. We freaking braved the rain when the storm was there and I have never felt so cold and wet in my life. Oh adventure, I've never asked for so much in this ferry ride. We initially thought if we were going to be thrown overboard (just like rafting) and I have been eyeing the life jackets ever since we boarded the ferry.
Refugees at 4am.
We stayed at Paras Beach Resort which is a really beautiful place. The cottages/rooms are nice and clean, the amenities are great, the pool is wonderful, White Beach is just a few minutes away, the price is reasonable, and we got the tour from them as well. Let's move on with the tour!

First stop is the Katibawasan Falls. When we were there, it was like we're expecting the Presidential chopper to arrive and everyone else was asked to step back. The sound of the waterfall was so loud (well since it rained earlier, the water has been notorious) and the sight was just marvelous. Well, I was really tempted to swim there but after what happened to me in CDO, naaaah. I'll pass. I love being alive.

Then there's DENR's Ostrich Farm where they breed guess what? Ducks! No, duh. Ostriches. I asked them what's their purpose on breeding these lovely big birds. Dude told me, "after the zoos, maybe we can have ostrich meat." OSTRICH FREAKING MEAT. Are you fracking kidding me?!
Game face on, ostrich style.

Next stop is the Kibila Giant Clam Conservation and Ocean Nursery with an entrance fee of PHP50. We didn't go snorkelling because it was raining, we were tired, and on a self(ish)-note, I have been to a giant clam conservation site before at Zambales. Nonetheless, our guide (the kid) was so smart and very informative. She knows her giant clams really well.

Then we have Sto. Nino's Cold Spring. Seriously, it's cold. The weather was not sunny so it didn't help at all. It took me the longest to adjust and swim in. In other news, Mariel did a quick jump into the water and we were applauding her bravery against the cold spring. Then after 10minutes, she realized she still has her phone (which is NOT waterproof) inside her pocket. YAY!!! Motorola frozen cold. Tip: put your soaked device in a plastic or container-full of rice grains. That'll help in drying.

Then we have Bura Soda Water Pool (or is it Park?). How this island can churn out so many different kinds of water is beyond my imagination (well aside from the fact that there are 4++ volcanoes in this small island so it's really possible). They have cold springs, hot springs, and... a soda spring. What-the-freaking-fart is a soda spring?! They have two big pools and one drinking area where the soda water flows endlessly. Some claim that it tastes like well, duh, soda water but to benchmark a reference, it's like Sprite minus the "spirit" which is carbon dioxide for you.

The Sunken Cemetery is one of the more famous attractions of Camiguin. Say "Camiguin!" and you'll hear "Sunken Cemetery!" echoing back at you (and that would be creepy if it actually happens). If you swim or look closely through the waters, you will be able to see some tombstones and markers underwater. You have to pay PHP 20 (or was it 10 pesos?) for the boatman to ferry you to and from the cross. They will also serve as your photographer, just look at the dedication in the second photo below.
That is how it is done!
Since much havoc was brought about by the eruption, there are ruins as well. We passed by the Ruins of the Gui-Ob Church which was all creepy considering it was almost dusk. We were half-waiting for our driver to start telling us ghost stories, which he didn't do by the way, and we're thankful that he didn't. Otherwise, we would be scaring ourselves silly for the rest of the day (or night).
Ruins of the monastery right next to a humongous Avatar-like tree.
And since my friends were dead tired (no pun intended since we just visited a sunken cemetery plus church ruins), we didn't bother to trek the Walkway to the Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross. Basically you climb all the way up to the Old Volcano viewdeck wherein to keep your short attention span still inside Camiguin, they have Stations of the Cross along the way and they look beautiful!

And to cap off the tour, there's another famous attraction - the Ardent Hibok-Hibok Hot Spring which is guess what, situated near the foot of Mt. Hibok-Hibok. There are different "stages" in the hot spring area, so you can walk around and test the waters, wherever you feel comfortable with the temperature.

We were starving by the end of the day and we walked from the resort to a really wonderful Italian restaurant, Luna Ristorante, which we thought was a complete overpriced food source. We were so wrong you could be right. The oven-brick pizza was huge and great (the cheese! the cheese!), the single-serve pasta can be good for two people (or one hungry me), and the staff is very hospitable. Food shots!
Sorry, couldn't wait anymore. I scooped one out from my tiramisu immediately.

Pasalubong Guide:
- If people know you're going to Cagayan de Oro, instant pasalubong is pastel. Pastel. Pastel. Pastel. It's the secret weapon of Camiguin (main office) for world domination. Heck, it made me shut up. Those "buns with filling" are really good. Promise. You can buy these buns of gold at CdO, around 150 for a dozen if I'm not mistaken or if inflation hasn't affected it yet.
Remember this box. Vjandep is the way to be.
- Never ending shirts, keychains, and magnets. The shirts near the Sto. Nino Cold Spring are really good in terms of quality and design.
- Lanzones. Enough said.


Itinerary:
1st Day:
- Touchdown CDO!
- Pick-up from airport for Bukidnon (bags are in the Great White Water office).
- Zipline like crazy! Ride the Drop Zone!!! It's a freaking good experience! (Notice the number of exclamatory marks?)
- Trip back to Cagayan de Oro for the rafting. Being thrown into the river is the highlight.
- Rest for Christ-sake.
2nd Day:
- Early morning travel to the bus station for either the bus or a van to the Balingoan Port (Misamis Oriental).
- Ride the ferry to Camiguin (Benoni Port).
- Tour the whole of Camiguin in one day! And eat your intestines out, you deserve those extra calories!
3rd Day:
- Ferry to station, then take the bus back to CDO. Don't ride the trike anymore, the station is just walking distance from the port.
- Last minute shopping for pasalubong and then dinner at CDO before flight back home.

Travel Tips:
- Bring loose change as always, it's still the Philippines but save everyone the hassle of counting change for you. Most of the spots at Camiguin have entrance fees - PHP 30 to 50 per place. Prepare your money!
- Locals can speak really good Tagalog and are friendly. Some are too friendly and offer to carry your bag/s for you. Unless you have body pain or are feeling generous to tip them, don't bother. Smile and say no.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Always remember that even though you'll be drenched in the rapids, a nasty sunburn is still...nasty.
- Luna Ristorante is one of the most sulit (bang for your buck) places ever. They have oven-brick pizzas and the servings are huge. At first we thought it's just an overpriced restaurant but the food and service are great! We asked the server as to how it got its name and mentioned that Luna is the maiden name of the wife of the owner. Awww. Ciao, bella!
- Get the resort-port transfer when in Camiguin. The extra cost is worth it, because it's difficult to wander around Camiguin even if it's just a relatively small island.

Budget:
Here's my dirty laundry of expenses. Hahahaha. All are in Philippine Peso.
200 - NAIA 3 Terminal Fee
1699 + 300 - Great White Water Package (for "advanced" white water rafting and zipline package, inclusive of lunch and 2 snacks) *includes pick-up if you request for it **1699 for the regular white water course, we added 300 for the advanced
375 - Dropzone (for that gut-wrenching experience)
100/5 (there's 5 of us so we rented the whole trike) - Trike from CDO hotel to Agora Bus Terminal
1400/5 - Van from Agora Bus Terminal to Balingoan Port at Misamis Oriental
170 - Ferry ticket
130 - Total amount for entrance fees / boat ride
5300/5 - Resort payment (for overnight stay and tour van)
1600/5 - Transfer from Paras Resort to port (2-way) ** I suggest you take this one because transpo (that is not tricycle) is difficult in Camiguin
30 - CDO airport terminal fee

Contacts:
Great White Water (http://www.riverraftingcdo.com/)
Budgetel (http://budgetelcdo.brinkster.net/)
Paras Beach Resort (http://www.parasbeachresort.com/)

One of the best days! My face almost hitting the humongous rock is somewhat life-changing. It made me realize... I'm going to die anyway. (Nge.)

Thanks to Kara and Mariel for the lovely photos.

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