Cagayan De Oro - Bukidnon - Camiguin (June 7-10, 2008)

If there’s one thing I learned from the Cagayan De Oro – Camiguin – Bukidnon trip I took with some work buddies two summers ago, it’s this: there’s nothing quite like jumping off cliffs, rafting down treacherous currents and sliding down a waterfall to bring people closer together.

First There Was Camiguin

Camiguin, our first destination, is a pretty commonplace travel destination, in that it has the customary natural wonders worth visiting, a few man-made historical sites, and as with most travel destinations in the Philippines, delicious and inexpensive food.

A small island located off the northern coast of Mindanao, its simple and quiet beauty is nothing commonplace, however, and for a rather tiny island, it’s quite extraordinary how it has so much to offer to a traveler. From the very tourist-y Walkway to the Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross, to the sunken cemetery, buried underwater due to a volcanic eruption in the 1800s:

Also in Camiguin, one can find a series of hot and cold springs for both travelers and locals to enjoy, as well as the majestic Katibawasan falls, hidden within tall cliffs of flourishing dark green foliage:

We spent about a day and a half in Camiguin, and for dinner during our only night on the island, we ate at a lovely place called Luna Ristorante. Owned by a Filipino-Italian couple, the place serves delectable Italian dishes. I found that one of the coolest things about the restaurant was how out-of-place it seemed. Who would’ve thought that a small Italian restaurant would flourish in a tiny tropical island in the Philippines? It’s not unlike Luca’s Restaurant in Talipanan Beach in Puerto Galera.

Early morning the next day, there was White Island:

One of those “vanishing islands” that capture the imagination of every traveler, White Island is an island made entirely of sand that sinks below and rises above water depending on the time of day. We got up bright and early on our second day in Camiguin to take a boat to the fabled island where we watched the sunrise and had breakfast.

By noon, we were already on a boat from Camiguin heading back to Cagayan De Oro where, before we headed to the city proper, we took a side trip to Bukidnon.

Del Monte, Bukidnon

There was but one thing that made us take a side trip to Bukidnon after arriving on a boat from Camiguin to Cagayan De Oro: our empty, carnivorous bellies. We had been told of the legendary steaks served at the Del Monte farms in Bukidnon, and being at such close proximity to the area, we figured, we might as well take the hour-or-so journey to the famed pineapple plantation to have a taste. So we haggled with a cab to take us to and from the Del Monte farms in Bukidnon to see if their steaks were really worth the trip.

Fortunately, they were! The steaks in Del Monte were big in size and big in flavor. Juicy and scrumptious and cooked just right, the steaks are said to come from pineapple-fed cows, which made them taste even better! The restaurant, which also looked out to Del Monte’s golf course, also provided a very relaxed atmosphere, so we just spent a lazy afternoon there, enjoying a long and leisurely lunch.

Then There Was Cagayan De Oro

On the third day of our trip, we yet again woke up bright and early to head for Mapawa Nature Park. Little did we know then that we were throwing ourselves into an insane adventure.

Mapawa Nature Park

You know you’re bound for an exciting time at a place where the first thing they make you do is read through and sign accountability waivers, your signature on which pretty much, in blunt terms, states that you’ve signed off on your life. The many forms of similar kind that I have signed over the past years have fortunately led to a few scratches and nothing else a shower and a good night’s sleep couldn’t solve, so they’re really often just to make you recognize the risk, and most of the time, are just a precaution and not much else.

Afterwards we rode on a tractor that took us deep into the forest, and that was pretty much how the adventure started.

The objective of the trek was simple – get to the other side so you can head back to the main park area and go home. It’s a lot more exciting than it sounds, however.

The trek began simply enough as well, a walk through the woods where we saw amazingly old trees (and took a picture under one – I’m not sure, but if I remember correctly, this tree is around 300 years old!):

Then came the first challenge: sitting on the edge, on top of a waterfall, and getting pushed off it, so you can slide down into a pool of deep cold water:

You know that scene in “The Beach” when they had to jump from the top of the waterfall? I reckon our jump wasn’t nearly as intense (given we had guides and lifevests), but it was still a pretty amazing feeling, getting slid off from the top of the waterfall and into the pool of water below. It also meant that there was no more turning back from this trek, and whatever other challenge lay ahead, we had to do. The challenges that lay ahead, among others, were the following: side-stepping, hanging onto a rope, into yet another waterfall, jumping off a cliff into deep water, and rappelling down a waterfall!

We jumped off that cliff and into the water!

Things got pretty calm after that, when we ate our packed lunches along a stream and took a hike up the mountain to where our tractor was waiting.

The coolest thing about the trek was experiencing the alternating bouts of an adrenaline rush and utter peace throughout the whole thing. I remember looking out onto the horizon seeing nothing, just green, and nature, and feeling totally at peace with nature. It was awesome. A few minutes later, they were harnessing me to a rope so I could rappel down the cliff, and the adrenaline rush resumed.

For those who do not want to venture into the jungle for an adventure, the park also features zip lines and horseback riding.

I went to Cagayan De Oro twice in 2008, and the second time, we met Iggy, the owner of Mapawa Nature Park, who showed us around the property. We checked out the house that guests could rent out in the area as well as a very nice viewing point where you could see the entirety of the cauldron-shaped park.

It must also be said that the guides at Mapawa Nature park are wonderful professionals who are very friendly and trustworthy. You would not feel scared to be under their guidance, deep within the forest. And they know where to take all the awesome pictures on the trek!

After our exhausting day in the forest we went back to the city where we visited Palm Day Spa, where we all had a well-deserved massage.

The next day, the last day of our trip, was Part 2 of the adventure, as we headed out for a white water rafting adventure!

White Water Rafting

White water rafting provides a good mix of a leisurely ride along a great river, with a view of nature and amazing scenery, and an adrenaline rush, fervently rowing through tumultuous waves in order to avoid huge, ominous rocks.

We also experienced an (unfortunately) un-pictured highlight – from our raft, we climbed up one of the cliffs along the Cagayan De Oro river through a makeshift ladder / bamboo stick, (it was where the local kids played), and once we reached the top, we jumped off into the water! Side stepping on the tiny, narrow ledge to the point where you could jump was the scariest part - soil and tiny rocks would break off and drop into the water as you moved! Holding onto the roots that weaved into the soil for support and seeing that root break (yikes!) was rather scary as well – but plunging into the cool waters of the river was definitely worth the scare!

After rafting, we were welcomed with a wonderful lunch on the side of the river. We showered and freshened up, and a few hours later, on the very same day, we took a flight out from CDO and back to Manila. What an adventure!


Luna Ristorante
Rocky Village, Yumbing, Mambajao, Camiguin.

Mapawa Nature Park
Booking Office:
33 J. SeriƱa Street, Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City
Contact Nos.: (088) 8584402 Telefax: (08822) 725265

Red Rafts
Cagayan de Oro River Tours Corporation
#112, 17th St. Nazareth9000 Cagayan de Oro City
Tel. (088) 857-7238

Palm Day Spa
San Agustin Street corner Rizal Street (in front of Gaston Park)
Tel. No. (88) 857-2862

Snapshots: Sunset At Dive N Trek, Batangas (Plus an underwater picture!)

My first sunset of the summer! And one I took from the province where I grew up - Batangas, Philippines. For holy week, I went with my family on our annual beach trip to Dive N Trek resort, and was rewarded with this!

I've so much to post but not the time to do it, but I'll try to squeeze it in as soon as I can. For instance, I really want to write a post about my first beach trip of the year with family at Dive N Trek, a resort in Bauan, Batangas (thank you Ms. Medz for the correction!). Dive N Trek is known for its easily accessible snorkeling locations - you literally just jump off the dock and BAM! Underwater Paradise fit for a National Geographic documentary - and on our trip this year I got to take some pictures with my underwater camera. Here's a preview:

I got stung by jellyfish (and probably other tiny sea creatures as well) and have all these creepy marks on my arms (I think it's about time I invest on a rash guard) but it was totally worth it. I just love being in the water and being able to swim freely. I'm the kind of person who rarely stays still (again, blame it on my Type 7 personality) and my mind is always working, thinking, asking questions, getting ideas, but when I'm in the water swimming freely, without a life vest and armed with just a pair of goggles, wading in deep waters and seeing the seabed meters away from my feet as I explore a wide expanse of coral and marine life, I feel calm and experience a certain kind of peace I don't often experience. I think nothing relaxes me more than being in the water.

I'll post more pictures and share more stories soon, I promise!
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