MINDANAO

MINDANAO

Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines after Luzon and southernmost major island of archipelago. Ravaged for years by violence from Muslim insurgencies, it has opened more to tourism in recent years as peace treaties with rebel groups have been negotiated and signed. Still largely undisturbed and unspoiled, it features wild tropical rain forests, stone-age tribes, high mountains and beaches and towns still used by pirates. Some terrorist and insurgency groups such as Abu Sayyaf are still active on Mindanao and islands to the south of Mindanao

Mindanao has traditionally been the "frontier" of the Philippines, and it retains that the spirit today. The Philippines cultured pearl industry is centered in Mindanao. Tuna fishing is big in the General Santos area. Mindanao has rich volcanic soil, dense forests that are the home of monkey-eating eagles and other rare animals and rich deposits of gold, copper, nickel and other precious metals. Many people are peasant farmers or employees on large pineapple and coconut plantations. Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, first made a name for himself when he was Mayor of Mindanao’s Davao City from 2013–2016, and started killing drug dealers there.

About 25 million people live in Mindanao. Even though Muslim Moros have traditionally controlled the island, Muslims make up about a forth of the population. Under Ferdinand Marcos and other leaders, Catholics, which now make up 60 percent of the population, were encouraged to migrate to Mindanao to reduce population pressures in other parts of the Philippines. Mindanao is few degrees north of the equator and is hot and humid the year round, except in highlands where it is little cooler. The average annual rainfall in Davao is about 203 centimeters (80 inches) a year. The mean daily maximum temperature is 32 degrees F (89 degrees F), and the mean daily minimum, (22 degrees C (73 degrees F). Mindanao is outside the typhoon belt.

Mindanao covers 97,530 square kilometers. It is the eighth-most populous island in the world, and larger than 125 countries, including South Korea, Austria, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ireland. The island is mountainous and surrounded by four seas: the Sulu Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the south, and the Mindanao Sea to the north. Of all the islands of the Philippines, Mindanao shows the greatest variety of geographical features: High, rugged, faulted mountains; almost isolated volcanic peaks; high rolling plateaus; and broad, level, swampy plains are found there. The highest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo, a dormant volcano, is found in Mindanao. It is 2,954 meters (9,689 feet) high . Principal rivers on Mindanao include the Mindanao River (known as the Pulangi River in its upper reaches), and the Agusan River. The Mindanao island group is an arbitrary grouping of islands in southern Philippines which comprises the Mindanao mainland, the Sulu Archipelago (consisting of the islands of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi), and the outlying islands of Camiguin, Dinagat, Siargao, and Samal. Platycerium grande, the giant staghorn fern, is endemic to the island.

Today around 25.8 percent of the population in Mindanao classify themselves as Cebuanos. Other ethnic groups included Bisaya/Binisaya (18.4%), Hiligaynon/Ilonggo (8.2%), Maguindanaon (5.5%), and Maranao (5.4%). The remaining 36.6 percent belonged to other ethnic groups. Dozens of languages are spoken in Mindanao; among them, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Surigaonon, Tausug, Maranao, Maguindanao, and Chavacano are most widely spoken. Cebuano (often referred as Bisaya) has the highest number of speakers, being spoken throughout Northern Mindanao, the Davao region as well as major municipalities surrounding it in Surigao del Sur, the entirety of the Zamboanga Peninsula. Hiligaynon is the main language of far southern Mindanao, where majority of the inhabitants are of ethnic Hiligaynon stock. Surigaonon is spoken in the eastern half of the Caraga region, mainly by the eponymous Surigaonons. Tausug is widely spoken in the western area of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, which comprises the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, with a sizeable community of speakers residing in Zamboanga City. Maguindanao and Maranao are the dominant languages of the eastern Mindanao. English is also widely understood and spoken, being highly utilized in business and academia.

Davao

Davao (in southwestern Mindanao, 950 kilometers, 590 miles, south of Manila) is the commercial center and capital of Mindanao and the second largest city in the Philippines, with a population of about 1.6 million. It doesn't have much to see but it is a convenient jumping off point for more interesting destinations. Worth checking out nearby are the orchid farms and "whistling duck" farms. Davao was known as being a crime-ridden, lawless place before Rodrigo Duterte, now President of the Philippines, was mayor there from 2013–2016, and killed drug dealers there and cleaned the place up. .

One of the Philippines, most rapidly growing cities, Davao City (officially, the City of Davao) lies on a channel leading from the Gulf of Davao on the Pacific side of Mindanao. It is geographically one of the largest cities in the world, covering 2,440 square kilometers, most of which is agricultural land. The metropolitan population is about 2.5 million. Davao was founded in 1849 and attracted Japanese even before World War II, when it served as a Japanese naval base

Located in the province of Del Davao del Sur, Davao is about seven degrees north of the equator and is hot and humid the year round, which relieved somewhat by near constant sea and land breezes. The average annual rainfall is about 203 centimeters (80 inches) a year. The mean daily maximum temperature is 32 degrees F (89 degrees F), and the mean daily minimum, (22 degrees C (73 degrees F). Davao City is outside the typhoon belt.

The area around Davao is engaged primarily in large-scale production of copra, bananas and abaca, logging, and plywood manufacturing. In recent years, Davao City has become a trading center serving the gold mining activities in the region. Davao is regarded as city of pioneers. Davaowenos are predominantly Cebuano speakers, which shows that people are descendants of migrants from the Visayan Islands in the central Philippines. The region also includes large numbers of migrants from Luzon as well as Christian and Muslim ethnic tribes and a large and influential Chinese-Filipino community.

Tourist destinations in and around the city include the Philippine Eagle Foundation and Nature Center, Mount Apo, Gap Farming Resort, the Davao Crocodile Park, Malagos Garden Resort, Eden Nature Park, and People's Park in the city center which is popular for its sculptures of indigenous people and dancing fountain. Samal Island, a part of Metro Davao, is an island city situated immediately off the city's coast in the Davao Gulf, popularly known for its scenic beaches. Samal Island — known as Samal Davao del Norte — is regarded as the best developed beach area in the Davao area, The island is a 30-minute ferry ride from Davao.

Tourist Information; Rm. 512, LANDCO Corporate Center Bldg., J.P. Laurel Avenue, 8000 Davao City, Tel: (6382) 225 1940, Fax: (6382) 221 0070 / 221 6955, E-Mail: dotr11@yahoo.com Websites: www.visitmyphilippines.com,

Getting to and Around Davao

According to ASIRT: 1) Traffic is often congested during rush hour. 2) Many roads have been or are being upgraded. Be alert for construction zones. Detours and delays possible. 3) To enforce traffic laws, police set up checkpoints in key locations in the city and outskirts. 4) Motorcyclists not wearing helmets and motorists whose vehicles lack working lights are not permitted to enter the city. 5) Road safety improvements include installation of road signs, high tech traffic lights and pedestrian overpasses. About 50 to 80 percent of pedestrians use the overpasses. Steel barriers in road medians improve compliance. In other areas, be alert for jaywalkers. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), PDF, 2012]

Buses, jeepneys and taxis provide public transport. Buses provide transport along the main north- south road passing through the city. Most buses serving local routes are jeepneys. Jeepneys provide transport to most areas of the city. Generally in service 24/7. Pay exact fare. Drivers stop anywhere along route to pickup or drop off passengers. Ask driver to stop by saying, "lugar lang" or "para". Taxis are air conditioned; taxi fares are high. Taxi drivers generally charge tourists correct fare. Transport can be arranged by phone. Tricycles provide transport in villages/suburbs where all vehicles except private cars and taxis are banned.

Davao International Airport (also known as Francisco Bangoy International Airport) is located in Buhangin District, 15 kilometers from city center. There are daily connections between Davao and Manila and Cebu City and flights to other destinations in the Philippines. There may be a few international flights to Indonesia or Malaysia. Jeepneys provide transport between city and airport. Allow sufficient time to reach the airport as traffic is heavy on Buhangin Road and Bajada Avenue. Taxis are available; fares are high. Shuttle vans (V-Hires) provide transport between the airport and Tagum City, Panabo, northern Davao and Caraga Region. Taking a van directly from the terminal may reduce security risk.

There are buses to many destinations in Mindanao. Check before hand to make sure the roads are safe. Inter-city buses stop at Davao City Overland Transport Terminal (DCOTT). Jeepneys provide transport to most areas near the city. Drivers stop anywhere along route to pickup or drop off passengers. Inter-island passenger ferries or series of "roll on roll off" ferries links the city and Manila. Rental cars are available. Hiring a good local driver is recommended.

Davao Del Sur Province

Davao Del Sur Province (the province around Davao) sprawls along the shores of Southeastern Mindanao and is home of Mt. Apo, the Philippines highest peak, prized Philippine orchid species like the Vanda Sanderiana, exotic fruits, and the endangered Philippine Eagle. Ethnic groups indigenous to the area include the Bagobos, the Mandayas, the Mansakas, the Atas, the Kalagans, the Tagakaolos, and the Mangguangans. Their arts and crafts are on display in museums and shops.

The province is located in the southern part of the country. It is bounded in the north by Davao City; in the west by Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Kidapawan City; in the south by the Celebes Sea, Sarangani Province, and General Santos City; in the east by the Davao Gulf. The province is divided into two political districts. The total population of Davao del Sur is around 630,000, If you include the Davao metropolitan area it over three million. Cebuano/Visayan, Tagalog, B’laan, Bagobo, Manobo, and Tagakaolo are the main languages.

Davao del Sur has hot, humid climate with a wet and dry seasons. The coldest time is during the months of December and January and the hottest is during the months of April and May. The province is outside the typhoon belt. Tourist Information: 2nd Flr., Hua Hing Bldg., #17 Sinsuat Ave., 9600 Cotabato City Tel. No (6364)421 1110, Tel: (6364)421 7868, E-Mail: dotregion12@yahoo.com, Website: www.visitmyphilippines.com.

Philippine Eagle Research and Nature Center

Philippine Eagle Research and Nature Center(near Davao at the foot of Mt. Apo) is a conservation facility devoted to preserving the world’s largest eagle, the Philippine Eagle (once known as the monkey-eating eagle), the country’s national bird. The Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) is situated on an 8.4-hectare area of land at the foothills of Mt. Apo in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City and situated within the Malagos Watershed. The Philippine Eagle Center primarily operates as a conservation breeding facility for the critically endangered Philippine Eagle and other birds of prey.

Eagles are being raised in captivity through artificial insemination at the Philippine Eagle Center run by the Philippine Eagle Foundation. Keepers use hand puppets to feed the chicks and prevent them from imprinting with humans. As of 2008, 21 eaglets had been hatched. More than a dozen eagles are kept at the center, some of which were rescued after they were trapped or shot. The aim of the breeding program is to release birds back into the wild. In 2008, the first surviving chick in that program celebrated his 16th birthday. When he was born he was given the name Pag-asa, the Tagalog word for hope. The Philippine Eagle Foundation is also working to educate Filipinos about the bird. At least some of those who once would have shot an eagle for food or sport now let it soar unmolested. [Source: Mel White, National Geographic, February 2008]

The Center does not only have Philippine Eagles to show but there are a number of other birds, mammals and reptiles as well, most of which are endemic to the country and some are considered rare. Also present in the area is a vast assemblage of flora typical of a tropical rain forest. There are numerous trees and plants that thrive within the area, and others are known to be endemic. Guests can view educational videos and documentaries that were filmed by dedicated videographers. These documentaries can touch and awaken the sense of responsibility that we hope will leave a lasting impression on our guests.

The conservation breeding area is where we keep Philippine Eagles that are not on exhibit. This area is restricted to the public and only the conservation breeding personnel are allowed in its premises. The food stock area is where the food for the raptors and other animals are raised to ensure a disease-free stock such as rabbits, white mice, goat and fruits. These stocks are needed for the daily food requirements of every animal at the Center. Guests can buy Philippine Eagle souvenir items that they can take home to their family and friends. The income from the items sold is used to help fund the Foundation’s research, conservation, and education programs.

Philippine Eagle Research and Nature Center is open everyday from 8:00am to 5:00pm The entrance fee from adults: PHP 150.00; for kids (17 & below): PHP 100.00. Children below 4 yrs old are free. The money from these fees also goes to help the birds.

Mt. Apo: Hiking the Philippines Highest Peak

Mt. Apo (40 kilometers from Davao) is the Philippines' highest peak at 2954 meters (9,692 feet) high. A dormant volcano, it is known as one of the main habitats of the Philippine Eagle and its forested slopes are protected for the conservation of this endangered bird. Mt. Apo can be climbed in few days. Depending on the route trekkers can see thickly forested slopes, geysers, sulphur pillars, a steaming blue lake, rivers and waterfalls. Flora and fauna include orchids, carpets of ferns, giant pitcher plants and monkeys. If you are lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a Philippine "monkey eating" eagle, the second largest flying eagle in the world, with a wing span up to 2 ½ meters (eight feet). During Holy Week huge processions climb Mt. Apo.

According to to Summits.com: “The terrain along the mountain is thriving with lush forests and more wildlife than volcanic rock. Mount Apo can be split into 3 distinct types of forest. From the beginning of the ascent, climbers can experience the beauty and challenges of low-land tropical rainforests. Although striking and lush, the beginning of the ascent is seen as somewhat of a natural obstacle course. Hikers have to watch their step for tree roots and slippery stones, perhaps even the occasional snake. When reaching the mid-mountain forests of Mount Apo, the lush terrain will narrow down ever so slightly with less trees and animals around and more boulders and slopes to tackle.The physical fitness and determination of the hiker is tested much more as they reach higher altitudes. As the hiker gets closer to the peaks, vegetation can still be seen but is much less lush and thick compared to the lower altitudes and very few animals are found due to the lack of oxygen. Climbing becomes somewhat easier due to less obstacles but physical strength is mandatory to tackle the very steep stretches to reach the peaks of Mount Apo.”

A person who climbed Mt. Apo in April 2013, posted on Trip Advisor: “It is a nice climb. I recommend getting a guide and porter. The trail is confusing in some places, so it is necessary to have someone familiar with the area. There are many options for making the trip with various pricing. Rather than doing a package deal which I thought was expensive, you can hire a guide for around P1000 per day and he usually knows porter which are about P350 a day. You will need to provide their food.

“We left Davao early in the morning in a van to Dipolog then took a habel-habel (a motorcycle which will carry 4 or 5 plus bags) to Sana Cruz which was our starting point for P750. The guide should do all of the paperwork ahead of time so you have clearance to climb and not delayed. There is camp one and camp two with camp one having a water source, but if you are an expat you will probably not want to drink the water. I suggest you bring all of the water you will need. Go onto camp 2 it is a nicer camp and only about 1 hour from camp one and the mosquitoes are not as bad there. There is a nice camp site just below the peak and it is a good place to stay but it is cold! Nice to camp there and go to the peak to watch the sunset and then the sunrise. Good photo shots especially when the sun comes up over Davao.

“We went down on the Kidapawan side and if you plan to get a bus you need to be there before 7:30pm which is when the last bus leaves. Again you will take a habel-habel once you get to the road back to Kidapawan and that was P120 per person. I suggest making a check list of items you want to take and do not expect the guide to provide even some of what you might consider basic items. You may want to talk to your guide about alcohol. We had 1 guide and 2 porters and they consumed 2 liters of rum each night, but they seemed to be able to function ok the next day. Have input on the food choices! We took 3 days and 2 nights for the climb and that was a good time frame for me. It could be done easily enough in 2 days, but i was not in a hurry. The best time for the climb is April to June during the summer to avoid the rainy season. It is a nice climb and I think you will enjoy it.”

Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (200 kilometers east of Davao, closest city is Mati 40 kilometers to the north) designated a a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to UNESCO: “Forming a mountain ridge running north-south along the Pujada Peninsula in the south-eastern part of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor, the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary has an elevation range of 75–1,637 m above sea level and provides critical habitat for a range of plant and animal species. The property showcases terrestrial and aquatic habitats at different elevations, and includes threatened and endemic flora and fauna species, eight of which are found only at Mount Hamiguitan. These include critically endangered trees, plants and the iconic Philippine eagle and Philippine cockatoo. [Source: UNESCO]

“The Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary represents a complete, substantially intact and highly diverse mountain ecosystem, in a significant biogeographic region of the Philippines. Its diversity of plants and animals include globally threatened species as well as a large number of endemic species including those species that exist only in the Philippines, only in Mindanao and only in the nominated property. The fragile tropical “bonsai” forest that crowns the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary epitomizes nature’s bid to survive in adverse conditions. As a result of its semi-isolation and its varied habitat types growing in dissimilar soil and climate conditions, its biodiversity has shown a significantly high level of endemicity that has led scientists to believe that there may be more globally unique species waiting to be discovered in the area.

“The combination of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within the boundaries of the property and the large number of species inhabiting each makes the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary home to a total of 1,380 species with 341 Philippine endemics that include critically endangered species such as the iconic Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and the Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), as well as the trees Shorea polysperma, Shorea astylosa, and the orchid Paphiopedilum adductum. Its high level of endemicity is well exemplified by the proportion of its amphibian (75 percent endemic) and reptile (84 percent endemic) species.

“The Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary exhibits segmentation of terrestrial habitats according to elevation. In the lower elevations the agro-ecosystem and remnants of dipterocarp forests house some 246 plant species including significant numbers of endemics such as the globally threatened dipterocarps of the genus Shorea. The dipterocarp forest ecosystem at 420-920 m asl is characterized by the presence of large trees and is home to 418 plant and 146 animal species, which include threatened species such as the Mindanao Bleeding-heart dove (Gallicolumba crinigera) and Philippine warty pig (Sus philippensis). At higher elevations the montane forest ecosystem exhibits numerous species of mosses, lichens and epiphytes. This ecosystem type houses 105 animal species representing all the animal groups found in the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary as well as the relatively recently discovered rat species, Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat (Batomys hamiguitan). The fourth ecosystem type is the typical mossy forest ecosystem characterized by thick mosses covering roots and tree trunks; it provides habitat for the Philippine pygmy fruit bat, (Haplonycteris fischeri) and the threatened Pointed-snouted tree frog (Philautus acutirostris). At the topmost (1160-1200m a.s.l.) is the mossy-pygmy forest ecosystem, adding a unique natural tropical bonsai forest layer to the property. It is the only known habitat in the world of the pitcher plant (Nepenthes hamiguitanensis) and the Delias butterfly (Delias magsadana).”

Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park

Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park (350 kilometers west of Davao) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. According to UNESCO: “Mt. Malindang is a mountain range rising from 600 meters to 2,404 meters above the mean sea level. The range covers 53, 262 hectares of which about 33,000 hectares is still covered with forest vegetation while more than 20,000 hectares is cultivated and inhabited by forest occupants mostly members of the Subanen Tribe. The forest vegetation is composed of highly diverse species of and plants dominated by dipterocarps. It is inhabited by diverse species of fauna including the rare ones such as the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), Rofous Hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), Tarsier (Tarsius philippinensis) and Flying Lemur (Cynocephalus volans). [Source: UNESCO]

“The mountain range was believed to be formed through series of volcanic activities within the historical times but was not well documented. Several indicators of such activities are found in the site. These include six (6) hectare of Crater Lake (Lake Duminagat) and two (2) big sunken areas (more than 20 hectares each) surrounded by high rock walls, cinder cones, dome volcanic plugs, amphitheater structures, extensive distribution of volcanic rocks, carbonized wood found in pyroclastic deposits and two sulfuric hot springs. The entire mountain range is dissected by several canyons, gores and ravines making its terrain very rugged and the forest beautiful scenery.

“Mt. Malindang Natural Park lies within the Malindangmountain range in Mindanao, straddling the provinces of Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur. It covers over 34,000 hectares. Its highest peak is at 2,402 meters above sea level. The Park.s allure comes from its waterfalls, crater lake and dense virgin forests which host diverse and rare species of flora and fauna. A variety of trees — large, straight trunked evergreens, igem and almaciga grow in the lower parts of its forests while dwarf and crooked stem trees crowd the mossy forest found in the mountains upper parts. The rare and endangered Philippine Eagle, Flying Lemur, Deer, Tarsier, and Hornbills live in the Park. Other significant species found there include mammals such as the Philippine Deer, Wild Pig, Long-tailed Macaque, Palm Civet and Civet Cat. Moreover, the Park is known to be home of six amphibians, three reptiles, 67 birds and 25 mammals which are endemic to the place. Lake Duminagat. It is named after the crater lake and its clear waters. It is nested within a dense forest hosting wildlife such as deer, monkeys and wild boars.”

According to Rough Guides: “Little known and little explored, Mount Malindang National Park is a densely forested region that offers some tough trekking and the opportunity to see rare species such as the tarsier and flying lemur. There are actually four main peaks in Mount Malindang National Park: North Peak, South Peak, Mount Ampiro and Mount Malindang itself, which is the tallest at 2404m. The area was extensively logged before being declared a national park in 1971, so most of the forest growth today is relatively new. There’s a long-established tribal group living in the park, the Subanon, whom you may well encounter at their Lake Duminagat settlement. They consider Mount Malindang their tribal homeland and source of strength. The best time to visit the park is during the months of January to April when the trails are dry. You need a permit (P200) to enter the park, which is available from the Protected Area Office (t088/531-2184) at the back of the Provincial Capitol Building in Orquieta, a one-hour bus ride north from Ozamiz. A guide is essential and can be arranged here for P1500 a day.”

Cagayan de Oro

Cagayan de Oro (1 hour flight from Manila, 6 hours by road from Davao) is a lovely island near Mindanao that is in the process of being developed for tourists. Most of the development is taking place around Macalajar Bay. Come before its too late.

The highlands areas are home to the Bukidnon tribe, coffee plantations and a Bendictine monastery. In lowlands, you can see chocolate trees and fishing villages. Check out Macahambus Gorge, which is blessed with beautiful tropical vegetation, impressive limestone caves and cliffs which can be scaled on metal staircases.

The town of Cagayan de Oro is industrialized and has a half million people. Sights include the folk museum at Xavier University and Sontillano Shell Museum. At Macahambus Cave, a group of Filipino freedom fighters ambushed an American brigade in 1900 during the Philippines-American War. Forty-five Americans but only one Filipino were killed in the ambush. Outside the city there are lush jungles and a nice hot spring.

Getting There: By Air: There are daily flights by domestic and budget carriers from Manila to the Lumbia or Cagayan de Oro airport. By Land: Cagayan de Oro is a major hub in the provincial bus network. Between CDO’s two bus terminals — Market City (Agora) Bus Terminal, Bulua Westbound Bus Terminal — you can arrive at or depart for most of the major Minadanaoan destinations. By Sea: The Cagayan de Oro sea port is one of the most active docks in the Philippines. There are regular ship and ferry trips between CDO and other major Philippine ports, like Manila, Ilo-ilo and Cebu.

Tourist Information: Gregorio Pelaez Sports Center, A. Velez Street, 9000 Cagayan de Oro City, Tel: (638822) 726 394 / 723 696, (6388) 856 4048, Fax: (638822) 723 696, E-Mail: dotr10_nm@yahoo.com, Website: www.visitmyphilippines.com

Activities and Sights in the Cagayan de Oro Area

Cagayan de Oro’s is a popular whitewater rafting and river trekking destination. The Cagayan de Oro River is famed for challenging rapids that quickly follow one after the other in quick succession. Make sure you visit the Macahambus Hill Cave and Gorge. The Battle of Macahambus Hill was site of the first Filipino victory against the Americans in the American-Philippine War . Admire the view from the 120-meter long Sky Bridge suspended 120 feet from the ground, and then take the 120-meter breathtaking zipline. More action-packed fun awaits you at Jatico Adventures. A five-course zipline, ATV rides, and hiking trails are among the many things on offer. Mapawa Nature Park features waterfalls, trekking, and rappelling.

Culture and heritage places include the Museo de Oro at Xavier University, the Museum of Three Cultures. and the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village, a cultural village built into the botanical gardens where you can find out about the traditions of local indigenous groups and see traditional tribal houses set amidst nature trails. At the General MacArthur Marker, you’ll learn more about the role played by Cagayan de Oro in history and about US General MacArthur, one of the most important figures of World War II. Admire the centuries-old stained glass panels of the Gothic St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral. While nearby, the tree-lined Gaston Park is a relaxing haven in the city.

In Cagayan de Oro, the month of August is synonymous with the Kagay-an Festival. This almost two week-long celebration has a carnival-like atmosphere, and is dedicated to its patron, St. Augustine. It’s a full-blast party, with activities such as agricultural trade fairs and a cultural street dancing parade and competition. The highlight of the celebration is the Golden Float Parade.

Pricing Information Items Price Accommodations — Hotel room Php 3,600 to 9,500 Activities — White Water rafting Php 700 per person Activities — Zip line Php 500 Activities — Zorb Php 250

Camiguin Islands

Camiguin Islands (four hours by boat from Cagayan de Oro) is a group of islands off the north coast of Mindanao with a name that is pronounced "Come Again." Regarded as one of the nicest places in the Philippines, these islands feature green mountains, hot and cold water springs, deep valleys and seven volcanos, the most deadly of which, Hibok-hilbok, has erupted several times (most recently in 1951).

The beaches of Camiguan are nothing special but the people have been described as the nicest and friendliest in the archipelago. The islands' most well known attraction is Katibawasan Falls, a lovely 250-foot cascade that plummets into a milky green swimming hole. Nearby is Ardent Hot Spring, a small government run resort. The most popular diving and snorkeling spot is White Island, a sandy island half mile offshore.

Other attractions include a ruined cathedral, a lava-covered cemetery (a reminder of a 1871 eruption), a volcano that can be climbed, good off shore diving and snorkeling. There are numerous hikes around the islands. From the top of the highest mountains you can see Cebu, Bohol, Palawan and Mindanao. On the slope of one volcano is a path with statues representing the Stations of the Cross, where thousands of pilgrims gather during Holy Week. In October people come to Camiguan to take part in festival that the celebrates the lanzone fruit.

PRICING INFORMATION Items Price Transportation — Bus from CDO to Balingoan port Php 150 Transportation — Fast craft to Camiguin island Php 500 — 600 Transportation — Own boat to other islands Php 550 Activities — Entrance fees Php 5.00 & up

Getting There: By Air: Take a flight to Cagayan de Oro city from from Manila, Ilo-ilo or Cebu. From CDO, take a bus from Agora Bus Terminal going to Balingoan. Then take a barge or ferry to Camiguin island.By Land: Option unavailable By Sea: Take passenger ferries to Cagayan de Oro city from from Manila, Ilo-ilo or Cebu. From CDO, take a bus from Agora Bus Terminal going to Balingoan. Then take a barge or ferry to Camiguin island.

General Santos: Tuna Capital of the Philippines

General Santos (southern Mindanao) is a predominately Roman Catholic city of 600,000. It is an industrial city and traditionally been home of the Philippine tuna industry. Jojie Alcantara wrote: “It’s been dubbed as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” due to the bountiful yellow fin tuna in the surrounding waters. As the top producer of tuna in the country, it has placed the city on the global map. The warm, temperate water in the province has allowed the fish to spawn.

Gensan, as locals call the city, holds the annual Tuna Festival in thanksgiving. The celebration features tuna dish competitions, carnivals, parades of tuna and tuna-like floats, street dancing, and drum-and-lyre performances. It also brings together the locals into one united force; they call themselves “generals” during the event and make an all-out push to promote Gensan’s tourism trade.

Tuna in this part of town is only Php300-Php500 (US$7-12) a kilo for the highest-grade type. All the tuna sashimi you’ve eaten in the Philippines most likely came from Gensan. So there’s no need to savor each bite slowly. Go ahead and eat them like chips. With each slice so fresh, red, and plump, you’ll think you’ve tasted Manna from tuna heaven. Plus, while you’re feasting, you might bump into the eight-division world boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao. He hails from this area and patronizes all the businesses in his hometown.

These days, Gensan’s “generals” truly have a lot to smile about — with an international airport, an expanded Makar Wharf and lots of seafood restaurants. Try Sarangani Highlands for a killer view, Tionson Arcade (a strip of grilling stations and tiny diners), Red Trellis Seafood Garden, Sud-An and Sunset Restos, and Grab a Crab. Indeed, to greet visitors, locals now simply say “Magandang Gensan” (“Beautiful Gensan”). The Tuna Festival is held every September. There are daily flights to General Santos through any of the domestic airlines.

Alabel, Malapatan and Glan are diving towns on of Sarangani Bay. These towns have beaches wonderfully preserved by protective coves, and shipwreck diving sites dating back to Spanish times. The bay is more popularly known to be the home of the Sarangani Bay bangus (milkfish). Turn over another stone and one will find that the bay is also home to simple village folk who have lived their lives carving and painting their dreams in the boats they build.

Zamboanga

Zamboanga (on the extreme southwestern tip of Mindanao) is a predominately Roman Catholic city of 880,000. Muslims make up about 30 percent of the city. It is also is the home of five tribal groups: the Bajau, Subanon, Sama, Tausug and Yakan. The Sama and Bajua, also known as Sea Gypsies, are probably the most famous. For centuries they lived almost their entire lives on their boats. Only in the last couple of decades have they moved to stilt houses on the shores. The are also found off of Sabah, Malaysia and Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Zamboanga has been a hotbed of Muslim extremism. It is the largest city located near the stronghold for Muslim extremist groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf. In some Muslim neighborhoods in Zamboanga unemployment rates approach 90 percent.

Zamboanga is regarded as one of the most dangerous places in the world for foreigners. One aid workers who had workers in Columbia and other hpot sots told the International Herald Tribune in 2003, “I have lived in many difficult places but never have I felt so unsafe as in Zamboanga. Every step I took people shouted at me, and you could never be sure what would happen next.”

Zamboanga otherwise would be a charming place with narrow streets, palm trees and an a colonial-era plaza. The town has long been noted port and trade center not far from Malaysia and Indonesia. Situated at the foot of a mountain range, it has a pleasant tropical climate and so many parks that it used to called the "city of flowers." St. Cruz Island (25 minutes from Zamboanga) has unique pink sand beaches. Fort Pilar (near Zamboanga) was built in 1635 by Jesuit priests to ward off attacks pirates and invaders. It looks out over the Sulu Sea and contains a statue called Our Lady of the Pillar, which is believed to possess miraculous powers. Zamboanga grew up around Fort Pilar and flourished during the years before World War II, when the Philippines were under U.S. control. A distinct Moros influence remains in the area. The local market has a wide array of Muslim artifacts and textiles.

Tourist Information: Lantaka Hotel By The Sea, Valderosa Street, 7000 Zamboanga City, Tel: (6362) 992 6242, Fax: (6362) 993 0030, E-Mails: dotr9@yahoo.com, Dapitan Satellite Office City Library Bldg., 7101 Dapitan City, Tel: (6365) 213 6616, Fax: (6365) 213 6787, E-Mail: dotsatoffice@yahoo.com, Website: www.visitmyphilippines.com

Sulu, Basilan and Jolo Islands: Pirate and Terrorist Hideouts

Sulu Islands (1000 kilometers southwest of Manila) are the southernmost islands of the Philippines. Regarded as the most dangerous part of the Philippines and located in the southwestern tip of the Philippines, they have traditionally been the stomping grounds of pirates, sea-gypsies (Samal and Bajua) and smugglers running guns between Borneo and Muslim insurgencies in southern Philippines Gun culture is very prominent. Almost everyone has access to a gun. Children learn to handle guns at an early age.

The are 400 Sulu islands, falling into the Basilan group, Jolo group, Keenapusan group, Laparan group, Pangutaran group, Sibutu group, Tapul group and Tawi-Tawi group. The islands more or less run in a line between the Philippines and Sabah and merge with islands off Sabah, which is part of Malaysian Borneo. On the west and north, the islands are is bounded by the Sulu and Mindanao Seas, and on the east and south, by the Celebes Sea. The Sulu Islands are 98 percent Muslim. Abu Sayyaf has traditionally had a strong presence here. Pearl oysters have traditionally been harvested on the Sulu archipelago.

Basilan (30 minutes by ferry and 10 miles from Mindanao) is mostly Christian. It should be a tourist paradise. It has white sand beaches, magnificent rain forests and volcanic highlands with waterfalls. But instead it is a lawless place where Abu Sayyaf hostages have been kept.

Jolo has been regarded for centuries a center of piracy, banditry and rebellion. The islands between the Sulu and Celebes Seas have been a hideout for pirates. Jolo and Basilan are the bases for the Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. Jolo is the largest Sulu island, measuring 15-by-16 kilometers. It has fertile volcanic soils and about half the island is cultivated. The rest is either mountains, remnant forest or deforested grasslands, Rainfall is between 180 and 250 centimeters a year.

Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary

Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary (in the Sulu Archipelago) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. According to UNESCO: “The group of Islands, namely, Boan, Lihiman, Langaan, Great Bakkungan, Taganak, and Baguan. It has a total aggregate area of 241,495.92 hectares of which 298.27 hectares correspond to the land portions of the Sanctuary. The smallest Island, the Langaan measures about 7 hectares, while the largest, the Taganak Island, is about 124 hectares. Generally, the TIWS topography ranges from flat, low hills and plateau, to high topographic relief features reaching as high as 150 meters above sea level. [Source: UNESCO]

The only major nesting habitat of Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the Philippines and the only major nesting ground in the whole ASEAN Region and the 11th major nesting site in the world. Marine Turtles play an important role in marine ecosystem as it maintains a maintains a healthy coral reefs and sea grass that serves a breeding ground for fishes and small crustaceans. During peak season, 80-150 turtles laid eggs every night from May-July. The Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) also occur but with a low density nesting in contrast to the Green Turtle. On flora diversity, 200 species have been identified, of these, 10 mangrove species have been seen growing in Boan and Taganak Island, while 19 species of ferns are found in all the six islands. Thirty-four avian species have been observed to occur in the entire Turtle Islands.

“Turtle Islands was declared as Turtle Island Heritage Protected Area (TIHPA) through a MOA between the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of Malaysia on May 31, 1996. It was proclaimed as Wildlife Sanctuary under Proclamation No. 171 on August 26, 1999 and identified as Extremely High (EH) for biodiversity conservation. Thousands of nesters were recorded annually. On 2012 there were twenty one thousands (21,703) of nesters recorded, the highest since 1988 where monitoring has started. However, on 2013 there was a decline in the population of nesters to 17,290 because of poaching from other neighboring place and countries. Worldwide, marine turtle populations have critically decline hence the CITES-IUCN has declared all species of marine turtle endangered.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Philippines Tourism websites, Philippines government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020


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