In 1997, I traveled to the island of Mindanao, to visit the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Davao, as well as the island of Camiguin. This started with a promise to a friend of mine, who had moved to Cagayan de Oro because of his job. Since it was his first time to live outside Quezon City, I promised to be the first of among our friends to visit him.
I took a ferry from Manila to Cagayan de Oro, with a short stop over at the port of Iloilo; which took 42 hours for the whole trip. This was not a luxury cruise, and the age without internet, one had to have infinite patience to bide the time.
In Cagayan de Oro, I was able to see my friend and we enjoyed the night life of the city. The seafood was great and there was a whole strip of street side eateries that specialized in Bulalo, a beef soup with ox bone marrow. The servings were huge and very affordable, because the nearby provinces were cattle country.
I also met up with two college classmates, who moved back to Mindanao. Together, we explored the many caves around the city, visited the eco-park with several huts with ethnolinguistic groups promoting their cultures, and drive by the coast and savor the fresh seafood. Then we took a two hour drive to the nearby Iligan Province, to go sightseeing at the Maria Christina Falls and swimming at the Tinago Falls.
At the outskirts of Cagayan de Oro (Valley of Gold), are many caves. Some contained relics from ancient cultures, but during that time there was no thrust to explore and preserve these sites. My companion complained that the recent storms flooded the caves and washed away many of the artifacts.
I was able to visit my father’s business in the city, which is the Greenhills Memorial Park. What made the place very interesting for a cemetery because the buildings designs made by the premier architect of native materials, Francisco Mañosa.
After exploring the Cagayan de Oro, I went to the island of Camiguin to explore the 5 volcanoes, hot water springs, bath in the many waterfalls, and snorkel in a cemetery that submerged into the sea.
In 1871, the local cemetery sunk into the waters due to a massive earthquake created the eruption of nearby Mt. Hibok-hibok, and in the latter part of the 2oth century the place became a tourist spot for the unusual diving experience.
I was never able to experience the famous Lanzones Festival, in which the people celebrate the harvesting of the local fruit called the Lanzones. They claim that their produce is better tasting than those harvested in other regions of the Philippines, because of the rich volcanic soil.
Returning to Cagayan de Oro, I immediately hopped on the bus for a 10 trip to the city of Davao. There I met up with a fraternity brother, and he showed me the sights of the city. During the weekend, we took a boat ride to Talikud Island, and spent the night under the stars.
The island of Mindanao has had a special place in my heart; and I hope to return there with my family. But this time, we have more places to add to our itinerary.