Philippines – Northern Mindanao – Ozamiz, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro – 29th Nov ~ 2nd Dec 2012

Mindanao. Mention this word to any Filipino not living on this island will send a cold chill down into their spine. No, I am not kidding. I have met a few Filipinos before my trip and all of them advice me not to go.

I have actually done some research about the places I wanted to visit and till then, I find that it should be alright.

However two weeks from my visit, I found an article saying that Ozamiz is the drug capital of the Philippines. Glue sniffing and drugs are common in the city.

I was actually taken aback by these comments and I start to have second thoughts about continuing my trip.

Nevertheless, I did proceed with my trip though I must admit with a fearful heart. I am not trying to have another trip to boast but my desire to see the places with my own eyes overcome my fears a little.

Day 1

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 001Landed in Manila and then proceed to check-in into my next flight; Ozamiz.

My flight leave the gate on schedule at 0040hrs but at 0115hrs, it is still at the runway! By the time it reaches Manila, it is already 0430hrs! I am left with 50mins to check-in.

Thankfully the Immigration clearance is quite fast and I got my luggage early.

I run to the check-in counter and finally manage to check-in 20mins before the check-in counter close.

I always thought that the first city that I will set foot in Mindanao is either Davao or Cagayan De Oro. Never expect that it will be Ozamiz.

The flight to Ozamiz from Manila is uneventful. Honestly, I did for a moment hope that the pilot will just announce that the weather is bad in Ozamiz and they have to land us in one of the beautiful beaches in the Visayas. Boracay will be a good choice.

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Ozamiz airport is a small one. As usual, no conveyer for the luggage. Uniqely Ozamiz do it in a different way compared to other provincial airport I have been to.

They cordon off an area in the airport and the airport staff place the luggage on the floor. Once all the luggage has been handled, they will just open the door and all the passengers will rush into the area to claim their bags. There is no baggage bag tally with your baggage tag. It is a free for all. You just run in and grab your bag and go. You can even take other passenger’s bag and go!

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So travel light when you are going to Ozamiz. Though I trust most people will be honest but you will never know will there be any bad hats around.

I walk out of the airport after the mad rush and walk towards the trike drivers. I asked them to bring me to Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park (MOAP). The locals pronounce it as MO-UP. The driver is very hesitant to bring me there because it is pretty far from the city center.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 013Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 014He then reluctantly quoted me P300 one way. I said “Ok! Let’s go!”

The trip lasted about 25mins. The journey passes by some lush greenery. Fields, Carabao, horses etc. As it is still in the early morning, the air is still fresh and cool and the scenery is quite beautiful.

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Soon we enter a dirt road. There are signs pointing to MOAP but most of them are very small so it is easy to overlook it.

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Since I took a trike, the driver can drive me to the entrance of MOAP.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 028There is a small section of soldiers stationed outside MOAP which I wonder why. I remind myself I am in Mindanao so it may not be surprise to see soldiers anywhere in this island.

The entrance to MOAP is P10. Once you enter, you can see a shrimp farm and other ponds for other purpose.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 029Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 030You will enter the wharf entrance and pass by a mangrove swamp. On your right, you will see a small house that is actually the administrative office.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 034Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 033Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 035I am lucky to met Joy, the person in charge of the office. She is very surprised to see me alone and asked where are my companions. I said it is I, me and myself.

She giggled and I ask her since I am alone, how much will be the charges like. I am ready to pay more for the boat but MOAP have a weird calculations on the boat fee if there is a small group. I do not think she try to rip me off it is just that I do not understand or my math is too poor.

I said, “Ok. Just tell me the total price that I need to pay for the boat, the swim with the dolphins and any taxes.” She then continue to give me a breakdown of everything again and I am so amused by her. I just nod my head and ask “So can I go to the pier now?” She said “Yes, I will follow up with you there.”

The bridge to the pier is a long but nice one. The bridge stretches out to the sea and the morning is warm and the sea is calm.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 037Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 039Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 041I sat there and enjoy the breeze. Soon the staff of the dolphin island start to arrive to take the boat to their workplace. Wow! I am actually even earlier than them!

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 052Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 051They are curious where am I from since I am alone. I told them I am from Singapore and they sounded surprised. They told me two months ago, there are another Singaporean couple that arrive 2 months ago. I was also surprised by this as I guess most Singaporeans will not dare to venture into Mindanao.

The boat that is dock at the pier has broken down. So we will need to wait for the boat to arrive from Dolphin Island to pick us up.

While we were waiting, the staff introduce me to one of the two guides in Dolphin Island. His name is Dario. He is tall and very tan.

He is very friendly and introduce me about the activities in Dolphin Island. He spoke to me in a very warm and friendly way. Coincidentally, he is going to be my guide.

Finally the boat arrive and we all board the ship.

I paid the fee at the wharf. The total cost is P1160 and the boat fee and the activities free is collected separately. Since I paid P1000 to Joy at MOAP, she wrote me a credit note of P340 that can be used on Dolphin Island.

There are about 5 staff there and there are actually two guides. Since Dario is more proficient in English, so he was tasked to be my guide.

The boat ride took about 20mins. As a matter of fact, you can see Dolphin Island from the mainland.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 062Dolphin Island is actually not an island. It is a man made structure on the shallow part of the sea. Once you enter the island, you will soon see the dolphin compound. They seems to know Dario has arrive and crowd around the area where he is standing.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 069Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 074Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 077Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 075Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 079He then again explain to me the area and the type of dolphins they are and other compounds they have and what we are going to do.

I went to the restaurant and pay the balance. I use the credit note and I just pay what every balance I need to. The fee will include life vest, guide, mask, fins and about 500g of fishes to feed the dolphins. Actually there is no cost to the guide. It is up to you to tip the guide. Since the staff told me that the guide is P100, I gladly accept it since I need not worry about how much to tip him.

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I get myself change and prepare to go into the dolphin compound. The entrance of the compound is very shallow. Dario advise me to go to the deeper waters so the dolphins will stay with me longer.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 080Dario handed me some fishes and told me to feed them so they will get used to me. The dolphins are actually quite wary of me and despite me dangling the fish to lure them, they just swim around me hesitating to take the bait.

Finally the first dolphin came and snatch the fish from me. The feeling is awesome. I never imagine I will have a chance to feed the dolphins in such a close range.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 088We then proceed to the deeper waters and feed them. Since there are only a few fishes, I quickly ran out of them. The dolphins then start to swim around me. The most memorable moment is one of the dolphins is just in front of me and look at me. It whistle and sway his body. It is so adorable!

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 132Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 142Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 144Dario explained to me that the owner of the Dolphin Island is actually an Iranian. He has invested millions of pesos into it with a lease of 25 years. Now it is in the eighth year.

When Dario joined the Dolphin Island 5 years ago, there are 8 dolphins. Now they are left with three and the five dolphins has been released back into the wild. One of the dolphins was even released by ex-President Arroyo.

I wonder will MOAP release the remaining three since it is their cash cow. Dario added that the summer season is the busiest months. The remaining months will be much more quiet and sometimes there will not be a single customer and there is a high chance that I will be the only customer for the day.

Dario also added that diving is no longer offered in MOAP.

We then proceed to snorkel around Dolphin Island.

The area around Dolphin Island is full of corals. Unfortunately, the amount of corals is considered little compared to many years ago. Dario said that the fisherman uses dynamite fishing and many corals are damage. Now it will take many years for the coral to grow back. According to one of the marine specialist, it will take at least 6 years just to grow one inch of coral.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 156Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 165Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 157Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 163Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the snorkel.

We saw giant clams and many fishes. When Dario peel off a fish, suddenly several big fishes appear out of nowhere and start to bite some food from it.

We even saw some clown fish hiding in the coral.

Dario then bring me to an area and he gave me a peeled fish. He told me to stretch my hand out with the fish.

Soon many fishes start to crowd around me to feed on the fish! It is really very fascinating.

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Soon we reach the other end of the Dolphin Island which is very shallow. During low tide, the water will be almost be drain out from the area.

It was at this time when I look back at Dolphin Island, I find it so beautiful. The clear water, the structure and the clear sky. It is such a beautiful landscape.

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I have a chat with Dario to understand him better. He lived in the mountain and he need to take a habal habal to the main road. He then have to take a jeepney to MOAP. His salary to me is very low and they do not have any increment for a long time.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 198I also voice my concern about the security about Mindanao and Ozamiz. He told me that Ozamiz is jointly protected by the Philippines Armed Forces and another military group. He mentioned to me the name but I have forgotten it. I think it is a armed group called something like ba ling ling.

Dario told me that this armed group has the capability to repel the MILF so all this while, Ozamiz is considered peaceful.

He did mentioned to me that he is afraid of going to Cotabato area. He told me that when he take a bus to General Santos passing through Cotabato, he always feel unsafe. He advice me not to travel to Cotabato and westward of the area that includes Zamboanga, Jolo, Tawi Tawi etc.

Dario also mentioned there is another place near Ozamiz worth visiting. That is huyohoy which is located in the mountains.

The tour ended and I stayed for a while to take some pictures.

By then there are more visitors to MOAP. One of the visitors even brought their dive tanks. The owner of the dive shop introduced himself as Dan. His dive shop is located in another place and he does provide dive services in MOAP. Just to be clear is that Dan’s dive shop  is not part of MOAP.

I really enjoyed my trip to MOAP and I find it worth visiting again.

When I returned to the mainland, Joy greeted me and ask whether do I enjoy my trip in Dolphin Island. I told her that it is awesome and I wish I could stay longer.

I then ask her for directions to the bus terminal.

She told me to walk out to the main road. If you will to take a trike to the main road, it will be P10. I then need to cross the road and take a bus to Agora bus terminal in Ozamiz City. Else I can take a van with a yellow license plate.

I thank her and made my way out.

The distance from MOAP entrance to the main road is only about 400m. So not worth taking a trike.

I waited for the bus and it came less than 10mins. I board the bus and told the conductor that I would like to go to Agora bus terminal. He nodded his head and the fare is P15. P15 versus P300 fare. It is a no brainer.

The journey took about 20mins and I quickly look for the bus bound for Cagayan De Oro (CDO).

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 273Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 271Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 275Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 277In Northern Mindanao, seems like Rural Transport rule the bus transportation service here. It seems that they are the only bus company around. I don’t remember seeing another bus company buses plying.

The non-air-con bus then start and travel towards Ozamiz City Port. Here we need to alight to board a RoRo boat. This is the first time I board a RoRo so I am quite curious.

I saw many passengers left some belongings on the seat and I later found out that to let other people know that the seat is actually reserved. For me, I took all my belongings with me. It is very important to know the bus number you are in.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 279We need to pay the ferry fare of P25 and then walk further down to pay a terminal fee of P3.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 281Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 282After which we will then queue up for the RoRo ferry.

When I reach the queue, I actually saw “our” bus already in the boat. I wonder why no one from the same bus as me board the boat.

Not to waste any more time, I board the RoRo boat. I went to the second deck to take a seat.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 287As I am on the second deck, I can see further. I then saw the bus I am in waiting to board the next ferry. I was like “huh?”

By then, the ferry start to close the door and start to sail. I was worried that what will happen to me.

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Halfway down the boat journey, many passenger start to move down. I then follow suit and found that they actually started to board the bus bound for CDO. I then found that it is an air-con bus and I went up the bus and ask the conductor is there any more seats.

He then manage to find me one and I am so relieved.

Soon the ferry dock at Mukas and the bus continue with the journey. The bus conductor then start to collect the fare and the fare to Iligan City is P85.

This is actually the most fearful journey part of my trip.

If you are not aware, the trip from from Mukas to Iligan is actually at the border of ARMM.

From Wikipedia,

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (abbreviated ARMM) is the region, located in the Mindanao island group of the Philippines, that is composed of predominantly Muslim provinces, namely: Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. It is the only region that has its own government.”

Most of us know about the conflict in Mindanao and though the central government is going to sign a peace treaty with the MILF, I do not expect peace to happen in such a short time. I would at least give it another 5 years for the peace treaty to be implemented fully provided both sides keep their cool. Since we are so close to the ARMM area, I am quite scared actually.

I actually doze off a few times during the journey and during my time when I was awake, I only encounter one military roadblock.

The journey took longer than expected. It took about 3.5 hrs and by the time I reach Iligan South Terminal, it is already 1500hrs.

Thinking that it is late, I abort the plan to visit the falls today. I then ask around which jeepney should I take to the city proper.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 504Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 506The people at the terminal station are very friendly and try to make out the map I show them. I pointed out that I wanted to go to Maxim Inn and they finally found out which jeepney actually goes there.

They instructed the driver clearly about my destination and even told me to sit at the front seat.

The journey to the city proper is only about 15mins. The jeepney then go around the city and start dropping everyone off.

Soon I found that I am the only passenger left. I then reminded the driver about my destination and he nodded his head. I wonder does he really know where I wanted to go.

Finally the jeepney stop and the driver pointed to me and I saw Maxim Inn. I thank him and paid the fare of P7.5.

I did not go to Maxim Inn but I walk around the area looking for any other accommodation.

I then walk past Jessica Lodge and decided to give it a try.

I then ask one of the staff at a salon how to reach the Iligan Tourist Office. I even show the staff the map but he does not seems to know. Suddenly an old man appear and ask me about my destination.

He ask me whether do I speak Chinese and I said yes. Surprisingly he spoke Chinese and we start to communicate in Chinese. The Filipino look blankly at us so I thank the Filipino and continue my conversation.

The old man then said the Iligan Tourist Office is in City Hall and it is quite a distance. I then pointed to him that based on Google Map, it is just round the corner. He said no and he is positive it is in the City Hall. He offered to bring me there but I declined. I told him my purpose of going to the Tourist Office is hoping someone to bring me to Tinago Falls and Maria Cristina Falls.

The old man volunteered to bring me there and all I need to pay is the food and transport fare. I said no problem.

I then ask why he can speak Chinese so well?

He introduced himself as Mr Lee. His father is a Taiwanese and mother is a Singaporean. He was born in Iligan but he did study Chinese.

He agreed to meet me at 0800hrs at the bakery shop. I said alright if he is up to it. I did warn him that the steps to Tinago Falls is pretty steep. He said no problem.

We parted our ways and I went up to Jessica Lodge.

I saw the staff of the lodge sweeping the floor and I ask is there any empty rooms. She said yes and the rate is P400 for overnight. They do have 3 hour rate of P200 and 12 hour rate of P300.

She show me the room and I am ok with it.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 301Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 303Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 305Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 302Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 304The room is very basic but they do provide clean towels and bed sheet. Jessica Lodge have about 6 or 8 rooms and they are just man by one staff. The staff act as a receptionist, cleaner, wash all the sheets and open all the doors for all the guest.

The guest do not hold the keys so if you want to enter the room, they will open it for you. I find this practice strange; just like Victoria Courts.

There are actually many accommodations available in Iligan. My ideal place is actually StayLite Suites but they are a little out of the way.

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After I settled down, I went down to walk around the city.

Iligan City is a small city and people are really friendly here. I do not feel any real threat but I do see a more significant number of Muslim.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 315Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 312There is a light military presence in the city but that does not bother me.

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I walk to Cheding’s Peanuts. I heard they are popular here and it is a must try. They have different flavours of peanuts; salted, hot and spicy, garlic and hot and toasted.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 306Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 307Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 309Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 311I bought my share of 1.5kg of peanuts and continue to roam around the city.

I then saw a woman selling durians by the street side. I asked her where does the durian comes from? She said Davao. Bingo!

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I then ask her how much for a small tray of durian? P100 she said. I said ok, let’s try one. I know P100 is on the high side but I was hungry.

I just sit by the stall and start munching it watching the daily lives of the Iligan people goes by.

The durian is sweet but I prefer bitter durian. Nevertheless, it is still an experience.

After that, I walk to Gaisano Mall. It is a small mall, nothing much to see. OK, I am not a shopaholic so shopping does not really appeals to me.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 323Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 324I only stay in the mall for 30mins.

I noticed that there isn’t any 7-11 convenience stores in Iligan but they do have a 24hr store call Shoppee.

I then try to look for the Tourist Office as shown in Google Maps. True enough, the Tourist Office does not exist. So do not believe everything that is showed in Google Maps.

Still feeling hungry, I walk around looking for food and water. I then chance upon a food store and my original intention is just to buy some water.

Iligan is quite similar to Laoag. By 2000hrs, most of the shops are already closed.

I then look at the menu and the staff suggest that I try Batchoy.

All I know about Batchoy is that it is a soup base food. I have a fear about trying Filipino food not that it is awful but I do not know the ingredients used.

I do not take beef and sometimes the ingredients may include animals internal organs which I really cannot stomach it. I also noticed that Filipino love fried and sweet stuff which I am trying to reduce now.

I then decided to give it a try. P38 for a bowl of Batchoy. What do I have to lose?

Finally the food arrive and it is nicely and freshly prepared.

It is soup base food with eggs and noodle.

I finally tasted it.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 329It was delicious though a little bit saltish. I finished almost everything in the bowl. A p38 well spend.

Till now, I still miss the Batchoy served at that Iligan food stall.

As I am tired and tomorrow will be a long day, I turn in at 2100hrs.

Day 2

Woke up at 0700hrs feeling cold. The air conditioning is too cold but I am too tired to get up to tune it down till 0600hrs.

The lodge did not provide any blanket so I just use my sweater to cover myself.

Finally drag myself up by 0730hrs and start packing up. Check out by 0745hrs and went down stairs to the bakery shop and wait for Mr Lee.

I waited till 0815hrs but still no sign of him. As I do not want to waste any more time, I left without him.

Do I feel upset over this? Definitely not. As he is an old man, I could not ask for more as he may have some important task to do or he just could not wake up. He is just doing me a favour for offering his help.

So I cross the road and ask a security guard where do I wait for the jeepney to the South Bus Terminal. He pointed me to walk further down the road to the traffic lights along Quezon Avenue towards Roxas Avenue direction.

It is only about one or two blocks down.

I then ask the security at Shoppee where to wait for the jeepney again. He pointed just wait outside the store and told me just like for the destination “MERCY” or “South Terminal” written on the jeepney. He is also very kind enough to spot the jeepney for me.

The jeepney arrived in 5mins and the security alerted me. I thank him and confirm with the driver again that his jeepney is indeed going to the South Terminal. He said yes and I hop on.

When I arrived at the South Terminal, I asked around how to go to Tinago Falls. I understand that I need to take a jeepney to Barangay Buru-un and the people in directed me to the correct jeepney.

The jeepney move out with about 20% full which actually surprise me. I thought they usually will wait till at least 70% full then they will move out.

As the journey to Barangay Buru-un proceed, more passengers came on board and the soon the jeepney is filled to the brim. I am very sure it cannot load in anymore passengers but somehow they still can squeeze even more!

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After about 20mins of ride, I reach Barangay Buru-un and I paid the fare of P10. The jeepney driver called out to a habal habal driver.

The habal habal driver wanted to charge me P200 going to Tinago Falls and will also drive me back. At this time, I know he is trying to rip me off and I know the rate should not be more than P100.

I then asked if he will to bring me to Maria Chrsitina Falls after Tinago Falls, how much will it cost. He wanted to charge me P300! I do not have the luxury of time so I told him P250 is the maximum I will pay. He agree to it and I do not expect any rejection from him as he is already charging me a lot more.

The road leading to Tinago Falls is an uphill one. The first half of the path is well paved. As for the other half, the road is filled with stones and rocks. So the habal habal driver told me to sit closer to him.

With a 8kg haversack behind me, I have difficulty maintaining my balance.

Finally I reach the entrance of the path to Tinago Falls. The driver is so lazy that he stop 50m away from the entrance. I have to walk up to the stand that collect a donation to maintain the Falls. I deposited some money into it and just continue the journey.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 409Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 346There will be people offering you to be your guide but you actually do not need one. Just follow the path and you will see a flight of stairs that will lead you down.

The path going down is not an easy one, especially with a big haversack.

Some of the steps are quite steep and high. Some of them are so narrow that you have to balance yourself very well to make it down. There are also tree branches that falls down across the path.

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Soon I hear the sound of the Falls. The last 50m of the stairs are very slippery. So please be alert and the handrails of the stairs do not help because they are crawling with ants!

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 356Finally I made my final descend and the majestic Tinago Falls is in front of me.

I was actually very impressed. It actually exceeded my expectation. I actually expect a medium size falls like Pagsanjan Falls but Tinago Falls is bigger than that. The water droplets from the Falls is flying in all directions making my camera and bag wet in no time.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 360Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 359Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 369Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 370It is very refreshing. I just stood there, listen to the roar of the falls. Visitors are having a good time and there is a broken bridge that leads to the other side of the falls.

I stayed there about 30mins and start the dreaded climb up to the entrance.

I took a rest for almost every 10 steps. It reminds me of Batad. It took me a good 10mins to reach the top and slowly made my way to the entrance. I took a rest and I manage to speak to the caretaker Ate Barbing (Barbara Viray).

Barbara was surprised that I know her name and ask did I get to know her from the Tourism Office. I said no. Instead, I get to know her from a blog. I even showed her the print out that I have with her name on it.

She was surprised and took the time to read the article and showed to her friends and family. I told her she can keep the copy and she is very thankful for that.

I then bid my farewell and walk down to the habal habal driver.

We continue our journey but he took a different route this time. Instead of backtracking to the main road, he move uphill. He told me that the road and scenery is nicer. I am thinking is he trying to get more money for me.

The road uphill are all paved. He came to a bridge that can see Maria Cristina Falls from the bridge. He just stop for a moment and we continue the journey.

The time needed to travel from Tinago Falls to Maria Cristina Falls is about 15mins.

I paid the driver the fare which I am surprised that he did not ask for more.

The entrance fee to Maria Cristina Falls is P85 which includes the shuttle service to the Falls.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 413Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 415Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 414The security is tight here. You have to deposit all your bags at the entrance. You are only allowed a small bag that contains your camera.

I waited at the entrance for the shuttle service and it came in less than 5 mins.

I was alone in the shuttle and it seems to raise some suspicious of the staff there. They ask me where am I from and whether am I really travelling alone.

A staff of the Maria Cristina Falls joined me in the shuttle. He seems to be a very high ranking officer there and even the guards have to salute him and he is in civilian clothes!

I was again asked by the high ranking staff where am I from and am I with the group of Koreans that has just entered the park.

I said no and told him that I really travel alone.

He alight at the same place as me and is taking video of the visitors around the park. Weird.

Maria Cristina Falls is a much bigger fall than Tinago Falls. However you cannot get close to it like Tinago Falls.

From Wikipedia,

Maria Cristina Falls is a waterfall of the Agus River on the island of Mindanao. It is sometimes called the “twin falls” as the flow is separated by a rock at the brink of the waterfall.

Maria Cristina Falls powers the Agus VI Hydroelectric Plant, one of the several hydroelectric plants that harness Agus River. The power plant has a 200 MW potential capacity supplied by a water flow of about 130 cubic meters per second.

Agus VI is operated by the National Power Corporation and was commissioned on May 31, 1953. Under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Mindanao Super Region development plan, the Agus VI is planned to undergo a 1.856-billion-peso upgrading project.

So as you can see, this Fall is critical to Iligan. It serves power to the neighbourhood area. This explains why the security is tight here.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 419Even if the falls is not protected, I do not think you can possibly swim there because the current is just too strong.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 449Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 450There is actually other activities in the park like zipline and wall climbing. They even have a small zoo there!

However, this does not interest me and I left after visiting the Falls.

To get back to the entrance, just request any guard to radio for the shuttle.

Soon I am at the entrance and bid the staff farewell.

I walk down the road and I was joined by a lady. She ask am I a Korean and am I for business here. She told me that Iligan now has many Koreans doing business here. I said no and I am only visiting here. She asked me how is my impression if Iligan so far? I replied the people are very friendly and not as dangerous as it seems.

When approaching the main road, I saw a jeepney waiting for passengers. The lady told me that the jeepney will bring me to the South Terminal but I just need to walk a few meters.

I am fine and hop in. I paid the P10 fare and I reach the South Terminal in 10 mins.

I thank the lady and walk my way to the terminal.

As mentioned earlier, it is easy to spot a Rural Transit bus in this area as they seem to have the monopoly of the bus route. I look for the bus bound for CDO.

The trick to find a seat in the bus it and check are there any belongings on the seat. If there is, this means the seat has already been taken by someone else.

Look for an empty seat and just sit down. Wait for the conductor to approach you (this guys have good memories to be able to identify who are the new passengers) for the fare.

In Iligan, I can also see that the jeepney here are more colourful decorated compared to those in Manila.

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To be fair to the Manila jeepney drivers, decorating a jeepney takes up time and also money. They are trying to make ends meet so decorating the jeepney now is less of a priority.

The jeepneys in Philippines is losing its soul. What has made them unique has become a burden to the drivers. Look around Manila jeepneys and you will see nothing but a metal steel box with four wheels.

I paid P85 for the trip to CDO.

The bus seat legroom is good. So much better than those in Manila. Imagine I still can put my haversack between my legs me and still feel comfortable.

The road leading to CDO is well paved. There are road works being done in various part of the highway.

The ride is uneventful and we reach CDO in 2.5hrs.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 508Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 509

Once I reach the bus terminal in CDO, I walk out of the terminal and find a row of taxis waiting.

I saw a group of jeepney nearby and head for it.

I asked one of the barker which jeepney goes to Divisoria. He pointed me to the furthest jeepney and I asked the driver does he know the way to Victoria Suites. I showed him the map and he says ok.

I get worried when he says ok in such an easy way.

I gave him P20 but he did not give me any change back. I was thinking if he can really bring me to the hotel, P20 is still worth it.

After looking at the map for a few times, he drop me off and told me to walk down the street and I will find the hotel.

I then walk down and found that I have lost my way. The hotel is nowhere nearby too.

Thankfully CDO has the sign of road names at most corner of the road.

I slowly orientate myself and hope the map of CDO by Google Maps is correct.

After some 20mins, I finally find my way to Victoria Suites.

I walked in and ask for a single room. However they have run out of them so the next choice will be a standard double room.

I paid P850 for it and the staff lead me to the room.

Now this is the shocking part.

The air con for the rooms are wall mounted which is fine. However, the back of the air con which dissipate the heat is facing the corridor. So the whole corridor is hot.

The room is basic but frankly speaking, I would prefer my P400 room at Jessica Lodge in Illigan.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 512Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 511Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 513The aircon is very noisy. It is rattling so much like the unit is going to broken down into pieces anytime soon.

The two things that this room that is better than Jessica Lodge is that there is a decent TV and also hot water.

If I will to come back to CDO again, I would rather try the hotel next door; Cagayan Park View Lodge.

The location is good as it is just a 3min walk to Divisoria night market.

As it is still early like 1500hrs, I took a walk around the city.

I walk from the hotel on Tirso Neri Street to Aguinaldo Street.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 515CDO gave me an impression of Cebu. High traffic and noisy. I prefer Iligan for this where traffic is much lighter.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 516Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 517I then turn back walking aimlessly. I even saw a shop selling fireworks! How I wish my kids are here to play with it. In a safe way of course.

I then walk back towards Divisoria and found that the vendors are setting up their stalls.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 519Divisoria has a night market every weekend. So I timed my visit to coincide with the market.

I walk around the market and saw the street side food vendors has already set their stalls up.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 521Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 520Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 522Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 525

I found one selling chicken meat in sticks. I think it is called Chicken Proven. I asked what meat are those and he said chicken. I then decide to try one for P5 and it actually taste quite nice until the last piece. I taste like some internal organs. Yucks.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 527Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 526Before I buy any street food, I will look at the oil used. If the oil is still clear, that means the oil is still new so the food should be ok. If the oil is black or very dark, I will not buy from them.

Balut is everywhere in Divisoria and I often see customer munching happily. I really do not understand why and wonder why is it so tasty.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 528Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 529Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 544

I then walk further down and found a shop selling Kwi Kwi I think. It is a type of egg that is coated with an orange stuff and they fried with it.

I ordered one for P10 and the vendor heat it up by frying again! He then cut into small pieces and pour some syrup on it.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 538Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 539I tasted it and is kinda spicy. It actually taste good!

The vendor here actually put the food in the bowl with a plastic bag covering it. So the food will not stain the bowl and after eating, they just need to throw away the plastic bag away and do not need to wash the bowl. They use less water but use more plastic.

I then saw another stall selling finger food.

They have different type of rolls like spring rolls with ham and cheese, sausage etc. I pointed out to the stall that each type of food belongs to which ethnic race and the stall staff is surprised.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 541I ordered a roll with ham and cheese in it. It was tasty really.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 540I then walk around the market as more vendors are opening their stalls.

I saw a few fruit stalls and I asked them the place of origin of the durian. One of them answered Davao and I ordered a packet for P80. I sat down at the Golden Friendship Park and enjoy my durian. Again it is sweet. Does all Davao durian taste sweet?

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 545I ordered a 200ml Coke for P10 from another vendor. These glass bottle pet bottle brings back so much memories of my childhood.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 550This is one of the reasons that I like Philippines. It reminds me of Singapore in the 70s. Though not technological advance in the smaller cities but it does have a slower pace of life.

I went back to the hotel and take a shower. My body is stinky after all the travelling.

I walk back to Divisoria for more shopping and instead I found a massage shop located at the corner of  Tirso Neri Street and Tiano Brothers Street. I think the massage shop is called Fal Thai Massage.

The appearance of the massage shop looks sleazy with a dimly lit reception area. A 75min Aromatherapy massage cost P250 is is really good value for money.

I went in and ask for the massage. You have a choice of a male or female masseur. I was served by a lady named Jannel I think.

She has the strength of a cow and I almost burst into tears with all her strength kneading my body. I even have to tell her to use less strength.

The massage is good overall and I suggest you try this shop when you are in CDO. They are clean and no hanky panky.

Feeling hungry so I finally gave in to Jollibee.

I finally make my way back to the hotel for some much needed rest. However, the aircon is rattling so badly that I could not sleep till 0230hrs.

Also I found out from TV that there is a typhoon coming towards Philippines and I really have a bad feeling about this.

Philippines typhoon season is usually from June to early November. So if a typhoon will to happen outside the typhoon season, it is usually very destructive. Typhoon Sending in 2011 is one of the examples.

I hope it is not another “nightmare before Christmas”.

Day 3

I woke up at 0330hrs to prepare for my departure to the airport. My flight is 0610hrs so I target to leave the hotel at 0345hrs and I was told I need a maximum of 30mins to reach the airport at those hours.

I check out the room and I am glad that I need not hear those rattling sound again.

The guard got a taxi for me and the driver wanted to charge me P250 for the trip. I agreed as this is the price mentioned by the staff of the hotel too.

The journey took about 20mins with very light traffic.

When I reach the airport, it is still closed and we waited for about 30mins before the airport open.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 551Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 552Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 556It is strange that no one collected the P30 terminal fee from us. The staff say it is not needed. Strange.

The flight leave before schedule and we too arrive before schedule.

I am finally back to the dreaded Manila. Not that I hate Manila but I am just terrified by the traffic sometimes.

I again do all the mundane things in Manila.

  • Went to Divisoria with my big haversack using the MRT and jeepney. I was scared that I will be an open target for pickpockets. Fortunately nothing happen  to me.
  • Mall 199 has opened a new wing in Divisoria.
  • Bought all my stuff and again ride the jeepney and MRT to Quirino Station and walk all the way to Saint Andres Market.
  • Shopping at PureGold supermarket and Saint Andres Market. Took a cab to Five Stars Terminal in Pasay. Driver wanted P200 (that is what I hate about taxi drivers) but I said I will tip him well if he bring me in a quick and safe way. Now I have two big bags.
  • End up with a P135 fare and I gave him P170.
  • Took a bus to Dau terminal for P150.
  • From Dau terminal, trike driver wanted P200 to Devera Hotel. I said P70. He counter offer P150. I said P70 again and he finally agreed. You do not need to be generous to trike and taxi drivers in Angeles City. This is the most expensive transport that I have ever encountered in the Philippines. If you are positive about the fare, stick to it. This is the only city that make the exorbitant fare legal!
  • Reach Devera Hotel in one piece. Check-in is smooth and they have a lift now.
  • Rooms in Devera start to show some defects. Cheap mirrors they have used start to have the mercury coating peeling off.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 562Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 564Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 565

  • Staff is friendly though the old staff is no longer there. 6 months routine again?
  • Shop at Clark SM to buy all the stuff I need. Mango is expensive here at P85 per kilo.
  • Have dinner at Savory. At the least it is not Jollibee.
  • Walk around Fields Avenue and have a drink at Kokomos and watch the world go by.
  • Finally turn in at 2200hrs after packing all my stuff.

Day 4

I walk to SM Clark to look for a driver to bring me to the airport. They are charging P350 now instead of P300.

I declined the offer. I would rather than get the airport transfer from the hotel for P400. The distance from hotel to the airport is fewer than 12km and it cost P350. This is really daylight robbery.

Finally check out of the hotel and went to the airport. During the short drive, the driver recall the memories of the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the 90s. He says how they guarded the house while their families flee to Pangasinan for shelter. He also mentioned how the Americans start retreating before the eruptions. They were paid P50 per day to clean up Angeles City and the surrounding areas.

I like to hear such stories from the locals. You can feel that they are speaking from their heart about the despair then and how grateful what they have now compared to then.

Finally reach DMIA and check-in is quite fast.

I noticed that DMIA has added a new level cater for international airlines like Korean Air. It even has some duty free shops and the staff told me that this new level has open about 5 months ago. Seems like the expansion of DMIA is really progressing well.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 567Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 566Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 574Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 569Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 568Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 571Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 581Finally, I ended my trip to Northern Mindanao.

5 cities, 4 airports in 4 days. It is indeed a very tiring trip.

Overall, I enjoyed my trip though I am quite worried initially. The people in Ozamiz, Iligan and CDO are all very friendly. I was actually surprise that the Muslim and Christian live peacefully together in each city, at the least I do not see any Christians and Muslim fighting.

Each person be it Muslim or Christian mind their own business and I do not sense any enemity between the two religions.

I would say it is safe to visit these three cities in Northern Mindanao. Of course the normal precautions still applies and bring your common sense with you.

I really enjoyed MOAP and Tinago Falls and if you ask me will I come back if there is a chance. I will say yes without hesitation.

Philippines - Northern Mindanao - Ozamiz, Iligan, CDO - 583

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11 thoughts on “Philippines – Northern Mindanao – Ozamiz, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro – 29th Nov ~ 2nd Dec 2012

    1. haha..ok ok ar..deal..end of 2013 =P
      and last time when i am at Clark airport, there is already had the upstair new shop at airport liao o..and i even go to the toilet..nice and clean..wahaha

  1. I am glad you enjoyed your visit to Iligan and I have enjoyed reading your experiences in the other places you visited that I have not yet been to. The Iligan City Dept. of Tourism is alive and well, located a short walk from City Hall on Buhanginan Hill, about a 15 minute ride in a taxi from most parts of the city proper. There are also regular jeepney service available to this area as well. For future reference here is a link to their website.

    http://iligancitytourism.yolasite.com/

    I have checked the location on Google Maps as you have described and can verify that it is correctly shown on the map.

    Thanks for your nicely detailed report on your visit to Northern Mindanao and excellent pictures.

  2. Thank you so much for writing a very honest view of your visit to northern mindanao. it really showed a true image of a place from a visitor whose fear was forgotten and was proven wrong by the experience. and by the way, tourism office is found near the main building of the city hall. an information center is found near the public plaza. please visit http://www.iligancitytourism.com for other information you need for iligan city. Hope you can visit us again for another batch of waterfalls hopping. smaller and intimate ones this time…meaning, you can actually swim in them too like tinago falls but smaller.

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