Mid of 2015 (I know it’s already April but i think it’s very timely to post this because summer is here and everyone needs a break and go travel somewhere – somewhere a bit cold and forget for a while that el nino’s really happening), I got a chance to traverse Northern Mindanao (Philippines). I’ve been to some beautiful parts of Luzon and been to Visayas but not Mindanao, for one main reason – SAFETY. For some reasons, when you say Mindanao, it has this negative connotation for Filipinos that it’s completely unsafe to travel there, it’s not peaceful, it’s dangerous and the list goes on which I completely beg to disagree because I had a smooth travel on my way there (via cebupac for 2500 php roundtrip) and most of the people I’ve met in Mindanao specifically in Iligan were the friendliest most welcoming and hospitable people I’ve met and I’m not even exaggerating. So to cut the the story short, I think I kind of “forced” my mom to let me travel. 😉
I was there for only 4 days (I know, it’s not enough!) but boy, these 4 days were SURREAL.
I’ve compiled 10 Reasons why you need to visit Northern Mindanao NOW:
As an OFW living in the desert, this trip made me miss the trees, the plants, the mountains and the sea not to mention the fresh air. Nothing beats sipping your coffee in a breezy morning overlooking some mountains while listening to the chirp of the birds and crow of chicken (tilaok).
Here are some of my nature snaps during this trip:
2. THE FOOD
Aside from the friendly people, one good reason to visit Northern Mindanao is to taste the good food that the city has to offer.
LECHON. CHICHARON. HUMBA. PASTEL. REPEAT 10X. Ahhh just typing these three makes me drool.
(image courtesy of The Chronic Vacacionista)
When in Iligan City, you should definitely not miss their Lechon, I know I haven’t been to Cebu (but I’ve tasted Cebuchon in Manila) and I heard that they’re way better than Cebu’s Lechon. I don’t know about that but all I know is that it’s so good I was eating lechon the whole 4 days of my stay. Unlike the normal Lechon that I got used to, instead of putting the spices on the skin, they put the spices (like lemongrass, salt, pepper etc.) inside the lechon and it turns out to be so juicy and flavourful plus the meat is super tender. It’s perfect with white rice and dipped with pinakurat and yes as of typing this post Iligan City has the best lechon I’ve ever tasted.
(image courtesy of google.com)
Also a must try when you’re in Northern Mindanao is their famous Chicharon. It’s not your typical “fatty” chicharon instead CDO’s Chicharon is more of the “meaty” type. Again, perfect with Pinakurat!
(image courtesy of Feastbewithyou.com)
Second to Lechon, another must-try in Northern Mindanao, is HUMBA. It is a sweet and saucy braised pork. I don’t know if I’m just not that adventurous enough with it comes to food or what but I haven’t tasted anything quite like it in Luzon. I think Lechon Paksiw is close but not close enough to the taste of Humba. I love any sweet dish paired with rice that’s why when I first tasted Humba, it was love at first bite.
Image Courtesy of TengTurista
And of course, who wouldn’t fall in love with the taste of PASTEL I’ve been eating this sweet pastry since when I was a kid not knowing that it’s one of Cagayan de Oro’s main delicacy/pasalubong. These pastry buns filled with leche flan was my dessert, morning and midnight snack during my whole trip. I also bought more than 5 boxes as pasalubong.
Oh btw, while in Mindanao, I also got a chance to try the infamous Durian for the first time. And I quite didn’t like it. It tasted a bit like jackfruit but I just prefer the taste of jackfruit.
2. The Waterfalls (Go Falls Hopping in Iligan City!)
Well it’s not called the city of majestic waterfalls for nothing! I heard there are 23 “promoted” waterfalls in Iligan City, or maybe more as there are still waterfalls left undiscovered. I had the privilege to visit three of them: Tinago Falls, Maria Cristina Falls and Mimbalot Falls.
Let’s start of with my favorite: the truly mesmerising Tinago Falls. Tinago means Hidden in English. Well it’s living up to its name since it’s really hidden and you have to hike for 30mins (15 if you’re not lazy like me who had to rest every couple of minutes) to reach the waterfalls. There were stairs built so the hike was a bit easy but you still need to be extra careful though as it’s quite slippery and steep.
But it’s all worth in the end as you’ll get to see more of these:
Maria Cristina Falls
Now this one needs no Introduction. It’s the mother of all waterfalls. Maria Cristina Falls is well-known for its natural beauty. It is also Iligan City’s primary source of electric power.
It’s so grandeur that just by looking at it makes my knees weak and submit to its power.
The last but not the least of Iligan city’s so-called Tourism Triangle (along with Maria Cristina and Tinago Falls). The place where Mimbalot is located had been already deeloped to become a nice picnic place.
4. VISIT CAGAYAN DE ORO (Divine Mercy Shrine, High Ridge Restaurant, Dahilayan)
Since you’re already nearby, why not pay a visit to Cagayan de Oro? I swear it’s worth it.
First, we visited the Divine Mercy Shrine. First and foremost, you have to make sure you’re wearing a decent attire before you enter the vicinity. People can’t enter if they’re wearing improper clothing. We had to borrow shawls and skirts so we could enter the place.
The Divine Mercy is a sight to behold. It features a 50feet statue of the Divine Mercy Jesus Christ. It is said to be the tallest of its kind not just in the Philippines but also across the world.
It was a very humbling experience for me to visit the shrine. You will also appreciate the beauty of nature (like you’re in the garden of Eden) while you’re there. It was very solemn and relaxing. They say that the Divine Mercy Shrine heals and makes miracles.
Dinner at High Ridge
After we visited the Divine Mercy Shrine, it’s already time for dinner so we visited this famous restaurant called “High Ridge”. It is located at Upper Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City. It has a perfect view of the whole city. The interior of the restaurant was really nice as well.
It was a really nice and romantic evening. Perfect for celebrating special occasions. 🙂
CONQUER ASIA’S LONGEST ZIPLINE AT DAHILAYAN
Located at Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. It’s a bit of a travel from Cagayan de Oro but it’s all worth it. Upon arriving, we immediately went straight to the washroom (because of the long travel) :)). Then immediately we headed to zipline registration. There’s no queue. We were very lucky when we visited Dahilayan, there aren’t too many people because it’s off peak season and it’s a weekday. I advise to just get the all rides zip package.
So we were able to brave the Asia’s Longest Dual Zipline and fly like Superman from a launch point at 4,700 feet above sea level. With speeds of up to 90 kph, we zoomed through lush greenery and breathtaking views that can only be found in the mountains of Dahilayan.
We’ve tried the 320m + 150m Dual Zipline and the mother zip line (840m). Riding the zipline was one cool way to experience the nature and the cold weather of Bukidnon. The weather reminds me of Baguio City and Tagaytay.
There were also some activities and around the park and some interesting activities apart from the zip attractions. They have horseback riding, zorb, trampoline etc. Also Dahilayan would be a perfect venue for photoshoots (and selfies!).
For more information about Dahilayan, you can visit:
5. THE PEOPLE
What I’m really grateful of during my whole stay was the warm and hospitable people of the city. Even though I couldn’t speak the language, there was never a moment where I felt left out or that I don’t belong. As the visitor, I should be the one adjusting with my environment but I felt the opposite when I was there. They were trying to speak in Tagalog just so I can relate to the conversations even though they’re not used to it. Also, I felt safe and comfortable.
Since I’m a Tagalog (although my mom is bisaya so I know few phrases), I needed to learn some basic bisaya to help me interact with the people. Here are some of the basic phrases I learned during my stay:
There you go. 5 reasons that will make you visit this magical place. But I know this city has too much to offer. And I also know there are still lots places I need to explore, things to do (like the whitewater rafting!) and food that I need to taste so I promise that I’ll go back soon! Nindot kaayo dito!
No matter where I go, It’s really still more fun in the Philippines.
Note: images were downsized to load faster.