The Philippines is best known for its many islands and beaches. Not many people consider the inland areas like the lush mountain regions, full of rainforest trees and rivers that meander down the valleys. Some of the bigger islands of the Philippines have rainforests that are as rich and diverse as those in Borneo, and have rivers that flow rapidly down the valleys. If you’re one of those adrenaline junkies or even if you just want to have some adventure, you have to try white water rafting in the Philippines.
I grew up in a city where the river cuts through the middle, and was a vital part of the founding of the city by the Spaniards in the 1600s. For years, Cagayan de Oro City was just a main commercial hub in the northern part of Mindanao, and the Cagayan river was overlooked as just a river that formed part of the city’s feature. Until a few years ago, when whitewater rafting adventures have been introduced to harness the big rapids of the Cagayan river.
Cagayan de Oro Whitewater Rafting
Whitewater rafting on the Cagayan river is one of the latest tourist attractions in the Philippines. Since its small beginnings, whitewater rafting business has grown and inspired more people to look at other adventure sports or activities to be setup around Cagayan de Oro. It has transformed an otherwise-sterile business hub/city of Cagayan de Oro into an adventure capital of the Philippines. Soon thereafter, ziplines over the forest canopy and gorges have been setup, and a dirt bike track has opened in the nearby town in Bukidnon.
Taking that exhilarating trip down the Cagayan river is something that a tourist to the Philippines must now consider. It’s a refreshing change of scene to the usual white sand beaches on the many islands around the country. I’ve only been on a couple other whitewater rafting trip in other parts of the world, and I can say that this is by far the best and most exciting whitewater rafting trip I’ve ever done! There are more rapids on the Cagayan river and it caters to various levels of confidence of people. The river also offers a great scenery of the lush green tropical rainforest, and the gorge that surrounds parts of the river. There’s also some interesting wildlife along the river.
Cagayan de Oro River
Several companies now operate guided trips for whitewater rafting in Cagayan de Oro. The famous one is called Kagay Whitewater Rafting. They have the best rafting equipment and well trained guides who are very familiar with the river. The trip generally starts from the centre of town in Divisoria, where Kagay has its own jeepney loaded with the rafts at the top of the vehicle. From the city, it is a 45 minute journey to the start of the rapids.
There are 2 options with the rafting trip: a beginner option and an advanced option. The beginner option involves going through 14 rapids, and offers a taster of the river rafting experience without the massive current. This is suitable for those who are not very confident but just wants to sample or experience whitewater rafting. The advanced option covers all the 21 navigable rapids, with the first 7 being the biggest rapids on the course.
Whitewater Rafting in Cagayan de Oro is an absolutely exhilarating experience, and one that must not be missed if you ever head down to the Philippines. Getting to Cagayan de Oro is easy, with many domestic flights available from Manila, Cebu and Davao. A range of airlines fly into Manila and Cebu from various international destinations, and from there, you can take a domestic flight to Cagayan de Oro.
Hope you have a Fabulous Journey to Cagayan de Oro, the City of Golden Friendship!
There are only very few places in the world where you get nice beaches, lush rainforests, exquisite waterfalls and a variety of hot and cold springs all in one island. Camiguin is one of them. Many people from outside the Philippines may not know where this island is, especially since this is not one of those at the top of the list for tourist brochures. Some who have been to the Philippines would have heard of this island, and to those who managed to visit, many have said it’s paradise rediscovered.
The first time I went to this island in 1996, the island was just starting to become recognised in the Philippines as the next tourist destination. The roads were still not very developed, and hardly any decent infrastructure were in place. I recently went back after nearly 15 years, and the island has now been improved to make it more tourist-friendly. The sealed road network now covers the entire island, and there are even smaller roads inland that can cut through to some of the villages in the interior. They now have more accommdations available, coverage for mobile phones, internet, and a more organised public transport.
Camiguin – Location And Getting There
Camiguin is situated in the southern part of the Philippines, between the main island of Mindanao and the island of Bohol in the Visayas. The island sits northeast of Cagayan de Oro City, the city where I grew up in the Philippines. It’s an easy 2-hour ferry ride from Cagayan de Oro to Camiguin. In my recent trip there, I found that they have reinstated the once-defunct service between Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin, and now travels at least once a day in each direction. It makes travelling to the island much easier, as Cagayan de Oro is a major hub and centre in the northern part of Mindanao, and it is where you can get flights to from Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
The Best Bits Of Camiguin
Camiguin is more than just your tropical island with a white sand beach. With so much to offer, here’s a list of the best places to see on the island:
Perhaps the most popular attraction of Camiguin, White Island is not actually an island. It’s a sandbar that lies just off the coast of Camiguin island. What makes it fascinating is its nice powder white sand that changes shape every single day depending on the tides. There are days that the sandbar is so tiny that you only have enough space to fit literally 10 people on it, and days that it looks reasonably sized that you can walk on it from end to end in 15 minutes. The waters are also crystal clear, making it very enticing to go for a dip.
This falls is one of the few around the island, but it is perhaps the grandest looking and most accessible of the waterfalls in Camiguin. It’s 76 meters high, and has a nice pool at the bottom of the falls where people can take a dip. The water can be a bit cool but it’s such a refreshing treat to the tropical heat of the island.
Guiob Church Ruins & Sunken Cemetery
Concrete cross - Sunken Cemetery
There are a few volcanos on Camiguin island, some being dormant and one other still considered an active volcano. Though there hasn’t been any eruptions for a while, Camiguin had suffered a devastating eruption from one of the now-dormant volcanos in 1871. This eruption had quite a huge impact that it destroyed much of the island and buried and sank some of its towns. One specific area that sank is the Sunken Cemetery. A huge cross has been erected as a reminder of the eruption that nearly wiped out the island. Nearby is the Guiob Church Ruins, another reminder of the devastation that occurred in 1871.
Ardent Hot Springs
This may not be a natural wonder, but it comes from a natural source. Having many volcanoes, Camiguin naturally has a lot of geothermal activity and resources. As a result, the Ardent hot springs came about to utilise the water from a natural hot spring in the area. Ardent is now a developed resort, and though it has somewhat become commercialised, it still offers a great place to soak up and enjoy the soothing hot spring waters.
This is another island just off Camiguin island and a proper island. It is a 20-minute boat ride from Camiguin on a motorised bangka (a local outrigger). It offers a nice white sand beach and has a marine sanctuary. The island is considered a nature park, and is home to some native birds and bats. It’s a great place to check out. Snorkelling on the marine sanctuary is very rewarding, with colourful fish of all shapes and sizes swimming around.
These are what I thought would be the best places to see in Camiguin. Of course there are more spots, but some of them are not as good as these ones. I hope you have enjoyed this post. Please spread this to your friends.
On 26 September 2009, the northern part of the Philippines was struck by a strong typhoon that dumped a month’s worth of rain in a matter of 6 hours. The typhoon was called Typhoon Ketsana, though locally known as “Ondoy”. Typhoon Ondoy came like a thief in the night. No one expected that this typhoon was so intense. Severe flooding happened very quickly, and there was little to no time for people to respond and prepare themselves for what’s to come. Rivers burst their banks and overflowed into the villages and neighbourhood, submerging the capital Manila into neck-deep waters. People scrambled to rooftops and searched for higher ground. Many were stranded without electricity, water, and mobile phone coverage. Families were split apart, not knowing what has happened to one another.
It was a scene of utter chaos. The whole city looked like a warzone, with cars damaged and strewn all over the place, and walls collapsing due to the strong current of the flood as it gushes through the entire city. Typhoon Ketsana disaster has claimed 250 lives in the Philippines and left 500,000 people homeless, and now Typhoon Ketsana has wrecked havoc to Vietnam and Cambodia. 33 people have been reported dead in Vietnam and so far only 9 in Cambodia.
This is a travel blog and I realise that I may have just breached my rules of only putting out content related to travel. However, having come from the Philippines and seeing the disaster, I would love to contribute and help my fellow countrymen out. The Philippines is a great travel destination, and like most places with a good tourism potential, this disaster will hurt whatever tourism industry there is in the country. It is a bit like the Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand where the devastation is intense, and tourism has plummeted, causing more suffering to its people.
Feeling Helpless While It Happened
Floods in the Philippines
I was logged into Facebook on Saturday night, trying to see what’s happening to my friends when I saw a barrage of status updates from my friends pleading for help. It was so distressing seeing one of my close friends from university who was really pleading for help for her family. My friend is now based in England, but her family is still in the Philippines. Her entire family got stranded on the roof of their house when the flood waters gushed into their home. They had to endure the wind and rain for several hours while waiting to be rescued.
Some of my other friends were frantically looking for their relatives, as they didn’t know where they were, and they didn’t have any mobile phone coverage.
First Hand Account of the Tragedy
Here’s a first hand account from a friend’s friend, Lisa Navidad of the Typhoon Ketsana disaster:
“It was raining non-stop since Friday evening. Hubby and I were watching TV and heard that Pasig was flooded. That was where my younger sister, Bubut and her husband was living. I texted her and asked how things where in Pasig since they were also living with my bro-in-law’s grandma who is 87 y/o. She replied with exclamation points “Hanggang ankle na inside the house!!!” (It’s ankle-deep inside the house) and that was the last time I heard from her.
I was texting here the whole afternoon and way into the evening. No response. I thought it odd that she won’t reply to me and even when my mom and dad texted her. I felt that something was wrong.
What happened next was excruciating. News flash of ranging waters in Pasig and on different parts of Manila was shocking to say the least. How could this be happening. I was scared for my sister and her family. They lived in a one-storey house, with an old woman who is blind in one-eye. Where will they go? Are they still alive? Those where the thoughts that ran through my head. I’ve been calling their cellphones the whole night, but it was out of service. Panic and hysteria are bubbling inside my head. The storm and fear forming inside my chest was devastating. Where they still alive?! I hoped so, I really hoped so.
I talked to the sister-in-law, younger sibling of my sister’s husband. She told me the last time they talked to them was around 4pm. They urged them to transfer to an abandoned apartment in front of the house because it had a second floor. Then after that no news. Each hour that passed, fear and terror crept into our hearts. My dad did not take it well, he passed out. His blood pressure climbed high, he was beyond consolation. So is my mom.
No one could help us. The rescue was a slow, pain-staking process. The night passed and we wondered if they were safe, if they had food, if they were alive. The following day, we waited for news, none came. It was after lunch already – still no news if there was any rescue going to happen. We called everyone we knew, all the government agencies, anyone who can help, strangers. No one could help, all the government agencies were deployed, all we can do was wait…and hope that they were still alive.
September 27 4:47pm, my sis-in-law got a message from them, they were alive! Thank God but stuck in the 2nd floor of the apartment, cold, no food and no idea if help was coming. That gave us hope, they were alive. We will move heaven and earth to get to them even if we had to swim there ourselves.
A lot of people from Facebook responded to my urgent request for help. But still we couldn’t do anything. If only there were more rubber boats available, if only we could get there faster, if only help was sure to come. We couldn’t do anything but wait. Wait for any good soul to tell us that they will get them. My sister had hypoglycemia, her grandma was sickly.
After waiting for almost 2 days already, finally news! People from Red Cross and the Armed Forces got them. It 12:30am September 27 they were riding, 1 of the 4 rubber boats deployed for the whole City of Pasig, back to our waiting and longing arms. Rescued at last.”
My sister’s account of what happened brought goosebumps in my arms, people wailing at night in the dark asking for help, asking for food, but they couldn’t do anything…the water was high, way past the one-storey roof. There were dead bodies, mothers who gave birth prematurely, sick people in respirators who lost their lives due to hypothermia and no electricity. No words could describe the devastation. Still even as I write this people are still on top of roofs, people are still starving waiting and hoping for help, people have lost their loved ones, people have lost their means to live.
The Typhoon Ketsana disaster is not over yet. Cleanup is still in progress, and there are still missing people, unaccounted for after the flood. Some have been presumed dead. The Philippines is now appealing for international aid.
Images of The Flood
Here is a video clip of the terrible disaster that struck the Philippines:
Help The Flood Victims – Please Donate
The Philippines need a lot of help in recovering from this disaster. Poor people have lost their homes completely and would need to rebuild their lives literally from scratch. If you can donate to any of the organizations listed below, it will go a long way to helping the people of the Philippines recover from this tragedy. Below are the list of good organizations that you can donate for the Typhoon relief:
Caritas Australia is part of the global Caritas Foundation, whose aim is to help the poor and the disadvantaged. Caritas Australia is currently accepting donations for the Philippine Flood Relief. Caritas in other countries would surely have a similar fund raising for this disaster so visit your local Caritas website.
Ayala Foundation is a Philippine-based organization that was founded by one of the Philippines’ wealthiest families, the Ayala family. The foundation has several projects that help the poor and the disadvantaged. You can donate for Ondoy victims here. Philippine National Red Cross
The Philippine National Red Cross is part of the International Society of Red Cross and Red Crescent, and is responsible for reaching out to those who are in need of medical assistance and aid. Please donate to this wonderful organization.
Thank you for your generosity and for your reading this post. I will be back next week to write about another exciting destination.
The Philippines – an archipelago of 7,107 beautiful islands in the warm tropics. It’s one of Asia’s best kept secrets, and one that has not been overrun by tourists who come to Asia from Europe and the Americas. The Philippines has been considered off the beaten track by most travellers to Asia, due to its geographical location being across the South China Sea from mainland Asia. Another factor that has caused the Philippines to be off the mainstream Southeast Asia circuit is the bad publicity that the country has gotten over the years. The negative publicity has been bad for tourism in the Philippines, however, it can be seen as good for those who want to experience a not-so-usual holiday in Asia.
Having 7,107 islands, there is no shortage of wonderful places and things to see in this tropical archipelago. I grew up in this country, and I have yet to finish exploring all the 7,107 islands. However, while I was living there, I had the opportunity to experience first hand some of the best that the country has to offer. Being a local, I had some advantages in getting around and experiencing some places that not many foreign tourists have managed to wander to. Here are some of the top ten things to see and do in the Philippines:
1.) The Islands and The Many White Sand Beaches
It is obvious that the number one attraction in the Philippines are its thousands of islands sprawled between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. There are so many white sand beaches around the country that it is easy to lose count. The most famous of all the white sand beaches in the Philippines is on the island of Boracay. Boracay has been known for its 3km powder-fine white sand beach and a great place to either relax or party on til the wee hours of the morning. Other great islands to experience for beaches are Bantayan Island (near Cebu), White Beach in Puerto Galera, Camiguin Island, El Nido in Palawan, and Bohol.
The Spaniards colonised the Philippines for nearly 400 years and brought their festive traditions from Spain to these beautiful islands. Fiestas are abound in the Philippines, and each island or town/city would have its own unique celebrations, mainly in honour of a patron saint. It’s one of the biggest celebrations in each town’s events calendar and one not to be missed. The biggest and most popular fiesta in the Philippines would be the Sinulog in Cebu. This generally occurs on the 3rd week of January, and is celebrated to honour the patron saint Señor Santo Niño (the image of the Infant Jesus wearing a crown and holding a golden globe on one hand). People in Cebu would take to the streets to participate in the parade, and celebrations happen all over the island. Most locals would have parties and open their doors to any guests to have a feast. Another great fiesta is the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo on the province of Aklan. The locals paint themselves black to emulate their patron saint, the Señor Santo Niño. This generally happens around the same time as the Sinulog in Cebu, but it is worth checking out the colourful celebrations.
3.) Churches and Cathedrals
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, thanks to the Spanish who had subjected the natives to be baptized and take the Catholic faith onboard. As a result, the Spanish built several cathedrals and churches across the islands. The Baroque architecture is very evident in many of these cathedrals and churches. One of the best churches to visit would be the San Agustin Cathedral in Intramuros in Manila. Another great place in the Philippines to check out nice cathedrals in the Philippines would be in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in the northern part of Luzon in the Philippines. Cebu is another place that has an abundance of these awesome Spanish churches, as Cebu is the first place that the Spaniards landed in the Philippines.
4.) Shopping Malls in Manila
It may come as a surprise to most people, but Filipinos are shopaholics, and they love to cool themselves in the shopping malls and escape the tropical heat that can be sometimes overwhelming. Some of the world’s biggest shopping malls are located in the Philippines. The SM Mall of Asia, built on the Manila Bay area, is the world’s third largest shopping mall, and is two times bigger than Edmonton Mall in Canada (which held the previous world record). Apart from the massive size of the shopping malls, there are a lot of great bargains to be had in the shops and markets around the country. When going to markets, it is advisable to negotiate the price with the vendors, as they are generally priced higher than what the item is worth.
5.) Tropical Rainforests
The tropical rainforests in the Philippines are fast diminishing. The poor farmers who are struggling in life and don’t own any land need for land to cultivate on, and the rainforests have been chopped down. On top of that, there are a lot of illegal loggers who chop down the trees for the lucrative logging industry. Conservation efforts have been in place, but because of the widespread poverty in certain areas, some people still cut the trees and burn the forests. There are many species of wildlife that are in danger of becoming extinct due to their habitats being destroyed. While there are still some rainforests left, it would be worth checking them out and exploring the lush jungles in the Philippines. The Philippine Eagle, the national bird, is one of the many endangered species living in these forests and they can be found predominantly in Mindanao, somewhere between Bukidnon and Davao.
6.) Exploring tribal culture
There are many different ethnic tribes in the Philippines. Many of them have settled in the islands long before the Spanish came to colonise these islands. The different ethnic tribes have very distinctive cultures and customs that have survived through the centuries. Most of the ethnic tribes in the Philippines live in the islands of Luzon, Palawan and Mindanao. The rest of the islands somehow have lost the indigenous population. Among the popular tribes are the Ifugao (in the Mountain Province in Luzon), the Badjao (in Sulu), the Tausug (in Mindanao), the Maranao (also in Mindanao) and the Aeta (in Luzon). There are many more to mention, but the first four tribes are well-known for their colourful costumes, dances, folklore and customs. The Aeta is unique in that they are widely regarded as the descendants of the very first inhabitants of the Philippines.
7.) Christmas celebrations
The Philippines is known to have one of the longest and most festive Christmas celebration in the world. You start noticing in October that Christmas carols are already being played occassionally in department stores and shops around the country. By the 1st of December, most Christmas decorations would be all out, and shops and houses would be decked out with very colourful Christmas regalia. The Belen (a diorama of the scene of the Nativity) is a very common sight during the holidays. The Catholic church starts its early morning vigil from the 16th of December all the way til Christmas, and the start of the early morning vigils is the actual start of the many feasts and parties that people go to in the leadup to Christmas Day.
8.) Holy Week/Easter Celebrations
Being a predominantly Catholic country, most of the festivities center around the church calendar. Lent (and/or Easter) is another celebration that Filipinos religiously celebrate (excuse the pun). The main highlight that would interest most tourists is the Good Friday penitence rites that some devotees perform in different parts of the country. In some cases, people devote themselves to be nailed on the cross (literally). Though this isn’t a sight for the faint-hearted, it is somehow an amazing fact that there are people who have vowed to do this ritual to cleanse their sins. Another ritual that has become a spectacle during Lent is the flaggelation. Devotees whip themselves on the back with bamboo-tipped burillos to reenact Christ’s suffering before he was crucified.
9.) Sampling Local Cuisine
Filipino food may not make it to mainstream cuisine like Thai, Indian, Chinese or Malaysian has, but it is an interesting mix of the various influences it has over the centuries. The best way to describe its nature is that it is a fusion of Spanish, Malay, Chinese and American cuisine. You get a range from grilled seafood and stews to paella, to pancit canton (stir-fried noodle, Canton style) and the Filipino spaghetti ( a variation of the American-style spaghetti). Each region in the Philippines would have its own local specialty, and it can vary vastly from town to town. Most of the dishes are not spicy, except for the Bicol Express, which is known to be the spiciest Filipino dish.
10.) Listening to a live band
The Filipinos are very musically oriented people. They have been known to be great entertainers around the world, gracing the stage in many nightclubs and lounge bars across different parts of the world. If you travel around Asia and sit in a bar with some live music, there is a high chance that the band is from the Philippines. Thus, listening to some live music in the many bars and restaurants across the country offers you a glimpse of the musical talents that Filipinos generally have, and their passion for music. You will also find that singing Karaoke is a national pastime, and it doesn’t matter if you have what it takes to belt out those notes. Everyone is very encouraging and supportive, and it’s all for the fun of it.
I hope I have enlightened you of the wonderful things that you must experience while in the Philippines. It may not be the most common tourist things to experience, but hey, that’s what traveling is all about..