After my stint in Cagayan of the North, I visited the Cagayan in the South…Cagayan de Oro, the city of golden friendship. This trip was booked months in advance, and there were supposed to be eight of us, but two of our housemates, including the one who started this all, have gone off to other countries to work.
Still we went on (since Cebu Pacific piso fares are apparently non-refundable), and trudged off to the airport with barely an hour of sleep. We touched down in Cagayan before 7am of November 22.
Even though we had known about this trip months before, we neglected to plan for anything, so the first thing we did was look for a cheap place to stay. Jefrey had worked and lived in CDO for a couple of years, so he knew his way around.
The first place we went to was fully booked, but a good thing the receptionist was kind enough to point us to Wellshire Inn, whose family room was available for only P1,250.
After checking in our things, we had breakfast at Cecil’s Snack Inn and Bakeshop, which had the yummiest empanada (with egg!) and palabok. We then went back to our room and slept till afternoon. Upon waking up, we had early dinner at Butcher’s Barbeque. We were amazed at how cheap the food was. A platter of babyback ribs cost only P75, and it tasted really good, too.
After a very heavy dinner, we went shopping for groceries in Lim Ket Kai mall. According to Jeff, we needed to buy food for our trip to Camiguin.
Upon reaching the island, we rented a multicab (P1500 for the whole day) which brought us to a place near Paras resort, which rented out a house with two rooms for P1,800.
After a quick change, we were back aboard the multicab for brunch at Vjandep carinderia, the original bakery which started the Vjandep pastel, the most popular (and most delicious) pastry in Camiguin and Cagayan de Oro. We loved the luso salad and were amazed at the bisayan songs being played over the speakers, songs promoting Camiguin Island (which the singer pronounced as islend).
After lunch, the driver brought us to Katigbawasan falls. It offered an extraordinary view, and we stripped to our swimming gear to wade into the ice-cold natural pool which formed at its base.
The driver then brought us to this place with 14 stations. But since I was tired and sleepy, I opted to sleep in the multicab instead of climbing all those steps. A good thing I did not go with them, because when they came back they had nothing good to report.
Next in line was the floating cemetery. We rented a small boat which ferried us across the sea so we could step onto the platform where a huge cross was erected. We could not actually see the cemetery which had sunk below sea level, but the boaters pointed out some shifty shapes below the water to be the purported graves that this site was known for.
After that, we were ready to ride another small boat to the white island beach. Now a typhoon was loose in Manila at this time, and though it was not raining down South, the winds were pretty strong so that it scared off virtually everyone.
When we got to the island, the stalls were empty and there was only one other group of people there. Once we jumped off, our boatmen asked our permission to leave for awhile so that they could go to the rescue of another boat that had capsized nearby. Yikes!
Still, the risk was worth it because the island was very beautiful. It was so small that we could cut across the island in about 20 steps and see its tip from one end of the island. The sand was very white and fine and the water on each side a beautiful blend of dark blue and aquamarine. We swam in the sea and played in the sand and ate lansones (Camiguin’s specialty fruit) and tried to take pictures even though the strong gusts of wind kept blowing our hair every which way.
We had to leave in about an hour because the waves would become too strong already. All the way back to the mainland, everyone obeyed the boatmen’s instructions to stay still. So still were we that we were already ramrod stiff, and nobody even dared to laugh or utter a word. Only upon touching ground did they start laughing at how funny Jeff and I looked with the salty waves slapping our faces and stinging our eyes.
We had dinner before heading to the hot springs, which was deliciously warm at 38 degrees Celsius. After soaking for about an hour, we headed back to our rented house so that we could rest and wake up early again the next day. Because of the typhoon, we had to take the first boat so that there would be smaller waves.
We woke up at around 3am the next day, packed our stuff, and were on the way to the port. We got tickets to the first trip, and were already seated comfortably when we were told to disembark because the barge had no boiler. Then when we were already outside, they suddenly shouted that the boiler was back and we could go back in. Jeff was so annoyed that he insisted we not go back. We rode another barge instead.
I was sound asleep during the whole trip that when I woke up, I was surprised to hear everyone telling me that the waves were so strong, they were afraid we would capsize or that they would throw up. Oh well. Lucky me for not having to go through the torment.
We rode a bus back to Cagayan and we were fetched at the bus station by Wellshire Inn’s car. After checking in, we immediately went back out to have early lunch at Bigby’s, a popular TGI-type restaurant. I highly recommend the blossoming spinach dip and the chix ahoy. Uber yum!!
We also said that it was Maya’s birthday although in reality it’s on the following week, and the waiters brought out a slice of cake with ‘happy birthday maya’ drizzled in chocolate at the sides and plopped a birthday hat on her head while they sang her a happy birthday song. After lunch we shopped for pasalubong and then rested for a bit in the inn.
In the afternoon, we headed to Mapaua Nature Park so we could try the zipline. The driver dropped us off at a certain point at the foot of the mountain where we hailed motorcycles (known as habal-habal) to bring us up there. When we got there, we were told that the ziplines were already closed, even though it was not yet 5pm.
Luckily, the boys came back and were still able to do what we came for. First, they outfitted us in harnesses and helmets. Then we climbed up the first tower and one by one, were hooked to a cable so we could zip through the cable to the second tower. From there, we had to walk across a cable to get to the third tower, and then we zipped again towards the fourth tower, where we had to rappel our way down to the ground. It was extremely fun! I wonder if I could have survived it if I could not see the ground, though. I heard that in Claveria, the zipline is over a valley. Yikes.
On the way back, we passed through the Garden of Malasag and sang one song each at the videoke jukebox before heading back to the inn where we changed and picked up Maya, who had stayed in due to a female affliction, and headed to the Divisoria night market and café to have dinner. There was a live band and lots of stalls to choose from. We finally settled in a place which served chorizo barbeque, isaw, and kilawin. After dinner, we opted to have coffee at Bo’s Coffee Club which was nearby.
The next day we were up early again, making sure we were at Divisoria before 7am so that we could get picked up by Kagay, the white water rafting company Jeff had contacted. We rode their jeep and traveled to the river at the border of Cagayan and Bukidnon.
We were each lent a life vest, helmet and canoe, then gathered round their group leader who explained the mechanics of white water rafting. He assigned us, 6 or so to a boat with one guide, and told us that we were to listed to our guides and follow his instructions. He said that we were traveling for 12 kilometers through 14 major rapids, and that the river bank on our left was Cagayan and the one on our right was Bukidnon. He also showed us what to do in case we fell off the canoe.
Having said that, we made for our canoe, where our guide Gary taught us how to do the 5 basic steps in paddling (forward, backward, stop, right, left) and said that after every major rapid, we were supposed to raise our paddles in the air like a high five.
So off we went, and I absolutely fell in love with the experience, this being the most enjoyable thing I have ever done in my life to date. Our guide Gary was really good and really funny. At one point he told us that the area we were in was cold, did we know why? Because we are near Bukidnon here, I hazarded. No, because of this, he said, and promptly splashed water on everyone.
He gave names for every rapid, and even mentioned where some celebrities fell off. I nearly fell off the canoe three times, because I was in front. The second time I fell on top of Jeff and nearly knocked him off the canoe too.
My favorite rapid was the one he called the ‘washing machine’ because we could cross it while turning the raft in circles. I also loved the one with the big rock where he made us all transfer to the back seats and paddle towards the big rock to get our canoe’s front to tip upwards against it, while we leaned back, and it felt like we were in a flyfish.
At noontime we were back on dry ground, where they set out our free lunch which came with the P650 cost. They called it a ‘boodles fight’ – all the food was laid out on banana leaves at the center of the table, with puso (boiled rice wrapped in woven coconut leaves) and pineapple (the best ones Bukidnon) at the sides.
At the signal, we ate heartily with our bare hands, using banana tree trunks as our individual plates. It’s an extremely satisfying way to eat, I’ve never eaten that much that heartily in my life!
It was then that someone told us that our guide Gary was actually a member of the Philippine Olympic team for rowing and had competed in Korea this year. Wow. That explains a lot of things, definitely.
left: geared for the river rapids; right: posing in between rapids
left: boodles fight; right: puso
After lunch, we changed and clambered back on board the jeep that brought us back to the city proper. Then we went back to our inn, got our things, and got to the airport almost 4 hours before our scheduled departure.
It was therefore very annoying that when it was time to leave, instead of an announcement to board, we were told that our flight had been cancelled due to ‘sunset visibility problems.’ Later, Jefrey would explain what it meant, that Cagayan’s airport did not have sufficient lighting for planes to land beyond sunset, and so when our plane was not able to reach Manila in time, it could no longer proceed to Cagayan or else it would not be able to see the airport and land safely.
And so Cebu Pacific paid dearly for this mistake. They booked us in Country Village Hotel, paid for our dinner and breakfast, shuttled us to and from the hotel, and gave us vouchers to free roundtrip tickets to any local destination valid for a year upon issuance. Now this is what they call a blessing in disguise.
And so we had a good night’s sleep and woke up early yet again so we could make the 8am rescheduled flight. Yes, this was definitely one of the best vacations I have ever had, even though it was the one least documented because I have yet to replace my lost digicam!