Imagine long stretches of pristine beaches, rich marine ecosystems perfect for diving, hundreds of islands, rocking surfs, numerous waterfalls, lush forests leading to mountain summits, friendly locals and rich indigenous cultures. Mindanao is more than the always hastily-generalized broadcast on TV.
Mindanao is not a single provincial island, as you may have thought, it is a vast space of promising natural gifts home to six administrative regions, 27 provinces 33 cities! While some of Mindanao's tourist destinations are starting to gain popularity, most part of the island remains off the beaten track.
This summer cast away your prejudices and see why I'd say that your favorite TV news anchors have been overly misguided, or simply biased, all along. Prepare to explore some of Mindanao's treasures. Believe me, It's not being called the "land of promise" for nothing.
7. Gumasa Beach, Sarangani Bay, Glan, Sarangani Province
If you want to get a tan or just fancy a sunburn for summer in a beach that truly can drop your ohhs and ahhs, Barangay Gumasa in the heritage town of Glan in Sarangani Province beach is the place for you.
Gumasa Beach is still fitting for meditative escapes as it’s not the Boracay-ish type “yet”. During my college years visiting the pristine beaches and the semi-secluded portions of Gumasa was always the first choice for outings. Today, however, more and more resorts have sprouted in the vicinity proving its increasing popularity as one of the must-visit destinations in Region XII or SOCCSKSARGEN Region, now nicknamed SOX.
But if you’re a party junkie, want to let loose and experience momentary transcendence amid thousands of warm bodies, set your schedule in time for the SarBay Festival, dubbed as the Biggest Beach Party in Mindanao…or say, Philippines! This year’s celebration (May 15-16) is its 10th. With that expect a much wilder beach party! (Just don’t forget to bring trash bags to keep your SarBay trip, at least, greener.)
Here's a Sarbay 2015 video to tease you hard!
Recommended places to stay: Brother Louie Resort if you want to avoid the usual beach crowd. Coco Beach and Isla Jrdin del Mar if you want to meet more wandering beachheads.
How to get there: General Santos City is the Gateway to Gumasa. Proceed to KCC Mall compound where a Van terminal for Sarangani routes is located. Board the van heading to Glan (P90, 45 minutes).
From the public terminal in Poblacion Glan ride a habal-habal, a single motorcycle (P30, 15 minutes) directly to the resort of your choice.
6. Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon
Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao Region (Region X) is one place where a warm summer hug should always come in handy. Visit Barangay Dahilayan in Manolo Fortich town and expect a relatively cool climate. Even if you have a partner to heat up your wanderings, never forget to bring your good warm hoodie jacket. Early mornings in this rural village is sometimes enveloped by chilling fogs.
|Dahilayan's zip pride|
If you're adventurous enough and want to shed some sweat, take your traveling cliques to Dahilayan Adventure Park for Asia's longest zip line ride, rope courses and dropzone among other amenities. After a day of adventure, you can have your coffee time at their pine grove mountain lodge.
Recommended place to stay: Dahilayan Adventure Park and Resort
How to get there: Manolo Fortich is just 40 minutes away from Cagayan de Oro by bus. Take a van or jeepney ride from Agora Bus Terminal to Barangay Camp Philips, Manolo Fortich.
From Camp Philips, take a habal-habal motorcycle (P150-P200) to Dahilayan Adventure Park.
5. Britania Group of Islands, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur
Call your inner Poseidon, get a tan and dip in the crystal waters surrounding 24 of Philippines’ 7107 islands all in a one zone facing the Pacific Ocean in Lianga Bay, Surigao del sur in CARAGA Region (Region XIII).
If you have longer time for hopping around Surigao, you’re not that far from Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls.
Recommended places to stay: Oasis Rest House
How to get there: From Ecoland Terminal in Davao City take the bus bound for Tandag City (P400, 6 hours). Bus leaves at 12 MN and 6 in the morning.
From Butuan City: Bus leaves hourly heading to Brgy. Salvacion in San Agustin (P200, 4 hours).
From Salvacion take a habal-habal (single motorcycle) to the shores of Britania (P30, 10 min).
4. Samal Island, IGACOS, Davao del Norte
The island city is just a stone throw away from Mindanao’s queen, Davao City. So near that you can be frolicking in the turquoise waters and fine white sands after less than 30 minutes of travel.
The Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) in Davao Region or Region XI isn’t only limited to beaches. Adrenaline junkies can do mountain climbing, kayaking and diving in some of its resorts. Samal’s Mt. Puting Bato is 1,345 feet (410m) tall and is perfect for a day hike if you want to temporarily get off the coast. If you want to go further, Talikud Island expanding 3,000 hectares behind the mainland of Samal is another option. Imagine kilometers-long white sand beaches and pristine coral gardens perfect for diving.
|Contributed photo by Kaiser, SamalGuide blogger and colleague from Byaheng Mindanao Team|
There are around 60 resorts to choose from in the Island. So never fret for you’ll never run out of resort choices to stay there. Bookmark Samal for summer! If you happen to be going to Davao City, say, for a business trip, never forget to slip into your bag few pieces of beach shorts or tiny bikinis and your sunscreen. Samal is waiting. :)
3. Dahican Beach, Mati, Davao Oriental
The 7-kilometer long Dahican Beach in Mati City, Davao Oriental, Region XI is the now popular Skimboarding Capital of the Philippines. Thanks to the ocean swells that hit land from the Pacific and the playful Amihan boys that run the shores with their colorful homemade boards to ride the waves.
The beach is a hit for the green warriors as it is home to sea turtles with the sanctuary built for conservation. The Dugongs (Sea Cows), Dolphins and the Butandings (Whale Shark) roam the waters of Dahican too. We didn't see them as we just preferred to warm up in the beach but the locals have reliable stories of their sightings.
|The playground that is Dahican|
Dahican is a beach open for everyone. Different types of accommodation and amenities are offered in different sections. But in Amihan sa Dahican, it's a different escape that welcomes only the more adventurous spirits, those who prefer the simplest.
How to get there and the backpacking beach bums' camping place, read: Unique Beach Vibe of Amihan sa Dahican
2. Lake Agco, Ilomavis, Kidapawan, North Cotabato
It’s summer! You want go somewhere cool! In Lake Agco in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato in SOX, you can soak yourself in the cold spring pools or dip in the hot spring pools with water coming directly from volcanic vents to water controller .
Lake Agco is located 1,250 meters above sea level in Ilomavis Village around 25 kilometers from the city proper of Kidapawan. The hot mud and water meet with cold water at this elevation level. Resorts combine the hot and cold to create pools and Jacuzzis with controlled temperature and fit for dipping and bathing.
|The lake is boiling, yes.|
Lake agco fun in the boiling mud.
The Lake’s boiling sulfuric mud can be cooled down to cover your face and body for its supposed therapeutic effects. Ladies, read this: you can do mud-masking for a free face-lift session in the mud lake. If you want to go trekking to the country’s highest peak, Mt. Apo, Lake Agco via the Mandarangan trail is my most recommended take-off and end-point.
Places to Stay: In Ilomavis, Lake Agco Mahomanoy Mountain Resort, run by members of a local cooperative, is the only resort with accommodation facilities.
Ho to get there: Kidapawan City is 2 to 3 hours away from Davao City by public bus or van. The same is expected if you’re coming from General Santos City.
From the overland terminal, ride a tricycle to the habal-habal (single motorcycle) terminal beside the Iglesia ni Cirsto church. Take the habal-habal bound for Lake Agco . Travel time is 40 minutes. Fare is Php70 per person. Travel time could be shorter if you’re taking private vehicles.
1. Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
Lake Sebu, the homeland of the indigenous Tboli and Ubo people, is considered as Sox’s tourism capital for a variety of reasons. The scenic town which sits on the highest grounds of Allah Valley, has three lakes, dozens of waterfalls, numerous caves and interesting trekking trails. Summer or not, the town surrounded by lush forested mountains can get as cool as 17 degrees Celsius.
Don’t miss meeting the cultural icons of Tboli tribe. Selfies with the Lumads in their colorful dresses would be fine but you know can do more than that. Don’t leave the town without learning a thing or two about their fascinating culture.
|Lotuses bloom in the morning|
|The 2nd of the 7 falls in Lake Sebu|
Or just be there for tranquility that is Lake Sebu!
Recommended places to stay: Try Mountain Lake Eco Resort, Punta Isla Resort, Mountain Log Eco Resort. If you want to experience homestay with the Tbolis, the School of Living Traditions run by Tboli cultural worker Maria Todi is best for you.
Hot to Get there: Gateway to Lake Sebu is General Santos City. From Bulaong Terminal, ride a Yellow Bus to Koronadal City a.k.a. Marbel (P100, 1 hour). From Marbel ride another bus or van heading to Surallah (P40, 30 minutes) then hop on to another van heading to Lake Sebu (P40, 30 minutes).
Habal-habal is the means of getting around Lake Sebu.
Are there any other places in Mindanao great for summer frolic you would like to add?