In case you’re looking for your next vacation, it might be a good idea to try somewhere new and exciting. Northern Mindanao, or Region 10, comprises Camiguin, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte, with Cagayan de Oro (CDO) as the regional center and entry point.
Incidentally, March marks the monthlong celebration of my favorite festival, Kaamulan.
Former Tourism Secretary Ace Durano declared Kaamulan “the only authentic ethnic festival in the Philippines” because it gathers Bukidnon’s seven
hill tribes—Talaandig, Tigwahanon, Matigsalug, Higaonon, Bukidnon, Manobo and Umayamnon—for a month-long celebration of culture.
It culminates in the famous rodeo from March 21-23, featuring the Bukidnon cowboys, followed by the Ethnic Street Dancing competition on March 24.
Take the first early-morning flight to the Laguindingan International Airport. Make advanced arrangements for transportation.
Seven Seas Water Park
From the airport, go straight to the pirate-theme Seven Seas Water Park in Zone 1 Road, Opol, Misamis Oriental. It’s one of the country’s biggest water parks. There is a “baby” pool with several attractions and slides, and another mini-slide for toddlers.
The giant dual-wave pool has a loud horn that blows every hour to signal the start of the “waves.” There is also a long and winding “river” where you can sit on an inflatable ring and lazily let the current bring you to the end.
The dual-wave pools sit between the two major “slide parks.” The other slide park across the lagoon is where the big kids go. This side features the Plank Drop, an almost vertical slide.
White water rafting
The next day, you can try white water rafting in CDO. This is more suited for older children and teenagers, since the raft flies down a wild river. There are two groups offering the experience: River Rafting CDO (www.riverraftingcdo.com) and Kagay White Water Rafting (www.kagaycagayandeororafting.com).
About an hour-and-half’s drive from CDO is Bukidnon. You can catch the Kaamulan street dancing on March 24 on Fortich Street. The dancing starts at 6 a.m. and will wind its way through the streets for the rest of the morning.
Not to be missed while in Bukidnon is the Dahilayan Forest Park Hotel and Resort nestled at over 4,700 feet above sea level.
The resort offers choices of outdoor fun activities: mini golf, all-terrain vehicles, and the Tree Top Adventure.
There is also a Monkee Tree Challenge, a hanging bridge, a bungee bounce and net trampoline and bumper boats. You must try the Zorb balls in Zorbit.
Dahilayan is famous for Asia’s longest dual zip line (at 840 m) which zooms up to 90 km per hour.
I opted to accompany the children on the “junior” zip line, which was 320 m long plus another 150 m after the “mid-zip” station. It was one of the most exhilarating rides I have ever tried.
For the truly adventurous, there is a 200-foot waterfall known only to the locals—Kipilas Falls, located south of Bukidnon in Kitaotao. The adventure includes riding a “skylab” and “habal-habal,” and a steep, vertical climb.
Monastery of Transfiguration
Don’t leave Bukidnon without visiting the Monastery of Transfiguration. This Benedictine monastery was designed by National Artist Leandro Locsin and is known as one of his greatest works.
You can also buy a few bags of the Monks’ Blend coffee, a favorite among local connoisseurs.
No trip to Northern Mindanao is complete without seeing Camiguin and its White Island—an uninhabited, powder-white sandbar. It is less than 2 km away, a 10-minute banca ride from the main resorts with a picture-perfect view of Mt. Hibok-Hibok.
You can go swimming in the waters around the sandbar, or just lounge around with a good book, enjoy the scene with good friends. But pick up your trash when you leave.