Group Tour Highlights: Two Days and One Night Only

I've been traveling around Mindanao since 2009. Lately, I enjoyed organizing group tours. I planned several trips together with my travel buddies (my photographers) and friends. Almost all of the planned trips except Asik-Asik Tour were successful, I always have a fear to mess up the trip though. 

It all started when I dragged three of my girlfriends to come with me in Gumasa in Sarangani Province. Perhaps they’re afraid to lose a crazy good friend, they go unprepared, and the other one just got out from the night shift.   

After we posted our Gumasa photos in Facebook,  another group wants to go to Gumasa. This time I am with a group of boys.  Glad they enjoyed and amazed with their short visit.
White Have, Gumasa Sarangani
Before the year of 2010 ended, I invited my group of friends to tour around Lake Sebu, specifically Punta Isla and the Seven Fall for a zipline.  We ate too much Tilapias, talked with our amazing Lolos =)) and have a good night sleep, the temperature was very cold that time.  

I really wanted to explore Balut Island since I’ve read few but good reviews about the place. My initial plan was to visit the place all by myself to make sure it is safe for my friends. But since most of them wished to go that month, the “Villalobos - Olanivan Expeditions” was initiated. I gave up my first plan and gamble with uncertainty, brought my friends with me.  It’s a good thing the place was very peaceful and the spots were all breathtaking.  It became my number one favorite, EVER!
At Olanivan Island, Davao Occidental

They said “Strike while the iron is hot”, while we’re still mesmerizing from our recent trip my friend from Mati and I organized again the “Laag sa Pujada” after two months. The highlights of this trip were Hot Spring, Dahican Beach, Pujada Beach and the small white island, where we jumped at the shore ala ninja style.  It’s fun. In this trip, I’ve learned how to play some cards, the “1, 2, 3, Pass” and I am such a loser.
Pujada Island
Anime Style in Pujada Island

Assassins Cover in Puting Balas (White Island)

Struggle Moments with Big Waves, Dahican

Dahican Beach in Mati

It was mid of 2012, when the Asik-Asik Falls and Sultan Hadji Hassanal Bolkiah Masji became popular.  All of my friends were screaming  to go, I organized and it failed- not just once but twice. Ouch!  I guess it’s not meant to be for my group to meet and know Asik-Asik and the grandest mosque in Cotabato City. I told them I won’t initiate any trips til end of 2012 kay malas. Hahahha

Our recent group trip was “A Taste of West Coast Sarangani”. Yes, every trip has a unique name to make it more interesting.   Sixteen travelers occupied one van, headed to Nalus Falls, ate organic at Cresing’s Food, had an hour of white water Tubing at Pangi River of Maitum and went swimming in Tuka Marine Sanctuary Park. The trip was more challenging since I had to manage 16 people. But the enjoyment drowns out any worries. Plus, it was my birthday ^_^

Tuka Marine Sanctuary Park

Dragon Park in Kiamba, Sarangani Province
Nalus Falls in Kiamba

Cressing's Food and Products

White-Water Tubing in Pangi River, Maitum

For my 2014 Mindanao trips, one thing is for sure, it will be special. Soon, you’ll know why.

P. S Each trip woldn't be complete without Bloopers!

In Balut Island, Davao Occidental
Me: Guys, Olanivan, MV Songs of Dolly and Sabang HotSpring are owned by RD Group of Companies.
Friend 1: Anong RD?
Me: Rivera D?
Most of them gave their own RD meaning
Bloopers 1: (w)Rong Definition?

In Mati, Davao Oriental
Girls are so busy playing 123 pass cards while the boys set up their hammocks to sleep early.
BANG! Someone fell from the hammock. 1,2,3,4, 5, silence then we filled up the house with laughter.


South Cotabato Travel Guide: What you Shouldn’t Miss in South Cotabato

Hello beautiful followers of Beautiful Mindanao!
Today, I am writing a travel guide for South Cotabato. It's one of my favorite province here in Mindanao because it's near Sarangani and few years ago, Sarangani was under the said province. I went  several times to different municipalities of South Cotabato such as Lake Sebu, Surallah, Polomolok, Tupi, etc. so I guess it's about time to write and share my experience.

This province is a home of ethnic group T’boli, it is also the official language of the province. But they can  speak and understand English, Tagalog, Hiligaynon and Cebuano. People in South Cotabato speak different dialects. For instance, municipalities in Banga, Norallah and Surallah speak Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, as they came from Panay while the Cebuanos from Cebu settled in Polomolok.  Some Ilokanos lived in Tantangan, Tampakan and in Tupi.

Getting There

Going here is very easy. The fastest way to reach South Cotabato is to take a plane to General Santos City. Davao is also a good option since it is open for local and international planes. But you need to take 3 hours bus travel going to Gensan. After 30 minutes ride you’ll reach Polomolok where you can see one of the largest pineapple plantations. Along the way, you can also see Mt. Matutum After an hour, you’ll see the provincial capitol of  Koronadal City. After 3 hours, you can either reach Lake Sebu or T’boli. But I’d suggest you better visit both.

Best in South Cotabato

1.Lake Sebu (Lake Sebu)

One of the most visited places in South Cotabato is Lake Sebu. It consisted of islets and large bodies of water of approximately 365 hectares. Lake Sebu is surrounded with rolling hills and mountains. The home of the T’bolis is also where fishponds abound and migratory birds visit. If you wish for a more challenging experience in this spot, go hiking en route to the Traangkini River or perhaps submerge yourself at Falls No.2 of the 7 Lonon River Falls.

Lake Sebu is the best place not just for adventure, but also to know more about indigenous groups.  If you stay overnight in Lake Sebu, then it is best to stay in Punta Isla.  However, because this is a popular home for local and international guests, you can also choose Estares Lake Resort, Merl Garden Mountain Lake Eco-Resort, and Dolores Lake Resort.

2. Seven Falls in Lake Sebu (Lake Sebu)

The seven falls is the most interesting site in Lake Sebu. Some of these falls measures about 100 feet. The first 3 falls can be reached in just a day’s walk. The largest amongst them, Lonon Falls powers down a thousand cubic meters of water to a natural pool.

3. T'nalak
Time to learn about T’nalak, the most famous Tiboli product made by the women dreamweavers of Lake Sebu.  You also need to meet Lang Dulay- the most famous weaver of T’nalak. DreamWeavers because Lang Dulay got all of her designs from dreams.

4. Mt. Parker Ranges and Lake Maughan in T'boli

Going  back to T’boli.  It is a town inhabited by different natives like  Tagabilis, Blaan, Ubo, Maguindanao, Manubo Blit, Tiruray and Manubo Sdaf who later organized their own Tribal Datus.

Mt. Parker Ranges and Lake Maughan. The older version of the now popular eco-tourism destination in Luzon, Mt. Pinatubo. Its peak known as Asamblak peak stands tall at 1,750 m ASL and holds a mossy campsite. Overlooking is the Maughan Lake at 300 m below. It is the crater lake of Mt. Parker and is estimated to be 300 hectares wide.

5.T’boli Cultural Community ( West of Lake Sebu)

School for Living Traditions - reconstruction was finished and now accepts homestay

There are a number of minorities are found dwelling in the mountains. Among these minorities is the Tasaday tribe where they dwell in isolation in high caves of about 4,800 feet above sea level in a rainforest area. The T’bolis found on the western part are famed for their colorful costumes, intricate bead-work and signature woven baskets and traditional brass ornaments.

There is also a School for Living Traditions (SLT), where I met Ms. Maria Oyog Todi a devoted cultural worker and wants to preserve the T'boli's tradition, values and culture.  I salute her dedication for doing such a hard task. You need to visit this SLT and witness how younger generations learn and live their cultures. They cater homestay now after the reconstruction of the school, since it was destroyed by a heavy a few months back.
6.  Festivals

T’nalak Festival.

The T’nalak Festival is celebrated annually which commemorates the Foundation Anniversary of South Cotabato.