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Trip to magical Cape San Agustin  

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(PHILIPPINES) If you ever want to experience the feeling of standing at the edge of the world, head out to Cape San Agustin, the southernmost tip of Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental, Philippines.

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Up at the very tip of this quiet municipality is one magical destination known to many but dreamed about by more and continuesto draw visitors from all over the world.

Pundaguitan is the last town in Governor Generoso where the buses either make the round trip to Davao City or sleep for the night. From the bus stop, my photographer buddy Arjoy and I hired one of the motorcycles for 200 pesos per passenger and up we went to passing barangay Lavigan heading to the famed Cape San Agustin.P1220473

I had been to the Cape twice in the past, but a lot has changed in the last decade. The once-rough road that I used to call stomach-churning, butt-numbing motorcycle ride as drivers try to reach the destination without falling into the deep ravine was now smooth and paved snaking its way up and around the mountain until we reached a clearing on top of the hill and then we were there.

There was no one at the Cape aside from a family with a small child who takes care of the property. I was back to one of the places I consider my favorite on earth.P1220391

I wanted to stand at the very edge of the Parola and watch the endless stretch of blue ocean merging with the blue skies, dotted by the red and yellow sails of a couple of fishing boats in the far distance but Arjoy and I got to work right away. For the next couple of hours, I forgot about everyone and everything and only my camera and the magical place I was in mattered.

A few meters away from the very end of the cliff we were standing on was The Islet which looked like a small piece of the island chopped and pushed off from the cliff a bit farther.P1220421

Under the cliff facing the Last Islet is a hidden cave that opens out into the ocean. The waves come in through the small openings in the rocks. The best feature of the Pagoda is the three lighthouses, with the oldest built in 1938 featuring an external spiral staircase

I was looking forward to climb hundred-plus steps to the top of the middle lighthouse but the door was locked and our guide/motorcycle driver told us the key keeper was out for the day.

The top of the lighthouse offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the Cape and the point where the raging waves of Celebes Sea blends with the peaceful calm of Davao Gulf.

From the Pagoda, we made our way down the hill under tall coconut trees to the Pagoda Beach below. The ocean seemed angry at the interruption and sent out huge waves rolling to the shore but it was not even scary, only mesmerizingly beautiful. A few hundred feet away is the Altar, an extra-ordinary rock formation believed to be the place where the Spanish missionary St. Francis Xavier, the Spanish missionary said his first mass in 1550. I’ve climbed it in the past but didn’t have time to do it on this trip as we had to catch the last bus that leaves at 3 p.m. to stay the night in a delightful fishing village but that is another story.P1220558

Half the fun is in getting to Cape San Agustin. The four-hour trip on a public bus from Davao City takes you through green lush forests and picturesque coastal views past quaint fishing villages, vast rice fields, jungles, limestone walls, mountainsides and breathtaking cliff lines. It is where goats and cows rule the road and won’t budge so that buses and other vehicles have to go around them to pass through.

When in the southern part of the Philippines, don’t miss a visit to Cape San Agustin. It’s a place that never ceases to mesmerize everyone.

Getting there

From Ecoland Terminal in Davao City ride any of the public buses to Governor Generoso. The buses travel daily from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. at one hour interval. As an option, check out the L300 vans outside the bus terminal.  Travel time for L300 vans is about two and a half hours.

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Crocodile ice cream anyone?

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DAVAO CITDSC03570Y—After months of seeing photos and reading about the crocodile ice cream from local, national and international publications, I finally had the chance to try this classic dessert with a unique (spelled scary) dessert some weeks ago at the Crocodile Park, one of the most popular attractions in Davao City.

I was looking forward to try this crocodile ice cream whose popularity has already spread far and wide, but when I saw the photo of the crocodile standing up and holding a cone of ice cream at the green hut with hot pink stripes, I begin to have second thoughts.

The mind is a powerful enemy, and images of bits of crocodile flesh and scales sticking out of my ice cream or if I’m lucky to dig out a tooth or a nail made me walk slower but my companion and I were on a dare. We were not going to go leave the Crocodile Park without fulfilling our mission, and that is to eat crocodile ice cream.

Ok, so be it! I convinced Rox to get the crocodile pandan ice cream, promising her I will take a bite from her scoop. I ordered the ostrich vanilla, trying to shake away the feeling that I was going to take a bite of an ostrich in a cone.??

There is nothing extraordinary or scary about crocodile ice cream. My ostrich ice cream which is made from ostrich eggs looked nothing out of the ordinary too. With its light brown color, it looked like ordinary ice cream.

I studied Roxanne’s crocodile ice cream for long seconds but I didn’t see any bits of flesh or meat or scales in it. Except for the extra creamy and smooth texture, we were eating ordinary ice cream, or was I just trying to convince myself?

We learned later that crocodile ice cream is actually made from a combination of milk and crocodile eggs. Each crocodile egg is about (80 percent egg yolk which makes the ice cream creamier and thicker than regular ice cream, but contains less cholesterol and gives more protein than an ordinary chicken egg.?????? H

The Crocodile Pandan ice cream and ostrich vanilla sells for 80 pesos per scoop. Durian crocodile ice cream is also available and this one you should try—especially if you haven’t tasted durian yet. The funniest description of durian I encountered yet is “a porcupine-looking fruit with a smell that stinks to high heavens.”

I love durian, but only the native species so there was no need for me to try it. Other traditional flavors available are maple bacon, coffee rush, strawberry and mango mazing for 60 pesos, langka, cookies and cream at 50 pesos per scoop, and chocoloco and cheese cheese at 40 pesos a scoop.??

With the growing popularity of crocodile ice cream, isn’t it time time for the horses, camels, lions, unicorns and other wildlife to start hiding? Just thinking…

Lick the soft creamy coolness of the crocodile ice cream and forget about visions of biting a crocodile. On another note, why not? The chance to bite a crocodile doesn’t come to anyone’s way often.

Food Philippine food Philippines travel Mindanao

Pastil: budget meal on a banana leaf

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Pastil is steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf and topped with shredded chicken, and one is enough for a regular meal,at least for me.

pastil2PASTIL was one of the first food items that I looked for when I finally got back to Davao City last month, after over six years of being away. Pastil is one of the most popular delicacies in Maguindanao and Cotabato, particularly at public market areas and at restaurants.

It is not that common in Davao City but I remembered a couple of food stalls sell it near Ecoland Bus terminal so off I went scouting for pastil. I found it at a very unlikely place—a bakery. It was on a plastic tray and there were only two pieces left. I bought one for P15 and off I went looking for my favorite partner for the pastil which is hard-boiled egg and soy sauce or better yet bagoong with a piece of sili.

Pastil is steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf and topped with shredded chicken, and one is enough for a regular meal,at least for me. Maguindanaons serve pastil at any time of the day either as regular meal or snacks, so it is always available the whole day through. Sometimes they use shredded fish but I like shredded chicken better, and you can make it extra special by adding slices of hard boiled eggs.

The banana leaf is wilted over hot embers to make it soft and pliant and then folded and sealed on both ends. It resembles suman but only it’s a bigger and flatter version.

It is considered as a budget combo meal especially by the Maguinadaons. If you travel from Davao to Cotabato City, this becomes commonly available in the towns of Matalam, Kabacan, Pikit, Midsayap, Pigcawayan and in Cotabato City.

If you are in non-Muslim areas, try looking for Halal restaurants and chances are pastil is available.

Pastil is best eaten with your hands but I use a spoon and fork. Pastil reminds me of my childhood days when our lunches were packed in banana leaves. It smells so nice, unlike the commercial smell that comes with the Tupperware and disposable lunchboxes people are using nowadays. I’m on my way to look for banana leaves. I’ve already shredded some chicken for a homemade pastil. Want to have some?

Destinations Philippines Surigao del Sur travel Mindanao

White Mansion tour in Lanuza

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I was shocked to find out I was leaning on a cabinet full of dolls. I never had a doll in my entire life, even as a kid. I was always scared of them and seeing them in the shadows tripled my fear.

Read the FULL STORY and see more PHOTOS HERE

WE were late for our scheduled house tour by several hours, lost in time island hopping in Cantilan earlier and it was already past 7 p.m. when we stopped by the Century-old, Herrera Ancestral House in Lanuza. The mansion is one of the attractions that draw hundreds of tourists to Surigao del Sur province.

We were willing to go inside the house, except that there was power outage and the whole town was blanketed in darkness. The caretaker of the mansion was waiting for us but only two of our companions who felt the emergency need to use the restroom decided to brave the darkness but we know it was a chance we could not let slip– a tour of the old mansion at night.*?

Situated just a block away from the Prospero B. Pichay Sr. Boulevard, the Herrera Ancestral House was built on May 28, 1898 for business purposes. The “White House” as it is popularly called is owned by the late Don Gabriel Uriarte Herrera, the first mayor of Cantilan. The White House is well-maintained and is now managed by his heirs.

Getting there

By air: Lanuza is accessible by air through Bancasi Domestic Airport in Butuan City and Surigao Domestic Airport in Surigao City. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Airlines fly regularly to these routes.

By sea: Regular sea trips are available through various shipping lines like Cokaliong, Cebu Ferries, WG&A, etc. from Surigao City and Nasipit ports in Agusan del Norte.

By Land: Lanuza is accessible by land through buses, jeepneys, vans and other vehicles for hire from any point in the Caraga Region, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.

 

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Kadayawan sa Dabaw festival 2014

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You have to wrestle your way through the mad throng who all wanted to get a better view of the parade and you have to be really quick with your finger to capture expressions and special moments but it’s worth the effort.

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EVERY third Saturday of August, the main streets of Davao City hogs the spotlight as thousands of spectators flock to watch the Indak-indak sa Kadalanan or street dancing take place to celebrate the Kadayawan Festival.
After missing the Kadayawan for six years, I finally got the chance to watch and shoot some photos of the dancers last week. Shooting these images was not an easy feat though. You have to wrestle your way through the mad throng who all wanted to get a better view of the parade and you have to be really quick with your finger to capture expressions and special moments but it’s worth the effort.
The Kadayawan festival got its name from the friendly greeting “Madayaw”, from the Dabawenyo word “dayaw” which means good, valuable, superior or beautiful.
Kadayawan festival is a celebration of life, a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature, the wealth of culture, the bounties of harvest and serenity of living. According to stories, the ethnic tribes of Davao who resided at the foot of Mt. Apo meet during a bountiful harvest in a ritual to thank the gods particularly to the “Manama” (the Supreme Being) by displaying various fruits, flowers, vegetables, rice and corn grains on mats as villagers give their respect and thanks for the year’s abundance.
The ritual is highlighted by singing, dancing and giving of offerings to their divine protectors.
Times have changed but the modern day Davaoeños continued the practice of thanksgiving or “pahinungod” is until it flourished and evolved into an annual festival of thanksgiving.
Since 1988, after City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte renamed the festival as “Kadayawan sa Dabaw” to celebrate the bountiful harvest of Davao’s flowers, fruits and other produce as well as the wealth of the city’s cultures, it has become a festival of festivals. The event is no longer celebrated by Davao City alone but several participants from other parts of the region come to join in the annual street dancing competition which finishes with a grand showdown at the Rizal Park.
Be at the next Kadayawan Festival in Davao to experience the rich cultural experience, the flash of colors, the jostling of thousands of people as they push for the best places to watch the parade. The celebration does not end with the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan. The next day, come back for the Pamulak sa Kadayawan, a grand parade of floats made of the region’s colorful flowers.
Getting there
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly to Davao City from Manila (less than two hours) and from other major airports in the country including Butuan, Clark, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Dipolog, Iloilo, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga and even Singapore.
Getting around by taxi is easy and cheap once you get to Davao City. You can hail a taxi at the arrival area or you can take other means of transportation like the jeep which is the most convenient and cheapest way to travel around the city, car rental, or buses. Hotel pickups can also be arranged.

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Don’t wake the sleeping dinosaur

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MATI, Davao Oriental—If you happen to visit the City of Mati in Davao Oriental in the southern part of Mindanao in the Philippines, you will be treated by spectacular views of breathtaking coastlines along the way.

Before reaching Mati City passing roads that snake up and down overlooking breathtaking cliffs, you will pass by this Sleeping Dinosaur Island in Badas Point, Barangay Dawan.

IMG_0044The island is one of the major attractions that never fail to amaze visitors and locals. Buses that ply the Davao-Mati route do not stop at this lookout but if you are onboard a private vehicle, you can make a brief stopover to take photos and just enjoy the rare chance of watching a sleeping dinosaur on top of pristine waters and verdant forests.

I had passed by this Sleeping Dinosaur countless times some years ago but was never serious about shooting photos before, except for a couple of quickies which I snapped through the misty window of the bus I was riding. Just wait until I get a chance to go there again for better photos.

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Tinuy-an Falls: Little Niagara of the Philippines

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Text and photos by Raquel C Bagnol

My first glimpse of Tinuy-an Falls is a wide cascading body of water more or less three feet tall, beautiful but nothing impressive and I thought all the promotion about the Tinuy-an Falls, dubbed as the Little Niagara Falls of the Philippines, was just media hype.

Why, it was just like any ordinary small falls! Wondering what made it even special, I turned back and decided to spend the time to take a nap in the car while my companions professional photographers Rhonson Ng and Jojie Alcantara do their photography.

Taking a couple of ste?????? ?ps back, I paused. Then I heard it— a loud rumbling which seemed to grow louder each minute. I looked up then my jaw dropped and my breath stopped. Beyond the clear green lagoon was a magnificent, surging cascade of the widest curtain of water I had ever seen, a plunging body of water from 180 feet above the cliff and flowing into three tiers of waterfalls. The first one I saw turned out to be the third tier of water that flows down into the river.

I walked toward the waterfalls as one in a trance, holding my point and shoot Sony in one hand yet taking no photos. The mist sprayed on us even from a distance, and with too much water, you cannot hope to take a dip or else the water may dig a hole in your head and wash your brains away.

Tinuy-an Falls is a photographer’s dream. It is fast becoming a favorite location for pre-nuptial photo shoots and pictorial sessions for couples from all parts of the country.

The waterfalls is just too beautiful from different angles. A wooden footbridge will get you to the other side of the waterfalls to get photos from the other angle. During the hot summer days, visitors usually wade in the waters and take a shower under the cascading falls, but not during the rainy season when the soft turns into a raging cascade.

We didn’t stay long as we would have wanted to. We still have a six hour rough ride back to Davao City.

Tinuy-an Falls’ fame has spread far and wide as the main tourist attraction in Bislig that all you need to do is search it up in the internet and you will come up with thousands of photos and articles from people who have been there.*?

Cottages are erected near the waterfalls that guests can rent for the day, and there are bamboo rafts you can rent to get near the waterfalls if you don’t want to swim. For the daring, there are trails by the side of the waterfalls to get you to the top, but that was something we didn’t do. Maybe next time.

Surigao Del Sur experience is enjoying nature at its best and a visit to the Tinuy-an Falls is just one of the must-not miss opportunities.

To get to Tinuy-an Falls, take a 30-minute ride from Bislig City proper via habal-habal (a single motorcycle modified to carry several passengers so be prepared for the thrill and scare if you’re a first timer) to Tinuy-an falls. Getting there is an adventure by itself.

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