Looking forward to the long weekend in May, I was exploring options to head out “somewhere” in the Philippines. After Puerto Princesa, Palawan in December with family and Boracay in February with friends, now was time for a solo outing.

The craving for white water rafting got better off others and it was Cagayan de Oro in the south. CDO, as it is called in short, is part of Mindanao, one of 3 island groups in the country.

Getting There: On the Friday morning, I reached the domestic terminal in Manila for the Cebu Pacific owned Tigerair flight. Cebu Pacific has since renamed Tigerair Philippines to CebGo. The flight was delayed by a few minutes but that didn’t bother me much, I just wanted to relax and go along with the flow. Cebu Pacific is popular for the onboard fun games, probably reflecting the spirit of Filipinos. It seems the Tigerair subsidiary doesn’t share the same culture. However, they did hand out a bag of free samples of some useful cosmetics such as face wash and sun screens.

Picturesque landings are a common affair in the Philippines with runaways close to the waters. Landing at the Laguindingan airport was no different. With only hand baggage, I was out in a jiffy to be welcomed to the cacophony of operators peddling the shuttle to Cagayan de Oro city, a 40km ride for 200 pesos. Private taxis are instantly available; expect to pay about 600 pesos.

Staying: Seda and Limketkai are locally owned luxury hotels. After I discovered Tune hotels had a property, I didn’t look further. Booking it through Kaligo gave the opportunity to earn a few miles. Unlike the Tune hotel in Kuala Lumpur’s low-cost terminal (now shifted to KLIA2) where air conditioning and towels had to be purchased separately, I was pleasantly surprised to have them all packaged in the price of 1500 PHP here.

Going Around: After a quick bite at Mang Inasal, I took a taxi to visit 2 places in the mountains. Mapawa Nature Park and Malasag Eco-Tourism Village. Malasag is visiting home to some of indigenous tribes who seem to have least influenced by the 400 years of colonial rule. They sell hand man crafts and perform tradition dance at 4:30pm. There is small aviary, not the best I have seen. I did manage to see the national bird, Philippine Eagle albeit in captivity. The cafe has some spectacular views of the city, the waters and the mountains in the other islands, reminding of the views of Bergen, Norway from Mt. Floyen

The next day began with yummy stack of pancakes at Circa 1850, independent restaurant yet sorta attached to Tune hotel. Bugsay rafting turned up a hour late to pick me and others from the hotel. I preferred with advance version, after all I can claim to be an experienced rafting junkie with runs at river Cauvery, Sita and the mighty Ganga ;-) I had to settle for the basic version to go with group. So here it was, my first Jeepney ride from the hotel to the starting point on the Cagayan de Oro river.

The 14 km rafting with about 13 rapids of maximum grade level of 4 guided by the pros was fun, leaving ample time for small talks and soaking in the views. Living in this country, you realize the role of volcanoes and see plenty of evidences dating back millions of years, not in museums but in the outdoors.

City of golden friendship is title given to CDO just as Bangalore is city of gardens which it is not anymore! I usually don’t believe in such tags but guess what! A couple from Zamboanga was on a road trip around the island. I met them at the hotel and we were together in the rafting group. They were really nice to invite me to join them post-rafting for a drive.

Philippines is the second largest exporter of Pineapples in the world. Del Monte has an entire civilization built around Pineapple farms with golf courses and an air strip for private planes. I did have an inclination to visit the place and the Dahilayan Adventure Park in the area. However, I had saved it for a future trip with the wife and little one or friends since a drive were the only viable option. Thanks to the warm Filipino couple, I had the opportunity to visit these places.

Dahilayan Adventure Park is an amazing fun place creativity done with tons of activities for all ages. I was amazed somebody made up such a business so far from the city in a not so prime island group of Mindanao. But then it seems to be working well, the place was bubbling with activity.

After a good night sleep and another nice breakfast, it was time to fly back to civilization.

Blame my phone crash, no pictures!!!