Magsuhot Park, Sogod, Southern Leyte

My friend Jao and I left Emma’s grandmother’s house in Hinunangan early on Sunday morning. Again, we would like to thank Emma and her family for hosting us despite their preoccupation with their reunion.

Jao was going back to Cebu (aw, no more GoPro shots) and I had my own solo plans in Sogod, Southern Leyte. We took a bus bound for Hilongos and I arrived in Sogod around 8:30am. As what I’d seen, buses from Hinunangan going to Hilongos and Maasin would pass through Sogod.

When I got to Sogod, I quickly discovered that their tricycles were color-coded. The very first blue tricycle driver I spoke to had no idea where Magsuhot Park was, as did the next tricycle driver and the gasoline boy, but the second tricycle driver offered to take me to the bus terminal (the bus I was on did not stop by the terminal) where I could probably ask others, particularly red tricycle drivers.

Just like Hinunangan, there was not a lot of information online about Magsuhot Park. I knew there were other attractions in Sogod but I was bent on going to Magsuhot.

At the bus terminal, not even the locals heard about Magsuhot Park, not even the government worker who was stationed at the terminal. But they were very helpful in looking for someone who knew about the place.

Unfortunately, there was no one in the terminal who had a hint about it. So I tried contacting the tourism officer of Sogod who fortunately responded with the information I needed to get to Magsuhot Park (he had a personal emergency to attend to so he was not able to respond to me earlier). I believe it was Mr. Estillore that I talked to at 09212918027 (he’ll answer but please be mindful of that personal matter he has).

He told me to either take a jeepney going to Libagon or a red tricycle and just alight at the barangay hall of Brgy. Mahayahay. Since I had this information, I opted to just hire a habal-habal instead. His name was Junjun, a good man. He did not have his own phone but he said you can just ask for him if you’re at the terminal.

So we drove down to Brgy. Mahayahay and met a man who lived right beside the barangay hall. I forgot his name so I’ll just call him Manong Guide. From what he told me, he seemed to be the only guide there. Not even his neighbors had gone to Magsuhot Park, although they had heard about it. If you want to arrange a tour, you can contact him at 09069544165. He charges P250.

We started the hike around 9am. Junjun, the habal-habal driver, decided to go with us too. He would be much helpful later on.

While hiking, I would hear the conversations of Manong Guide and Junjun every now and then (I’m not much of an eavesdropper and I get lost in my own world too). They didn’t know each other but they talked non-stop. I knew they had a different Bisaya accent, similar to that in Bohol, but I further noticed they would change Y to J (such as layo to lajo and maayo to maajo). They would also drop their L much like the Cebu City Bisaya. I’m not really an expert on accents but the differences and the similarities were very noticeable.

Anyway, the start of the hike was somewhat easy. Junjun asked me if I was feeling okay and I told him that I was used to this, with our hike in Lawaan, Eastern Samar in mind. The rocks were still small and the rivers were still shallow. I would later regret saying this.

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A few minutes into the hike, Manong Guide pointed to me a natural spring and insisted that I take a picture of it because he said this might become the source of Sogod’s drinking water in the future. He added that this was not connected to the rivers and the falls.

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My habal-habal driver Junjun refilling his bottle of water.

 

After 45 minutes, we found what would have been the first waterfalls but it was without water.

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Manong Guide said that the water here had been redirected to become a water source, plus it was the height of summer.

After another fifteen minutes, we reached the mouth of what seemed to me like an open roofless cave. It was the start of the real challenge. It was a series of huge rocks and small waterfalls, with some deep river in between.

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When it was time to cross the deep water, I had to call Junjun to pull me. As much as I wanted to try my swimming skills here, it was too dark and too cold.

Then it was time to do rock climbing. This was perhaps the most dangerous part of the hike. There was no room for mistake. The foothold was too high for me, even at 5’11”, and damn it was on the other side. I wish I had taken pictures of it so I could give you a better image. If I fell, I would have fallen several meters to a rock underneath, then perhaps my body would roll into the deep ravine. My palms are sweating thinking about it now. It was exhilarating, yes. But I knew this was dangerous to non-rock-climbers like me. I hope they’d put a rope in here soon.

After that ordeal, we had to go through smaller boulders (still tough but I didn’t require assistance) and shallower waters until we reached what would be the end of the trail for me.

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There should have been another waterfalls, way taller than the one pictured, beside where I was standing when I took the picture, but because of the drought in Sogod and the rest of the Philippines, the water had dried up.

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Manong Guide said there was another level beyond that small waterfalls but I had to swim the 30-meter deep water again and climb a much harder rock before getting there. A rope again would have helped.

My guides were talking beside me about how Manong Guide once saw a huge fish here, how deep the water was when Typhoon Yolanda hit and how they would once let (what I assumed were) logs float down the river. I couldn’t grasp their entire conversation because, again, of their accent and, besides, I was busy imagining other things and tinkering with my camera.

I stayed here for 30 minutes. I didn’t feel any hurry because it was still not noon yet and there was no other people around except us three.

It was 11am when we started our way back. That rock I had trouble climbing up earlier now looked more difficult to climb down. So Junjun made himself a human bridge. He made me step into his shoulder so I could go down safely. Of course, I had to be pulled again when crossing that deep river.

We were able to get back to the barangay hall a few minutes after 12noon. Contrary to what I told my guides earlier, I now told them this was the most difficult I had ever done so far. It’s true and it was also very dangerous especially doing it solo.

I asked Junjun to drive me back to the bus terminal where I had lunch at a nearby restaurant, killed some time in the heat and decided to proceed to Hilongos where I would wait for Emma and Simon to make our way back to Cebu.

THE BEAUTY OF MINDANAO

In 2014, I started traveling within the Philippines more frequently. I was looking at a Philippine map and realized I haven’t been to Mindanao at all. So I made a resolution in the middle of the year that I would try to put more focus in this part of the country.

But my first trip to Mindanao was almost by accident. At that time, I was dying to go to Batanes but I just didn’t have enough funds for the plane ticket. Right on cue, I found a “piso fare” promotion of a certain airline and they had it available for Manila-Zamboanga-Tawi-Tawi flights. I couldn’t go up north so I might as well go down south. I immediately booked round trip tickets.

TAWI-TAWI

When I told my closest friend that I was going to Tawi-tawi, she forcefully asked me to not go. Because I got a strong reaction from her, I calmed her down by telling her that I was just joking. Of course, I wasn’t. She only found out that I was serious when I was already in NAIA waiting for my flight to Zamboanga. My mother, on the other hand, knew that I was only going to Zamboanga. She was shocked when she found pictures of me posing on top of a mountain in Tawi-tawi.

When I finally arrived in Zamboanga, I was too excited. It was my first time in Mindanao after all and I was alone! I had to stay overnight in the city but I didn’t get to explore much of the place.

It was then time to fly to Tawi-tawi.

I arrived in Bongao, the capital of Tawi-tawi, in the morning of August 30, 2014. I had some expectations about their province, but when I got there, I was surprised to see that it looked like any other urban area. Pardon me for my imaginations, but media hasn’t really shown much of these urban areas in ARMM.

The hotel where I stayed, Rachel’s Place, was kind enough to provide me their own staff to be my guides. On my first day, they toured me around the public and private beaches along the highway. Their beaches were clean and untouched.

IMG_0677The next day, we left the hotel early to hike Bud Bongao, the highest peak in Tawi-tawi. It was also my first hike up a mountain in years. I had fun with the monkeys and the view from the top was breathtaking.

IMG_0917We hit the beach again when we got down.

IMG_0987What made me love Tawi-tawi more was its people. Almost everyone was very friendly to me. They know how outsiders look at them and they find humor in it. I would have loved to go to the other islands but I was short in time. I’ve heard about Panampangan so I might go there next time.

BUKIDNON AND MISAMIS ORIENTAL

A couple of months later, I decided to visit my uncle and aunt in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. They brought me to Dahilayan Park, where I tried their zipline, and to the Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental where there was a giant statue of Jesus Christ.

Ziplining at Dahilayan Park
Ziplining at Dahilayan Park

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SOCCSKSARGEN

In January 2015, a few friends and I went backpacking in the Cotabato region.

Our first stop was Cotabato City, which we reached after a three-hour passenger van ride from General Santos City. We paid a visit to the Grand Mosque, otherwise known as Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid.

IMG_6386After this quick visit, we made our way to Midsayap, North Cotabato where we were staying for the night before going to Asik-Asik Falls in Alamada the next day.

From Midsayap, we hired habal-habals to go to Brgy. Dado in Alamada. We reached the center of Brgy. Dado after almost two hours, mostly on very rough roads. We hired more habal-habals from there so there could only be one passenger on each habal-habal. This was because the remaining part of the ride was on even rougher roads. The habal-habal ride was an adventure in itself. Asik-Asik Falls was worth all that pain though. We were lucky enough to have the place all to ourselves.

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IMG_6424We went back to Midsayap after lunch and took a van going to Kabacan, then from Kabacan to Tacurong and finally from Tacurong to Marbel, which is the more popular name of Koronadal, the capital city of South Cotabato. We stayed overnight in Marbel.

Early the next morning, we left by bus for Surallah and then from Surallah, we took a van going to the town of Lake Sebu. From the terminal, we took a much shorter habal-habal ride going to Falls Number 1 of the Seven Falls of Lake Sebu.

 

Photo courtest of John Rey Cuyos.
Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

We then took the zipline to see the other falls from above (as seen on the video below).

We had lunch on the floating restaurant of the Mountain Lake Eco Resort while touring around the lake, which the town was named after, and being serenaded by Yegas, a T’boli artist.

 

The island on the foreground is that island

 

We also went to see the famous Langdulay in the next town of T’boli. She is this renowned dream weaver of the T’boli tribe. The cloth that they make is called T’nalak which they were selling for P600 per meter. Considering that it takes them up to four months to finish a piece of cloth, the price was reasonable.

IMG_6481 copyWe headed back to General Santos City afterwards and spent the next morning at Sarangani Highlands before flying back home.

IMG_1396Jao, one of my travel buddies during this trip, created a video showcasing the fun we had during this whole trip and the magnificence of the Cotabato region.

SURIGAO DEL SUR AND THE ISLAND GARDEN CITY OF SAMAL

My most recent trip to Mindanao was last April 2015. I tagged along a friend and his family to go to Surigao del Sur and Samal.

We first stopped by the Enchanted River in Hinatuan. We reached it after a six-hour bus ride from Davao City (Butuan City is a nearer gateway but flights to Davao were cheaper when we booked).

My friend Jao, whose hobbies include free diving, spent most of his time underwater.

Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos. Taken by me. :-p
Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos. Taken by me. :-p

He again created a video of our (mostly his) adventure at the Enchanted River.

A little past 2pm, we drove to Bislig City to see the Tinuy-an Falls. Because of the heavy downpour earlier in the day, we found raging and brown water instead of the dreamy rock with slow moving water flowing from the top that I was imagining. The falls still looked grand and imposing though.

Risking my camera just to get that signature pose.

For our second day, we went to Samal and spent the entire day at the Maxima Resort. We were planning to explore more of the city but there were so many fun things to do at Maxima.

IMG_7498Their snorkeling spot is also a must-see.

Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.
Photo courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

Mindanao is definitely a rich place. I have only made four trips so far but I’m already in love with it. Aside from these destinations I have visited, there are more things to see in Mindanao.

Domestic Traveler. Wannabe Photographer. Runner. Wallflower.

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