Servathon Recruits More Volunteers

The Servathon or service marathon is a one-day event when volunteers from corporations and groups dedicate their time and energy to community service and provide assistance to marginalized sectors of Metro Manila. Last year, activities included library development and school refurbishing at Plainview Elementary School and Nueve de Febrero Elementary School. Also included were basketball court repainting at Pangarap Shelter, house building with Habitat for Humanity, kitchen construction at Childhouse and mural painting at the National Children’s Hospital.  Apart from being a day of service, this is also a fundraising event of the foundation for its year-round volunteer programs and projects.

For Servathon 2009, a day of fun and games was attended by Marc Nelson, Nina Huang and other respected people. Here they are with some lucky kids after a race in Velasquez Park.



The City of Majestic Waterfalls

I was dying to go to Iligan City when I realized that it’s only an hour and a half away from Cagayan de Oro which I frequently visit due to some friends who live there. Mindanao has always been close to my heart because it’s where I spent my childhood. I have this wishlist of places that I want to go in Mindanao that includes Surigao, Davao and Zamboanga. So when I got the chance to go back to Cagayan de Oro again, Iligan City was in my mind. Being a budget-loving backpacker, I didn’t want to spend my money on tourist packages. Instead, I want to visit the tourist spots on my own and rely on what I have researched. I invited two of my friends in Cagayan de Oro, who are also my “bodyguards”, to go with me to the City of Majestic Waterfalls, Iligan City. It’s nickname was created due to the fact that there are more than 20 waterfalls in Iligan City that includes Maria Cristina, Mimbalut, Limunsudan, Dalipuga, Abaga, Dodiongan, Gata, Guimbalolan, Hindang, Kalisan, Kamadahan and Kabalang Falls.
I found this brochure for unguided tourist in Iligan City’s official website. My “bodyguards” were alarmed with my idea since they have heard that there’s a war going on in that area and it’s also the place where the kidnapped newscaster Ces Orena Drilon passed through going to Zamboanga. The idea didn’t really make me nervous at all. I mean, I was thinking “why would they want to kidnap me? I’m so poor!” :) But anyway, I was so excited to see Maria Cristina Falls in all her glory.

If you’re already in Cagayan de Oro, it’s easy to go to Iligan City by yourself. Just get a taxi or ride a jeep going to Bulua Bus Terminal. Then ride a bus going to Iligan City. The bus will take you to Iligan City’s Bus Terminal. As I remembered, we paid about 100pesos per person for an hour and a half bus ride. When you reach Iligan City Bus Terminal, ride a jeep going to the city proper. From there, ride a jeep going to Buruun. Tell the driver to drop you off at the crossing going to Maria Cristina Falls. You wouldn’t miss the crossing because it’s located just after Agus Bridge which is a wide, large bridge along the highway. When you’re at the crossing, you can either trek or just ride a habal-habal (motorbike) to reach Maria Cristina Falls. It’s better to trek when you want to enjoy the green sceneries. But as we were a bit late at the time, we decided to ride the habal-habal. The habal-habal driver will drop you off at the Agus VI Hydro-electric Power Plant where the viewing deck is also located. But before you reach the Power Plant, you have to register at the NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) gate and leave your ID with the guards.

The scenic road going to Agus VI Hydro-Electric Power Plant
Maria Cristina Falls is the primary source of electricity in Iligan City and the whole of Mindanao. So that’s why on Mondays to Fridays, only half of the falls’ water is seen flowing down because it’s water is harnessed for Hydro-Electric Power. Do you ever wonder why some pictures of Maria Cristina Falls on postcards doesn’t look like the grand Maria Cristina Falls that you were told when you were a kid? And you ask if it was really Maria Cristina Falls on the postcard? It’s because they took the picture on a weekday when only a half of the falls is flowing. Instead, go see Maria Cristina Falls on weekends from 11:00am to 11:15am to see it’s full grandeur. Yup, a whole fifteen minutes and that’s it. Luckily though, when we got to the Power Plant, Agus II broke and even if it was 12 noon, the falls was overflowing. Man, how lucky we were. I was imagining that the water was Coke foam. Too much water was flowing down to the Agus River and it was really fantastic just being there and being mesmerized by the constant flow of the water. Maria Cristina’s twin falls got its name from two sisters who are named Maria and Cristina who jumped off from the rock between the twin falls. Tragic but that’s the story though.
Only half of the falls is flowing down on weekdays.
But when we went there, it was overflowing.

I’ve witnessed and believed. It’s really awesome.

My “bodyguards” enjoying the action.

The mighty Agus River…

…going out to sea.

The next place we went to was Timoga Cold Springs. This Cold Spring Resort boasts of their cold, therapeutic water falling down to several swimming pools. Take note that one of the pools is an olympic swimming pool which is deep blue in color. Its really deep-looking and i stayed away from there because I don’t know how to swim if it’s more than five feet. I’m no fun in this stuff, sorry. But I did enjoy the kid’s pool. :)
The kids’ pool of Timoga Cold Springs.
The Macaraeg-Macapagal Ancestral House seen from Timoga Cold Springs.
Just beside Timoga Cold Springs is the Macaraeg-Macapagal Ancestral house where Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lived for three years. She goes to that house in Iligan City to be with her lola (grandmother), the mother of her mother. It made sense since Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo knows how to speak Bisaya which is the primary used dialect in Iligan City and the rest of Mindanao. It’s now open to public. Unfortunately, the ancestral house wasn’t open the time we were there so I just took pictures from the gate.
The sign: Macaraeg-Macapagal Ancestral House.

If you want to the best-tasting lechon manok in the country, just go to Iligan City. My “bodyguards” introduced me to this new discovery. They swore that whenever they go to Iligan City, they always drop by to eat lechon manok. The skin of the lechon manok is so crispy though the juice is still attained. The chicken was so yummy that we ordered two rice platters. Marlone, one of my bodyguards who is a model forgot all about his no-rice diet. He couldn’t resist the temptation. These lechon manok stalls can be found just across Timoga Cold Springs and the Macaraeg-Macapagal Ancestral House where you can also enjoy the seaside view.
Our seaside view while eating the best-tasting lechon manok in the country.
The next spot we went to was Tinago Falls, which is hidden below a deep ravine. You can ride a jeep going to Tinago Falls from Timoga Cold Springs. The jeep will directly drop you off the crossing of Tinago Falls. You might have to walk a few yards (about half of an oval track). to reach Tinago Falls entrance. Then, you have to go down some 100 plus steps to see the hidden Tinago Falls. It was raining at the time we went there and it was getting dark so we just enjoyed looking at the falls. The pool is really deep so if you’re going to swim in Tinago Falls’ pool, you have to wear a life vest (it’s a must).
Tinago Falls
Picture ops: My clothes were soaking wet at the time.
My whole day adventure in Iligan City was so great, I didn’t even bother thinking that I my clothes were all wet when we went back to Cagayan de Oro City. There are more than 20 waterfalls in Iligan City and I can’t wait to discover it on my next visit.

I read in the news sometime in August that some houses in Iligan City was burned down by some rebels and a lot of people got hurt died in the gunfire. I just wished that it will be all over. Iligan City is a really peaceful city and I want to go back there if there’s another opportunity. I wish that people could just live peacefully together, Muslims and Christians alike. I have a Muslim bestfriend, Asima, who lives in Marawi, Lanao del Sur and we clicked even if we have different views in life. I pray that all will be well in time, for everyone’s sake.


Discovering Camiguin

Camiguin is one of the smallest islands here in Pinas, second only to Batanes Island (smallest) in land area. Camiguin has 5 municipalities namely Catarman, Guinsiliban, Mahinog, Mambajao (the capital) and Sagay. It’s the home of Lanzones Festival held annually in October and Mt. Hibok-Hibok, still an active volcano that last erupted in 1953.

I was fortunate to have met a friend who has friends in Camiguin. We went there for the Holy Week which is one of the most anticipated events in Camiguin. Pinoys and tourists come here to meditate and relax especially on Holy Week. By then, the twelve stations of the cross are all wind up around the island. You can go around the island for a day and visit all the twelve stations. Some come here for the sun and water. Camiguin is a unique island for the fact that it’s an island in Mindanao, has an active volcano and lots of beautiful white sand beaches. Aside from the beaches, it has waterfalls, cold spring and hot spring. Fun, fun, and fun all in one island.

The first spot that we went to is the Walkway To The Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross in Catarman since it was the Holy Week. This is actually the Mt. Vulcan Daan that erupted in 1871 and which now has stations of the cross. It’s not that hard to reach the summit where the last station is located because stairs were built for easy access. Just a tip though – this is not for the faint-hearted and if you do want to reach the last station, bring water with you.

The entrance to The Walkway To The Old Volcano and Stations of The Cross

The stations of the cross light up just before dark

There are actually two waterfalls that I heard of in Camiguin. One is Tuasan falls in Catarman that we didn’t visit because it’s not easily accessible by vehicle. You have to trek and pass through Barrio Mainit in Catarman. The other one is Katibawasan Falls in Mambajao which is a really spectacular waterfall. The water goes into a icy rock pool and it’s perfect for those hot, summer days. It’s accessible by any vehicle and you won’t get lost because the government installed signs/directions going to the waterfalls.
On our way to…

Katibawasan Falls
The icy rock pool
We also visited the Ardent Hot Spring which is still in Mambajao. This is a perfect spot for those weary travelers who seek relaxation. This is your natural jacuzzi and is very therapeutic. There’s also a man-made swimming pool called Soda Water Swimming Pool and i don’t know why it’s called like that. Probably to attract attention. It’s water is cold and the scenic mountain landscape is yours to enjoy. There’s also a cold spring in Camiguin called Sto. Nino Cold Spring in Catarman if you want the opposite of hot. It’s your choice, really. Camiguin has it all.
This way to…

Ardent Hot Springs
Soda Water Swimming Pool
Camiguin has another tiny island beside it which is named Mantigue Island and is a part of Mahinog. This island is accessible by pump boat from San Roque, Mahinog. There’s no electricity and water in the island so you better pack a lot of food and water if you want to stay there for the night. I’ve seen a lot of starfish and sea urchins in the island and it’s a very good spot for snorkelling. Another island across Mambajao is White Island which doesn’t need any introduction because it’s really, really famous. It changes its shape from the letter C to letter I depending on the tide. You can also see Mt. Hibok-Hibok from here.
Land Ho! Mantigue Island

Just keep walking…

…in Mantigue Island

All creatures…
…and small
Camiguin is also known for the Sunken Cemetery in Catarman which sunk in the volcanic eruption of Mt Vulcan Daan in 1871. Its Cross Marker was installed in 1982 to mark the Sunken Cemetery. This place is actually one of the best dive spots in Camiguin and in Pinas.
The Cross Marker of…

Sunken Cemetery. Cool eh?

Remnants of the said eruption can also be seen in the ruins of the Gui-ob Church also known as Catarman Ruins. It’s located just a few minutes away from the Sunken Cemetery.

The Gui-ob Church Ruins or…

…simply the Catarman Ruins
The biggest and tallest tree that i can find in Camiguin

A white lighthouse near the ruins that adds romanticism to a historical place at night
There’s more to discover in Camiguin but i’ll leave it up to my next trip.
An old parola (lighthouse) in Mambajao

Photo Credits except those with copyright labels: Al and Marlone

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