There is so much to explore in the Philippines! I haven’t been to all 7,100 islands but I’m happy I’m exploring hidden gems especially in places where some people would mark “unsafe” for pleasure travel. Oftentimes people would just dismissively address it is one big chunk of land but if you look at the map, it is diverse with its own small & big cities, with its own rural communities & its own complex cultures.

Yes! I’m talking about Mindanao & I’m here to tell you that not all of Mindanao are hateful Muslims who are always at war or that the Martial Law situation is not anything scary like the news shows. Well, that’s my firsthand experience while in the area & I’ve learned long ago not to let the media dictate me if a place is safe to travel or not. Because if that’s the case then… I will never leave my house. 

This 2019, I have visited Mindanao twice. Easy because my family lives in Davao where everywhere is a bus ride away. Here are the places that made my heart skip a beat— yes, I feel giddy seeing postcard-worthy landscapes & experiencing the best of what the place has to offer.

1- Davao City & Talicud Island

There are 2 things I’m most amazed about Davao City: 1) It is a crazy big city! I mean, my brother & I went for a drive & we could already be in the rural mountain area but the road signages say we are still in the city! And 2) Roxas Street Night Market is a must-visit! Let’s talk about street food from everything barbecued to fried mango float ice cream to 18-day-old duck egg to Nutella Chinese desserts to street massages to Php50 thrift clothes to name-it-all! Imagine rainbows & unicorn, happy right?

Also, while in Davao city, an easy beach side trip is going to Talicud island, about an hour boat ride— it has a completely different relax vibe of coconut trees, calm waters & camping in the beach under a starry night sky.

2- Bukidnon- Davao (BuDa) Road

If anyone was a fan of Twilight, yes, the vampire movie (Team Jacob Black forever!!!) I think you’d swoon. We were greeted with thick fog & the pine trees on the side road were a work of art! We reached BuDa by motorcycle, it was a 1.5hrs ride from Davao city & from there we visited Bemwa Farm & this pretty little nook that is one step away from the clouds! We had to hire a habal-habal just to get here & passed by a really difficult muddy, narrow road I literally didn’t breath at the backseat the whole time scared to death we will crash! But the view though..

3- Bukidnon 

No, I’ve only been to one part of Bukidnon. This is my first time to be on this site & I plan to explore this land area further in the future. We booked a climb to Mt Palaopao through wanderlaags (very organize, cheap & professional) & my experience was something memorable. I don’t consider myself a serious outdoorsy type because physically I’m out of shape. But from time to time I imagine the impossible & fancy an extreme mountain climb like when the hike in Mt Pulag last year. My mistake was I underestimated this mountain & said that since I have climbed the 3rd highest peak in the country, this mountain should be easy. Boy I was so wrong! In the end, I went home with a very bad sprained right hand, swollen butt & beaten ego. But the mountain views… I mean my hand could all be hurt but my spirit was beyond happy!

4- Dahican Beach, Mati, Davao Oriental

Dahican Beach is known for surf spots & true the swells were so good I’ve seen young boys playing happily on their longboards. Apart from the beach, I wanted to visit Mati to fly an airplane at Mindanao Flying Saga. Sadly the weather didn’t cooperate, the wind was so strong the flights were canceled that day. 

5- Club Tara, Socorro, Surigao del Norte

I said it in my earlier post, this is the most beautiful place I’ve been in the Philippines & coming from someone who’ve been everywhere & who’ve seen a lot, this is not a light remark. Let’s give it another go? 

If you have the means, the robust health & the time to travel, go ahead! Our Philippines is a beautiful country & it would be a shame to be a foreigner in our own land. And again, for once, do something spontaneous — visit Mindanao!