#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights

11:53:00 PM

I need a vacation from my vacation.

A photo posted by Danielle (@awsmchos) on

Sorry, Manila, but I have a new favorite city. It's not impossible that one day, I would pack everything and leave for Cagayan De Oro, for good. There's so much to love about this city: it's highly urbanized (first class like Manila), with quiet and exclusive subdivisions, private universities, hilly sights, a view of the Pacific Ocean while driving (to and fro Laguindingan), casual haunts for relaxing, great food, great people, with fun activities and extreme sports only an hour or two away.

Internet connection isn't so bad (LTE in some parts with Smart) and there's an Ayala mall. The only thing that might stop me is, well, I can't Bisaya even if my life depended on it. Also, I'm not sure what I would do for a living since all the top agencies are in Metro Manila and I can't work from home.

Oh well, that's something to think about in the far future. Today, I'm just happy to have had a chance to experience CDO and then some.

A photo posted by Danielle (@awsmchos) on

I spent a full week with the family, going around different parts of Mindanao. We were at CDO and Davao for three days each, a day at Butuan, with a pocket trip to Bukidnon. It was, as a friend puts it, "bakasyon engrande" - though I had to live off a gym bag for a week - as I never had to lift a finger (or spend a single cent) to get food or do chores or, ugh, work out. Only, I had to go home three days ahead of everyone else because of adult responsibilities. BOO.

Here's a breakdown of our itinerary:


Where we stayed: Mallberry Suites Business Hotel. I read somewhere that it's a four-star hotel but, surprisingly, it's not as expensive as the ones we have here. It's also not the most beautiful nor does it offer breathtaking views of the city (the building is mid-rise and right behind Limketkai mall), but if you're looking to stay comfortable while on vacation, Mallberry is a good choice. (Tourist and proud.) Our room was small but the beds are bouncy, there is a TV and a tub, but no bidet. There's bacon in the breakfast buffet.

Mallberry Suites Business Hotel
Osmena St, Cagayan de Oro

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila
#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

We had lunch and dinner at Auntie Elsa's place (sashimi, grilled or baked prawns, pancit and beef tapa, among other things), before heading out to Winds for the 800m zip line and fried ice cream.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila
#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

I have clips of the zip line in the video at the end of this post, but I wasn't able to experience it myself. I opted out because I was sure I'd be able to do the one at Dahilayan, which never happened. My cousins who tried both said the one at Winds was more exhilarating.

Fortunately, I had enough reason to NOT pass on the fried ice cream. Despite tonsillitis, I had #noregrats.

A photo posted by Danielle (@awsmchos) on

Ultra Winds Mountain Resort
Convention Center Access Road,
Baungon, Bukidnon

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

Then we sang and danced the night away at Song Hits! It's one of the go-to KTV places at CDO. Not only do they offer spacious rooms for groups who like to belt it out, Song Hits! also has Xbox Kinects that you can use to play Just Dance.

Song Hits! Family KTV
Great Spot Arcade, JR Borja Extension,
Cagayan De Oro


Cagayan River is roughly an hour away from the city. It's a popular attraction for those who want to try white water rafting. That was our main thing for the day and this adventure was facilitated by Team CDO Bugsay Rafting.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

Before getting onto the raft, I was nervous, praying to God that I don't fall off. I am a big scaredy cat when it comes to water activities. I fear death by drowning, more than anywhere else.

But don't worry! While there have been accidents in Cagayan River in the past, they were victims of unusually strong currents and flash floods. It's not everyday that something untoward happens there.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

We were told that when you fall off (which is the guide's goal in some rapids), the first thing to remember is: DON'T PANIC. Don't fight the rapids, get your feet up, float and let the current take you to calm waters.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

There were 12 rapids, I think, and I made it through all of them! It took us about two hours to get to the end of the river. I didn't even notice that it took so long. We were just lost in adrenaline and in the beauty of the surroundings.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

You cannot miss this experience when in CDO.

And the sumptuous lunch waiting for us at the end of the ride made the jitters worth it!

Team CDO Bugsay Rafting
Velez-San Agustin Streets, Cagayan de Oro

We were back in the hotel by early afternoon, went for a quick swim at the indoor pool. At night, I met a college friend (in CDO, of all places) and chilled for a bit at Grand Central.


Day three was just as adventure-filled. We arrived at Dahilayan Adventure Park in time for lunch. After lunch, we raided the playground which served as warm-up for extreme activities.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

I got to roll down the hill inside a ball. It was so much fun! The longest 20 seconds of my life.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

Then, I got on the baby zip line (320 meters) with my baby cousin. I didn't get to try the grownup version because it takes a lot of effort to get to where it is, and no one was willing to walk with me lels.

But the real attraction is the 120-ft Drop Zone. It was so hard to watch, 10x the scare when you're actually on it. Basically, they hoist you up eight storeys high, and you have the discretion on when to pull so you can drop and swing. You don't have a net waiting for you, just in case things go wrong. There's only water. Once you're up there, the only way to get out (and you will want so badly to get out) is to let go. #ThereGoesThatHugot

Word to the wise: Don't linger, just pull it. Nakaka-tempt sumigaw ng "WALANG FOREVER!!!!"

Dahilayan Adventure Park
Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich,

Though we didn't really get to try a lot of the fun stuff (primarily because of weight requirements), we were still worn out by the end of the day. I slept on most of the drive back to CDO.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

I sneaked out with one of my cousins and her uncles (not related to me) later in the night to catch this view. Eden's Solace is a well-kept secret and it's best visited if you're driving (preferably if you're a skilled driver). It's not commutable. Perfect date place!

Eden's Solace
Upper Sumpong,
Indahag, Cagayan de Oro

DAY 4 to 6 | DAVAO

Bye, CDO! Huhu.

We were on the road for six hours, going to Davao. I was half asleep for most of the trip (I like sleeping in transit), and woke up to really nice mountainous spectacles.

Davao City, just like CDO, is another Manila in the south. If you're not stopping to look for anything specific, there isn't much to see that you wouldn't find here. For us though, Davao was mostly a beach trip.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila
#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

Samal Island was a 10-minute boat ride from downtown. One of the nicest beaches I've ever visited. Not crowded and the water is clear. Offers a nice view of the sun setting on the city.

The resort that accommodated our big group was Paradise Island. Service is great and the food, too. Free WiFi and some activities (kayak, billiards, volleyball, table tennis) were complimentary.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila
#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort
Caliclic, Babak,
Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte

On day six, it's back to town for us. We got our souvenirs from Apo ni Lola. Durian, mangosteen and langka sweets are their specialty, but they also sell t-shirts, keychains, etc. We had lunch at Ahfat. (Pero Wai Ying pa din!). Oh yeah, we also stopped over a marketplace to get a taste of durian (UGH) and marang (SARAP).

Apo ni Lola
San Miguel St, Talomo District,
Davao City

Ahfat Seafoods Plaza
Bajada, Davao City

Then, we were off to an eight (!!!) hour drive to Butuan. If you ever find yourself in this part of Mindanao, DO NOT make NPA jokes - it's disrespectful and dangerous.

DAY 6 to 7 | BUTUAN

It was a lazy day. My cousins' grandparents own fish ponds and a piggery, which meant pig roast and fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Among many other dishes. (Every meal was a feast from our time at CDO to Butuan.)

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

Kids played cards all day, joked around, sang on the karaoke, and we had a quick photoshoot in the backyard.

#EDiWowMindanao | Highlights | Awesome in Manila

Come 6PM, it's back to Manila for me!

Needless to say, I dreaded the flight home. Mindanao left an imprint on my heart. (That and I had a 10:30 meeting the next morning.) And I didn't even get to see half of it! The whole trip was far from relaxing (they wanted to do so many things) but it was an adventure I couldn't miss. E di wow, Mindanao! talaga.

I had never felt at home anywhere that isn't Manila, and yet CDO has got me thinking about her constantly since I got back (been two days, as of press time). Definitely making plans to experience more of her in the near future. Hopefully, I get to learn some Bisaya, too!

For now (as I plan and save for that), I'll be raping the hell out of the play button on this video and keep reliving the memories until my ears get tired of New Politics:

Have you ever traveled to a place that made you feel so at home, you actually considered moving there?

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