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Is it safe to travel to Northeast Mindanao

Posted by on Jun 14th, 2009
Filed Under: Mindanao, Questions


John Vanek: Any thoughts on safety on NE Mindanao? I get conflicting info. about this area…it’s safe / it’s not safe.

Thanks a lot.


Editor addon

Ryan:Hi John,
Where exactly in NE Mindanao do you plan to go? Dinagat and Siargao Islands are definitely safe. An international surfing competition is held regularly in Siargao without any problems. Last year or two years ago I think, there was an attack by communist rebels in Siargao, but is more of an exception than the rule. No tourists were harmed in the attacks. Aside from surfing, Siargao also has some nice beaches as well. Dinagat on the other hand has a mini-hundred islands sort of thing going, the problem with Dinagat though is that there is only one resort in the area (AFIK). Camiguin is very safe as well. Cagayan de Oro, maybe you should stay off crowded areas as the city sometimes get attacked by Muslim insurgents intermittently – although white water rafting in the city is superb and generally Cagayan de Oro is a jump off point for people traveling to Camiguin. For updated news on these areas, you may want to check out online Philippine newspapers for your reference like Philippine Star or the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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4 Responses to “Is it safe to travel to Northeast Mindanao”

  1. Philip says:

    Planning to go to Ozamiz city in early july, 2009 to meet my gf. Is the place safe for tourists. My gf lives in catadman in ozamiz city. Hw far catadman from the airport?

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Philip,

      I am not in the position to comment on the peace and order situation of Ozamis, however, rarely does the city grab national headlines when it compared to the islands further south like Basilan and Sulu (which are definitely No Go) and the relative proximity to Zamboanga which has its share of spillover terrorism from Basilan and Sulu. I would suggest that you keep yourself abreast with the situation in the area by going to this online newspaper based in Ozamiz – The site is primarily in English, so it wont be a hassle. According to Ozamiz maps, Catadman doesnt sound too far away from the airport in Labo (it is just about two barangays away). You may check the maps online at

      Ask your girlfriend or other contacts in the area and read that local newspaper to check the local peace and order situation. Ozamiz normally is used as a transit point to Cebu and Manila by the nearby Lanao provinces as an alternative route. And from what I have read is a fairly progressive city. Not a lot of tourists go to that area because of the reputation of the restive provinces in the south. If you are not comfortable of going there – then arrange to meet somewhere else like Cebu- or make sure that your girlfriend picks you up in the airport. Like anywhere in the world, a good set of common sense always goes a long way when traveling.

      Be safe and if a local in Ozamiz not to go to a specific area then dont. If you got time, check if hiking in the Mount Malindang National Park is safe – it has beautiful gorges, rivers and dense forests with rare birds, lemurs and tarsiers.

  2. Sabrina says:

    My boyfrend and me are from Germany and we wanted to do a surftrip to siargao. but the recent bombing in the south kinda scared us.

    what do you think? is siargao in the se of mindanao still safe or would you advice against such a travel.

    we’ll definetly stay for 3 weeks in cebu (my mom comes from there) but yeah..want to do some surf action over there in siargao for one week.

    please gie me an honest answer. it’s really important for us.

    frank and sabrina

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Frank & Sabrina,

      Well, the recent bombings in Cotabato is kind of worrying for most people who usually see the bombings in the trouble spots in Mindanao as representative of the entire island and the country. These fears are unfounded. Siargao is in the NE side of the island and Mindanao is huge at 97,530 sq. kilometers (36,657 sq. miles). To give you a better picture, Mindanao is bigger than the entire country of Ireland and usually the problem areas are concentrated in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (so I advise you to stay away from Basilan, Sulu, the Lanao provinces, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, some parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula and Cotabato) and this is far away from Siargao- probably hours and hours and hours of overland travel. Mindanao is the 19th largest island in the world just to give you an idea so the clashes on the other end does not mean that the entire island is paralyzed.

      Siargao had its run with the New People’s Army a few years ago- but these things are exceedingly rare and usually tourists are not harmed (clashes usually happens in the hinterlands). Overall, Siargao is a very safe destination and the fact that it hosts an important annual international surfing competition that draws surfers all around the world is proof that it is a safe destination. My friends just went to Siargao with his entire family to surf (yes including 10 year old kids and his parents) and they had a great time. There is a big surf community (with a lot of foreign surfers) in Siargao so you wont feel out of place.

      While in the Philippines, you may also try the surf breaks in Samar (Guian/Calicoan) – pretty close to Cebu and another rising surf destination as well. If you want to keep track of the peace and order situation you may check out local newspapers in the Siargao area. Like what I tell all travelers – whether you travel in Berlin or in Siargao- a good dose of common sense and good travel research goes a long way.

      I will be going to Siargao and Dinagat sometime this year. From what I have heard, November is the perfect time to head out to Siargao- they have this local festival going on and it is the best time to ride the swells coming from the Pacific.

      Cheers and I hope you would have great fun exploring Siargao!


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