Filed Under: Cagayan De Oro, Featured, Mindanao, Misamis Oriental
Called Mindanao’s nature front, Misamis Oriental is home to fine beaches, fertile mountains and lush forest reserves, interesting dive sites, caves that wait to be explored, and a diverse culture that begs to be experienced.
Misamis Oriental is one of the 5 provinces of Region X, otherwise known as Northern Mindanao with Cagayan de Oro both serving as the capital of the province as well as the regional capital. Misamis got its name from the word “misa”, a Spanish term for the Eucharistic Mass. It was said that during the early days of Christianity in the Philippines, the word “misa” was shouted by converts every time priests traveled around the province. Over time, the Spanish missionaries started called the province as Misamis. As there are two Misamis provinces, the other one is Misamis Occidental (Western Misamis) which has Oroquieta City as its capital. Other stories say that the word “Misamis” came from “Kuyamis”, a variety of sweet coconut which was also the staple food of the earliest known Negrito settlers in the area. The word Kuyamis was corrupted into Misamis when the Spanish conquerors arrived.
Photo by storm-crypt
Aside from Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental has another city, albeit, a smaller one compared to Cagayan de Oro- the city of Gingoog City, a component city which is located in the eastern part of the province.
While adventure tourism in Cagayan de Oro is promoted heavily in the tourism circles, there are other things to see and do in Misamis Oriental. Such as the ancestral houses of Vega Ancestral Home in Balingasag and the Lagbas Ancestral Home in Sugbongcogon. Like in many parts of the Philippines, the province has a lot of beautiful dive sites which are rarely visited by a lot of tourists because of the stigma that the name of Mindanao evokes. This is very undeserving, as the island of Mindanao has a lot of spectacular sights to see, enough to overwhelm any world traveler – and can put other countries in the Asia Pacific region to utter shame. Take the Agutayan Reef in Jasaan, also called the White Island (this is different from the White Island in Camiguin) – it is a little island teeming with a wide expanse of coral reef with a drop-off starting at 50 feet all the way down to 150 feet with heaps of cracks and crevices along the wall. Pelagic fishes such as the barracuda, eagle rays, surgeon fish, tuna, and sharks are often seen here. A shoal of approximately 3 hectares in size with the shallowest depth at 20 feet below the surface defines Constancia Reef. The reef is teeming with colorful tropical fish, pelagic and territorial fish, sponges and sea fans.
Photo by Dave Ryan
Sipaka Point is known for its strong current and is only advised for more experienced divers. This natural current feeds the marine ecosystem which resulted in a gorgeous underwater garden where one can find huge sea fans, hard and soft corals, basket sponges, and feather stars which coexist with snappers, stingrays, groupers and numerous colorful fish – which is perfect for underwater photography, The Talisayan shoal meanwhile fronts the town of Talisayan. It takes about 10 minutes from the Mantangale Alibuag Beach Resort. This tiny shoal is covered with a very good coral growth, with heaps of little colorful fish, shells and other plants and animals such as turtles as well as other pelagic fishes. For wreck divers, one must not miss the Sta. Ines wreck at the sandy and steep slope, this old World War Two pontoon wreck starts at depths of 30 feet to about 150 feet. This wreck is now covered with black corals, fan corals, and other marine growth and serves as abode to jacks, sweetlips, red snappers, surgeon fish, bat fish and Lapu-lapu.
In the town of Medina, one can head out to the Medina Springs, a very interesting dive spot also with rich marine life which is located just about 300 yards from the white beach, near the edge of the shallow coral reef. “The Paradise” as it is called, it is about 90 to 110 feet deep with features like a canyon with a lot cracks and holes and a cavern that can be explored with underwater flashlights. “The Aquarium” meanwhile is another place to make that second dive with depth ranging from 20 to 70 feet. In these two spots- you’d be able to spot the underwater springs called alibuag which literally spew out very cold fresh water. The dramatic seascapes meanwhile, at the eastern tip of Gingoog Bay which is part of the town of Magsaysay is Punta Diwata. This divespot meanwhile has a stair step coralline slope with its ledges and walls all beautifully covered with sea fans, sponges, as well other marine outcroppings. Manta rays as well as the usual colorful and interesting Philippine fishes also frequent the area. To wrap up the dive tour of Misamis Oriental, just out front of Mantangale is Manongul reef- aptly named as Manongul which is the word for coral gardens in the local dialect. Manongul is best for snorkeling and long scuba dives where you can spy blue spotted stingrays, lionfish, convict damsels, soft and hard corals, clown fish who all call Manongul home.
Photo by storm-crypt
Meanwhile, for those who just absolutely love waterfalls, Misamis Oriental never fails to disappoint. See the Libon-lawit Falls 13 kilometers from Gingoog City centre which is composed of three falls actually- Tiklas Falls (120 feet high), Kilubag Falls which serves as its main attraction and the Bangbang Falls (70 feet high). There is also the small Aya-aya Falls in Lugait, the Kanapolan Falls in Naawan, Lubilan Falls also in Naawan, Sinabayan Falls and Mimboaya Falls in Subongcogon, Bakid-bakid Falls of Gingoog City, and the Sagpulon Springs and Falls in Jasaan.
For all its beauty, Misamis Oriental’s main tourist attractions exists in its many national parks with natural limestone formations, ridges, gorges and canyons like the Initao National Park about 51 kilometers west of Cagayan de Oro which also includes a marine ecosystem which is home to various colorful fishes and corals as well as Splitnose bat cave in its two closed caves and one open cave which opens towards the sea. There is also the Lingon-lingon Plateau Park in Balingasag which is excellent for bird watching and mountain climbing and the Sicolon Cave also called Cueva con Agua in Laguindingan (28 kilometers west of Cagayan de Oro); the Magallanes Cave in Jasaan which is still largely unexplored; the Huluga Caves 8 kilometers away from the St. Augustine Church on the east bank of the Cagayan River. This cave was especially important because this cave also serves as a burial site. Xavier University researchers found a female skull dated back around 350 AD by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the United States. The Huluga open site was an ancient settlement site in the area and according to unverified reports; a huge part of this archaeological area was destroyed in 2003 by the City Hall and today remains to be neglected and exposed to quarrying.
Another popular nature destination is the Macahambus Cave and Gorge located 14 kilometers southeast of Cagayan de Oro in Lumbia and the newly developed Lasang Secret Adventure Eco-tourist Park, which was developed as a learning center for scientific research and biodiversity and consists of 100-meter boardwalk which takes one deeper into a forest that contains century old giant Talisay Gubat trees which are endemic to the region. Also, another famous landmark in Cagayan de Oro is the Gardens of Malasag Eco-tourism Village located in Sitio Malasag in Cugman about 20 minutes away from the city centre. It has a botanical garden showcasing the different tribal cultures of Mindanao.
Photo by storm-crypt
Further away from the Malasag gardens is the gorgeous and breathtaking Mapawa Nature Park, one of the successful stories of how people, livelihood, environment and tourism work well together. We were taken on a hay ride around the sprawling properties which include heavily forested mountains, with waterfalls and rivers buried in its canopy of lush and verdant foliage. The nature park offers several sports attractions such as ziplines, rappelling down waterfalls, scenic hikes, as well as of course the most famous Cagayan de Oro sport of white water rafting- a highlight for any traveler to Misamis Oriental. (Mapawa Nature Park booking office call-+638822725265 or 09081285454).
For beaches, check out Bubotan Beach in Initao, and the stretch of beige colored sandy beaches off Opol.
Every August 26th, Cagayan de Oro celebrates the Kagay-an Festival which features street-dancing competitions and trade fairs, as well as the Hudayaka Festival which is likened to the Sinulog Festival of Cebu as well as the Kadayawan Festival of Davao City.
Photo by storm-crypt
Why Not Go
The problem of getting around Misamis Oriental is one of the main drawbacks of traveling around the area. One must hire taxis which set you back a few hundred pesos to head out to its many nature parks. Make sure that you arrange for your transportation when traveling to Misamis Oriental. Buses to and from the different provinces, however, are easy to get and surprisingly reliable. Most major Philippine airlinse fly to Misamis Oriental via the airport in Cagayan de Oro City.
Misamis Oriental offers the seasoned traveler the chance to get away from the usual tourist track. With its many nature parks, and dive sites as well as a decidedly multicultural population right in the heart of Northern Mindanao, it is also the most convenient jump-off point to the many attractions that Northern Mindanao has to offer.
Best Time to Visit
Like most parts of Southern Philippines (which means basically Mindanao), Misamis Oriental rarely gets the fierce typhoons that plague the rest of the country during some months of the year. However, it is not spared from monsoon rains which swell the Cagayan River and cause flooding in Cagayan de Oro. Head out to Misamis Oriental during the drier months. During rains, it is not advised to do white water rafting nor waterfall rappelling due to the threat of flashfloods.
There are many hotels and resorts all over Misamis Oriental and most of them are concentrated in Cagayan de Oro. However, for its environmental significance, we would recommend staying at the Mapawa Nature Park instead. Surrounded by lush greenery and thoroughly accessible to a lot of eco-tourism activities. Mapawa Nature Park, we reckon is the best place to park your butt in Misamis Oriental.
Where & What to Eat
One thing that we will probably never forget in Misamis Oriental was how delicious the Durian in the province is. Save for the stink, the fruit was different from what we tried in Malaysia and in the supermarkets of Manila. Make sure you grab one whilst you are in Misamis Oriental. We also tried the spicy chicken dish called Halang-halang in Balingoan, which though delicious, we felt shortchanged as the chicken barely had any meat on it. Halang-halang is basically a chicken dish cooked in coconut milk, and chili. The word halang-halang is literally a Visayan word that means “spicy-spicy”. The sauce was yummy though, I hoped I’d be able to try it again and next time with heaps more meat!
Photo by Dave Ryan
Probably the best nightlife in Misamis Oriental gravitates to Cagayan de Oro City. It is of course more low-key compared to heavyweights in the bigger Philippine cities like Davao, Cebu and Manila. We would prefer to spend our nights in Misamis Oriental chilling out up in the misty mountains around Mapawa Nature Park for that truly nature and adventure feel.
My to do List
1. Rappel down a waterfall in Mapawa Nature Park.*
2. Go check out the Macahambus Nature Park. **
3. Marvel at the century old trees in Lasang and admire the biodiversity of the region.*
4. Dive in Duka Bay.**
5. Chill by the beaches of Opol.
6. Go canopy-walking!
7. White water rafting and ziplining.**
8. Indulge in fresh and delicious Mindanao durians.*
9. Go waterfall hopping.
*- Highly Recommended
**- Recommended by Locals
Stay Away From
Contrary to what most travel advisories say about Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro is a relatively safe place for travelers (local or foreign). This goes without saying that Cagayan de Oro has been targeted for bomb attacks in the past; the most recent attempt was July of 2009 where two grenades were planted inside a local mall. Security is pretty tight however in Cagayan de Oro and we did not have any troubles going around the province (save for a pesky cab driver in the airport.) Having said that, terrorism is a real threat all over the world (other countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Spain and the US itself have been victimized by much worse terrorist attacks) and not just Mindanao. The fact that the world has been brainwashed that Mindanao is a warzone is unfair and untrue.
1. Mosquitoes! – just bring bug repellent to be sure
2. Drowning – Learn to spot rip tides and make sure you wear a working life-vest!
3. Getting wet, take Ziplocs with you for your gadgets and valuables.
4. Protect yourself from UV rays by putting on a sunblock.
5. Be aware of your surroundings, report suspicious looking packages or individuals.
By land, sea and air, Misamis Oriental is very accessible. Major airlines such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Zest Air, Air Philippines fly to the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro. A new airport however is in the works in Laguindingan which promises to be better, bigger, safer and cleaner than Lumbia. Make sure that you take the taxis outside the airport and not the one inside Lumbia to avoid being scammed. From Lumbia Airport to the Agora Bus Terminal, fare should not exceed PhP150 (at the time of this writing); if in doubt ask a local to make sure you are not getting ripped off. The taxi in the airport wanted to charge us double the amount (apparently he pays a small amount to the airport guard to let him wait for passengers inside the airport). Most taxis in Cagayan de Oro never use the meter, and after arguing with many of them, we decided to give up and just agreed at a contract price for each destination.
Photo by storm-crypt
Several buses travel to and from Cagayan de Oro from almost all major cities in Mindanao. Rural Transit and Bachelor buses are the most popular and we found the most convenient. Via ship, Superferry and Negros Navigation sail to Cagayan de Oro.
Ryan supports socially and environmentally responsible and sustainable tourism, as well as the promotion of the Philippines as an alternative Asian tourist destination.
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