Monday, September 29, 2014

The Majestic Waterfalls of Mindanao

Chasing waterfalls is definitely not a bad idea if you happened to find yourself in Mindanao - Camiguin and Iligan alone are teeming with majestic and breathtaking waterfalls. Most specially Iligan where the sheer number of waterfalls - described as more than twenty (20) –  can give every traveler of any genre the thrill and satisfaction. The sweat after the hike or trek is easily forgotten upon laying eyes on these waterfalls.

Katibawasan Falls

I consider Katibawasan Falls as a prelude to those majestic waterfalls in Mindanao not because it is inferior either in beauty or majesty but simply due to the fact that it can be reached with very little effort and has a very accommodating pool even for non swimmers.  Katibawasan possesses that very dizzying height at 250 feet and and very inviting cool waters decorated by ferns, vines, and other rich vegetation.

Katibawasan can be reached without an agonizing hike and I think authorities in Camiguin have done a great job of preserving this falls amidst some travelers’ clamor for convenience. The very minimal fee charged by the local government has been put to good use.
Maria Cristina Falls

I was very excited with our trip to the Maria Cristina Falls – one if not the most famous falls in the Philippines.  Immediately as our van arrived at the site and after the customary registration and payment of entrance fees, we headed to where that sound of strong gushing water is coming from. Each of my step seems to get heavier as I am getting engulfed with excitement that finally – after hearing about this falls since grade school – I would be able to see this legendary and majestic waterfall in real life. Everything seemed surreal as I took each step towards her. It was like meeting someone famous for the very first time.

At the entrance, Maria Cristina Falls can’t be seen.  Hydroelectric Plants meant for producing electricity have hidden the falls from sight. As we headed towards the gushing sound of water, louder at each step we take towards her, Maria Cristina Falls actually beckons us to move faster and see how majestic she is. Indeed, after a few more steps, I finally saw Maria Cristina Falls! I felt something indescribable. She was undisputedly majestic and has a mystifying splendor and grandeur.

Tinago Falls

“Tinago” means hidden and Tinago Falls is indeed a hidden paradise in Iligan! After surviving, literally, that staircase of approximately five hundred steps (500) we were blessed with one of the most breathtaking falls in Mindanao!  Water gushes out of the rocks and with its ravines coupled with its crystal clear waters; it is as if we have descended unto paradise. We still have a couple of places to visit but Tinago Falls overwhelmingly captivated us. With this very stunning falls a day is not enough to fully enjoy and experience its grandeur.

Iligan, in fact not only Iligan but the entire Philippines, is blessed with an array of waterfalls where beautiful adjectives fell short to fully describe their splendor.  You got to be there and see them for yourself to fully appreciate their beauty and allure.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Camiguin Countryside Tour

Camiguin is indeed a small island. It is small enough that runners try – and often succeeds - in conquering the 64 kilometer road that goes around the island while being bewitched by volcanoes, mountainous terrain and the spectacle of the ocean. Camiguin immediately captivates and I can only wish that the island’s simplicity remains forever and that somehow I should have discovered it years before.

Camiguin's Contryside - a fusion of blues and greens

Camiguin’s countryside seems to be a fusion of green consisting of lush forests and vegetation while the ocean surrounding it provides a bluish contrast. With its volcanoes, Camiguin has been blessed with waterfalls, hot and cold springs, challenging mountains, white sand beaches and lavish underwater marine life. Its natural wonders are further complemented by historical and religious sites and relics.

Sunken Cemetery
Ardent Hot Spring

While a day is more than enough to travel the whole island, it is not enough to fully enjoy what Camiguin can offer. It practically has everything any traveler would like to see and experience. But as we explore Camiguin, it is like racing against time to be able to see and enjoy what used to be fresh, clean and simple.

Sto. Nino Cold Spring

After breakfast and after appreciating Paras Beach Resort coupled with a few quick rest on the hammock, it is time to head for the day’s “Camiguin Countryside Tour” courtesy of e-Philippines Travel.  Our tour with e-Philippines has been doing great so far. The moment we arrived at the airport in Mambadjao, our driver was already there for the drop-off at Paras and patiently waited for us to do the tour.  

We toured the whole of Camiguin. In other words, we went around the island. Our first sudden stop was a fruitless Lanzones tree along the road. In this kind of road trips it is not unusual for the driver of the van, car or jeepney to take the role of a tourist guide, thus our driver whose name I can no longer recall acted as one.

Our driver’s and tourist guide stories about how volcanoes have formed Camiguin awed us. It was nice to know how volcanoes or mountains have created a very amazing island. While in transit and excited for our next destination, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction on how Mt. Hibok Hibok’s vent and crater shifted to a new location.

As we have expected, Camiguin is generally clean with very few garbage on the streets. The drive around the island is an escape from that horrendous traffic of Metro Manila. We moved around in ease. While the van is moving fast, Camiguin seemed to be in a slow state - but in a good way. Yet facets of urbanism can be seen in some tourist spots such as in the Sto. Nino Cold Springs, Catarman Church Ruins and the Sunken Cemetery where settlers are definitely a vain to the area’s sanctity.

We enjoyed Ardent Hot Spring and Katibawasan Falls – the former being reminiscent of hot springs in Laguna and the latter a great prelude to similar majestic waterfalls of Mindanao. White Island and its beautiful sunset ended our  tour - definitely an experience to remember!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hello Camiguin!

Cebu to Camiguin via Cebu Pacific Aircraft ATR 72-500
Departs Cebu at 6:45am (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and arrives in Camiguin at 7:25am. The return flight will depart Camiguin at 7:45am and arrive in Cebu at 8:25am.
From Cebu, we took a direct flight to Camiguin – a pear shaped island off the coast of Northern Mindanao. A small province both in terms of size and population but definitely big in terms of tourist spots and potential.

On air, aboard Cebu Pacific, several mountains or volcanic formations welcomed our curiosity.  We had a not so good time in Cebu, that’s why we headed to Camiguin with somehow lame intent of chasing volcanoes, hot and cold springs, waterfalls, white sand beaches and marine life. Glad we were not disappointed except for some few pitfalls where we realized that the island, like most islands in the Philippines, is slowly waking up to the result, either good or bad, to the in flock of tourism.

As our plane landed in Mambadjao – Camiguin’s only airport which at this time is exclusive only to Cebu Pacific -  we were greeted with our much sought after simplicity. The morning dew still hangs on the air at 7, an indication that we are at somewhere pristine. We thank the good weather and while the sun is shining, Camiguin’s volcanoes and mountains provided a canopy of sort making us excited to explore the countryside.

Mambadjao Airport is still basking in its rural setting, clean, plain as if we arrived decades ago where all airports in the province is one great escape from the chaos that is Manila and Cebu. We could have gone to to Bohol, but the recent earthquake, made us think twice. While in that very disappointing hotel in Mactan, Cebu called Constabella, we booked a flight online to Camiguin. And here we are - admiring the beauty of the mountains, the greens and everything there is in Camiguin.

With the very few passengers aboard this small but steady propeller plane, we disembarked without any hassle.  I can count the passengers with my fingers and there was no long queue for the baggage. Everyone seemed to have the same idea that is better to travel where everything is hand carried. Travel light and easy.  Really, one good thing about Cebu Pacific is that they provide direct flights to areas not serviced by other airlines. Most of the time, barring air traffic and airport congestions, Cebu Pacific flights depart and arrive on time. In fact, we arrived in Camiguin a few minutes earlier than expected.

While there are few passengers aboard our flight, it is not of course an indication of the number of tourists that visits Camiguin. It was August – a declared lean month for tourism but I can imagine that during the Panaad (Holy Thursday and Friday), San Juan Hibok-Hibokan Festival (June 24) and Lanzones Festival (3rd week of October) the island is teeming with tourists and travelers.

At the airport, there is a small spot usually and commonly seen in other airports – a tourist and information assistance center manned by a very accommodating lady who gave us valuable information about the island and much needed help in taking our photos to document that we have finally arrived in this island “borne out of fire”.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Anatoly Karpov vs. Eugenio Torre (Manila, 1976)

Say the name Eugene Torre in the Philippines and everyone would think about chess.  His name is synonymous with chess and everything there is about chess. He has brought a lot of honors for the country. He is an icon and inspiration to all Filipino chess players.

Eugene Torre is Asia’s First Grandmaster. He obtained that feat at age 22 after winning the Silver Medal in the Chess Olympiad in Nice, France. At this time, Torre is representing the country in a record 22nd appearance in the Olympiad currently being held in Tromso, Norway.

Here is one of his most memorable game where he beat reigning World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov in a sharp Sicilian encounter - 

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