Well, as I told you yesterday, I’ve been gone for a few days. I actually got back to Davao on Tuesday night, but spend most of Wednesday resting, and even went for a massage to help my sore muscles recover from the trip! I mean, in three days, I drove for 32 hours! What a trip!
I mean, what an adventure!
On Sunday, May 11, John Grant, Migs Bassig and I headed out for a tour of Mindanao. Well, a tour of Southern Mindanao and Western Mindanao anyway. We left Davao at 4 am and headed south. Our first major destination was Cotabato City.
Cotabato City has a bad reputation. People say that it is so dangerous, especially for a foreigner. I’ve been to Cotabato City three times now, though, and never felt any need to fear the place. As a matter of fact, I find it quite peaceful. On the way to Cotabato, we passed through some areas like Kabacan and Pikit. These areas were serious war zones back when President Estrada had declared all out war against the MILF in 2000.
After leaving Cotabato City, we headed toward Parang, Maguindanao. Again, this was a serious war zone just a few years ago, but today it is a quiet place where most of what goes on is drying fish to make bulad. In the Parang area, you will also pass through the old Camp Abubakar, which was the MILF stronghold that the Philippine Government over-ran in 2000. There is not much there these days, but it’s an interesting site to see.
Although I have traveled Mindanao extensively, I had never driven from Parang to the Zamboanga Peninsula, and it goes through Lanao del Sur, which is virtually 100% Muslim. I had a little concern to bring John and Migs through here, but I wanted to check out the place, and John and Migs told me that they were prepared for whatever may happen, so we pressed forward. It turned out to be quite peaceful, and we enjoyed the cultural aspects of the trip, seeing places that we had never experienced before.
In Malabang, Lanao del Sur, I stopped and purchased some Dodol. Dodol is a Muslim delicacy which is made with brown sugar, durian and some other ingredients. I thought that it was really good. John and Migs didn’t care for it! John even said that it looked like human waste – although I won’t use the word that he used to describe it! I tortured John, though, the rest of the day, by continuing to snack on it! His stomach turned every time he saw me take another taste!
After we passed Lanao del Sur, and a brief stint in Lanao del Norte, we were in the Zamboanga Peninsula. We passed through Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur and headed as far south as Ipil, in Zamboanga Sibugay, where we spent the night. The next morning we headed to Zamboanga del Norte, and I found that province to be quite beautiful. I had visited Zamboanga City in the past, but it was my first time in the Zamboanga Provinces, and I really enjoyed it.
I especially enjoyed Dipolog City. I actually found that Dipolog reminded me a lot of the Oregon Coast, where I spent a lot of time in previous years. It is beautiful there. They have a sea wall, and a lot of locals were fishing there with fishing poles! I had never seen anybody use a fishing pole in the Philippines until I was in Dipolog! It was quite stormy and the surf was really up in Dipolog! What an adventure!
From Dipolog, we headed to Misamis Occidental and had lunch in Ozamiz City, then took the RoRo Ferry to Lanao del Norte. The ferry ride was a bit rough as the storms had brought on some real rough waters! But, it was an adventure after all! After getting off the ferry, we drove about an hour north and stayed overnight in Iligan, where I have a lot of good friends! We had dinner at my friend, Gilles Restaurant in Iligan. Gilles is a Swiss ex-pat here that I have known for a few years. We also visited with my friends, Marc and Sharon de Piolenc, and had coffee at my friend, Bobby Timonera’s house. Bobby is a Filipino Photojournalist who has been a very good friend for a decade and a half already. Bobby has green coffee beans from all over the world, and he roasts them himself. I had a wonderful cup of Yemeni coffee at his house in Iligan!
From Iligan, we headed to Cagayan de Oro, and on to Davao.
It was really a wonderful trip. I saw a few new places myself, and really enjoyed opening the eyes of John and Migs to what Mindanao has to offer. I love Mindanao, it’s a beautiful and mis-understood place. If you ever have the chance to see the island, don’t pass it by!