A 4-Day and 3-Night Adventure With Friends

Ymgy Gardose Aton

© Copyright 2022 by Ymgy Gardose Aton

Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Where’s our next plan?” my friend asked.
Well, you might not be that excited if I tell you” I grinned while I responded.

It was a common conversation between me and my friends. Before the pandemic struck, we made a lot of travel plans. It was always nice to go on a trip with friends. Aside from a thrifty travel, we got to enjoy moments together.

One time while we were having a team meeting, we talked about it. While one of the leaders was presenting her report, I excitedly interrupted her and said, “OMG! There’s a seat sale!” The seat sale is a promo offered by the cheapest airline company in my country, the Philippines.

Everyone was amazed. The presentation was interrupted. The topic was changed to the trip we were excited about. On that very same day, we decided to book a flight in advance. Imagine a base fare of Php 99.00 and an overall fare of Php 645.00 including all taxes and other fees for a one-way trip. Who would never grab that chance?

January 30, 2020 – This was the date we have all been waiting for. We were so excited that after their shift, my friends did not sleep anymore but went directly to the airport. Our flight departed at 4:00 AM Philippine Time. We already wore masks because there was a threat of the COVID-19. Although there was no strict protocol yet, we made the decision by ourselves just to make sure we were safe.

And here we go Bukidnon, my hometown!” said one of my friends. Yes, she is from Bukidnon, a mountainous province in the northern part of Mindanao. She used to live there and even graduated from her degree in History. After many years, that was the only time she would come back to her dearest home province. Soul, as we call her, did all the talking in the entire journey.

Another friend of mine was from Mindanao, about a 2-hour trip from Bukidnon. She grew up in the province of Surigao del Norte but used to live in the Cagayan de Oro, the place where our plane landed. She had a lot to share, including her experiences as a supervisor in a pharmaceutical company before she was hired as a language teacher.

There were eight of us in our group. The other six members of the group, including me, were not from Mindanao, and it would be their first time to step on the “Land of Promise.” I, however, have been there since my partner is from Cagayan de Oro City. Our plane landed at 5:45 AM. My partner was waiting for us at the airport.

We had a car rental business, so we took the chance to use one of our cars for the trip.

Welcome to Cagayan de Oro City!”, one of the airline staff greeted us with a warm mile. We responded with thanks and then smiled back. She was very friendly.

At the arrival area, my partner was waiting. He looked happy to see us. He drove for us.

It was already 6:00 AM and we saw the sun rising. We stopped for a while and took some pictures. Hungry as we were, we decided to stop by a nearby roadside restaurant owned by my partner’s friend and we ate breakfast there. Eating breakfast is very common to Filipinos.

When we were ready, we set off to our first destination in our itinerary – Dahilayan Adventure Park. It was an hour drive from the city center of Cagayan de Oro. The weather was cold, although it was not winter in my country. On our way to Dahilayan, we found many pineapple plantations. My friend, Soul, had been sharing some funny moments she had when she was still in college. She was naughty and funny. She would share some jokes and we would laugh. We did not notice that we already arrived at our destination.

Dahilayan Adventure Park is one of the famous tourist destinations in Bukidnon. My friends were excited. They booked an adventure package and enjoyed all the rides, while I was just there waiting for them to finish since I could not move exaggeratedly due to my pregnancy. Yes, I was on my first trimester at that time. Despite that, I was happy for my friends. They got to enjoy the zipline; they even had photos of it. They got to ride on a luge and had a race. They looked so amazing. Most importantly, they took a lot of photos to be posted to their respective Instagram accounts.

It was lunch time and we asked a restaurant owner if she could cook chicken soup for us. The weather there was so cold, and we could see dense fogs around us. So it was just timely to sip hot soup for that kind of weather. She agreed. In my local dialect, we call it “tinola nga bisaya nga manok” which literally means native chicken soup.

How were the rides?” I asked my friends when they went to the restaurant where we agreed to eat.

One of my gay friends responded, “It was tiring, but we enjoyed it.” Then they shared funny experiences.

Avery, my friend who was originally from Surigao del Norte, said that the soup was just relevant for the weather and their hunger. She was right. Then we ate our lunch altogether. As part of our culture when eating meals, we shared stories and anecdotes until we finished our lunch.

We had enough of our Dahilayan adventure. We then proceeded to our next destination – Pineapple plantations. There was nothing special, we just stopped by and took pictures. Near the plantations is the Camp Phillips site where there was a big pineapple monument.  

It was already past 3:00 PM and we needed to head to our next destination – Valencia City. It was almost a 3-hour drive from Camp Phillips. The talkative Soul and Avery were exchanging conversations about Bukidnon, but my other friends were fast asleep as the music inside our Toyota Innova was loud enough to make them fall asleep.

At last, it was 5:45 PM and we were getting hungry. We arrived in Valencia City. We decided to eat dinner at a barbecue restaurant along the highway. Then I heard one of my friends, “I feel so tired.” Obviously, it was because of their adventure rides in Dahilayan and the long travel made them tired.

Avery said, “Don’t worry, dear. We are almost at Soul’s place.” We were going to spend the night at Soul’s university, Mountain View College. She was able to book a room for all of us there.

After our dinner, we directly went to the college. It was a college on the mountains with vast agricultural area. The way going up there was dark, and there were not any street lights. All we could see from the car’s lights were sugar canes planted on both sides of the road we were traversing. When we arrived there, I could see exhaustion from my friends’ faces. They were literally exhausted.

My partner and I did not join them; instead, we booked our own room. “Take a rest now and sleep, we’ll all be early tomorrow,” I told them.

January 31, 2020 – It was our second day in Bukidnon. The beautiful sunrise again brought us a sign that it would be a great day. We ate breakfast – pandesal and batchoy as we commonly call. It is a typical Filipino food that everyone would love.

It was a beautiful day for all of us. My friends looked fresh and beautiful after a long tiring day yesterday. On our second day, they were ready again to explore Bukidnon.

Our first destination on that day was Lake Apo. It was a little far from Valencia City center. The lake was quiet. We rented a floating bamboo cottage. We ate lunch there and we played games. Soul shared her experiences there again. We all laughed.

It was time to go to our second destination – Musuan Peak. Our group of friends have always been eager to climb mountains and this was one of the purposes why we visited Bukidnon. Musuan Peak was one of those mountains that we planned to climb. Unfortunately, I was not able to join them as I was nauseous at that time. I let them go instead.

When they came back, they were cheerful. They were joking too. Bob, one of my friends said, “This is the only mountain I climbed where I rode a pick-up truck on our descent.” Then we all laughed.

It was already past 5 in the afternoon and we needed to head back to Malaybalay City for another night to spend. We rented a duplex house inside the woods. It was a cultural accommodation where tourists can spend the night at a very cheap price. It was managed by the City Tourism Office.

We arrived there at 7:00 PM. The place was dark, and we could hear the birds chirping. Although we could see trucks, cars, and some other types of vehicle passing by the Sayre Hi-way, the place seemed to be creepy. There were no other tourists aside from us.

As the night went by, we could no longer hear vehicles passing by the hi-way. We could only hear ourselves. Then Avery started to tell stories about the place, seconded by Soul. I looked at my friends’ faces and they looked scared. Avery said the place was once a headquarters of local terrorist groups and that they hate gays. Randal, one of the gays, reacted seriously.

Oh my God! If they found me here, they’d cut my p*nis.” We all laughed. He seriously said it as he looked so scared. We were so noisy. At 11:00 PM, we all slept as we should wake up by 3:00 AM at dawn for a new mountain climb. We concluded the night with laughter.

February 1, 2020 – It was our 3rd day in Bukidnon. That was actually the main highlight of our trip. We planned to traipse on Panimahawa Ridge, a well-known mountain ridge in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.

At 4:00 AM, we met with our tour guide. He gave us a short orientation about the dos and don’ts during the trek and when arriving at the summit. “Leave no trash” is common for climbers. After the briefing, we started our trek. We had two guides who served as the head and the tail.

You are faster than any other climbers”, said one of the guides. “We have just started the trek but we are already here after 30 minutes.” He was referring to the first stop where we could see the lights from the nearby city and the ship sailing on the ocean.

Really, kuya?” I replied. Kuya is a Filipino term we use to respect those who are older than is. It means “older brother.” I then continued, “We are actually beginners, Kuya. This is the second major mountain climb we had after Mt. Hibok-hibok in Camiguin Island.”

He was amazed. “You are beginners but you climbed Mt. Hibok-hibok. You aren’t beginners anymore. That was one of the highest peaks in Mindanao but you were able to climb it”, Kuya said.

Along the way, we were sharing stories and information about us. We had been walking for an hour already until we stepped on the foot of the summit. The way going up was slippery because of the little rocks and sand. After an hour and a half of trek, at last, we climbed it without hassle.

On top of the ridge was a picturesque view of other mountain ridges. We could see sea of clouds forming on each ridge’s summit. What made that morning so spectacular was that we were able to see Mr. Sun saying hello to us. We witnessed how beautiful the sunrise is.  

Picture! Picture!” shouted Soul. We took pictures individually and as a group. The view was magnificent, breath-taking, and Instagrammable as they say. We ate our breakfast at the summit. We saw other campers packing their camping stuff. They spent the night there. They told me that it was cold up there. They were just lucky to gaze the stars at night. Mr. Sun said it would be a great day for us again.
At 9:00 AM we descended. The long walk was tiring. Our tour guides were happy to see us walking fast. Although we experienced rush in our heartbeats, the climb was worth it. Then it was time for us to go to our next destination – The Communal Ranch.

In the Communal Ranch, the silence was deafening. There was no sound of music, or a phone signal. My friends were excited to experience horseback riding. Yes, Communal Ranch offers this activity. The view seems to be in Mongolia. We looked like cowboys and cowgirls. Indeed, the Communal Ranch can be considered the Mongolia of the Philippines.

It was a tiring adventure indeed. Having no phone signal helped us focus on ourselves and enjoy every moment we had on our trip. The silence made us feel more comfortable and relaxed.

We had enough of our Bukidnon adventure. Although we still wanted to explore more beautiful tourist destinations including the majestic waterfalls, we did not have ample time to do so. We needed to head back to Cagayan de Oro City for another night to spend because on the next day, our destination will be to another province – Iligan City.

After the Communal Ranch, we stopped by a tuna restaurant where many travelers eat and relax. We ate lunch. We had grilled tuna, grilled fish, and a fish soup. We ate dessert. We already looked tired, but because we enjoyed our trip, we ignored it. Then we drove for long hours back to Cagayan de Oro City. We arrived there at 6:00 PM and we were stuck in traffic jam. At dinner, we ate at their famous food park where we got to enjoy the live band. We jammed with the singers and had some drinks. There were a variety of food choices, mostly street food.

To conclude our long tiring day, we checked in at a bed and breakfast. Avery, along with our other friends, went for a massage. They had a wonderful evening at the spa. When they came back, we were all fast asleep.

February 2, 2020 – It was our 4th and last day. On that day, our last destination was Iligan City, known to be a Muslim area. Our main destination was the Maria Cristina Falls and Tinago Falls. So we hit the road. My partner used the blinkers of the car that signals other drivers that we are in a hurry.

We arrived there safely. Maria Cristina Falls is beautiful. The strong current of the water can be felt as it splashed. No wonder this is the source of Mindanao’s electricity. I just knew about this waterfall when I was young and saw pictures of it on my books, but at that time, I personally visited it.

We did not spend a long time there. We soon headed to Tinago Falls where my friends enjoyed it. Tinago in our local dialect means hidden. Yes, it is hidden. We needed to walk a long way down to get there. My friends rented a bamboo raft and used life jackets to get to the waterfalls. The water was deep but they liked it, while me and my partner spent the time waiting for them inside our car.

Our long wait was over; my friends came back. They changed their clothes and we headed to the airport. It was past 4:00 PM. Their flight was at 9:00 PM. I did not go back with them. I stayed with my partner.

Amping ka diri dam,” my friend said. She calls me Madam and what she said means to take care. We hugged and I bid goodbye to them. I was teary-eyed, as I felt I was so lucky to have them as my friends. When they entered the departure area, my partner and I went back to the city.

There concluded our Bukidnon adventure. It was exhausting, but we had fun. It cost us a penny, but it was worth it. It was short, but it was memorable. It was one of the best trips we ever had.

I am a language teacher and I always have a passion for writing. Whenever my urge to write arouses, I just sit in front of my laptop and write. I also have articles posted in my blog posts, but I rarely write nowadays. I just try to express my thoughts in writing. I was once a winner of an international essay writing competition held by the US Peace Corps volunteers. It motivated me to keep writing. I also love travelling so I write about my adventures.
Read more here: https://imolngalagawan.blogspot.com/2020/02/goal-achieved-traipse-and-sunrise-in.html

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