Published: February 12th 2010January 29th 2010
My former co worker in Boston hails from Iligan and her brother Rik contacted me and was nice enough to show me around town and for this weekend he agreed to come with me for a short trip to Misamis and Zamboanga, his kind wife giving a go signal we are off. At the bus terminal we took a deluxe bus to Ozamis, it stopped a lot and in some places wait for passengers, good thing we had a quick breakfast at the terminal. At Makas port there is a long vehicle queue for the ferry across the channel to Ozamis so we got off and decided to take the ferry that's leaving now, paid our fare and got on, we have to wait for
vehicles to load. Apparently you can also get to Ozamis by boat from Iligan but they don't run everyday. It was a short maybe 25 minute crossing, when we arrived on the other side we asked where the old Spanish fort is, it's called Fort Santiago and it's right next to the ferry terminal. 5 pesos to get in, There is nothing really much here except for the wall, some exhibits within the compounds and good
houses on stilts next to the pier
view of the bay from the top of the wall.
We then saw a lady selling huge crabs in bundles, we wanted to buy some but we're not sure yet where we stay for the night, she promised she'd be there on Sunday when we leave to return to Iligan. We took a trike to the new public market, they call it the "public mall", we tried to convince eatery owners to cook the food we will buy at the market, I was craving for seafood but they have none in the eateries at the top floor of the "mall", one lady told us she does not have time so I said to her then lend me your kitchen and I will cook it myself, she did not know what to say and gave me a nervous smile and left. Resigned to our luck we left the market and from there we took a jeep to Tudela, we went past rice fields all green and beautiful, at the town plaza in Tudela we then hired a trike to our destination, MOAP(Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park), a mangrove forest park and it's being developed to become a major tourist attraction in
the area. It is really nice here you go through rickety wooden planks as paths elevated from the ground like a footbridge. You see the gorgeous mangrove forest, they also have hatchery/fishery here and animals like monkeys and birds and crocs but the sad thing about the monkeys are they were chained
to a bamboo pole and they were strung along the early part of the path, one is in a really small cage, I wish they just let them go! The bird collections were amazing though, some I have not seen yet, all were in cages too.
You hear the monkeys go wild when people pass by and birds fly around and make noises, there are mounds of mud everywhere and I wonder what lives there. When we finished the path we headed out following the wooden path out to sea, wow gorgeous scenes, a tad bit windy and the rickety path creaks with every step, mind the gaps!! There is a restaurant out there and we ordered food, crabs and giant shrimps but the way they cook it is limited, just plain and simple, delicious nevertheless if a tad bit
salty. There are boats that can take
you to Dolphin island where you can view them creatures and snorkel as well, we contemplated going but the wind picked up, and it's not cheap, 250 pesos for the bangka ride, snorkel gear is extra charge and though sunny we just did not feel getting wet by the waves.
We saw a billboard near the entrance for a waterfall in the town of Jimenez and we decided to head there. It's called"Kalutongan falls", the guard told us to stop by the mayor's office in Jimenez to get all the information about the falls since it's his pet project.
We took a trike again, twice and when we got to the mayor's office we spoke to the kind mayor Ranulfo Limquimbo. He told us it is best to stay a couple days there to relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air, I wanted to spend the night there really since we are starting late and the mayor wrote recommendation letters for us, one for the guide to hike up the mountain and one for the caretaker to kill chicken for us for dinner!He also arranged transport to get to the starting point, he hired 2 motorbikes(habel_habel)for us, 100 pesos
one way, Lito my driver and Franklin, Rik's driver, very nice lads. It's a 12 km ride to the countryside going through small villages and coconut plantations and rice fields, the usual here. The road is alternating bumpy and paved, more bumps though but the scenery made up for it, we crossed a couple of bridges through a river, people doing laundry and stuff. finally arriving at
Carmen, the starting point, Rik did not feel comfortable as everyone is staring at us, welcome to my world I told him. We showed them the letter from the mayor's office and and people scramble to find the dude called Joseph one of the barangay officials and part time guide. We told the boys(habel habel drivers) to come back for us in 3 hours, I wanted to spend the night there but Rik whispered to me he does not feel comfortable staying the night up there, did you see how those people stared at us? he proclaimed, and besides there will be only us there in the wild mountains. Well the drivers decided to tag along with us after all as they have never been to Kalutongan falls, we passed through 2
bamboo bridges, a bit scary, wobbly. The hike will take about an hour going up to the mountain, Rik was struggling and so lagged behind, I wanted to get some good photos before it gets dark, we started at 4:15pm and am not sure how much light we have an hour later, me and Lito my habel habel driver kept up with Joseph the guide, along the way chatting with me in Visayan, I could not understand a thing I just nod and say "ok".
The walk is tough especially when rushing to get there but the landscape is picturesque, coconut plantations, small villages, then the hard part came, a steep hike up, every time I ask Joseph the guide he says "almost there!" 45 minutes later we made it to the cottages where guests stay and sleep, wow it is gorgeous here, the cottages were located on top of hills, its very green, quaint and quiet, we met the caretaker Rico he has a big wound running down his leg, he apparently fell off the motorbike and hit his leg on the hot part of the bike, well there goes the promised chicken dinner from the mayor! He
struggles to walk and obviously in pain. I told Joseph to keep an eye on Rik and his driver who are behind us and Lito and I went to the waterfall, taking instructions from Rico the caretaker which path to follow. The path snaked around the mountain, muddy in places and when we got to the waterfall we still have to get down those old wooden ladders. I slipped on the freshly cleared vegetation on the path and nearly fell the ravine! Good thing Lito was there and helped me out. We took our sandals off and slowly climbed down the unstable ladder, meantime ferocious ants feasted on us as we lower ourselves down.
The water is so inviting, really nice swimming hole and only 2 of us! We both wanted to have a swim but didn't want our clothes get wet and cold especially it's approaching dusk,so we dived in in the buff. This waterfall trek was not planned so I did not bring my swimmers, I have to remember next time to be always ready so I don't have to swim naked!There were a couple of big rocks to step on near the rapids and Lito took
some photos of me, the current is strong but the water is very refreshing, oh you have to be careful here as it plunges down to another swim hole before cascading down the ravine! After we
put our clothes back on, the 2 boys arrived, and I told them the swim was good but they chickened out because it was cold for them. After a few moments there we returned back up. We have to pay 20 pesos entrance and Rik paid for us 4 while I go up and check out the facility, Rico showed us one cottage, it has an attic where you can sleep if you dont fancy the bottom floor, pretty spartan, no beds or sheets so be ready to sleep in a "banig" a native matt or bring your own sleep bag and matt. I love this place it's so peaceful and gorgeous, what a pity I can't stay the night, next time I swear I will with friends and we will bring food to cook. It was dark when we started our hike down, good thing I brought my torch with me and it helped immensely as the rest of the boys were slipping
and sliding in the mud!
Joseph tried to secure "tuba" for me on the way back but it is all gone now, he invited us for dinner at his place but he still has to catch the chicken and kill and cook it so we respectfully declined and we went back to the starting point of the trek near a sari sari store(convenient store). We wanted to buy beer but they said no beer, they were having dinner and can't be bother serving us, so someone tried to buy in another store, he came back with 2 Tanduay rhum bottles(lapad), no one wants to drink it so we gave it to Joseph, later the owner, Jane I think told us they have beers! So we bought 2 litres and polished it off.
Then Jane offered to cook dinner, it took awhile but it was delicious and for free! Such hospitality! Joseph by then is already drunk and told us stories about his life in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, he went there illegally to work I think, entertained us for a bit, when it was time to go he was trying to kiss both me and Rik! he was
really shit faced, i don't think he knows what he was doing anymore!The two habel habel drivers took us back to town, stopping briefly to get gasoline for the motorbikes and then we are off to
Oroquieta where we will stay the night. it was a long trip, I think about 30 minutes by habel habel. We were dropped off at Sheena's hotel, basic room with fan, shared toilet is 300 pesos. The place is clean and quiet but they did not give us sheets so we have to make do with the free towels. I slept very well, having been exhausted by the trek up the mountain, woke up to a very sunny day and we got ready to see more of Misamis Occidental.
We checked out early in the morning and walked the city of Oroquieta, we found the sea wall and we watched the people pick all types of sea creatures, snails, slugs, sea urchins anything edible and there are plenty, I went down where the people are and asked around what they are picking, some were gross looking things like white slugs but I was told it is very delicious! The tide is low so
they take advantage of trapped creatures to forage the coastline. I saw lots of sikad sikad(ocean snails)one of my favorites!It's abundant here along with heaps of urchins. When the tide returned we headed to a house that is
shaped like a ship! took some quick photos and headed out to the bus terminal, we anted to see the Baliangao Wetland Park.The driver does not know where it is and have to ask the locals where to let us off. i cant remember the name of the town where we got off, we hired a habel habel, 3 of us, me and Rik and a woman, it was the most uncomfortable ride, squished like sardines groin to groin, and the chic was not even attractive! When we dropped her off we got lost, the driver does not know where the wetland is and we have asked a couple of times, it is really out of the way, and he thought we had a flat tire but the tire just needs air so we were really slow.
What a disappointment! Just nearing the entrance to the park locals told us we can't get there anymore because the wooden bridges that lead
to the mangroves are broken/destroyed and has not been repaired since! LP said this wetland area is way off the beaten track with mangrove lined estuaries to explore, good snorkelling offshore beside the marine protected area and white sand beaches just a short ride away with a bangka, the only noise you'll hear are birdsongs. Well it is shut at the moment and the locals were blaming the mayor for being slow and not caring for the place much, this is election year so I
doubt if anything will be done this year, what a pity!! We left Baliangao very disappointed and decided to head instead to Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte.
***MOAP(Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park)
how to get there: from Ozamis public mall take a jeep to Tudela, at the end of the line take a trike to MOAP
***Kalutongan falls (highly recommended!)
how to get there: Take Rural bus line plying the Dipolog-Ozamis route and ask to be dropped off at the town of Jimenez, then you will take a trike to the mayor's office in the plaza center.
Helpful notes: pay the mayor a visit, this
is his pet project and he will sort out things for you from habel habel drivers to guides and everything you may need. Try to spend a couple days there, it's really gorgeous, you can hike around if you wish to busy yourself or get to the waterfall.
-one hike possibility that the mayor and Joseph the guide suggested is the 2 day hike to a couple of off the beaten track attractions, namely the Samalaron Falls(120 meters high) and the Palilan falls(80 meters approx.)which empties to the gorgeous Lake Duminagat. It is quite far from the base camp cottages but apparently well worth it, paths are still being developed and may take less time when it is already well set up target time is 2011, come March 2010 though Joseph along with some people will hike there so if interested contact the mayor's office to get more information:
Hon. Ranulfo Limquindo, Jimenez Mayor(272-3808)
- the mayor will provide habel habel drivers for you but should you wish to use our drivers, they are super friendly and down to earth here are their names and contact number:
Lito Palangan and Franklin Casia Sr.(09204190721) they speak
Tagalog and Visaya
Joseph Cabog: 09099570401(speaks Visaya only so better to contact the Mayor 1st)
Enjoy Misamis Occidental!!
There are more photos below