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Revisiting the memories of North Mindanao

From Manila to Butuan, at Terminal 3 for my flight to Northern Mindanao
From Manila to Butuan, at Terminal 3 for my flight to Northern Mindanao

Memories. The thought of going back to North Mindanao for a photography workshop and the Kaamulan festival, both in Bukidnon, was enough for me to reminisce the places that I used to go to. It was many years ago that I spent two years each in Cagayan de Oro and Davao City, working for a telecoms company and, being a traveler, I’ve been frequenting the northern part.

But I was also having trepidations of going back: I was there for one very important reason, more important than the workshop and festival. Closure. Closure of a sad chapter in my life. Thus, I was excited but at the same time, uncertain of what this will mean for my heart. I was also hopeful that it will turn out okay.

Butuan's coast as seen from the airplane
Butuan’s coast as seen from the airplane

I flew to Butuan for the sole reason to shoot in Cabadbaran. A client told me before that they still lack images of that place for a government run tourism website. But when I was about to go, the client didn’t confirm. But what the heck.

The last time I was in Butuan was two, or three years ago and was only able to go to a few spots. But what I can always remember of this city is that it’s flood prone, full of dilapidated structures and the water just tasted different. And it seems, nothing much has changed.

Airconditioned bus at the Butuan bus terminal
Airconditioned bus at the Butuan bus terminal

Six hours, longer than flights to Singapore. Six long hours from Butuan to Cagayan de Oro for a trip that was supposed to be just four hours. Fault politicians who think of ripping apart the highway and replace it with another whenever election season comes. What used to be a fast ride was snail paced. Slow. Crawling as one lane was closed and vehicles have to stop, wait for opposite traffic to pass and then go. And it was a long stretch between Butuan and Gingoog City.

But I didn’t mind the long, butt numbing ride. I was forewarned. Six darn hours with only my Ipad Mini going over the playlist. I hummed, I sang (in a lower, almost inaudible voice), and shook my head with the musical beat. But when the more sentimental songs started, smiled at some of the lyrics.

And then the view of the cove came into view as the bus wound its way down to Gingoog City. Mt. Balatucan was covered in clouds whereas on a clear day, it lorded over the landscape.

Filled to the roof, passengers cram and position themselves
Filled to the roof, passengers cram and position themselves

Sweet lanzones sold by the handful in the Gingoog City bus terminal
Sweet lanzones sold by the handful in the Gingoog City bus terminal
Gingoog City. Several years ago, it was my haunt. Our rendezvous. There were so many precious memories both happy and sad and tragic. But unfortunately, this trip was quite hectic that I wasn’t able to offer flowers, candles and prayers to a dear departed.

The bus stopped at the renovated terminal. It’s still chaotic with vendors selling fruits in season, this time, lanzones, in blue plastic. There are times that the terminal is filled with the aroma of marang or smell of durian. At times, red rambutans provide a welcome distraction.

A couples of meters from the terminal, Inland Hotel and Restaurant, now decrepit. I loved the shanghai lumpia here, meaty in big servings. The birds nest soup is also filling.

Centrio Mall in CDO with an old tree incorporated within
Centrio Mall in CDO with an old tree incorporated within

Dusk has settled in Cagayan de Oro when I arrived. Tired. Haggard. But my friend, Aileen, picked me up but ended driving her car. First stop? Centrio Mall, the newest Ayala structure in North Mindanao and its really huge. Well designed. What I do like about it is how the construction incorporated two old acacia trees into the plan. There are still lots of empty spaces but home grown cafes and restos are clearly visible.

Six hours of butt numbing ride ended in Cagayan de Oro. The next few days will be the workshop in Bukidnon, travel around, then go back to this northern hub for the closure. By this time, all I wanted was to lie on my bed for the night and rest. Tired. Haggard. And alone.

Images from my Instagram. Follow me @estancabigas.

This trip was made possible by Airphil Express. Follow them in Twitter and like them in Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Revisiting the memories of North Mindanao”

  1. Another great post! Everyone tells me, “Don’t go to Mindanao!” I’m glad you shared this with us all.

  2. estancabigas

    Thanx! 🙂

  3. Micole l Philippine Traveler

    This is one of the most emotional travel post I have ever read. Not that its negative. It gives more of heart. But anyway, Thanks for a great post and whatever it was that happened here when you had your closure, maybe your journey is just starting for you when one path closes. Ayan! emotional comment din? More power to your travels!

  4. estancabigas

    Haha, thnx again micole 🙂

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