I was told of Camp Phillips and pineapples picked along the highway, and the talk-of-the-town adventures in Dahilayan. I was told of a local movie starring Sam Milby and KC Concepcion filmed in Manolo Fortich, and another movie of Piolo Pascual and Angel Locsin shot in the picturesque Impasugong.
Ask a friend what to see in Bukidnon and, more or less, you’ll be told the same. But, to truly experience the best of the province, one has to get out of the old beaten path, explore the countryside, the deep ravines, and the thickly forested terrains of the Philippines’ fourth largest province.
How to Get There
Bukidnon is a landlocked province bound by six other provinces: Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Davao del Norte, Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, and Lanao del Norte. The best entry point is either through Cagayan de Oro City (CDO) in the north or Davao City in the south. You pick, depending on the locations you want to visit.
By sea—Transasia, 2GO, and a number of shipping lines have regular trips to CDO. From the port, take a cab or motorela to the Agora Bus Terminal.
By air, through CDO— From Laguindingan Airport, it can take one hour by van to reach CDO. Fare to the Agora Bus Terminal is about P200. Then, from CDO, you can take a bus or a van to Manolo Fortich (i.e. Camp Phillips, Dahilayan) and start the adventure going south.
By air, through Davao City—The bus ride will take you through the long and winding Bukidnon-Davao (Buda) Road. In two hours, you can reach Kitaotao and start exploring Bukidnon to the north.
The Vast Pineapple Plantation
At 8 AM, I was already in the van to Camp Phillips. I didn’t have enough time to research the directions, so I had to strike a conversation with the lady next to me. I introduced myself. Grena, she answered back with a smile. And then a long chitchat followed, about taking a habal-habal, where to go next, and even what makes our lives busy. A few meters away from Camp Philips, she got off the van, and I was left to explore the place on my own.
The sight of pineapples neatly planted in rows, with narrow brown patches of earth running through the green beds—that was refreshing at the same time overwhelming! Picture-perfect indeed, which also makes it a popular location for prenuptial photoshoots. Had I been there earlier, and I mean earlier by six or seven years, I would have taken that private plane to get an aerial view of the place. (Someone used to offer plane rides here, but ceased operations around 2009?)
Dahilayan Adventure Park + Forest Park
Dubbed as “Mindanao’s Favorite Extreme Playground”, Dahilayan Adventure Park offers exhilarating rides perfect for both the adrenaline junkie and the acrophobic. At P600, you get to try all their zip lines and zoom through lush greenery of pine trees and bushes. (Their 840-meter zipline is the longest dual zipline in Asia.) If you’re into getting hung up in the air swinging like a pendulum while screaming at the top of your lungs, the Dropzone is best for you. Dahilayan also has rope courses and, the latest addition to their rides, a bungee-jumping-like Skytower Base Jump.
Dahilayan Forest Park is adjacent to the Adventure Park and also has a lot of options for outdoor rides, a hanging bridge, wide picnic grounds, function rooms, ponds and lagoons, a café, and a jacuzzi. You can roll down the slopes inside a zorb ball or race down the winding tracks while maneuvering a luge.
Dahilayan Forest Park
Opens 8AM-5PM Weekdays, 7:30 AM-4:30 PM Weekends
Entrance fee: P100 Adult, P50 Kiddos
Biking in the Air at Kampo Juan
If you haven’t had enough of those rides, a short habal-habal trip can take you to the less popular Kampo Juan, also in Manolo Fortich. The place is actually a demo farm for a variety of plants, with some rides here and there. There’s a 360-feet long hanging bridge that swings crazily in the slight blow of the wind, a vertical rappelling course at 180 feet high, and zip lines as long as 2520 feet that cross deep ravines. Kampo Juan takes pride in its anicycles. You can bike in the air and cross 600 feet for another adrenaline-pumping adventure.
WORD OF MOUTH
SHIELA & GIAN
Travel Bloggers, Cebu
Bukidnon in Central Mindanao is a haven for adventurers. We’re not just talking about beautiful sceneries, historical sights, and cultural heritage, but real adventure! Conquer your fear of heights by ascending hundreds of feet on the gigantic Kiokong White Wall Crag. Climb the majestic Mt. Dulang-dulang and Kitangland, two of the highest mountains in Bukidnon and reward yourself with majestic views. Not contented with those mountains? Head out to the peaks around the Kalatungan Mountain Ranges. Also considered as the watershed of Mindanao, Bukidnon has plenty of mysterious ravines, towering waterfalls, and roaring rivers. The massive array of exciting outdoor adventures that you can do here is what makes Bukidnon a truly unique, must-visit destination.
Quiet Moments at the Monastery
From Manolo Fortich, I took a two-hour bus ride to Malaybalay–and I regret I missed to drop by the must-see Impasugong. At that time, the capital of Bukidnon was bursting with crowd because of the Kaamulan celebration. After hopping off the bus and gobbling a chickenjoy at Jollibee, I took a jeepney to San Jose about 10 minutes from the city. From the highway, I hopped on a habal-habal that went through a winding path under the pine trees, passed by some some ricefields, and then parked uphill. The next destination: the Monastery of the Transfiguration, a chapel known for its elegant pyramid design, a masterpiece of National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin.
At the entrance, a sign greets visitors: PEACE TO ALL WHO ENTERS. Here, the monks spend most of their life praying, raising livestock, and working in the farm. No doubt, it’s a perfect place for prayer and reflection. On weekdays, early morning mass is held at 5:20 AM, and on Sundays at 8 AM. Every second Sunday of the month, the monks also celebrate a farm-harvest breakfast for less than P200. Don’t forget to get a taste of their homegrown coffee brand “Monk’s Blend” at the retreat house and take home a few packs from their souvenir shop.
WORD OF MOUTH
“Beautiful and breathtaking. I never thought of Bukidnon that way when I was still living in Manila. I thought it’s all ricefields, the literal meaning of “bukid”. Later did I know that Bukidnon means highlander or people from the mountains, referring to the ethnic tribal groups of the province. On my first visit, I got captivated by its beautiful terrain, and that’s when I started looking at Bukidnon from a new perspective. I learned that Bukidnon is also the food basket of Mindanao, being a major producer of the most important crops and fruits—rice, corn, pineapple, banana and sugarcane—in the country. What I also like is the retreat houses with a beautiful view of nature where you can spend hours or days of blissful escape from the bustling city life.”
Horseback Riding at Quadra
If you’re up for some horseback riding and a sumptuous meal, the perfect location is a restaurant at Sumpong, Malaybalay. This restaurant in a ranch comes by two names—Quadra and D’Stable. It is easily accessible by multicab from any part of the city and is popular for its open air wooden cottages perfect for celebrating with friends and the family. Next time you come by this place, enjoy that salo-salo or beer moments by all means. And don’t forget to try my favorite pancit canton.
The Old Charms of Nasuli Spring
This natural pool is the locals’ childhood favorite. Most likely, anyone who grew up in Malaybalay or Valencia has memories of this cold spring, its blue green waters, and the same old walking boards and the trees around the lagoon. On one side, there’s a platform from where you can leap high up in the air before plunging into the clear cold water. Nasuli Spring is located in Barangay Bangcud, 15 kilometers from Malaybalay City. To get there, take a Valencia-bound bus, and from the highway, walk about 500 meters or take a short motorcycle ride.
A Calm Morning at Lake Apo
I spent the night at Valencia and woke up before sunrise for another day of adventure. I took a motorela to Valencia Cellphone Express (commonly called as VCE, sometimes BCE) and asked some driver if he could take me to Lake Apo. The man I would later know as Luian quickly obliged, but asked that we drop by the nearest gasoline station along the road. I got a hint that it would be a long ride. And it was.
Luian wasn’t the quiet guy. Even when the roaring of his motorcycle was louder than my voice, he kept asking me questions about the places I’ve been to, some sidetalk about politics, and his adventures in his prime years. (Contact Luian at 0926.789.4952)
We went up and down a few hills, crossed vast dry lands, passed by plantations of banana, sugarcane, and olive trees, and after traveling about 11 kilometers, we finally reached Barangay Ginuyoran. After a dozen huffs and puffs of his motorcycle, Luian declared we’re at Lake Apo. It was a spellbinding scene that surprised me. The cold breeze. The defeaning calm.
A Waterfall In the Middle of Nowhere
I was supposed to go back to Valencia and take the bus going south, but Luian insisted I should see the waterfall close by. We continued the motorcycle ride and braved the scorching heat of the sun, until we reached Barangay Lourdes in Valencia. We passed by more bananas, more sugarcane, more olive trees, and then in the middle of nowhere, a sign pointed us to a waterfall 200 meters away. I trekked down the stairs and forgot Luian out of excitement. Shortly, a quiet waterfall, seemingly thirsty in summer greeted me.
WORD OF MOUTH
“A cool place with warm people, there’s no place like Bukidnon. It’s at the very heart of Mindanao and never fails to fascinate tourists, visitors, and passersby. Being home to 4 of the top 10 highest peaks in the Philippines, it’s a dream destination of mountaineers and travelers. Even from the highway, you can witness the grand vistas of hills, mountains and canyons. Lakes, rivers and waterfalls calling for a cool dip….caves for both light and extreme spelunking and a lot more of unexplored natural wonders. Bukidnon also has a vibrant culture celebrated in the annual Kaamulan Festival, the only “authentic ethnic festival” in the country.”
Maramag’s Hidden Gems
Going South, there are good reasons to drop by Maramag, a fast-growing industrial center. First, a clean and well-developed market complex where you can buy anything under the sun (their wet market doesn’t smell, the cleanest I’ve seen in the Philippines). Beside the bus terminal, you can also try their local Kape Maramag.
If you’re into some easy to average trek, you can visit Maramag Falls at Camp 1 or catch an aerial view of Bukidnon from the viewdeck of Musuan Peak.
Rock Climbing at the White Wall
Wall climbing at the colossal Kiokong White Rock is a thrilling adventure that’s starting to get attention. The wall towers to about 500 feet and is in the same location of the Blue Water Cave. This one is a serious climb. You must be in full gear to make your vertical ascent. The goal? That ledge where you can watch the sunset and rest for the night. This setup is called a bivouac, a temporary encampment with little or no shelter—well, except the rocks.
In the morning, you wake up in the foggy sky, sometimes in zero visibility, and wait for sunrise to commence your descent. According to Adventure Technology Outfitters, the sole climb organizer authorized by the government of Quezon, this vertical bivouac in Kiokong is the only one of its kind in Asia. For a more detailed account on c
onquering this rock wall, I recommend you read this guide from Adrenaline Romance. Kiokong Crag : A Great Rock Climbing Destination
The Baguio Feels at Overview
Along the Buda Road, there’s another crowd drawer comparable to Baguio’s Mines View Park. It’s called “Overview”, a strategic place to catch a panoramic view of the rolling mountains, enjoy the cool breeze, and get acquainted with Bukidnon’s seven major tribes. Pose with the giant stone sculptures that depict the indigenous people in their daily life. If you want to see these tribes in their costumes and dances, you can visit in March when they celebrate the month-long Kaamulan Festival. Or, better yet, visit some villages in the mountains of San Fernando just like my friend Jacob did.
WORD OF MOUTH
Documentary & Travel Photographer
“The Bukidnon plateau is home to seven of the 18 different indigenous groups found in Mindanao. We spent most of the week with a Manobo community high in the mountains of San Fernando. To get to this particular community we had to travel 45 kilometers on a motorcycle from the main highway and then hike about 5 kilometers straight up into the mountains. That trip was perfect for the short amount of time that I had and has opened a lot of avenues for future visits. Not only that, I started to get a better understanding of the struggles and issues facing many of the indigenous peoples in the country.” Read more
There’s more? I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of Bukidnon’s tourist destinations. Definitely, there’s no beach, but when you list down its natural and cultural hotspots from north to south, east to west, you’ll end up with a bucketlist for a lifetime.
More photos of Bukidnon here
All photos in this travel feature, unless otherwise captioned, were all taken with a smartphone. Thanks to Huawei Mate S for being my partner in making these quality photos possible and PHONEography CEBU for the endless inspiration to pursue mobile photography.