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Costa Cruises takes you to the Far East Discover the profound effects of flotation therapy


Is Lambanog ready for the global spotlight?

PHP PHP199 199||USD USD5.25 5.25||GBP GBP3.25 3.25||EUR EUR3.75 3.75

The Northern Mindanao province of MISAMIS ORIENTAL beckons We give you a plethora of reasons to oblige


Seda Centrio Offering unmatched lifestyle options and conveniences to discerning travelers

Premier Room

Seda Centrio by Ayala Land Hotels and Resorts has changed the industry landscape and set new benchmarks in Cagayan de Oro.

write emails, surf and even play games.

Seda Centrio ­­– its seamless fusion of comfort and style, strategic location, incomparable customer service and exceptional value – has made it popular among discerning travelers, as well as local residents who appreciate the range of conveniences it offers.

The lobby and e-lounge are adjacent to Misto, Seda’s signature all-day dining restaurant where dishes are prepared like the original recipes to maintain their authenticity. It ranks high up in popularity not only because of its combination of international classics and local favorites, but also its innovations that have included special stints by foreign guest chefs, and introduction of global dining trends.

From the moment guests arrive, they are transported to a world of technological conveniences. These include paperless checkin—the only hotel in the city to offer such – complimentary WiFi and a bank of iMacs at the lobby, which they can use to check and

In guestrooms, custom-made beds provide the utmost comfort and a good night’s rest. Amenities include a widescreen LED HDTV with cable channels, media panel, minibar, electronic in-room safe, and coffee or tea maker.

Seda Centrio offers a weave of seamless service, exceptional value, and an exciting destination for a remarkable hospitality experience. Club Lounge

Guests can also opt for Club Rooms or the more spacious Premier Rooms for greater exclusivity. Both offer exclusive access to the Club lounge where complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktails are served, as well as non-alcoholic beverages, all-day. Completing Seda Centrio’s facilities and services are banquet and meeting rooms, a swimming pool, gym, in-room dining, in-room massage, airport and city transfers, and laundry and dry cleaning. Although replete with modern accoutrements, customer service is as traditional as Seda’s philosophy of being the “home of Filipino hospitality.” Seda was the first hotel brand in Asia that was named a Certified Gold Service Property by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute – an affirmation that its front-liners meet the highest international standards of service and are committed to continuously provide excellent service to its guests.

The Seda hotel collection also includes Seda Capitol Central, Bacolod; Seda Abreeza, Davao; Seda Atria, Iloilo; Seda Nuvali, Laguna; Seda Vertis North, Quezon City; and Seda BGC, Taguig, with more under development in key destinations in the Philippines. For more information or to book online, please visit www.sedahotels.com.


Seda Centrio is approximately an hour away from the international airport and a few minutes’ drive to exciting recreational activities including white water rafting and waterfall trekking. The hotel also shares a roof with hundreds of stores and restaurants in Centrio Mall, the most upscale, and considered the best complex for dining by local residents. C.M. Recto cor. Corrales Avenues Cagayan de Oro City 9000, Philippines T: (6388) 3238888 | (6388) 5636100 F: (6388) 3238891 cdo@sedahotels.com


Get to know the country you’re in from the people who know it best Get the heads up on where to be and places to see, where to eat, and everything else about the distinct Philippine beat All these and more, right at your fingertips


Misamis Oriental Issue

what’s inside SPECIAL FEATURES


Mobile & ReadY We list 8 mobile apps that’ll help your wanderlust chase as seamless as can be

grub hub


Could LambanoG be the next tequila? Expat restaurateur/ sommelier Paolo Nesi ponders if the local spirit is ready for the global spotlight






Italian farmto-tablE Trattoria Mario Mio puts an organic spin to homestyle Italian fare


Delicious DiET Healthy, planned meals delivered at your door are all the rage these days. We tried it for ourselves to see what the fuzz is about.



Pound your way to better statE Discover the rock out workout that gets you fit to the beat of a different drum


Go with the FloaT



Find out how flotation therapy can help you renew the force within


The CrystalClear Truth Discover the wonders of crystal healing, and experience its beauty and energy firsthand.



Cruising the Far EasT A glimpse Costa Cruises’ Japan-Korea-TaiwanChina-Russia offering


Misamis Oriental Issue

what’s inside

40 Explore MisOR Put your feet up, and read through how a Misamis Oriental exploration is as much about experiences and breaking through misconceptions, as it is about discovering your next favorite holiday destination.


First LighT Conveniently located between Cagayan de Oro and Laguindingan, discover the pleasant surprises the thriving town of Opol has up its sleeves



Coastal SmorgasborD With a bevy of resorts peppered across town, Initao has something for everyone – and is probably best enjoyed WITH everyone



Explosions of GrandeuR Discover Jasaan – the Misamis Oriental town that took our breaths away, again and again


The Way of the Bay Get acquainted with the town considered to be the ultimate dive destination in Misamis Oriental



An Inviting SanctuarY



From adorable tiger cubs and fascinating species of birds, to an alluring aqua marine beach and a majestic ancestral home brimming with history, the Eastern MisOr town of Sugbongcogon is a haven for amazing discoveries

founding Publisher

Murray Hertz (1928-2014) Publisher

Butch C. Bonsol Associate Publishers

Francesca L. Ortigas Vernon Prieto Editor-in-chief

Timothy Jay Araneta Ibay Editor AT LARGE

C. Jude Defensor Staff Writers

Richard Ramos Via Baroma Writers-AT-LARGE

Angie Duarte

Art, Layout and Design

Macjanry Imperio

SUPPLEMENTARY LAYOUT & special projects

Nikki Joy Habana Contributors

Celine Murillo, Jv Ramos, Monique Tendencia, Paolo Nesi, Glenn Palacio ADVERTISING sales officer

Leah Egamino-PalaĂąa

Expat Travel & Lifestyle Vol. 12 No. 2 Opinions expressed in this magazine are solely those of the writers and not necessarily endorsed by Expat Communications. Reproduction in whole or in part, whether articles, photos, advertisement features and such, are strictly prohibited in any way without the written consent from the publishers and editors. Expat Communications cannot be held responsible for unsolicited material or photographs. Although the editors and writers ascertain to the veracity of all information published, they are not responsible for its possible changes. Subscriptions > Advertising > Inquiries T. (02) 840 2996 or 812 0987 E. expatmag@gmail.com

Expat Travel & Lifestyle Philippines is published quarterly by Expat Communications, Inc. Main Headquarters Unit 305, Cristina Condominium, 143 Legaspi cor. V.A. Rufino St., Legaspi Village, Makati City, Philippines Cebu Satellite Office M.J. Cuenco Ave. cor C. Mina St., Mabolo, Cebu City, Philippines. Telfax: (032) 412 8000 Expat Travel & Lifestyle is a registered trademark of the Philippines. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

sales executives

Ma. Victoria Soto FInance & admin officer

Fevelyn Bucio

agutayan island

Tell us what you want to read about and we’ll make it happen

We’re Social

Hit us up online We’d love to hear from you!



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1 Glenn Palacio


A travel, adventure and portrait photographer, Glenn is currently a tourism consultant to the province of Misamis Oriental, and a freelance photographer for the Department of Tourism. Armed with his lenses, he has been documenting festivals, rituals, tribes, delicacies and destinations for the last five years, and has yet to look back. For his works, Glenn has won numerous awards from both local and international photo contests, and is occasionally a speaker at photography workshops all around Mindanao.


For the Misamis Oriental Issue, Glenn’s works can be seen from cover to cover. To see more of Glenn’s snaps, follow him on Instagram and Twitter @theglennpalacio



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Paolo Nesi

Celine murillo

Monique Tendencia

Long-time Manila expat, visionary behind restaurants like the famed L’Opera and Prego, sommelier, wine educator, and infinitely curious soul—Paolo Nesi has with him an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and that quality shows in every endeavor he undertakes. He is also a columnist for Expat, mainly providing his unique view points on most things wine.

Celine is obsessed with trees and dreams of planting her own forest. She hopes to write half as good as Robert MacFarlane and Tammy Greenwood. Read more about her adventures on her personal blog, Celineism.com.

Monique is a visual designer and web developer by training, turned full-time food and travel writer. She presently lives a life designing and building websites, seeing more of the Philippines and the world-all while indulging in epicurean experiences.

For this issue, Celine tapped on her extensive travel experiences to offer tips on how to Travel Green (p. 15), as well as a list of apps (p. 20) to make your adventures as seamless as possible.

Follow @moetendencia on Instagram for more food and travel snaps.

Editor’s Foreword

Are there better beaches with whiter, finer sands & more Instagram-worthy shades of blue? Of course. The beckoning to explore Misamis Oriental isn’t banked on the promise of superlatives (although you’re bound to come across those too). Indulging the Northern Mindanao province’s invite, instead, means opening yourself up to elements beyond its destinations and touristic attractions. A MisOr exploration is as much about experiences and breaking through misconceptions, as it is about discovering the next tourist hotspot.  Often we get far too settled in our comfort zones, even when it comes to the places we choose as getaways from the daily carousel of life – clicking on the bait of gorgeous social media landscape and resort photos, and booking the next flight to see it firsthand. I’ve had my fair share of destinations that have left my mouth agape – places perennially on top of best lists, personal or otherwise. But combing through MisOr, I found awe and wonder making its usual rounds—intertwined with its towns’ natural gifts, culture, warmth, and subtle pride.

Explore MisOr

Such was the case with Sagpulon Falls in Jasaan (p. 58), where a forested paradise peaked with the grandeur of a 150-foot cascade. And in an exploration absent of expectations, Alibuag Beach Park in Sugbongcogon (p. 80), to a different degree, satiated the senses, as vibrant hints of aquamarine peered behind the trees of its terraced garden. During our MisOr sojourn, moments like these—be it through a delightful dish like Talisayan’s Sutukil (p. 53), a stunning landscape such as Claveria’s (p. 84), or an inspiring fair trade venture like Salayhandmade (p. 102) – became that friendly, frequent visitor you don’t quite expect, but somehow know would come. Exploring MisOr entails all of these—awe, wonder, introspection, realizations, and fondness—which, honestly, are all you can really ask to come with after traveling.

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Travel Green

Help save the environment while you travel with these 6 easy lifestyle tweaks Words by Celine Reyes Murillo

As travel continues to be a significant presence in people’s lives, the need to protect and conserve our environment becomes even more pressing. Travelers, having experienced firsthand the beauty of our natural heritage, should take the lead in ensuring that this is preserved for posterity. Here are simple lifestyle changes to make you not just an adventurer, but also a veritable eco-warrior.

1 Say no to disposable cutlery One report has predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, if we don’t clean up our act. Literally. Help reduce plastic waste by packing your own set of reusable spoon and fork (or chopsticks, if that’s how you roll). In addition, start carrying your own kit of metal straws, which are now available in the Philippines.

3 Opt for reef-friendly sunscreens Most commercial sunscreens contain a chemical called Oxybenzone, which has been largely linked to coral bleaching. Luckily, affordable sunscreens sans this chemical are now available in the country. When using this, make sure to allow your skin to fully absorb sunscreen before getting into the water. This way, there’d be less run-offs and you’d fully get the benefit of its UV-protection. Alternatively, you could go for clothing with UV-protection fabric.

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Carry a reusable shopping bag Instead of putting your shopping hauls in plastic bags, bring an “eco-bag” instead. Not only does it minimize plastic waste, it’s also more durable. Plus, it barely takes up space in a backpack (or even a purse).

4 Hold on to your balloons Releasing balloons, cute as it may be, is never good for the environment. There have been countless reports of marine life accidentally ingesting remnants of balloons. If you must have balloons at your party, do not let them go and dispose of them properly. Same goes for floating lanterns. Events that feature the release of these fire hazards are, in fact, just an aesthetic way to litter.

5 Bring your own water bottle Having your own container and getting refills will not only reduce trash, it could also save you hundreds of pesos – money you can use for your travels instead! Most restaurants and hotels would be happy to refill your vessel. You could also completely ditch the disposable cups and request for your beverage to be poured directly into your tumbler – most establishments would be happy to oblige!


Mind your trash

This one’s simple: DO. NOT. LITTER. The trash you leave by the beach would eventually find its way into the ocean, polluting the water and harming marine life. When in the mountains, bring everything back with you and never leave garbage – even food waste, as this could be scavenged by wild animals. This seemingly insignificant act could change their eating habits and make them dependent on human presence. These are obvious reasons to be mindful of our garbage, but the most obvious reason of all is this: no one wants a dirty destination!

BONUS: Support tourism destinations that put a premium on sustainability Sneak in some research while you create your itinerary to learn about places that have sustainable tourism practices. Make sure that your target destination does not allow provisioning (e.g. feeding, luring, baiting) animals in the wild. Moreover, support attractions that uplift the lives of the locals and promote environmental conservation and stewardship. There are endless resources in the internet – it’s even easier than booking seat sales! Take these things to heart, walk the talk, and you’ll have a responsibly fun travel adventure in no time.

The marine protected areas of Medina is home to some 2,000 species of fish, 5,000 species of clams and other mollusks and crustaceans, more than 900 species of seaweed, and more than 400 species of corals (p.76).


Live performances

Boyce Avenue has also sold in excess of 10 million songs, and has 1 billion streams, while their global tours have sold more than 600,000 tickets in over 30 countries, including a sold-out show at the legendary Royal Albert Hall in London last year. Formed in 2004, Boyce Avenue rose to YouTube fame with their distinct acoustic covers. To date, the Florida-based group’s YouTube channel has amassed over 3.7 billion views.

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Boyce Avenue with Moira

June 1; Araneta Coliseum, Cubao, Quezon City; for more information, visit www. ticketnet.com.ph or call (02) 911-5555 American pop trio Boyce Avenue teams up for a one night concert together with the current most streamed local artist

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Dela Torre, meanwhile, became an instant fan favorite after winning last year’s Himig Handog with her catch tune “Titibo-Tibo,” further enchanting her growing fan base with her follow up, “Malaya.” Tickets are priced at PhP4,200 for VIP; PhP3,675 for Patron; PhP3,150 for Patron Box; PhP2,625 for Lower Box; PhP1,575 for Upper Box; and PhP840 for General Admission

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Flicker World Tour: Niall Horan


in the Philippines – Moira Dela Torre.
 The Manzano brothers made up of Alejandro (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Fabian (guitar, vocals) and Daniel (bass, percussion, vocals) look to send fans into a frenzy as the join the country’s biggest breakout star of 2017.

June 10; Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City; for more information, visit www.smtickets. com or call (02) 470-2222 Following the May solo concert of One Direction band mate Harry Styles, Irish singer-songwriter Niall Horan is set to have his own solo show concert in Manila this June.
 Riding the phenomenal wave of One Direction, Horan’s solo career has proven to be a success, first with the acoustic ballad “This Town,” and more recently with the hit “Slow Hands.” Tickets are priced at PhP33,800 for VIP Meet and Greet Standing and Seated (inclusive of one premium ticket in VVIP Standing or VIP Seated; photo opportunity with Niall Horan; autographed silkscreen poster; exclusive access to private sound check experience; question and answer session after sound check; pre-show merchandise shopping opportunity; VIP Meet and Greet laminate and custom lanyard; On-site VIP hosts); PhP6,784 for VVIP Standing; PhP5,512 for VIP Seated and Patron; PhP4,240 for Lower Box; and PhP2,968 for Upper Box

time ever (Singapore, Jakarta, Taipei, Manila and Bangkok).

july 19

Celine Dion Live 2018

July 19 and 20; Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City; for more information, visit www. smtickets.com or call (02) 470-2222 French-Canadian icon Celine Dion will be heading overseas this summer for her highly anticipated Live 2018 Tour that takes her to seven cities across the Asia Pacific region. The Asian tour will see Dion return to cities she hasn’t performed in for 10 years (Tokyo and Macau), and to cities where she will be belting out her greatest hits for the first

One of the most recognizable, and successful performers in pop music history, Dion has sold almost 250 million albums during her over 30-year career. She has bagged five Grammy Awards, two Academy Awards and seven American Music Awards. In 2004, she received the Diamond award at the World Music Awards – a recognition of her status as the best-selling female artist of all time. In 2016, the Billboard Music Awards presented her with the lifetime achievement Icon Award. Dion continues to break records with her ongoing Las Vegas residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, where she has played over 1,000 shows to more than four million fans. This July, sing along to classics like “My Heart Will Go On,” “The Power of Love,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “All By Myself,” “It’s All Coming Back To Me,” “To Love You More,” “I Surrender,” and “Because You Love Me,” among others.


Tickets are priced at PhP35,380 for SVIP; PhP32,210 for VIP; PhP19,540 for Lower Box A; PhP16,370 for Lower Box B; PhP7,920 for Upper Box; and PhP2,640 for General Admission



Toycon 2018

June 8 to 10; SMX Convention Center, Seashell Ln., Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City; for more information, visit www.toyconph.com or email toyconph@gmail.com

aug 4

Nitro Circus Live

Aug. 4 and 5; Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City; for more information, call (02) 4702222 or visit www.smtickets.com The greatest sports action show on the planet lands in Manila for the first time ever this August! Nitro Circus Live is a twoday adrenaline fix like no other, featuring motorsports megastar Travis Pastrana and his crew as they perform incredible stunts that are sure to blow minds.

Pastrana will be performing with a team of professional riders, stunting everything from bicycles and skateboards, to motorbikes and everything in between, resulting in a spectacular, action packed experience like no other.
 Tickets are priced at PhP6,250 for VIP Center; PhP5,000 for VIP Sides; PhP3,750 for Upper Box Center; PhP3,000 for Upper Box Sides; PhP1,250 for General Admissionv

Now in its 17th year, Toycon Philippines promises to be the biggest pop culture celebration featuring toys, games, movies, cosplay, anime, and various other collectibles. Toycon 2018 will be the staging-ground for their international fan base, with exclusive show merchandise, exhibitions, international cosplay competitions, celebrity appearances, and much more. Its exhibits will feature some of the world’s biggest brands in entertainment, featuring some of pop culture’s biggest brands that include Marvel, Star Wars, DC, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Cartoon Network, the NBA, while also highlighting the biggest brands in gaming.

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july AsiaPOP Comicon 27

Manila 2018

July 27 to 29; SMX Convention Center, Seashell Ln., Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City; for more information, visit www. asiapopcomicon.com Asiapop Comicon 2018 continues to be the ultimate celebration for fans of pop culture, bringing together comic enthusiasts, artists, designers, animators, toy manufacturers, collectors, movie buffs, music lovers, cosplayers, gamers, technology buffs, fitness enthusiasts, beauty and fashion lovers, while providing immersive and inclusive experiences for the visitors. With its powerhouse lineup of celebrities, AsiaPOP Comicon Manila has garnered an international reputation. The event has also become a creative haven for names such as Simone Legno (of Tokidoki fame), Jason Freeny, Mike Zeck, Ken Lashley, David Mack, Artgerm aka Stanley Lau; local talents Whilce Portacio, Leinil Yu,

Stephen Segovia, Carlo Pagulayan, and Quiccs Maiquez; and even former Marvel Vice President of International Development and Brand Management, C.B. Cebulski (now Marvel’s editor-inchief), who uses the event to scout Filipino talent for Marvel Comics. 
International cosplay community CAGE, whose members include the likes of Allison Harvard, Vampy Bit Me, Pion Kim, Ani Mia, Riddle, Yugana Senshi Uon, Philip Odango, Haiden Hazard, the Philippines’ Alodia Gosiengfiao, Myrtle Sarrosa, and Jin, hold the annual CAGE competition within the event as well. Entertainment companies have also set their sights on AsiaPOP Comicon Manila, with Marvel using the event to stage Hall M, an exclusive showcase of never-before-seen content, which has, in the past, previewed such blockbusters as Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Thor: Ragnarok. Entertainment giant Netflix has also put up massive exhibits promoting their latest content.

sept 12

Asia Food Expo

Sept. 12 to 15; World Trade Center Metro Manila, Pasay City; for more information, call (02) 834-0085, (02) 831-3828 or visit www.afex.com.ph The Asia Food Expo (AFEX), now on its 27th year, showcases the most comprehensive line of food machinery and equipment for the food and beverage industry. The event also exhibits the latest top of the line packaging and food processing technologies, food marking and labeling services, material handling equipment, food storage systems, baking accessories

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AUG 31

29th Philippine Travel Mart

Aug. 31 to Sept. 2; SMX Convention Center, Seashell Ln., Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City; for more information, visit www.philtoa.com or call (02) 812-4513 Philippine Travel Mart (PTM) is the longest running travel exhibition, organized by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) in partnership with the Department of Tourism (DOT). The annual event showcases Philippine destinations and
 updated tour product offerings for both domestic and foreign tourists. PHILTOA is the biggest association of tour operators and agencies that promote domestic and inbound tourism. Its nationwide membership has been at the frontier of Philippine tourism promotion, partnering with the DOT, and its regional offices.

and equipment, food services supplies and equipment, coffee and confectionery machineries, process and quality control technologies and solutions, among others. Potential entrants in the food industry, investors, big industry players, and other interested guests are expected to flock to the annual event to gain access to the best and latest in the food industry. AFEX has been committed to upholding its mission to uplift the Philippine Food Industry and the entrepreneurs and live the true meaning of quality exhibits and its real value for entrepreneurs.

oct 26

World Travel Expo

Oct. 26 to 28; SMX Convention Center, Seashell Ln., Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City; for more information, call (02) 579-7185 Get cheap deals, sweet treats, and get to see the best sites around the globe with World Travel Expo 2018. The highly anticipated travel expo in the country will be back with a bang, with more than 100 booths offering the best travel deals and packages for all types of travelers. During the three-day event, there will also be booths offering promotional packages on hotels, cruises, airlines, amusement park and waterparks, and fashion brands. Big discounts also await those who will visit the expo.


june 6

june 4

Power Mac Center Summer Workshop 2018

Game Development June 4 to 8, and July 2 to 6 Digital Arts June 11 to 15, and July 9 to 13
 3D Modeling and Animation June 18 to 22, and July 16 to 20 Robotics June 25 to 29, and July 23 to 27 In its latest series of summer workshops, courses were thoroughly selected and modules creatively crafted to meet the current interests of young digital enthusiasts. Kids may choose from the following classes, each with intensive yet enjoyable 5-day sessions: Game Development, Digital Arts, 3D Modeling and Animation, and Robotics. Held at the Power Mac Center training rooms in Greenbelt 3, TriNoma, and Festival Alabang, the programs are open to all kids from 8 to 15 years old. Classes are divided into two batches — kids and teens, and modules are modified accordingly to match the depth of interest of each attendee.

Wine and Spirit Education Trust

June 6 and Jul. 4; The Study, 4th Floor, The Podium, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City; for more information, call (02) 856-5000 loc. 547/505, (0917) 891-6385 or visit www.enderunextension. com Begin your journey into the world of wine with the WSET Level 1 Award in Wines. The introductory 2-day course will introduce the basics of wine and how to best enjoy it. Expand your knowledge of grapes, and learn the technical aspects any professional working with wines should know. Broaden your palate through a tasting experience designed to teach you how to identify, taste, and describe all types of wine, and learn how to safely serve and store your wines properly while preserving its flavors and body. Course fee is priced at PhP15,000

The workshop fee is priced at PhP5,500 per course, inclusive of the use of Apple devices pre-installed with applications, and all other learning materials required in each course. After the week-long workshops, each attendee will take home a certificate and the flash drive containing the individual projects they created. 
For more information, call (02) 553-4211 or (02) 553-6399 or (0908) 885-6277 or (0916) 358-6056; or email pbsi@powermaccenter.com

june 10

Urban Bike Challenge BGC

June 10; 5th Ave. cor. 26th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; for more information, email bucph2018@gmail.com The Brompton Urban Challenge (BUC) is a special orienteering-type bike race filled with puzzles and challenges. This year, the BUC has been expanded from one primarily catering to Bromptoneers, to one that accommodates all folding bikers. Dubbed “Urban Bike Challenge,” the special event is one of the major activities celebrating Freedom Sunday—a special Bonifacio Global City event promoting pedestrian priority. The affair promises to be a fun-filled experience for the whole family, with activities catering to both the artist and the athlete in everyone. The Urban Bike Challenge is open to all Bromptoneers and folding bike enthusiasts, with each team consisting of four folding bikers with just a minimum of one Bromptoneer per team.
 As an added bonus to this year’s event, one brand new Brompton Bike will be raffled off to its participants. Registration fee is priced at PhP900 per participant (PhP 3,600 per team) inclusive of Race Kit, Loot Bag, Event Shirt, One (1) Raffle Ticket. Each participant is allowed a maximum of two (2) raffle tickets. The additional ticket can be purchased at PhP1,000 each.

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mobile apps every traveler should have Words by Celine Murillo

PH Mountains

Available for iOS and Android Planning to hike up the many mountains of the Philippines? Ditch that bulky handbook and go for PH Mountains – a “mountain guide in your pocket.” It has a comprehensive database of Philippine mountains that includes mountain information, maps, itineraries, photos, videos, and even outdoor quotes. With this app, you can also track past climbs and plan future ones.

Traveling has never been easier, what with affordable airline tickets and loads of online resources. But even with these, traveling can still be overwhelming – you gotta’ stick to your budget, pack just the right amount of stuff, keep abreast with the latest exchange rates, and foreign policies, etc. So to make each trip as hassle-free as can be, we rounded up 8 mobile apps that will help you in your wanderlusting ways.


We Wander PH



Available for iOS and Android

Available for iOS and Android

If you’re going around the Philippines and love seeing how close you are to visiting all of 7,000+ islands in the archipelago, We Wander PH is for you. It’s essentially a virtual scratch-off map where you can tick off the places you’ve visited. You can personalize the color of each location, making it both a therapeutic and rewarding reminder of your previous adventures, and a virtual planner for the travels that lie ahead.

Every strong, independent, DIY traveler has Klook on their arsenal. With this app, you’d have everything you might need while on the road. Need a bus ticket? Book one with Klook. Have a last-minute urge to go to Disneyland? Klook has discounted tour packages. The rates here are way cheaper, and you can also take advantage of many app-exclusive deals. And it’s not only tour packages, bus and train tickets, you can purchase, as the app also lets you book pocket Wi-Fi connection, car rental, and even meal vouchers!

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XE Currency

Available for iOS and Android XE’s interface is as straightforward as it gets, making it one of the lightest apps on this list. But don’t let its small size fool you, as it proves to be the go-to currency exchange app of travelers. It is constantly updated, offering live exchange rates for every currency and precious metal in the world. The best part? It allows storing of the most recent rates so you can use it offline.







Available for iOS and Android

Available for iOS and Android

Available for iOS and Android

One of the most entrancing outdoor experiences one can get is sleeping under the stars. Make the most of your stargazing with SkyView – an app that lets you point your device’s camera at the sky and identify every star, planet, or constellation you may see.

Most travelers will advise you to pack light, but with PackPoint you’ll not only be able to pack light, but also pack smart. The app looks into the weather forecast for the dates and locations of your trips, asks you what kind of activities you might be participating in – like, say, hiking or swimming – then suggests a list of items that you need to pack based on these activities. You can tick off items that you think aren’t necessary, add the ones that you might need, and also share your list with your travel buddies.

Traveloka manages to make fresh of an old concept – pooling all options to give you the best price. By creating a database for both hotels and flights, users are not only given a one-stop shop, but are also promised the cheapest rates.

In addition to exploring the cosmos, the app also lets you in on the best time to view a certain phenomenon – like when the Milky Way would be visible. It’s also a great tool for when you’re looking to do some astrophotography. And if you’re really serious about astronomy, there’s a paid version with more features for less than PhP100.


The app also has its own user-based review system for hotels, helping you make an informed choice and get great value for money. It also has a “hotels near you” feature that comes in handy when you find yourself stuck in a place without a reservation. On top of that, the app regularly has exclusive promos, from half-off discounts in high-end resorts to PhP1,000 off for airfares.



Available for iOS and Android Planning to go around Asia? Better download WhatsApp. The popular messaging app has been around forever, but because it dominates in countries like Indonesia and Vietnam, chances are when you book an Uber, Grab, or even buy tickets from Klook, your contact person can be reached via WhatsApp. Some restaurants even use the app for handling reservations. Make sure to register for an account before leaving, as it requires a confirmation


code sent via SMS. This app is a good way to stay in touch with people you meet on the road, without the commitment of being Facebook friends.

Flytpack isn’t an app but an internet service for when you’re traveling abroad. It’s a no-fuss way of staying connected whenever, wherever. With Flytpack’s pocket Wi-Fi, there’s no need to purchase local SIM cards and/or have your phone set to “roaming.” Check out www.flytpack.com for more information.

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Could Lambanog be the next Tequila? A seasoned restaurateur/sommelier’s makes the case for the local spirit’s capability to make a splash on the world stage. Words by Paolo Nesi

It’s always hard and somewhat unfair to compare two different spirits. But there is also no denying that lambanog and tequila have a lot in common. They are both plantbased spirits (the former, coconut, and the latter, agave). They are both full of character and harsh, especially when young. They are cultural drinks made for centuries by farmers (admittedly, things have changed a bit, especially for tequila). And they are products with protected designation of origins. Lamba what now? Lambanog is a spirit made by fermenting the sugary sap of the coconut flower, which is then distilled to high alcoholic strength. Similar products are made in other countries where the general name is Arrack, with the most famous ones coming from Sri Lanka. It is, however, only in the Philippines where the spirit can be called Lambanog, as its name is protected by the World Trade Organization. The manufacturing of the spirit in the Philippines can be traced as far back as the pre-colonial era, and by many sources, it seems that it is older than Mexico’s tequila. The biggest challenge for lambanog’s quest for global notoriety is overcoming the misconception that the spirit is a harsh, cheap, poor man’s drink – made with crude equipment, and production methods that result in a burning, concoction with petrol and chemical-like aromas and taste.

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In an age where the market is constantly searching for the next hot product – there couldn’t be a better time for lambanog to don a nice barong and conquer the world.

Here are my suggestions:

Why can’t Lambanog catch up to its peers on the world stage? And what needs to be done to correct this? Here are some of my observations based on my 24 years living in the Philippines, and being a lambanog lover: Local misconception First, as with most things made in the Philippines, there is a certain “resistance” by Filipinos to accept it as a world-class product, even though local companies such as Malagos Chocolates, Bukidnon Beef Farm, Cheese Factory, among others, manufacture globally renowned products. Lambanog, in spite of being part of the national heritage, is still mostly perceived as a cheap and mediocre drink.

Fortunately, a growing number of distilleries seem to have understood the potential of lambanog, and have come up with better products such as Barik, Infanta, the high-alcohol and expensive Lakan, and the timid, barrelaged San Juan of the Limtuaco distilleries. In my opinion, however, no one has yet to invest in facilities and time to deliver a style that is similar to a Tequila Anejo or even muy anejo. Lambanog, like tequila, is full of congeners (aromas), with both tending to be quite harsh when young, and benefiting from the mellowing effects of barrel ageing. Although, in the case of tequila, some would argue that the best expression is the un-aged variant. Tequila went on to become a world-class spirit, with a myriad of cocktails requiring its presence (most famous of all is the Margarita). In Italy, Grappa, was also once considered a poor man’s drink, but the harsh, gasoline-like spirit made with leftover grape skin pressed for wine production, is now all over the world, with some of them costing US$100/bottle or more.

The process Then, there is the production method. With very few exceptions, lambanog is still generally made with approximate fermentation and distillation techniques in environments that do not match the minimum sanitation standards. Contrary to what farmers would tell you – that their process of distillation makes all the unwanted aromas disappear – the residual off-aromas usually become even more pronounced when the alcohol is separated from the water.

Use double pot, or column still distillation to eliminate the unwanted flavors, with a generous cut between the head (the first vapor coming out of the distillation is filled with more volatile alcohol, such as the unwanted methanol) and the tail (the last part of the distillation where the alcohol is mixed with water).

Use wood barrel ageing. The impact of wood ageing is very well known across the globe, and lambanog will definitely benefit from the mellowing effects of the wood.

And finally, there is lambanog’s character that, similar to tequila, has a lot of herbaceous, nail polish-like aromas that need to be mellowed down. This may be overly simplistic, I admit, but addressing these could mark the beginning of this Philippine cultural spirit’s rise to the global stage (and to becoming more accepted here at home). In an age where the market is constantly searching for the next hot product – when malt whiskies made in countries like Taiwan, Japan, and even India, are challenging traditionally more superior whiskeys from Scotland and Ireland; and in a world where gins and vodkas are now made everywhere across the world—I believe there couldn’t be a better time for lambanog to don a nice barong and conquer the world. Mabuhay!

More creative packaging and recipes for Lambanog cocktails.

Present lambanog infused with dalandan, kalamansi and other local fruits.

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A Taste of Italian Farm-to-table in Silang, Cavite Trattoria Mario Mio delivers the experience of homestyle Italian fare with a focus on organic and healthy ingredients. To label it as just another Italian restaurant would be undermining its potential. Words and photos by Monique Tendencia

This newly opened restaurant located in Silang, Cavite is the brainchild of Paolo Nesi, of L’Opera and Prego fame, and certified sommelier. Trattoria Mario Mio carries with it all the Italian goodness renowned in Nesi’s restaurants, but with a healthy shift towards organic produce and a farm-to-table concept. For years, Nesi was on the lookout for the perfect location for this concept, but found the options in the Metro to be lackluster. For starters, he needed an organic farm that sits on the same property as the restaurant. A highly impossible request to fulfill within the denseness of the Metropolis. Enter Atty. Babes Oreta, developer of Tagaytay Highlands and Balesin, and longtime friend of Nesi. Oreta’s new 20-hectare development in Silang proved to be the ideal location for the trattoria. Away from the hustle and bustle of the

city, favored with a cooler temperature, yet still easily accessible from Metro Manila – it quickly became obvious that Silang was the ideal setting for the fresh restaurant concept. The exposed brick, hardwood beams, yellow stucco walls, and wooden furniture, gives Trattoria Mario Mio q a homier feel, while the organic garden that overlooks the restaurant provides majority of the ingredients for the day’s menu. Expat recommends A hearty bowl of tomato soup made from freshly picked tomatoes, topped with fried ricotta bits is the perfect starter to combat the frequently chilly Tagaytay weather. For those looking for leafy greens, the creative interpretation of a cheese basket filled Bresaola, fresh mango, arugula, and even more dried beef is equal parts

delectable and nutritious. The crispy cheese basket contrasts the tender and chewy bresaola. If you’re in the mood for a seafood starter, the beautifully plated Carpaccio di Polpo w is a good option. Thinly-sliced octopus in lemon and olive oil is a great palate cleanser and renders a refreshing tang, making it a tasty transition dish from appetizer to main. Continuing with the seafood theme, the Filleto di Branzino e is a grilled sea bass that sits atop a large steak of tomato and drizzled with seafood sauce. So tender was the meat, that I couldn’t stop downing one spoonful after another. Nesi aims to one day be able to source all his fish from longline fishermen. Noticeable across his dishes is the fact that none of it are drowning in sauce. Nesi believes that the quality of his produce should speak for themselves. There is no need to mask its flavors with dressings, sauces, and glazes as this takes away the spotlight from its freshness. Not to be missed on the menu is the Truffle Risotto. With a generous serving of Parma ham, the dish is bursting with earthy notes of truffle, subdued by the creamy risotto base. While it sounds rich and sinful, Nesi explains that he doesn’t use butter or cream for the risotto – just good quality extra virgin olive oil. For the pizza selection, it all comes down to preference. If grilled vegetables are right up your alley, then the Pizza Mario Mio is your best bet. Grilled eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms over a tomato base make this vegetable garden medley a nutritive choice.


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If you’re in the mood for a bit of meat, go for the Pizza Valtellina instead. The contrasting textures from the lettuce and sun-dried tomatoes and the distinct flavors of the Parma ham and pesto make every bite delightfully complicated yet originating from simple ingredients. When asked about his kitchen philosophy, he says: “I do not serve anything my mother will not eat.” The risotto alone and a slice or two of the pizza will leave you full, but it would be a shame not to try the trattoria’s sublime desserts. They serve the classics like tiramisu and chocolate mousse, but our dessert of choice was the Truffle Panna Cotta. The silky texture of the panna cotta is interjected by chopped walnuts, while the honeyed truffle balsamic glaze elevates this dish to something much more remarkable. End on a high note with a shot of ice-cold Kalamancello, a local interpretation of the limoncello. The kalamancello, an original creation by Nesi, is all-natural and made from organic calamansi. Evidently, it is possible to serve such good food without sacrificing the quality and flavors, while remaining close to the source.

Nesi believes that the quality of his produce should speak for themselves. There is no need to mask its flavors with dressings, sauces, and glazes as this takes away the spotlight from its freshness.


Soon, Trattoria Mario Mio plans to open its doors at earlier hours to serve the breakfast crowd. So if you’re making your way to Tagaytay anytime soon, drop by the Trattoria and have a healthy taste of authentic and organic Italian fare. Trattoria Mario Mio is located at Km 48, Aguinaldo Highway, inside the Monteluce property. For inquiries and more information, contact (0917) 166-7332, or find them on Facebook @trattoriamariomio


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To DD or Not to DD It may sound like an oxymoron, but Delicious Diet may just be the program that pushes you towards your 2018 fitness goals Words by Jv Ramos Photos courtesy of Delicious Diet

Though the words “easy and effective” often come with the marketing of most diet programs out there, the label is rarely enough to immediately (and sustainably) change a person’s food consumption habits. One major reason for this is simple: Diet programs are just too detached from our realities! These programs rarely take into consideration that not everyone has enough time to buy ingredients, create magic in the kitchen, and not to mention, obsess over calorie counting, while also grappling with nutrition jargon. They also seem to forget that redundancy in what we eat causes us to crave bigger portions of what we’re deprived of. More importantly, diet programs have been known to suck the joy away from mealtimes, which, for us busy bees, are the only moments in the day wherein we could cut loose.

Each DD package comes with three meals (brekky, lunch and dinner), a snack and a sachet of tea or drip coffee.

DD also makes a point to provide variety. While certain protein sources may repeat throughout the five days, it never comes in the same form, nor does it come with the same sauce or side.

been prepared by a loved ones. The meals look filling and well planned, which could double as conversation starters, and make meal times the way they should be: a social activity and a breather.

Delicious Diet begs to disagree More than just a chef-designed weekly diet program, Delicious Diet (DD), acknowledges the challenges of reality, and accordingly sees to it that all its creations addresses those.

Chef AJ Reyes, the inventive culinary mind behind the DD menu (and Privatus Private Dining) admits facing his own challenges when it came to creating the program – pointing to the complexities of choosing ingredients for a meal with a set amount of calories set by a nutritionist, ensuring it fits in microwaveable containers, and the limitations brought about by costing constraints.

Five days with DD That I lost seven pounds in five days may be all that you need to know about my DD trial. But since I’m a firm believer that it’s not all about the numbers, I’m going share with you my DD experience.

When it comes to the issue of having a hectic schedule, for instance, DD conveniently measures, proportions, and delivers its meals to you. Thus, the only thing you’d have to do every mealtime is to pop a container inside the microwave, wait a couple of minutes, and dig in.

But for the DD team, these limitations fuel innovation into crafting a healthy program that doesn’t sacrifice taste, texture, and appearance. And Reyes’ and DD nutritionist Daryl Julian clever ways of working around limitations have resulted in packages of joy. DD’s meals give the impression that they’ve

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Let’s begin with first impressions. Though a detailed email of the five-day meal plan was sent to me before my DD trial began, I chose to ignore it and remain clueless of what will be served. This is just my way of getting rid of unnecessary expectations, for whenever I read a piece of text about food, I imagine flavors and plating designs. And if what’s given doesn’t match what’s inside my head, I get very disappointed and choose not to eat.

side that it came with, I forgot all about my craving for something spicy. If there’s any adjustment that was difficult for me, it’s the moving of my meal times. Monday and Tuesday involved an uncharacteristic delay in delivery (again, probably due to being located in my part of the metro). The packages arrived way past my breakfast time, so I ended up having to drop dinner for two nights. The verdict As expressed, my DD experience was far from perfect. Nevertheless, I’m satisfied with the program I underwent – for other than the seven pounds lost, it initiated changes in my food consumption. Just to give you a rundown: the chicken ham turned out to be the wrap, which was already soggy and dark-colored when it arrived, and the pieces of meat was the filling that had already scattered all around the container. The same went for the peanut butter cupcake that came on the second day. It arrived looking like a clumsy toddler’s mistake: The frosting was found everywhere except on the cupcake itself. Despite the messy appearances due to the long journey (you wouldn’t exactly be much of a charmer either if you took the same length of commute in Metro Manila), the taste of the meals was undeniably good. The protein contents were all tender, making you wish that there were more slices after the first bite. But once you’re left with the last three pieces, you’ll realize that you’re full and that what was served was enough.

Did this tactic of mine work? The element of surprise was definitely nice, especially when it came to seeing what kind of sweet snack you’ll be having for the day. The only disadvantage of not knowing what you were going to eat is some meals arrive looking like something else due to the road trip it endured (coming from DD’s commissary in Pasig to my home in Las Pinas). The cheesy breakfast quesadilla, which came on the first day, for instance, looked like a slice of chicken ham that was carelessly combined with leftover pieces of meat. What appeared to be

Being stuffed, of course, has a lot to do with the starch present in each meal, and when I say starch, I mean the carbs that Filipinos innately look for: rice, pasta and bread (Again, DD has succeeded in taking note of our realities here. We cannot go through a day’s work without having any of the three!)

•• Days after my DD journey, I ordered a fast food meal and couldn’t eat more than half of it. Everything about it just seemed too salty, or sweet, or too drenched in oil. •• DD has made realize that I have created needs in the workplace, namely the need for chips and unlimited coffee. Going through five days without chips and only 2 cups of coffee has somehow killed my craving for both. •• Though I still find chips and coffee tasty, I’m more interested in finding alternative snacks, especially for the dead hours of the afternoon. Usually, I go for something baked and something with just enough sugar to re-energize me. •• Finally, after being exposed to controlled amounts of food for five days, I find myself sticking with just one cup of rice or two slices of bread every mealtime.

And yes, there were vegetables, too! Though I personally prefer the greens to come in bigger servings, I think that DD made vegetables more enticing for those who aren’t fans of greens, with the way it integrated this food group to its meal plan.

I’m not sure for how long these changes would last, but I would like to think that it’s a good start. If for nothing else, DD exercises your self-control. The meal plan teaches that less is enough. Moreover, it motivates one to live with this mindset: If I could survive without this kind of food, or that drink for five days, then I probably don’t need it at all.

Was adjusting to the meal plan difficult? I’m a sucker for spicy food, so there were times when I was tempted to drop some chili oil onto whatever meat I was having. I, however, ended up not doing so, for when I combined the protein with the sauce or

Delicious Diet contact info (0908) 879-7915 www.deliciousdiet.com.ph emailus@deliciousdiet.com.ph expat 27


Drumroll, Please, for POUND® Fitness The ‘Rock out!’ workout gets fitness lovers exercising to the beat of a different drum Words by Angie Duarte Photos by Macjanry Imperio

Photos taken at Platinum Fitness, Ground Floor, Electra House, 115 Esteban, Legazpi Village, Makati

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Upbeat music blasts through the room, to the steady, pulsating rhythm of drumsticks struck against each other and on the floor. You can feel the energy as you enter: it is frenetic, it is fabulous, and it is free – so free, it’s almost euphoric. Close your eyes, and you could easily imagine yourself at a rock concert. Open them, and you realize you’re in the middle of a POUND® fitness class. Beating stress – literally “For 16 years I was working in the corporate world, specializing in the field of Sales and Marketing. This led to me being burned out, miserable, and unfulfilled,” Madie Pfiffner-Dinglasan shares of her road to becoming a certified POUND® fitness instructor. Her frustrations and stressfilled life took her down a road of alcohol addiction and depression, and it wasn’t long before she hit rock bottom.

“I had no self-worth. One day I woke up and decided that I needed to change my life around. I knew that if I didn’t, I would lose everything that mattered most to me.” So, by way of a New Year’s resolution in January 2017, Madie decided to take charge of her life and get on a path of physical fitness – to shed the weight she had packed on as a result of depression, but more so, to shed the burdens she bore. This path eventually led her right to POUND®’s doorstep. “I was inspired with the idea of taking up a fitness course, so I enrolled in a Group Exercise Instructor Certification Course under NESTA,” Madie recounts. While prepping to attend the Asian Fitness Convention in Thailand, she chanced upon POUND® on the roster of classes and decided to sign-up.

Each session is a fusion of cardio, Pilates, plyometric and isometric poses and movement, and involves around 450 to 500 squats and lunges. The process beats every part of your body – from your arms and your core to your glutes and your thighs – into shape, while allowing you to express yourself through music.” workout. It empowers you to kick stress in the rear while shedding weight, pound for POUND® (word play intended). “It’s the first cardio jam session that uses lightly weighted drumsticks called Ripstix®, which weigh a quarter of a pound each. So, with every movement you make, you are actually toning your arms,” Madie points out, in reference to the handheld sticks which are twice the weight of regular drumsticks. But this intense workout does way more than tone your arms and upper body. Each session is a fusion of cardio, Pilates, plyometric and isometric poses and movements, and involves around 450 to 500 squats and lunges. The process beats every part of your body – from your arms and your core to your glutes and your thighs – into shape, while allowing you to express yourself through music. POUND fitness instructor, Madie Pfiffner-Dinglasan, leads the “rockout-workout” at Platinum Fitness.

“I immediately sent an email to POUND® HQ in Los Angeles, CA. And to my surprise, they were conducting the first Philippine training within months of my email. Without hesitation, I enrolled in the certification course, and the rest is history – that day changed my life forever.” From then on, there has been no looking back. Madie learned the joy of beating life at its own stressful game, one pound of a drumstick at a time. And she has not only turned her life around, she is in the process of helping others control and conquer all that weighs them down – literally and figuratively speaking. Pound for POUND® For those who may be unaware of the craze that is taking the fitness world by storm, every 45-minute POUND® class encourages students to rock out to their

Without a doubt, at 800 to 1000 calories pounded away per class, this is one highenergy, calorie-crunching, stress-busting workout. Yet it is designed for people of all ages, from all fitness levels. Case in point, Madie has had a five-year-old student, and a 76-year-old one, as well. This is possible because the instructor can adjust the intensity level, accordingly, and is free to choose what kind of music works best for the class. Madie generally prefers to use good old rock-‘n-roll and keep things fastpaced, and her students are all too happy to keep rocking on. Unleash your inner rock star But wait, there’s more! POUND® not only boosts your fitness level, it is an exciting, enjoyable way to release happiness-laden endorphins, and to unleash your inner rock star, as well. The program was, in fact, created in 2011 by Kirsten Potenza, an LAbased recreational drummer and former college athlete who had grown bored with run-of-the-mill workouts. Her “Eureka!” moment came when, drumming without a stool and squatting over her drumkit, she realized that drumming equals exercise. Thus, the birth of the POUND® movement.

Since then, the community of POUND®loving men and women has grown exponentially, with a vibrant group right here in Manila. Those who have experienced the thrill can attest to the satisfaction a class brings. “The class is so much fun that you forget you are actually working out. I think everyone gets a high from being able to hit something… in this case, the floor. After all, when else can you do that?” Madie says, noting that the act of pounding the sticks brings a great release of tension. “It also feels like being in a concert-like environment where people are loud, having a great time and even singing along to the music,” she adds. Hit the floor, heal yourself Perhaps the best part of this revolutionary, rocking fitness class is the healing it brings – Madie can attest to this, firsthand, as can many other students who have discovered the power of POUND®. After all, the healing power of music and movement have long been proven, many times over. “My advocacy is to help other people better themselves from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem… whatever rot it is they are battling. This is so much more than a workout: it is therapeutic, it is empowerment, it is self-confidence, it is release, and it is self-love,” Madie explains. “The best part of every class is knowing that, even briefly, I have made someone feel damn good about themselves. No matter the reason, there is purpose behind why we get together and share this wonderful energy.” POUND®’s true purpose? Hit the floor and heal – the physical fitness is a bonus. Looking to pound your troubles away? Send Madie a message at wickedbodytraining@gmail.com. Or, check out the POUND® fitness classes at www.poundfit.com/find-a-class.

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Recovery Spa’s Float Pod Renewing the Force Within Flotation therapy may seem like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, but the reality is far more primal Words by Angie Duarte Photos by Macjanry Imperio

Imagine yourself in a state of utter relaxation – so much so that you seem to exist in a vacuum of bliss. You find yourself in a place of nothingness, yet, in that nothingness, you are in touch with everything – with the very core of your being. While this sounds like something so intangible as to exist only in the realms of metaphysics or science fiction, it is, in fact, achievable – and you do not have to go into a trance or propel yourself into deep space to have it either. All you need do is spend some time in a float pod. To float or not to float? And the answer would be: to float. True, a first encounter with the sleek black, super futuristic looking float capsule that is the Dream Pod Stealth may be more than a tad intimidating. But Yogini and proponent of The Healing Arts Academy, Kate Moynihan-Gonzalez, is quick to put your misgivings to rest. Kate, who is also the wellness consultant at the Recovery Spa at The Upper Deck, has seen people fall under the almost magical spell of flotation therapy. “It’s really quite simple. Imagine a personal size pool with a cover. Where you can float without having to worry about sinking. It has 18 sacks of Epsom salt. You will float. You will be so buoyant, more so than if you were in the Dead Sea,” Kate explains. “The water is heated to body temperature

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35 to 36 degrees. To add, there is music playing in the beginning and at the end… there is also light therapy. All seven different colors of our chakras alternately flash.” Clients who eventually lay their doubts aside and yield to the experience have amazing stories to tell. They speak of a gratification that few other spa treatments can bring; a relaxation so complete, that it results in renewal of mind, body, and spirit. “The secret is in staying. Just lay back, give your body to the water and let the pod do its magic,” Kate encourages. “It is so common to hear people say ‘I didn’t think I would last, but after a while I went into deep rest and it was over before I knew it.’ Oh, another common thing I hear is ‘Wow, wow, wow!’ to which I reply ‘I know, I know, I know!’ I really love getting those. It is the reason I have chosen to be a custodian of a Float Pod,” she enthuses. Why float? While some may think the craze that is the float pod is a product of some “out-there” millennial technology, the truth could not be further from that. The idea of sensory deprivation to induce a complete state of relaxation dates back to the early 1950s and is credited to American medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist, John C. Lilly. Something about the sudden

deprivation and de-stimulation of the nervous system triggers a reduction of stress on a large-scale. In this day and age of bigger-better-faster-moreNOW, a person’s nervous system is constantly bombarded with sensory stimuli, to the point of overloading. It follows, then, that eliminating the onslaught could only provide nothing short of life-changing relief. “The Pod’s environment really encourages deep relaxation by depriving your senses. The Recovery Float Pod is a large unit, and we chose black in place of white to help you shut down completely. Our Stealth unit gives us an environment to go deeper,” Kate notes. But the benefits are not limited to stressrelief and relaxation – they are more far-reaching. “The benefits are both physical and mental,” Kate points out. “Let’s break it down – warm water relaxes your body and mind and makes blood flow slower. The large amount of Epsom salt in water makes you weightless, relieving your body of any stress. It replenishes magnesium in the body which helps to produce serotonin that creates a feeling of relaxation and calm. Magnesium can also increase your energy and stamina by encouraging the production of adenosine triphosphate. Magnesium ions help reduce irritability and help

us relax by lowering the effects of adrenaline. This, in turn, helps us sleep. It also relieves pain and muscle cramps, makes insulin more effective, and prevents arteries from hardening. And, it eliminates toxins from the body. Cool right?” To enhance the entire wellness experience, Recovery Spa likewise offers a roster of massages, treatments, and facials – all within a tranquil healing environment, ensconced above the dynamic hubbub of The Upper Deck’s busy gyms and courts. Who can float? Since Recovery Spa is part of The Upper Deck, it comes as no surprise that the float pod was initially brought in with athletes in mind. Upon researching, Kate realized that “floating was already becoming a big thing amongst athletes worldwide. Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes, Carl Lewis, Peter Reid, Pat Healy to name a few. Recovery is a spa within a sports facility, so it just had to be.”

I make better choices. My joints don’t make as many cracking noises. I have started making more time for what I want in my life. I look to the positive more. I know the negative is just there right next to me but I no longer face it. I have more trust in life, in those I choose to surround myself with.

But, it isn’t just the pro athletes who come for their float fix. The pod has already gained somewhat of a following, with regulars – men, women, and even some younger clients – coming in as often as twice a week. “Floating is for almost everyone. Just remember that the water is extremely salty so you need to stay put when you are in there. Make small movements only. As such, it’s not ideal for small kids,” explains Kate. Of course, Kate and the skilled Recovery Spa team are on-hand to assist clients, and they are especially attentive to first-timers who may need extra reassurance. “We tuck the first-timers in ourselves and we stay with them in the room, should they feel the need for us to do so.” May the float be with you Anybody who has lived in the world long enough knows that things have advanced at mind-numbing speed. And, while change is unavoidable, it isn’t always exactly for the better. The stakes are often high, for those who try to keep up with life’s ridiculously fast pace, nowadays. But, it is assuring to know that we can always simplify and slow things down – to go back to the basics of finding meaning within us, even if it takes an initial jolt of deprivation. As Kate recounts, when asked about how flotation has benefited her: “I make better choices. My joints don’t make as many cracking noises. I have started making more time for what I want in my life. I look to the positive more. I know the negative is just there right next to me but I no longer face it. I have more trust in life, in those I choose to surround myself with. In the Universe. It’s funny really because our Pod looks a lot like Darth Vader but I come out feeling like the force is strong in me.” May the force – and the float – be with you, too. The Recovery Spa is located at The Upper Deck, Julia Vargas Ave., Pasig City. Float Pod sessions cost PhP1,500 (60 minutes), and PhP2,000 (90 minutes). For more information, contact 0906-8972546.

Recovery Spa’s sleek Dream Pod Stealth

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Beyond Beauty The Crystal-Clear Truth Healing Crystals and Gemstones Makati champions the power of nature’s beautiful bling Words by Angie Duarte / Photos by Macjanry Imperio

the Top 7 Bestsellers

Citrine – the stone that brings abundance and prosperity

Rose quartz – the most popular crystal for love

Black tourmaline – the ultimate stone for protection against negative energy

Aventurine – considered the luckiest of all crystals that brings luck and opportunity

Amethyst – the most sought-after crystal by those who want to have inner peace and develop their spirituality

Clear quartz – an all-healer crystal that is capable of amplifying our thoughts and desires toward manifestation

Shungite – the stone of health and called the medicine of the 21st century, usually placed in water to infuse it with healing minerals that detoxify the system

I happened upon the unassuming crystal and gemstone shop of brothers Daryll Barte and Gerald delos Santos, along with mother Delia, a few years back. The store was no more than a couple of display counters, really, tucked into a made-toorder gown shop in one of the musty halls of Makati Cinema Square. But I quickly fell in love with this little healing haven and visited almost daily, choosing to spend my lunch hour basking in the palpable, positive energy of gorgeous crystals and gemstones. The once tiny shop has since branched out into its own space, a small boutique with a large and robust following. On any given day, it is abuzz with the activity of clients from all walks of life – from socialites to soul-healers, and all characters in between. That little nook remains my happy place, in all its shiny, shimmery, splendid glory; in part because of the amiable and compassionate nature of its owners, but primarily because of the undeniable, primal power of its ware.

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“The shop was founded three years ago. It was passion turned into business. Our collection grew bigger, so one day we decided to let go some of our crystals,” Barte, who formerly held a job in the media industry, shares. “We started as an online store, but some people prefer to see and touch the crystals. We rented out a small space

inside a boutique. After two years, we had to transfer to a bigger place to accommodate more crystal enthusiasts.” While some may find it all akin to hocuspocus, fact remains that crystal healing has been around for ages – and happy are those who have tapped into its wonderful, beautiful, multi-colored wealth of wellness.

(Top) Loose gemstones in an array of color and variety of healing properties (Left) (L-R) Shop owners and crystal aficionados Gerald delos Santos, Mommy Delia, and Daryll Barte (Opposite page) From crystal amulets and generators to tumbled stones and pyramids, the shop is a treasure trove of natural healing.

A gem of an idea For those who think that crystal healing is a mere fad or throwback to the “coolonce-more” Hippie era, think again. The practice has been around since ancient civilizations, during which crystals and gemstones were used for magical and mystical purposes. Archeologists have unearthed crystal amulets, commonly made from smoky quartz and Baltic amber, dating back to as early as the Mesolithic and Paleolithic eras. After all, crystals and gemstones have been a part of the Earth itself presumably since its formation – and it is no wonder that men and women throughout history have been well-acquainted with their precious, potent properties.

“We see people’s lives being transformed when they start working with crystals. Every crystal has its own frequency that can assist in healing a person physically, emotionally, and mentally.

“Words can’t express how crystals changed our lives. Our main goal is to educate humanity about the wonderful healing power of crystals – which are God-given tools to help us heal physically, emotionally, and mentally, and evolve spiritually,” delos Santos, a former human resources manager, points out. “We wanted more people to experience the magical powers of these gifts from Gaia. We also wanted more people to avail of affordable crystals, because the market price for crystals here in the Philippines is quite high. We source our crystals from direct suppliers worldwide – Madagascar, Brazil, China, India, US, Russia, to name a few – to ensure we get authentic crystals at wholesale price. Most of our store pieces are also handpicked,” the brothers add. Crystal Healing 101 To get into the nitty-gritty of crystal healing would take volumes – in fact, volumes and volumes of books and other materials do exist, so I will leave that up to your research prowess. There are thousands of different kinds of crystals and gemstones, each with varying vibrational energies and healing properties. But, in a nutshell, crystals and gems in the same color family

recharging, and then choose your crystal or gemstone from there. If in doubt, Barte and de los Santos are always around to take you through the treasure trove of earth’s healing bling. “We have crystal basic must-haves like clear quartz, rose quartz, aventurine, citrine, black tourmaline, carnelian, jade, amethyst, lapis lazuli, tiger’s eye, moonstone, selenite, labradorite. We have large clusters and geodes, raw/rough crystals, tumbled/polished stones, towers/ generators, spheres, crystal skulls, crystal jewelry, pendulums, Himalayan salt lamps and a few Feng Shui items. We also carry rare minerals and meteorites,” Barte shares, as he names a few (yup, there’s a whole lot more!) of the goods in store. Feeling the power Do they work? The short answer is – YES, they do.

generally share the same basic properties. For instance, black stones are great for protection and for repelling negative energy, blue stones are considered faith amulets, while pink stones carry the universal energy of love and promote self-love and calm. The list goes on and on – plus, there is each stone’s relation to the various elements to consider. And, lest we forget, crystals come in all shapes, sizes and finishes (raw, tumbled, or polished) and those somehow make a difference, too. It is a lot to take in, to say the least. But the guiding principle is this: pinpoint the area of your life that needs healing or

“We see people’s lives being transformed when they start working with crystals. Every crystal has its own frequency that can assist in healing a person physically, emotionally, and mentally. Crystals are healing tools that assist humanity in spiritual evolution, as well. We are not just physical beings, we have a soul and a spirit – when we start working with crystals, we feed and nourish our soul. When you hold a crystal, there’s an etheric connection; the crystal shares its energy and blends with yours,” the brothers explain. And they can share numerous stories and testimonies of success from satisfied clients. Words, however, are not enough to convince you of the wonders of crystal healing – indeed, that would be like merely reading about a glorious meal or a resplendent sunset. Nothing beats feeling and experiencing the beauty and energy, firsthand. We could all do with a little magic and wonder in our lives, after all. Visit Healing Crystals and Gemstones Makati at F1A Mezzanine, Ground Floor, Makati Cinema Square, Chino Roces Ave, Makati.

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Cruising the GLOBAL VIEW

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F a r

E a s t Words and photos by Vernon Prieto

The Port City of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East lies in Golden Horn Bay in the Sea of Japan.

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hese days, Japan and Korea have become very popular destinations for short holidays from Manila. Airlines offer attractive fares, while reputable travel agencies offer fantastic packages to key cities in both countries. You can opt for single or multi-city visits in one country, or combine both countries for a truly fantastic vacation. Allow me to recommend cruising around the region for a comprehensive and more relaxing experience without breaking the bank.  Costa Cruises launched their special Japan and Far East itineraries, showcasing exciting ports-of-call in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China and Vladivostok in Russia. They have plenty of cruise packages to choose from, but Vladivostok was what intrigued me, so I booked the 7-night. “Classic Japan Sea Holiday” that has its embarkation and disembarkation in the Port of Hakata, in Fukuoka, Japan.    

Fukuoka musts Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyushu Island, the most southern of the four main islands in the Japanese archipelago. The seaside city has been included in lists of “Most Dynamic Cities” and “Top Liveable Cities” by major international publications. Fukuoka boasts a friendly, safe, and clean environment with efficient transportation, remarkable food, and terrific shopping. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific operate direct flights to Fukuoka, while Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways fly via Tokyo; EVA Air via Taipei; and Asiana Airlines via Seoul. The busy Hakata Station is the terminus for most shinkansen (bullet train) lines originating from Osaka and Tokyo.   Any visit to Fukuoka must definitely include relishing bowls of the delectable Hakata Ramen sold in the many yatai (street stalls)

(top Center) “Funaya” Boat Houses and Fish Pens on Ine Bay; (bottom left) One of two swimming pools in Costa’s Neo-Romantica; (round photo) Tsuzumi Gate at JR Kanazawa Temple; (bottom right) Chionji Temple in Miyaju City; (top right) Gondola-like donkos plying the Yanagawa River; (middle) Amanohashidate: The Bridge to Heaven.

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trees around the temple grounds by pilgrims seeking wisdom and academic attainment. The temple is located at the southern entrance of the pine covered Amanohashidate (Bridge in Heaven) Sandbar that spans the mouth of Miyazu Bay. The sandbar, which is ranked among Japan’s three most scenic views, appears like a pathway between heaven and earth when observed from Kasamatsu Park.

or restaurants specializing in this local fare. Another must is an out-of-town trip by local train to Yanagawa – a castle town where one can relax amongst swaying willow trees and gentle waters on a gondola-like donkobune (donko boat) down the Yanagawa River and its network of canals, while feasting on Yanagawa’s renowned unagi (eel). Pathway between heaven and earth I decided to purchase the shore excursion “Amanohashidate and Funaya Boat Houses of Ine.” Embarkation was handled very efficiently, and I found myself on board the ship, enjoying the comforts of my cozy cabin in almost no time. I was thrilled to realize that the Costa neoRomantica was

a smaller ship, which is my preference as it is easier to orient oneself and maneuver around a smaller ship than a megaship. That evening the ship sailed to Maizuru City, where it arrived the following afternoon. Maizuru is best known as a port of repatriation for Japanese servicemen and detainees of World War II. Presently, it is the district headquarters of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Our first stop was Chionji Temple in Miyazu City – a temple that houses one of Japan’s three important statues of Monju Bosatsu, the Buddhist god of wisdom and intellect. “Omikuji” (special fortunes), shaped like folding fans, are hung from pine

Next stop was the Ine town famed for the Funaya (Fisherman’s Garage/ Boathouse). The Funaya is a unique abode consisting of a boat garage, warehouse, and upper floor home. The houses are built on the shore of the bay and most of them still function as such, while a few have been transformed into izakaya (pubs) and restaurants. At 10 p.m., the ship left port and sailed towards Kanazawa, arriving at eight the next morning. Kanazawa was one of the larger cities in Japan that was spared from bombardment during the last World War. As such, many of the city’s cultural attractions like the old castle town, the Nagamachi Samurai, and Chaya Geisha districts have been preserved. Instead of going on a shore excursion, I opted to take the shuttle bus to Kanazawa Station for an authentic Japanese Oden (one pot dish) lunch and some much needed shopping. Kanazawa Station is considered one of Japan’s most visually appealing station buildings. Its architecture and massive wooden gate capture Kanazawa’s rich history, culture and arts. 

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(top left) Vladivostok Train Station is the last stop pf the Trans-Siberian Railway; (top right) Zolotoy Bridge on Golden Horn Bay is the world’s 12th longest cable-stayed bridge; (above) Sunday Market in Vladivostok’s Central Square; (right) Busan’s famous Jigalchi Fish Market.

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To book a Costa Cruise, contact your travel agent or Costa Cruises General Sales Agents in the Philippines: Travel Wide Associated Sales Philippines Inc. 5/F Unit 503, The Peninsula Court Building, 8735 Paseo de Roxas Avenue, Makati City 1226 +632  519 6070 Facsimile Number: +632 519 5023 loc. 104 costa.travelwide@gmail.com Facebook Account:  facebook.com/cruises. twasp/   Travelpeople Ltd, Inc. 17/F Times Plaza Building, United Nations Avenue corner Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila +632  465 8858 sales@travelpeople.com.ph

Russia’s San Francisco On the fourth day of the cruise, the ship headed to Vladivostok where it arrived the following morning at seven. We spent our time on board experiencing the splendid facilities of the ship like the Samsara Spa, Duty Free Shops, specialty restaurants, as well as the fun activities and engaging entertainment provided. It was an excellent warm-up for the shore excursion I purchased – the “Trans-Siberian Railroad Experience.” Vladivostok, nicknamed “Russia’s San Francisco,” is a maritime city located not far from borders with China and North Korea, and is the homeport of the Russian Pacific Fleet parked in Golden Horn Bay. During the Soviet era, the city and its environs were off-limits to foreigners; and these only opened for tourism in 1992. The ocean side city has broad boulevards bordered by elaborate century-old buildings, parks, squares and monuments. It serves as the eastern terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway, which runs between Moscow and Vladivostok The tour started with a train ride through the rural countryside with sweeping views of the ocean, forests and charming dachas (seasonal second homes). After the train journey, we were taken to the unusual Automotive Antiques Museum, which has a collection of Soviet and foreign vehicles. From there, we climbed the Eagle’s Nest observation point, overlooking Golden Horn Bay with its elegant bridge. At the site is a monument honoring Saints Cyril and Methodius; the creators of the Slavic alphabet. The spot has become a popular backdrop for wedding photos of locals.

Dynamic Busan Days six and seven were very memorable because of the delicious Korean seafood I happily consumed in both Sokcho and Busan Fish Markets. Sokcho is noted for its close proximity to the imposing Mount Seorak, as well as for its seafood. While most of the passengers headed to Mount Seorak, I boarded the shuttle bus to the colorful Tourist and Fisheries Market, where I devoured a huge snow crab for early dinner. The market, which is all at once, noisy and crowded yet clean and organized, is where all kinds of live, cooked, dried and preserved seafood are sold. Dynamic Busan, South Korea’s summer capital and second largest city, with the largest port (ninth busiest port in the world), has superb tourism, convention and sports facilities. It in fact, ranks among the world’s top MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions) destinations. Busan’s many attractions include scenic Hyundae Beach, Busan Aquarium, Busan Tower, and Shinsegae Centum City—the world’s largest shopping complex.  Since I have been to Busan several times before, I again took the shuttle bus this time to lively Gukje Market. From there, I strolled along trendy Gwangbok-dong Fashion Street, procured some gifts and necessities in vibrant Nampo-dong, and ended up in Jigalchi Fish Market. This market distributes 30 to 50 percent of the total seafood sold in South Korea. Flamboyantlycolored seafood in every shape and size are displayed atop tables, on ice or in aquariums. Thankfully, I do not suffer from high cholesterol or hypertension because I ate a two kilos of lobster, and a 1.5 kilos of snow crab with all the side dishes. After, I had a fabulous dinner in the ship’s La Fiorentina Steakhouse—a fitting end to a wonderful cruise.

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23 municipalities 2 component cities 1 endearing destination Misamis Oriental epitomizes the descriptive adage of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Exploring MisOr, we found that although it is peppered with sights highlighted by its omnipresent coastline with calming bay views and countless beaches, two white islands, gorgeous mountainscapes, a litany of some 70 waterfalls, the warmth of its people, and a wealth of pleasant surprises tucked away from the mainstream tourism radar—it is not a place marked by a single destination or attraction. Exploring MisOr is a collective experience that lures you in, cradles you with discoveries and fond memories scattered along the journey, and embraces you farewell – while leaving you with a longing to come back.

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Expat’s Commuter Guide Philippine Airlines has a number of daily flights from Manila to Laguindingan International Airport, and regular flights from other key cities around the country. There are plenty of commuting options from the Laguindingan International Airport to get to various points of Misamis Oriental. Magnum Express is a premium shuttle service accredited by the Department of Tourism. You can find its fleet right by the airport entrance.

Business hours

Its service starts daily at 3:30 a.m., with the last trip at 8 p.m. Standard fare from the airport to Cagayan de Oro is PhP199, with a 15-20 minute boarding wait time (depending on plane arrivals).

MISOR Drop-off points •

Laguindingan proper

Alubijid proper

El Salvador City proper

Opol proper

CDO drop-off points

The Northern Mindanao province beckons Here are the reasons why you should oblige…

Words by Timothy Jay Ibay Additional text by Glenn Palacio Photos by Glenn Palacio Additional photos by Macjanry Imperio

Centrio Ayala Mall

Limketkai Center

Agora Terminal

Quinasanghan (Iponan)

Savemore (Kauswagan)

Bulua proper

Its terminal going to Laguindingan International Airport can be found by the Limketkai Mall entrance. For inquiries and more information, (0917) 771-2255, (0999) 888-7999 magnumexpress_cdo@yahoo.com If you wish to hire your own van for your MisOr explorations, contact: Edwin at (0905) 105-7812

For more information, contact the Provincial Tourism Department at (08822) 721-186 or (0822) 729-996 exploremisamisoriental@gmail.com

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First Light

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As the sun rose to paint Opol’s hues, it signaled not just a fresh day with a sunny disposition, but an omen for all the pleasant discoveries in Misamis Oriental that lay ahead.

Opol has steadily benefitted from neighboring Cagayan de Oro’s growth, seeing a steady influx of industries and commerce over the past years. And with a new port connecting the municipality to key tourist destinations like Camiguin, and the Visayas islands like Bohol, (and eventually Siquijor, Cebu, and Dumaguete) – Opol will only look to further its own standing as an integral town in the country’s tourism network. Presently, one of the first routes to be introduced at the new port would be the Jagna (Bohol) – Balbagon (Camiguin) – Opol route (fares start at PhP570) – and is a welcome development for both tourists coming in via Laguindingan, and residents of the western towns of Misamis Oriental.


Coming in aboard the first flight from Manila, Apple Tree Resort & Hotel w would be the first stop of Expat’s Misamis Oriental exploration. The wide shore of Opol Beach, some 30 minutes from the Laguindingan International Airport, was quite a morning welcome to someone whose knowledge of MisOr fails to go beyond the urbanity of Cagayan de Oro. And as the sun rose to paint Opol’s hues, it signaled not just a fresh day with a sunny disposition, but an omen for all the pleasant discoveries in Misamis Oriental that lay ahead. With its proximity to the provincial capital, Opol Beach q has become a go-to weekend destination for city dwellers, and is usually the springboard for those looking to discover more of MisOr. Apart from an expansive shore that any beach bum will drool over, the beach is also renowned for its sunsets that frequently paint the Macajalar Bay horizon with fiery hues. While branded as Cagayan de Oro’s premier beach resort, Apple Tree is located in Opol’s Barangay Taboc. The 7,000-square meter property boasts a full range of facilities for both leisure and business that includes 39 guestrooms and suites, four function rooms, two ballrooms, two restaurants, two swimming pools, and a front seat to Opol Beach.


Apple Tree Resort & Hotel is located at Taboc, Opol, Misamis Oriental. For reservations and inquiries, contact (0917) 714-4040, and (0939) 907-6948, or visit www.appletreeresortcdo.com

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Philippine Ostrich and Crocodile Farm e The farm, which began operations back in 1996, with 18 ostriches imported from Africa and Australia, is envisioned to become the main supplier of ostrich meat in the country. Today, it is home to around 700 of the massive, flightless birds, and has become one of Opol’s main educational and tourist destinations. If you’ve never been up close to these large birds, you’ll find they have a knack for rekindling your childlike wonder by their sheer size alone. The bigger ones (which I learned were merely in their early teens) were probably around seven feet tall, with a huge body, and long, muscular legs built for running. I would later learn that ostriches are the fastest animals over time, able to sustain speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour for about 30 minutes. So while they looked adorable while fenced in, I’m nearly certain I’d be petrified if one decided to chase after me. According to farm manager Julius Mugot, their female ostriches produce between 60 to 80 eggs a year. And because of the substantial population growth of the farm’s ostriches, they’ve become the predominant supplier of ostrich meat in MisOr, while also supplying restaurants and hotels nationwide.


From the main highway in Opol, you can take a habal-habal (motorcycle) going to the Philippine Ostrich and Crocodile Farm. Fare is PhP30 (one way). Entrance is PhP30 for adults, PhP20 for students, PhP15 for children. You can purchase ostrich meat t at the farm for PhP1,100 per kilo. It is said the meat tastes closer to meat than chicken, and is lower in cholesterol, fat, and calories. Ostrich eggs, for decorative purposes, are also for sale – along with wallets r made from ostrich skin (starts at PhP1,300).


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For more information, contact the Farm Manager, Julius Mugot at (0917) 886-3495.

y The Macajaray Bay breeze made the fiercely blazing sun – apart from serving as a brush that painted the horizon with soothing shades of blue – matter not. It was noon in Opol, and time for the trip’s first lunch, and locals would point us in the direction of Panagatan Seafoods Restaurant. The gorgeous view of the bay and healthy selection of fresh seafood fare, have made the restaurant not only a local favorite, but also a must-try for anyone passing through Opol. Their Kinilaw Panagatan Style y (raw seafood, similar to ceviche - PhP205) is highly recommended

Panagatan Seafoods Restaurant is located along Opol Highway. It also has a branch in Centrio Mall, Cagayan de Oro. For more information, contact (0917) 713-1436 and (0922) 858-6071.

Getting there

Seven Seas Waterpark & Resort is located at Barangay Barra, Opol, and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Opol is around 30 minutes from Laguindingan International Airport. You have your choice of taking a cab/van/bus to get to Opol. The latter two costs around PhP200. If you’re coming from Cagayan de Oro, the jeep going to Opol costs PhP15 (around 30 minutes).

From the airport, you can take a van/shuttle (around PhP200) going to Bulua Mini Market. From the market or the main highway, a tricycle costs around PhP8 to get to Seven Seas.

Photo by Potpot Pinili

Take note, that bringing in food and drinks is strictly prohibited (there is a food court to help keep you fueled for all the aquatic frolicking that can be had in the resort.

One of its more unique offerings is called the Cyclone (pictured), which as you might imagine – is a recipe for tons of fun with the gang. The resort has 20 different rides and slides that ensures everyone in the group has a blast. u by those from the town. Whatever you order off the menu, though, would be a wise choice as long as you end your meal with Panagatan’s famed Buko Halo u (PhP95). A spinoff from the popular Filipino dessert, the Buko Halo is a lovely festival of flavors swimming in a coconut.

Seven Seas Waterpark & Resort is the first waterpark of this scale in Northern Mindanao—a massive, and ambitious project designed to put MisOr on the global tourism map. While there are waterparks in Asia, Seven Seas is the only one that can claim to be open whole year round. One of its more unique offerings is called the Cyclone (pictured), which as you might imagine – is a recipe for tons of fun with the gang. The resort has 20 different rides and slides that ensures everyone in the group has a blast.

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COASTAL SMORGASBORD q Naturally gifted with a location that skirts both Macajalar and Iligan Bays, and topography marked by impressive mountain and seascapes, Initao has developed into a self-sufficient municipality fueled the various enterprises that have flourished. Saying that Initao has a bevy of resorts might still be selling it short, as virtually an entire alphabet of resort names inundate the western Misamis Oriental town. And the town isn’t just thriving as a holiday destination, as the different establishments have become popular venues for meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) for different organizations – not just from Initao, but from neighboring towns and provinces. From the kitschy and the rustic, to the charming, and pristine – Initao’s collection of destinations that seamlessly combine business and leisure make it an inescapable pit stop for all MisOr explorations.

From the kitschy and the rustic, to the charming, and pristine – Initao’s collection of destinations that seamlessly combine business and leisure make it an inescapable pit stop for all MisOr explorations.

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Kawayan Cliff Resort qw A relatively new resort in a town with a slew of them, Kawayan Cliff Resort as the name suggests, is set atop a cliff that overlooks the waters of Iligan Bay. And though its location is what sets it apart from the lot, being a unique resort offering wasn’t exactly the plan.



Tennis enthusiast Nigel Balchin e was on the lookout for a residence that allowed him to enjoy his passion during his retirement years. The search led to the clifftop property with a gorgeous view of the bay. “Of course, I was interested to go ahead. However, it seemed a pity to build a tennis court on the cliff to next to the sea, when one could make better use of the view,” he shares. Though still a bit of a ways away from being a finished product, Kawayan Cliff already stands as a charming resort with three bamboo cottages, a Bamboo Bar (ideal for small functions), and a tent area environed by a thoughtfully laid out garden. While still in its infancy, the resort has become a popular backdrop for photographers, with a number of prenuptial shoots having already been hosted by Kawayan Cliff. And unlike neighboring beach level resorts, Balchin’s spread affords a welcome sense of tranquility and seclusion. “The resort is continuing to be developed, step by step,” says Balchin. “There will progressively be more facilities for accommodations, and in the coming months, we plan to build a function hall for business events, wedding receptions, and larger family reunions. And eventually… a tennis court!” Kawayan Cliff Resort is located in Pagahan, Initao. For more information, contact: (063) 222-1925 / (063) 222-5857 mcbalchin@icloud.com

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Initao-Libertad Landscape and Seascape This lush protected area spans some 1,300 hectares, extending from the foothills of the Kitanglad Mountain Range, to the northeastern shores of Iligan Bay. The expansive park is part of the province’s preservation efforts of its century-old trees – a forested ecosystem home to a profusion of species that include rare birds like the green imperial pigeon, serpent eagle, Philippine hanging parrot; rare priority reptile species like the Philippine python, Philippine long-tailed macaque, and the Philippine tarsier.

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GETTING THERE Initao is around 30 minutes from the Laguindingan International Airport, and about an hour from the Agora Terminal in Cagayan de Oro. From both points, you can take a bus/van headed to Iligan and ask to be dropped off at Initao. EXPAT TIPS If you’re looking to refuel, make a stop at Lasang Echavez Kitchenette, r where you can sample some of the best local fare.


Midway Minkay White Beach Resortand Daborge Aquasports yu What the quaint resort lacks in architectural sophistication, it makes up for with aquasports offerings—banana boat, fly fish (a more exhilarating inflatable ride), jet ski, torpedo 3 (a recipe for more laughter inducing spills), and bullet boat rides. And because Midway Minkay is a family-owned enterprise that has been around for decades, you can expect seasoned hospitality service from its staff should you be there for a short stay, a company function, and even for an extended holiday. Don’t forget to enjoy their suman (sticky rice)/mango/ hot cacao combo as you breathe in the relaxing tropical setting, or as you fuel up before feeling the rush from any of their aquasports offerings. Sea Breeze t Another new entrant to the Initao resort scene, Sea Breeze was originally thought of to be a simple pool area for locals. But in the less than three months that it’s opened its gates, the resort has already evolved to have its own restaurant area, and a few rooms for guests—all by organic demand. A cozy pool greets you as you enter its gates – one that, depending on how fair the weather is, makes it tough to draw the line between the soothing water and the sky. And as you stare out to sea – you’ll find that the name on the gate doesn’t lie. The soothing, almost meditative, sea breeze blankets you from any form of stress. Surprisingly, for such a small resort, Sea Breeze manages to bring its guests what ultimately matters in a getaway—a momentary escape. (0975) 081-5326 u

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el salvador CITY

Cheese, wine, and all things divine Get a glimpse of how the former Cagayan de Oro barrio endured a contentious battle for its cityhood to become a thriving Misamis Oriental component city.

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Abaga Falls

El Salvador is home to products commonly associated with the finer, more pleasurable things in life – cheese and wine, making the city another can’t miss stop in a province inundated with such. To locals, El Salvador is known as the “City of Mercy” – a moniker owed to the 50-foot Divine Mercy Christ statue that’s become a popular pilgrimage site for tens of thousands of devotees. To others, it is home to products commonly associated with the finer, more pleasurable things in life—cheese and wine. For its leaders, El Salvador City is envisioned as a hub of industries in the western part of MisOr, with a growing number of multinational companies and industry leaders setting a foothold in the provincial capital’s neighboring city. And for prospective tourists, El Salvador is yet another can’t miss stop in a province inundated with such. Divine Mercy Shrine q Towering atop a hill, surrounded by manicured gardens, the 50-foot statue of the Divine Mercy Christ drew over 80,000 devotees for the Feast of the Divine Mercy just last year—a number that only looks to grow as the province continues to establish itself as the go-to pilgrimage destination in Mindanao. The scenic pilgrimage site, set on a verdant nine-hectare property managed by the Divine Mercy Foundation of Mindanao, The Marians of the Immaculate Conception, and the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, also doubles as a tourist site for anyone looking to explore MisOr. It takes 200 steps up to reach the top of the hill where the statue stands, which apart from symbolizing the strength of its devotees’ faith, also rewards with a gorgeous panorama overlooking Macajalar Bay – one that even less the than religious lot can appreciate.


Salvadore Winery Correlating a random Northern Mindanao city with wine production may not be within the spectrum of notions when outsiders think about the region. But that’s exactly what a rural improvement club originally founded in the 1980s has done for El Salvador City. Since gradually evolving into a corporation, with the assistance of several government agencies, the Bolisong Women Winemakers now produce over 12,000 liters of wine a year – a sustainable livelihood for the 23 women entrepreneurs. The wines w are made from pure juice extracts of the freshest and most abundant fruits in Misamis Oriental, going through the process of natural fermentation, absent the use of any additives. The wine comes in seven variants (Duhat [plum fruit], Cashew, Banana, Pineapple, Jackfruit, Watermelon, and Ube [purple yam]), and has become a staple in souvenir shops, various retail outlets, and restobars across the province. For more information on Salvadore Winery, contact: (0927) 494-5470 / (0909) 723-5599 salvadorewine@gmail.com

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With just the right touch of sweetness to complement its sharp character, its palate balancing effects have reached recognized by enthusiasts in foreign lands as far as Dubai.

Getting there El Salvador City is around 20 kilometers west from the Laguindingan International Airport, and about the same distance east of Cagayan de Oro. From both points, you can reach El Salvador by taking a bus, van, cab, or a “motorsikad.” EXPAT TIPS The Divine Mercy Shrine is located at PSB-Ulaliman The Divine Mercy Shrine is considered a sacred site, and as such, proper attire is required. Revealing attire, and shorts are not allowed. Visitors who are unaware of this are provided with a blue cloth to cover up as necessary. Notable dates for pilgrims include the Commemoration of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Chris (Holy Week), the Feast of Mercy (every first Sunday after Easter), and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8).

Highland Fresh Dairy Now if your interest was piqued by the prospect of discovering a line of exotic wines from a foreign region, it would be a safe bet to surmise that finding out that El Salvador City is also home to utterly excellent cheese would be yet another pleasant surprise. The eponymous Gouda Cheese e – brought about by the production technology from the southern Dutch city – is as divine as they come. With just the right touch of sweetness to complement its sharp character, its palate balancing effects have been recognized by enthusiasts in foreign lands as far as Dubai.


Branded under Highland Fresh Daily, Gouda Cheese is a product of the Northern Mindanao Federation of Dairy Cooperatives – a group of 12 dairy cooperatives from across Northern Mindanao. Its line of products r, which have been carried by international coffee and bakeshop brands, also include Fresh Milk (homogenized for improved flavor, and pasteurized for longer shelf life), Flavored Milk (the cocoa variant is an absolute must-try!), White Cheese (100 percent natural cheese from pure cow’s milk, using no binders or extenders), and Pure Butter (no vegetable and artificial fats added), among others. To find out where you can get hold of Highland Fresh Dairy Products, contact:


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(0935) 907-6326 (0905) 183-270


Coastal Cocktail It may sound counterintuitive to outsiders when they think of this Northern Mindanao region, but Misamis Oriental is home to a slew of Christian pilgrimage sites, as we found during our MisOr exploration. And Talisayan is no different, with Sipaka Heights Stations of the Cross having drawn some 20,000 pilgrims last Holy Week. Set along the trek up a cone-shaped peak by the coast, Sipaka islet r doubles as one of the more interesting sites we came across in the province. Locals refer to it as Red Beach – the shore that got its distinct hue from a mixture of clay, gravel, and sand.

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q Making your way to the islet, you’ll need to pass by a small village – giving you an up close look at the slow pace with which locals get on with their days. qe People playing cards, small houses blaring random tunes, kids running around with old tires, women feeding chickens and ducks—the simple life, foreign to those far too jaded by the madding bustle of the daily carousel – yet inspiring with its absence of unnecessary complexities. Jamisolamin Farm & Resort w is what marks the start of Red Beach. On the random weekday we found ourselves in Sipaka, we found it to be a goto spot for locals to unwind. There were a couple of groups enjoying drinks in beachfront cottages, as their kids played by the shore. And as we continued to walk along the shore, another group was enjoying a stripped down picnic, while staring out the bay. Walk further around the bend, and the sand gets as fine as brown sugar, while the waters become the most swim-friendly in the islet. And as is common in MisOr’s waters, the presence of a cold spring can also be found on the other side of Red Beach. Diving, which I learned MisOr to have a bevy of ideal spots for, can also be enjoyed in Talisayan. Despite the absence of a proliferation of dive shops often found in more popular spots in the Philippines, the town has been known for a few dive sites of its own.


Sipaka Point boasts a gorgeous submarine garden features large sea fans, hard and soft corals, basket sponges, and feather stars as the backdrop for snappers, stingrays, groupers, and a myriad of other vibrantly colored fish – making the site an ideal canvas for underwater photography.


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Getting there Talisayan is around 2 ½ hours northeast of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, take a bus/van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City and ask to be dropped off at Talisayan. Villa Arcadia Beach Resort is located at Calamcam, Talisayan. For more information: (0915) 377-3738 @villaarcadiabeachresort

Expat tips You can’t leave town without sampling Talisayan’s seafood fare. Kan-anan by the Bay is one of the more popular restaurants, with a selection of all the freshest seafood available in the region, as well as a soothing view of Gingoog Bay. While you might encounter analysis paralysis with the plethora of options, you’d


be wise to order the Sutukil (one fish prepared three ways: grilled, kinilaw [raw fish similar to ceviche], and tinola [broth usually made with papaya, spinach, and ginger])—especially sumptuous when made with Bariles fish. Kan-anan by the Sea is located at P1, Barangay Poblacion, Talisayan. For inquiries and reservations, contact: (0906) 909-2373, or (0917) 713-1262


Sipaka Point boasts a gorgeous submarine garden features large sea fans, hard and soft corals, basket sponges, and feather stars as the backdrop for snappers, stingrays, groupers, and a myriad of other vibrantly colored fish – making the site an ideal canvas for underwater photography. For wreck divers, there’s Sta. Ines—a World War II pontoon that’s become an artificial habitat for black and fan corals, as well as jacks, sweetlips, red snappers, surgeonfish, batfish, among other marine life. Talisayan Shoal, meanwhile, is

another convenient option for those looking for a quick plunge – although curiously, the usual takeoff is from a dive resort in neighboring town of Balingoan. For more conventional leisure, we found Calamcam White Beach t to be an utterly pleasant surprise. Its inviting, clear waters rival most of what you’ll find across MisOr. While there are certain stretches of the beach that are public, there are a few resorts dotting Calamcam that’s ideal for extended relaxation with loved ones. One of them is Villa Arcadia u – a resort that’s co-maintained by the

property’s group of owners, and Talisayan’s local government. It has a collection of rooms (from dorms, to private villas), open cottages, conference halls, and a swimming pool, among its accommodation offerings. But apart from the usual (albeit beautiful) beach fare, the resort also plays into Talisayan Mayor Rommel Maslog’s thrust to promote organic farming. Villa Arcadia houses organic farms that produce banana, sweet potato, corn, chicken, balut, and fertilizers of the organic ilk. The products are displayed in the town’s monthly trading posts.

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A FATE BORN OF FAITH The continued commercial development of Cagayan de Oro has inevitably led to a positive trickle down effect on its neighboring towns. The fact is hard to miss as we combed the municipalities west of the provincial capital, with progressive developments in commercial and residential areas sprouting across Laguindingan, Opol, and El Salvador City. Tagoloan, the first town east of Cagayan de Oro, is no different. What the municipality lacks in touristic attractions possessed by its Misamis Oriental brethren, it makes up for with an increasingly competitive industrial footing. San Miguel Corporation recently invested some PhP6 billion to build a brewery in Tagoloan—just the second in the whole of Mindanao, and the sixth in the entire country. Recently, plans of constructing of hotel-mall-hospital complex were unveiled, while the groundwork for various other infrastructure projects have also been laid—these, along with a host of other corporations maintaining presence in Tagoloan comes as quite a series of developments for what was once a quiet agricultural town. A deeper look into the town’s history, though, renders the recent developments in Tagoloan’s fate with a sense of destiny. Legend has it that the name Tagoloan came about when a priest searched for the water source that caused severe flooding, loss of life, and destruction of properties in a nearby town. The story goes that after weeks of searching, he found the wellspring under a big rock – seemingly hidden to defy discovery. The priest called it Tagoolohan – from tago (concealed), and olohan (source). Meanwhile, another version of the town name’s etymology has it originating from the Moslem word tago (place) and oloan (head, or chief).

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Whichever you choose to adhere to – “concealed source,” or “place of chief” – makes sense for a town that that has slowly established itself as a silent cradle of industries in the province, while also being the hometown to a long list of dedicated political figures in MisOr, including Gov. Yevgeny “Bambi” Emano. But perhaps the progressive economic developments enjoyed by Tagoloan are owed in part to its people’s innate sense of gratitude, and faith. We came across this theory when we spoke with one of the members of the towns Mother Butler Mission Guild – caretakers of the Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria e (Virgin of Candelaria). The image of the town’s patron saint, we were told, is garbed with elaborate dresses w donated by patrons as a way of thanksgiving for their successes in life. Today, some of the donated dresses can be viewed at a small museum located at the back of the Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria Church. q

Getting there Tagoloan is around 22 kilometers east of Cagayan de Oro. From most transport terminals in the city, you can take any of the number of transportation options (bus, van, jeepneys, habal-habal) to get to the neighboring town. Travel time is around 35 minutes.


What the municipality lacks in touristic attractions possessed by its Misamis Oriental brethren, it makes up for with an increasingly competitive industrial footing.




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EXPLOSIONS OF GRANDEUR Having been met by a stunning forested trail soon after I entered the gates of Sagpulon Falls, I doubted that my sensual awe would crescendo when I reached the cascades – as the verdant greens, raw as it is soothing, already took heaps of my breath away.

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When the prospect of exploring Misamis Oriental first came to fold, a quick Google image search flashed on my screen a stunning photo of Sagpulon Falls. It was enough to convince us to book a flight and explore what other wonders the Northern Mindanao province had to offer. And in the middle of what would be a weeklong sojourn in MisOr, it had gotten lost on me that Jasaan was where the majestic cascade laid—the town whose thicket-lined roads up the mountain we were traversing. Despite the many pleasant discoveries we came across, the inevitable weariness from a week packed with itineraries reared its head that morning. But it was one that the sheer excitement of knowing we were in the midst of one of Misamis Oriental’s natural masterpieces abruptly, and pleasantly, washed away. It wouldn’t take long for the headliner to make its presence felt, as a short trek later, there it was—exponentially more stunning than its best photo— Sagpulon Falls. q As I looked up its 150-foot grandeur, to the sets of mist torpedoing ever so gracefully toward the emerald basin of Sagpulon Falls, I found myself at once gaping in astonishment, and grateful for the majestic sight rhythmically unfolding in front of me.

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When framed by the perfect snap, it’s a postcard of immaculate tropical bliss. When enjoyed with the right company, it’s a time to be looked back at fondly. There have been a handful of times during my travels that I found myself laughing to myself—a nervous reaction to feeling indebted to the universe for showing me its works of art. Sagpulon Falls drew from within me a more muted response – a silent awe that awoke a child-like wonder that’s become frequently elusive in an adult’s oft-jaded world.

Expat tips Sagpulon Falls is just 6.5 kilometers from Jasaan’s main highway. Spring View Resort is the closest landmark going to the falls. Amazingly, entrance for adults is just PhP20 (PhP10 for children), while cottage rental fees are PhP150. You can bring in drinks and snacks (a good bottle of liquor comes in handy as the water can be quite cold), as long as you clean after yourself. It is advised that you visit sometime around the wet season, as Sagpulon Falls’ collection of cascades tend to thin during dry season. Getting there From the Agora Terminal, you can take a jeep (PhP30) going to Solana Highway. Advise the driver to drop you off where you can get a habal-habal (PhP50) going to Sagpulon Falls.

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There’s something about naked islands, and sandbars. When framed by the perfect snap, it’s a postcard of immaculate tropical bliss. When enjoyed with the right company, it’s a time to be looked back at fondly. Even the requisite boat ride brings with it different stages—the introspective meandering of the mind as you traverse the waters, with nothing but the sea, sky, and the steady purr of the outrigger boat inebriates the senses; the building anticipation as the waters shift to lighter shades, and the blinding white sands first become perceptible; and of course that moment when everyone takes their phones and cameras out to document the arrival. No matter how many times you’ve taken that boat ride to the promise of something pristine, it doesn’t cease to excite – to conjure images painted with a mix of turquoise and white, and sprayed by a hint of amber sunrays. This what we hoped for, anyway, when told of Agutayan Island w – Jasaan’s popular sandbar that sits amid a marine sanctuary. And on that sunny Thursday morning, that’s what we got.

Expat tips At the jump-off point, there is a PhP50 fee collected. Boat rides cost PhP1,500 (for up to 6 pax – PhP3,500 for up to 20 pax).

Just a 20-minute boat ride away from the jump-off point in Barangay Jampason (about a five-minute drive from the beautiful Sophie Red Hotel), Agutayan Island is an extremely accessible slice of paradise that serves the perfect springboard for all leisurely jaunts in Jasaan.

Because the water going to the island tends to get rough later in the day, it is advised that trips be scheduled early in the morning. For inquiries and reservations, contact Leona Cabagnot at (0905) 684-8538.


Should you schedule your visit on a random weekday (preferably one blessed with fair weather), you’ll most likely have the naked island all to yourself. The surrounding protected area (where 174 endangered giant clams e were seeded at the start of the millennium) is ideal for snorkeling, while Agutayan itself is perfect for lounging, picnics, and plotting where in MisOr to take your wandering feet next.

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The Philippine Sailfin Lizard r is an oviparous reptile endemic to the country. In the village of Solana, a couple fed a single lizard back in 2002. Over the years, it has multiplied – with some estimates suggesting that there are presently over 80 in Jasaan alone. There is a public area in Barangay Solana where people are allowed to observe and feed the animals in what has become its natural habitat. The story goes that a Chinese national, who had a collection of exotic animals, was the one who brought the first sailfin lizards into Jasaan. And when the town, along with his house, was flooded, that’s when people began seeing these reptiles freely roaming around Jasaan. The curious thing about Sailfin Lizards, is that they’ve naturally acclimated to its environs, and the locals have taken kindly to them doing so. During our visit, we saw a cute two-year-old girl unperturbed by sailfin lizards entering her home, and mingling with household dogs and chickens. It’s also quite a sight to see the omnivorous lizards jump on tree branches, move across the river (they are excellent swimmers), and even more impressive to see its young running on water.

r Sophie Red t Probably the most luxurious hotel and resort in Misamis Oriental, Sophie Red was a welcome break from the string of raw, rugged, and stripped down resorts we visited during our MisOr exploration. But apart from the stylish, modern comforts it offers (well-appointed rooms with a view of its inviting pool and the sea, two restaurants, and a spa, among others), Sophie Red also stands as a great launch pad for all the travels that lie ahead. For inquiries and reservations, contact: (0956) 180-2411 / (0955) 649-9181

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progressive sustainability A glimpse into how the progressive town is not just a model for industrial development, but a benchmark for sustainable practices and livelihood projects.

Though the municipality of Villanueva might not come up when asking locals about suggested destinations in Misamis Oriental, the town plays a vital role that goes beyond being one of the stops in the Northern Mindanao tourist trail. What Villanueva lacks in powdery white sands, and draping waterfalls abundant in its neighboring towns, it makes up for with its industries and products – despite being one of the smaller municipalities in MisOr.

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There is a wealth of plants from the food and beverage industry that have set up shop in Villanueva – ranging from local brands to massive multinational companies. The town also takes pride in being the power capital of Mindanao with STEAG State Power Inc.’s (SPI) Mindanao Power Plant supplying electricty to the 22 million inhabitants of the second-largest island in the country. The two-unit power plant, which produces electricity from hard coal, is the third foreign power plant operated by the German company. But despite being the most industrialized in Misamis Oriental, Villanueva has been committed to eco-friendly practices and standards. A testament to this is the town’s production of fly ash bricks q – made from the coal combustion waste materials of the power plant. Trash to cash Apart from making use of the plant’s waste materials, these firebricks have also been shown to save up to 50 percent on cement usage, are five times stronger than cement hollow blocks, lead to up to 40 percent savings on construction costs, are termite resistant, and is ideal for the humid Philippine climate. Another line of upcycled products comes from SPI’s quick lime bags. The power plant uses quick lime to collect pollutants (like sulphur oxide) that is emitted when coal is burned. The imported powdered quick lime comes in large bags, which when emptied are then turned by a local women’s cooperative group called VK (VK General Services Multipurpose Cooperative) into stylish, quality handbags, e backpacks, mats, and other gift items. In 2015, just a year into selling the upcycled lime bag products, VK reportedly grossed over PhP500,000, while also generating employment in the community. There’s also Dayawan Handmade Paper— an organization made up of 32 families that’s likewise supported by SPI. The families were relocated when SPI’s coal fired power plant was constructed in their former village. Apart from providing relocation housing, the families were also provided with skills enhancement in various livelihood projects – one of which was handmade paper production. The venture, which initially operated with group of 10 women, now produces greeting cards, boxes, penholders, lampshades, and other novelty items, w which have been exported to other Asian countries, Europe, and the US.

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Expat tips Villanueva is around 29.6 kilometers east of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, you can take a jeep/bus/van headed to Villanueva. For inquiries and more information about Dayawan Handmade Paper (0943) 434-2260 (0927) 853-0811 sanroquehandmade@gmail.com


t r It’s not all upcycled, and mass produced goods in Villanueva, there’s also Sweet Thingsrt – a bakeshop that as its name suggests, is a one-stop shop for your sugar fix. They have a selection of affordable cakes, shakes, and pastries that sure to give you the rush needed (or food coma) for all your MisOr explorations. Kaadlawan Festival y is an annual event that celebrates Villanueva’s charter day, and is period of thanksgiving for the various resources that town has been blessed with – abundant sources of electricity, productive industrial resources, bounties of agricultural harvest, nature, culture, and the tranquility of united living. The vibrant weeklong festival is held every second week of June.

Additional photo courtesy of LGU Villanueva


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Bounty of the Sea

The rustic town of Balingasag is the main source of bangus (milkfish) in Misamis Oriental, thanks to its Mariculture Park that produces some 100 metric tons (from around 188 open water cages) a year. The Balingasag Mariculture Park (BMP) q has over 195 hectares spread across the town’s five coastal barangays (villages). Apart from being the main source of bangus in the province, the BMP has also provided opportunities like employing out of school youths, providing women with skills and livelihood training, while also providing livelihood for some 500 fisher folk. As a tribute to the bounty of the sea, Balingasag celebrates what has become the annual LamBangus Festival—a weeklong festivity marked by activities like street dancing competitions, live music, culminating in the street gathering of the locals to cook bangus on a 300-meter long grill.

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One of the more interesting features of Balingasag is the Vega Ancestral House t—a structure estimated to be around 200 years old. History has it that in the 1800s, a young merchant from Cebu by the name of Ignacio Juan Vega settled in a small Northern Mindanao town that would be later known as Balingasag. It is believed that it was through Vega that the Cebuano devotion to the Sto. Nino (Child Jesus) was introduced to the townsfolk of Balingasag. It is fitting, then, that the Diyandi Festival e – celebrated during the feast of Senior Sto. Nino – is one of the more anticipated events in Balingasag, while the Vega Ancestral House remains the town’s prominent landmark.

Expat tips You can’t leave town without getting hold of Balingasag’s bangus products. If you’re looking to bring it with you as you move across MisOr, we recommend getting the Bottled Bangus in Corn Oil . e Tasty and plump, the bottled variety of Balingasag’s most famous (and delicious) product also lasts longer than its frozen counterpart.


The town’s Bay Walk, and Lambagu Café r is where locals come to relax and unwind after the sun sets. There, you can enjoy street fare, with the backdrop of the beautiful Macajalar Bay. And on the weekends there’s live acoustic music to add to the setting’s charm. And, if you happen to stay the night, there’s Zeevanz Suites at Osmena St. in Barangay 6. Rooms start at an affordable PhP898. For inquiries and reservations, (0935) 547-2043

Getting there Balingasag is around 52 kilometers northeast of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, take a bus/van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City and ask to be dropped off at Balingasag.



Photo by Aljun Fermo


Photo by Aljun Fermo

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Untapped Potential The eastern municipality of Kinoguitan is blessed to be situated along Misamis Oriental’s “tourism belt.” But because of economic constraints, it has yet to establish its presence on the tourism map unlike its neighboring towns. But it has to be said that the operative words are “economic constraints,” as Kinoguitan has six coastal barangays (villages) that cradle rich marine ecosystems. And because its coral reefs are far from the busy ports, they remain teeming with life—making the municipality’s dive tourism brimming with potential. A quick look at a map makes this unsurprising, though, with Kinoguitan just across Camiguin Island, e and two towns away from MisOr’s renowned diving destination – Medina. Kinoguitan may be a quiet, unassuming town today, but with the entry of the right investors (for say a dive resort, or floating restaurants) who can take advantage of the town’s naturally strategic location, its potential may just come out of the shadows. Bagakay Bay Park q is where you can enjoy the soothing views of Camiguin Island, and the edge of Macajalar Bay. On a clear, sunny day – like we were blessed with during our visit – the sky’s reflection on the waters made for a horizon as soothing as blue can be. And while our quick stop did not allow us to experience it ourselves, locals swear that fiery, golden sunsets paint the bay with a romantic backdrop you won’t soon forget. Another similarly refreshing, albeit, much quainter spot in town is the shore by the Centennial Mangroves w. As we plotted where our MisOr exploration would take us next, the mind could not help but get lost in satiating sea breeze, and the horizon that beckoned tranquil introspection.

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Kinoguitan has six coastal barangays (villages) that cradle rich marine ecosystems. And because its coral reefs are far from the busy ports, they remain teeming with life—making the municipality’s dive tourism brimming with potential.


Expat tips Like Cebu, Kinoguitan holds a Sinulog Festival celebration every fourth Sunday of January in honor of its patron saint Senior Sto. Nino. In a town that has a slew of festivals lined up every year, it stands out as the most festive event in Kinoguitan, with people from neighboring towns coming in to join the celebration.


Getting there Kinoguitan is around 81 kilometers (a little over two hours) northeast of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, take a bus/van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City, and ask to be dropped of at Kinoguitan.


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Progressive Ascension As the gateway to not just Misamis Oriental, but also the rest of Northern Mindanao, Laguindingan is steadily becoming a melting pot for business, culture, and soon – tourism. And with the increasing traffic handled by the Laguindingan International Airport (to and from key cities around the Philippines), the momentum of growth enjoyed by the municipality only looks to be furthered in time. What was once a sleepy town that people only used to pass through to get to Lanao del Norte, Laguindingan has become a hotbed for immigrants preparing for something much bigger than what it was before. Similar to other towns surrounding Cagayan de Oro (CDO), Laguindingan has benefitted from the continued commercialization and urbanization of the provincial capital, with businesses establishing a foothold in the municipality. With the unprecedented growth currently being witnessed by Laguindingan, it didn’t take long for even us outsiders to notice the bustling developments sprouting around town. Ambitious resorts (envisioned to mimic the posh ones in Maldives) q are being developed along its white sanded shores, commercial zones are increasing, while residential investment opportunities are enticing Northern Mindanao folk. People always think that they’re flying to CDO— soon enough, they’ll now where they’re actually landing. The third oldest church in MisOr, Berhen delos Remedios er (otherwise known as Birhen sa Moog) held its first mass on Feb. 26, 1600. This was done on piled stones by the cliff, where the Virgin Mary was believed to have appeared. Since the supposed apparition, locals believe the water from the spring beneath the cliff to have healing powers against illnesses.

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Today, the Birhen sa Moog (named after its location in Barangay Moog) remains a popular destination for locals. During our visit, we came upon locals enjoying picnics, as kids climbed down the cliff and basked in the water under the summer sun. The construction of the Laguindingan International Airport saw a number of women and their families displaced their homes, and relocated to the coastal areas in town. But just as the airport birthed opportunities for the municipality, the displaced women came across their own when the Ayala Foundation extended a hand to establish a weavers multi-purpose cooperative. Through trainings conducted by the Philippine Textile Research Institute, the women learned handloom weaving, and discovered a path to a better life. Known as ABAI Weavers Multi-purpose Cooperative, the weavers use only the finest silk yarn, woven on traditional handlooms. The enterprise pays tribute to the artistry and craftsmanship of each weaver, who tediously works for eight hours per day to produce 1.5 meters of silk. The practice directly supports some 25 families in Laguindingan, while also supporting the countless mulberry farmers and cocoon growers across Misamis Oriental. Today, Mindanao Silk has gained increasing demand, particularly after President Rodrigo Duterte chose to wear a Barong Tagalog made with the delicate material for his inauguration.


Expat tips

The ABAI Weavers Multi-Purpose Cooperative is located at GK Diamond Village, Kibaghot, Laguindingan. For more information about Mindanao Silk, contact: (0935) 138-7270 (0905) 954-4700

One of the more popular tourist spots in Laguindingan is the Tubajon Aqua Marine Water Park and Fish Sanctuary. w The eco-tourism destination is located within a 22-hectare mangrove forest that’s become the natural habitat for small species of fish, and other marine organisms. Boardwalks connect the predominant points of the park, and serve as a plane to bond with loved ones amidst refreshing natural greens. You could also rent cottages (for around PhP500), where you could chill and enjoy snacks. From the main highway, you can take a short habal-habal (motorcycle) ride going to the park. There’s a small entrance fee of PhP20 (PhP10 for kids).

Getting there Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have over 11 flights per day going to Laguindingan from Manila. There are also regular flights coming in from key cities like Cebu, Davao, Angeles (Clark Airport), and Zamboanga. Cagayan de Oro is less than an hour away from Laguindingan. There are a number of options available going to different points of MisOr from the airport.

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artful discovery q

One of the things that made our exploration of Misamis Oriental all the more endearing is how in the course of combing through the province – across towns that seemed utterly nondescript at first sight – pleasant discoveries would surface when you least expect it. Such was the case when we passed by Lagonglong – as rustic a town as you would come across in MisOr. Apart form the warm welcome afforded by the municipal tourism office, and its affable Mayor Jay Albert C. Puertas, it was an impressive and noble enterprise that would catch our eye. Tinabuan Arts & Crafts q – the brainchild of social and cultural entrepreneur Esmerna Gabutina – was the proprietor’s creative solution to the persistent state of unemployment in Lagonglong. Today, the enterprise manufactures a gamut of products from bags and table runners, to various home décor and a slew of novelty items that are sold in major retail outlets like Rustan’s, and as far as the UK.

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The Tinabuan Arts & Crafts do not only provide sustainable livelihood and pride to residents of Lagonglong, it does so through sustainable, ethical, and environmentally responsible means.

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The beautiful, global grade products are made from abaca harvested from the mountains of Lagonglong, and woven by locals into materials like sinamay (loosely woven abaca cloth), and hinabul (densely woven abaca cloth), with some products requiring the use of heirloom handlooms inherited from generations of weavers. All materials used for production are locally sourced, renewable, and biodegradable, which include: recycled paper, silk, cotton, bamboo, barks, dried grass, wildflowers, fruits, and vegetables. The Tinabuan Arts & Crafts do not only provide sustainable livelihood and pride to residents of Lagonglong, it does so through sustainable, ethical, and environmentally responsible means.

w Expat tips Tinabuan Arts & Crafts patgabutina1966@gmail @TinabuanArtsCrafts. Del Carmen Beach and Swimming Pool

The end results are a collection of artsy, functional products that reflect the proud, yet unassuming culture of Lagonglong. Lagonglong may have a quiet disposition about it, but it is not bereft when it comes to the ability to offer fun. And the town does so with Del Carmen Beach and Swimming Pool. w This aqua park located in Barangay Kauswagan offers a bunch of water activities perfect for groups itching for a little fun in the sun. Apart form the requisite inflatable slides and obstacles, the resort also offers the standard aquatic adventure fare like kayaks, jet skis, and stand up paddle boards. For more exhilarating rides, there’s the banana boat, Bandwagon, Tremor, and Flyer – inflatable recipes for tons of fun for the group.

(0905) 150-0395, delcarmenbeachpool@gmail.com @DelCarmenBechPool. Take note that proper swimwear is required for use of the aqua park. For more information on Lagonglong tourism, contact Teofilo Jamero (0905) 339-1830

Getting there Lagonglong is around 55 kilometers northeast of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, get a bus/van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City, and asked to be dropped off at Lagonglong.

There are also beachfront cottages for picnics and beach lounging, swimming pools, and rooms for those who wish to stay the night.

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The Way of the Bay

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Misamis Oriental – as a predominantly coastal province, with a healthy dose of peaks and valleys making up its diverse topography – is blessed with a lay of the land that makes for a tourism industry that’s as promising as it is enticing. But getting people to go to a naturally blessed destination isn’t the concern for Medina Mayor Donato Chan—it’s ensuring that people understand how to keep the environment that way. To the shortsighted who prioritize economic benefits above all else, the approach may seem counterproductive. But this reverse engineered formula for developing tourism is how it should be done all along—just ask those who frown upon the practices that continue to doom the once pristine paradise island of Boracay. In line with this train of thought, Medina has partnered with Metro Pacific Investments Foundation’s environmental awareness initiative Shore It Up – a thrust that focuses on underwater and coastal cleanups as its core activities. The local government has also trained fisher folk as certified divers, to serve as Medina’s Marine Protection Inspection Custodians – the country’s first batch of its kind.

“The fight to preserve the environment is easier said than done,” said Chan following the 2017 event. “It is a lifelong quest. In a small way, we started protecting our marine biology in Medina. And during Expat’s recent visit to the town, volunteer divers convened once again for another coastal/underwater cleanup session. In 2017, following a similar activity, over 2,000 volunteers where able to collect 787 kilos of trash across a seven-kilometer coastline, and three dive sites. It was the tail end of our MisOr exploration, and both body and mind grew weary from the hectic week that saw us sample some of the best things the province had to offer as we made our way from the western towns to the easternmost. With just a couple of days left in what became our Northern Mindanao home, the mind had started to look towards the work lay ahead, while the physical toll appeared to be something we would have to soldier through. That was until Duka Bay q sprung from our peripherals. The mere sight of the beautiful combination of the pristine bay and the well-laid out resort soothed both mind and body almost instantly. And as we settled into our villa, and took in the views from the terrace – it was easy to see why people raved about the place.

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Duka Bay Resort is the jump-off point for what is considered the ultimate dive destination in MisOr. It has three main dive sites: Paradise Garden (up to 110 feet deep) featuring canyons and overhangs that’s home to hard and soft corals, and a marine ecosystem that includes species like lionfish moray eels, scorpion fish, sweetlips, and turtles, among others; the Aquarium Garden (up to 90 feet deep) features a freshwater spring spurting from the sea floor (because the spring is rich in nutrients, it attracts residential and pelagic fish); and the Japanese Garden (up to 60 feet deep).


Photo by Penn de los Santos

Apart from exploring what is deemed one of the most beautiful marine sanctuaries in Mindanao, diving in Duka Bay w also allows you to do your part by joining its plant a coral program. More experienced divers can also be brought to the renowned dive sites in neighboring Camiguin Island. But Duka Bay offers far more than submarine adventures, with a number of well-appointed beachfront villas and suites e standing as a gorgeous invite for a leisurely stay. For non-divers, snorkeling, kayaking, banana and glass bottom boat rides, are available as well, while its in-house restaurant lets you feast on some of the best cuisine Northern Mindanao has to offer. A street re-enactment of the passion of Christ—the Hinuklog Festival t is a Lenten presentation made possible through the efforts of some 300 volunteers and production staff of the Lumadnong Magdudula sa Medina

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A street re-enactment of the passion of Christ—the Hinuklog Festival is a Lenten presentation made possible through the efforts of some 300 volunteers and production staff of the Lumadnong Magdudula sa Medina (Lumagmed).


r Getting there

(Lumagmed). A popular practice back in the 1970s, the two-day street play (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday) was revived by the municipality in 2011. It has since been supported by various government and private agencies, and has become a popular attraction for both locals and tourists – so much so that a number of pilgrims who used to travel to Camiguin during Holy Week, have been staying in Medina for the festival.

Alibuag Cold Spring r is a popular swimming destination for locals, particularly when the notoriously humid Philippine weather becomes unforgiving. The crystal clear water, which flows from the mountains of Barangay Duka, has been contained in a 100-square meter pool, making it as swim-friendly as can be for both the young and old.

Medina is about three hours (around 112 kilometers) east of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, you can take a bus/van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City, and asked to be dropped off at Medina (fare should be around PhP200). Alibuag Cold Spring is just some 500 meters from Duka Bay Resort, just off the coast. For more information about Medina tourism, contact: (0997) 805-5120 (0977) 819-3613

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An Inviting Sanctuary It was past the midway point of a weeklong MisOr exploration. As delightful as the discoveries along the way were, the inevitable signs of wear were ever so subtly making its presence felt in our bodies. But with more towns to comb through on our list, we paid it no mind. And Alibuag Beach Park q would help massively in that regard. Some two kilometers from Mantianak Park and the main highway, the local governmentowned resort, with its white sands and clear waters, is considered as one of Sugbongcogon’s greatest treasures. We

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were unaware of that at the time, so as we walked down to the beach, with the shade of aquamarine peering through the trees of the park’s terrace – there was no other recourse than to oblige the water’s beckoning. Inviting, as it is pristine, Alibuag Beach blessed us with a reinvigorating swim that went a long way in fueling us for the many pleasant discoveries that lay ahead. And the clear mid-morning sky that allowed the sea to mirror its soothing tones only served to heighten the appreciation for Sugbongcogon’s understated gem.


Inviting, as it is pristine, Alibuag Beach blessed us with a reinvigorating swim that went a long way in fueling us for the many pleasant discoveries that lay ahead.

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Mantianak Zoological and Botanical Garden Mantianak Park, a wildlife rescue center, is home to a variety of wild animals that include tigers, wild boars, crocodiles, monkeys, snakes, a plethora of species of birds and fish, among other creatures you’ve probably never seen berfore. The three-hectare property is the first of its kind in the province, and is presently caring for 178 different species of animals. Its verdant surroundings is a great setting to get up close to the animals you’ve probably only seen on screens, and makes for a fun outdoor experience for families and friends. At Mantianak, you can find

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Expat tips Sugbongcogon is 78 kilometers (around two hours) northeast of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora terminal, you can take a bus/van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City and asked to be dropped off at Sugbongcogon. Fare is around PhP145. Both Alibuag Beach Park, and Mantianak Zoological and Botanical Garden have available accommodations. There are also minimal entrance fees for both (just around US$2!). Another relaxing site is Mimbuaya Falls —a 26-foot waterfall that cascades into a 20-foot deep basin. The rhythmic roar of the rushing water, and the rich greens that surround make for a spot perfect for introspection.


For more information about Sugbongcogon tourism, contact (0977) 162-8858 @lgusugbongcogon


yourself playing with tiger cubs one moment, feeding a flock of doves the next, being next to a massive python, or learning about the life cycle of the vibrant butterflies in its botanical garden. And while the animals will always be the center of attention, the park also serves as a relaxing haven where you can spend the entire day (and night) away from the world’s usual bustle. House of History Known as “Dako Balay” in the vernacular, the Lagbas Ancestral House e was originally built in 1921. It is magnificent in any light, but transmogrifies into elevated surrealism when night and the house lights interplay.

Walking around the massive spread that features Spanish and Japanese architectural elements, you feel a sense of the deep history that lives within the walls of the ancestral home.

Walking around the massive spread that features Spanish and Japanese architectural elements, you feel a sense of the deep history that lives within the walls of the ancestral home. And it’s because history is virtually embedded in it. Dako Balay has played many roles in the country’s colonial history, having been repurposed as a place of refuge for those affected by the Second World War; a temporary school for children in lieu of the conflict-torn local school; a makeshift hospital; and as the site of various political gatherings, which had presidents—from Diosdado Macapagal, to Ferdinand Marcos, to the former’s daughter, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—as some of its esteemed visitors.

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To Fertility and Beyond Travelling through the vast landscape of Claveria, it’s impossible to miss the gorgeous sceneries that pepper its mountainscapes. In the summer, the sunsets are vivid red, making for a stunning blend of scarlet mountains and crimson skies. And when clouds obscure the sun, the panorama becomes a spectacle featuring the sly interplay of light and shadow. Considered as the go-to getaway for Misamis Oriental residents looking for respite from the summer heat, the landlocked municipality of Claveria is one that’s frequently blanketed by fog, and draped with cold weather. It’s also a hub for adventure seekers, eager for the spiritual healing brought about by communing with the mountains. The locality is blessed with two towering peaks – Mount Lumot and Mount Sumagaya – both of which require ample expertise to climb. With its technical routes compounded by heavily mossed grounds, and frequently changing weather, mountaineers must prepare themselves both physically and mentally if they wish to set foot on the summit. Unlike any other mountain I’ve climbed, the terrain in Mount Lumot’s upper portion requires careful navigation of the mossy land, as a misstep could lead to a fall. On the flipside, there are sufficient, albeit ice cold, water sources along the climb. And once you reach the peak, you’ll come across the crash site of

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Cebu Pacific’s Flight 387, marked by a wooden cross where the pilot’s uniform was placed. The crash, which is considered as one of the country’s worst aviation accidents, happened on Feb. 2, 1998 when a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 hit the slopes of the mountain, killing all 104 people on board. At the foot of Mount Sumagaya, you can find the Flight 387 Shrine q – a memorial for the victims of the disaster. It is said that at a certain level, when you look at the monument – which is shaped like a plane’s tail – you can see the exact point of the crash. With the biggest land area in MisOr (taking up around a third of the province), the municipality is also blessed with truly fertile soil. From Claveria Rd., which cuts through the mountain range, you can see the soil’s red hues – visual evidence of its fertility. This has led to Claveria’s recognition as the vegetable basket of MisOr – with its farmers producing a variety of corn, tobacco, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, and bell pepper, among others. Claveria’s cool climate has also made the municipality a home to a large number of rose gardens, and other floral business establishments. In turn, the local government has helped further their cause, banning the establishment of large poultry operations in order to keep water sources for irrigation free from potential chemical contamination.

Flight 387 Shrine – a memorial for the victims of the disaster. It is said that at a certain level, when you look at the monument – which is shaped like a plane’s tail – you can see the exact point of the crash.

Getting there Claveria’s town center is around 41 kilometers east of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, you can take a bus or van headed to Claveria.

Expat tips The local government of Claveria issues climbing permits for Mounts Lumot and Sumagaya. Porters and guides can be arranged in the tourism office located at the municipal hall. Claveria also has a slew of waterfalls that come in different forms, sizes, and varying accessibility. Some are located a short trek from the main roads, while others require a more tedious hike. To find out which ones you can visit, head to the municipal tourism office, where you can get directions, or arrange for a guide. Here are some of the more accessible ones:


Kilomi Falls The waterfall is located at Barangay Aposkahoy. The landmark would be the steel bridge, which is part of the main road. Kilomi Falls is just 200 meters from the left side of the bridge. With a large pool, the waterfalls can accommodate froves of tourists and adventurers looking to enjoy in its cold waters. Danggayon Falls The cascade is just a few minutes walk from Kilomi Falls. Danggayon features a small pool where trekkers can take a soothing dip after a long hike. While the water flow isn’t as strong, it is pleasantly cool. San Roque Falls Ten minutes away from Danggayon Falls, San Roque Falls likewise has a small pool with a cave entrance near the waterfall itself. For mountaineers and hikers, San Roque is a wellknown source of potable water.

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Tribal Cascades

q Rustic charm is something you’ll find in abundance going across Misamis Oriental, and this rings just as true in the western municipality of Naawan. The Higaonon—one of the major indigenous groups in Northern Mindanao were the first to settle in Naawan. Because of its access to the coast, and its diverse, fertile lands, the Higaonons were a combination of farming and fisher folk when they first occupied Naawan. But when the Dumagats (Christians in tribal speak) moved into the lowlands, the Higaonons moved up to the mountains. Today, they still maintain tribal and ancestral domain over the area. Years ago, the Higaonons strictly guarded their territory, and visitors were not allowed easy access to Naawan’s bevy of waterfalls. They even required rituals before anyone could pass through. But over time though, the tribe has come to accept, and see the advantage of the presence of tourists. They now openly welcome outsiders into their land.

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Kanapulan Falls, located in Barangay Tagbalogo, is a three-tiered waterfalls, with each level distinct fro the others. The second one gently flows into a shallow basin, while the third has a much taller drop environed by verdant greens. Getting there At the Naawan Bus Terminal, you can take a habal-habal (motorcycle) to take you to Kanapulan Falls in Barangay Tagbalogo. The motorcycle ride takes around 15-minutes, while the trek across the river to the jump-off point takes roughly the same amount of time. Should you want to explore the falls with a guide, ask the habalhabal driver where that can be arranged.

Expat tips Naawan is around 70 kilometers west of Cagayan de Oro, and around 43 kilometers (one hour) from the Laguindingan International Airport From either point, take a bus/van headed to Iligan and ask to get off at Naawan. Three of the more notable (and accessible) waterfalls can be reached by riding a habal-habal (motorcycle) by the Municipal Hall. The best way to get to Naawan’s many waterfalls is by first coordinating with the Municipal Tourism Office at the town’s Municipal Hall. There, you can arrange for a guide to visiting the waterfalls of your choice. For more information, contact tourism officer Jeaneth Bajuyo

Mambuntan Falls, also located in Barangay Lubilan, the waterfall is part of the tribal domain of the Higaonons. It has now become a tourist destination, where travelers can enjoy dips in cool, waist-deep waters, and picnics right by the small series of cascades. Like Mahanggob Falls, the spot is perfect for chilling with the crew, and loved ones. There is a PhP25 entrance fee to get to the falls.

(0936) 322-5941

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Speaking with Bae Coney Saturno q – a member of the Naawan Municipal Council, and the Higaonon’s tribal chieftain – she expressed gladness that the local government has paid attention to her people’s needs. Saturno said that the roads, infrastructure, and tourism projects have come to bring welcome aid the Higaonons. As a travel photographer, I’ve been to many places in Northern Mindanao, but I always consider Naawan’s many falls as “my office.” Perhaps part of it is owed to my tribal lineage, but some of it undoubtedly stems from Naawan’s natural charm. The town is peppered with waterfalls, with some estimates suggesting that the town has 26 of them. As such, Naawan is perfect both for adventurers needing an exploration fix, and groups looking to unwind and bond amidst the soothing comfort of nature. This is what we found during our recent visit—our group playing the role of explorers, and the number of groups we came across stealing happy hours with laughs, and drinks. Although the waterfalls are quite distant from each other, the promise of a refreshed and rekindled traveling spirit is a certainty when visiting Naawan’s cascading treats.

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Mahanggob Falls is around 30 minutes (via habal-habal) from the main highway in Barangay Lubilan. Structures have been built around the falls to make it more conducive for tourists. There are cottages, areas for barbecuing, and restrooms. The spot is ideal for picnics and drinks.


CRADLE OF LEARNING Named after a tree that was abundant in the locality during the pre-Hispanic era, Alubijid is a quaint town right between Laguindingan and El Salvador City. Since being granted municipal sovereignty in 1940, Alubijid has enjoyed steady progressiveness – and much like the other towns surrounding the airport, has benefitted from its proximity to the provincial gateway. Apart from being a watershed cradle, Alubijid fancies itself as the center of education in West Misamis Oriental, with a number of programs from Bukidnon State University offered at the Alubijid extension of the institution. Among these are majors in economics, social science, English, education, local governance, and financial management.

One of its more popular attractions is the Boardwalk Mangrove Ecopark Baybay. Located in Barangay Baybay, the park serves the dual purpose of protecting Alubijid’s shoreline from storm surges and flooding, while also supporting endangered species like sea turtles. But for both locals and tourists, the park is a literal breath of fresh air – away from the increasingly bustling downtown area of Alubijid, and right by the town’s coast. There are cottages for rent, perfect for picnics and lazy afternoons. For the more adventurous ilk, Kasilihon Falls in Barangay Tula may sound more appealing. The 15-foot waterfall with a 20-foot deep pool can be accessed via a quick three-kilometer hike through the woods. With its clean, refreshing waters, Kasilihon has become a common stop for mountaineers going to and from neighboring trails.

Expat tips Alubijid is just around 10 minutes from the airport, and depending on the traffic, around 30-40 minutes from Cagayan de Oro. For inquiries about Boardwalk Mangrove Ecopark Baybay, (0926) 837-7771 For more information: (0822) 756-128 www.alubijidmisor.gov.ph

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Industrial Flavor

The westernmost municipality in Misamis Oriental, Lugait was a former barrio of Initao, before it became a part of neighboring Manticao. But ever since it was granted municipal autonomy in 1961, Lugait has always been quick to open its doors to industrialization. In its nascent stages, the flow of its cement and GI roofing products were the municipality’s commercial by-word. More than half a century later, Lugait continues to be home to industrial plants that produce cement, roofing products, and other construction supplies. While it has obviously worked to its benefit, the pivot to industrialization was a curious one with most of the area originally made up of agricultural land. The local government has done a splendid job of nurturing that decision, providing proper training that has led to a large reservoir of skilled laborers. Moreover, its active chamber of commerce, and overall investment-friendly business climate has made the municipality an enticing avenue for new investments.

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To those beyond the realm of business, Lugait is predominantly known for its bibingka (rice cake usually made with coconut milk). And while popular across the Philippines, you’ll find that the snack is something you can’t stay away from even if you tried, with a number of municipalities claiming to have the best one in MisOr. What makes Lugait’s offering unique is that its bibingka is baked individually. The rice flourbased mixture is placed in iron pots covered with coconut husks that are slow-cooked on a native brick oven. The traditional process, apart

Expat tips In order to hike up to Upper Talacogon Falls, you need to takeoff from Barangay Aya-Aya, where the bottom cascade can be found. The takeoff point is a good 15-minute habal-habal (motorcycle) ride from the municipal public market.


You will need to drop by the Aya-Aya Barangay Hall to arrange for tour guides, as the trail going up the falls is not recommended for beginners or casual hikers. Getting there Lugait is around 74 kilometers (less than two hours) from Cagayan de Oro, and about 48 kilometers (one hour) from the Laguindingan International Airport. From either points, you can take buses/vans headed to Iligan City, and ask to be dropped off in Lugait.



from being different from others, also renders the Lugait bibingka with a distinct texture and taste it’s a definite must-try when exploring MisOr! While Lugait has been industrialized since the 1960s, it is still developing when it comes to tourism, often serving as just a pit stop for those entering MisOr from neighboring Lanao del Norte, and vice versa. But because of the proliferation of

wanderlust, initiatives by the municipal and provincial government have led to the development of potential tourist destinations. One of them is Talacogon Falls qw (formerly known as Aya-Aya Falls). The 13-stage waterfall is perfect for thrill-seekers, as it entails either a trek upstream, or through a trail that leads to the topmost cascade. And with each tier unique from the others, adventurers will find themselves with a bevy of which raging cold waters to dip in.

Because of the proliferation of wanderlust, initiatives by the municipal and provincial government have led to the development of potential tourist destinations.

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Roadside Calling

A woman whose demeanor is as sweet as the bibingka she makes, Nanay Rosila was able to provide a better life for her family by selling the native rice cake–traditionally made with milled glutinous rice and coconut milk, and baked on a charcoal heated iron furnace.

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One of the Westernmost towns in Misamis Oriental, Manticao is similarly blessed with natural gems like large caves, waterfalls, and hiking trails – elements that are an adventurer’s dream. Interestingly enough, though, it’s what’s at the side of the main highway that makes tourists get out from their vehicles—the sweet, inviting aroma of freshly baked bibingka (local rice cake). Yes, MisOr locals refer to Manticao as the town that bibingka made – and succumbing to its notoriety has become a can’t-miss experience for anyone coming through the municipality. And you’d have to make a conscious effort to not find where the snack goldmine is, as a long line of buses, jeepneys, motorcycles, and other vehicles often marks the spot where the treat is sold.

Expat tips You can save bibingka for dessert, as there is an affordable Chinese restaurant just along the highway where you can refuel for the journey that lies ahead. Royal Panda offers a slew of dim sum favorites, and even has an equally affordable buffet that’s ideal for travelers. Getting there Manticao is around 62 kilometers (around 1 ½ hours) west of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, take a bus/van headed to Iligan (fare is around PhP100).

One of Manticao’s original bibingka makers is an elderly lady by the name of Nanay Rosila. A woman whose demeanor is as sweet as the bibingka she makes, Nanay Rosila was able to provide a better life for her family by selling the native rice cake–traditionally made with milled glutinous rice and coconut milk, and baked on a charcoal heated iron furnace. The small venture by the roadside has since become a family business, with Nanay Rosila’s kin taking care of most of their stall’s day-to-day operations. And from what was once a simple snack wrapped in plastic pouches, the production has evolved into one with proper packaging fit for the goodness it holds. Nanay Rosila is a big part of why Manticao is no longer a town people going to and from Iligan just pass through—it’s become part of the journey to slow down, sip a cup of hot chocolate, and enjoy the town’s most famous snack.

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Pool of Faith Though quiet, and verdant as any part of the province, Binuangan is a town not marked by resorts peppered across many of its Misamis Oriental brethren. While having a soothing view of Macajalar Bay, and situated by the foot of lush hills – it is the faith of its small populace that sets Binuangan apart. When we visited that random day in early March, we came across a curious site by a chapel that served as a placeholder for the parish church that was in the latter stages of construction. Adults and kids were in a small pool by a shrine—the former calmly wading in the water; the latter jumping and laughing as kids are wont to do.

We would later learn that this was a healing pool, q one that locals fervently believed in. Speaking with an elderly lady, her garb undoubtedly stating she was a woman of faith, we were told that people with ailments of any kind—from the common cold, and sore joints, to cancer and even blindness, claim to have been healed by the miraculous pools blessed by Our Lady of Lourdes. And according to locals, the testimonies of healing aren’t limited to residents of Binuangan, as people from all over MisOr share the same faith in the town’s patron saint.

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People with ailments of any kind—from the common cold, and sore joints, to cancer and even blindness, claim to have been healed by the miraculous pools blessed by Our Lady of Lourdes.

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Expat tips Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Church holds a Healing Mass every first Saturday of the month. Binuangan considers itself a fishing town, and as such, you’d be wise to sample its tuna wherever it is served. Lourdes Bay Resort is right by the parish church. It has a pool, cottages, and a gorgeous view of the bay, where you can take a pit stop from your MisOr explorations.

w This is best exhibited every Feb. 10 to 11, when the town comes to life with the celebration of the Patunob Festival. w Devotees, not only from MisOr, but also from all over the country flock to the Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine to say their prayers and light a candle to signify the strength of their faith. The religious traditions are also complemented by vibrant showcases of parades, cultural shows, trade fairs, fluvial floats, and a boat race in honor of the bounty from the sea.

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Getting there Binuangan is around 72 kilometers (around two hours) northeast of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, take a bus/ van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City, and asked to be dropped off at Binuangan.


Twin Pillars of Ambition

The easternmost town of Misamis Oriental, Magsaysay is presently in the midst not just of a developing tourism industry, but a rapidly growing economy as well. Even before we were able to visit its attractions, we were made privy to projects either ongoing (municipal college, roads, and what promises to be a gorgeous baywalk), or in the later stages of planning (Magsaysay’s economic zone). Magsaysay’s wheels of ambition are turning, making our visit an interesting point of comparison to what the town could become in the coming years. Like a number of municipalities in MisOr, the indigenous Higaonons were the town’s earliest settlers. And while the migration of people from Luzon, Visayas, and neighboring parts of Mindanao has come to dominate Magsaysay’s populace over the decades, the town is one of the few places where a self-sustaining tribal village t still exists. The village, located in the remote Barangay Tama, apart from its distance, also requires the performance of a ritual in order to get granted the right of passage to the Higaonon territory. A number of the tribes folk, to this day, cannot speak Visayan, and can only communicate through their native language. With the Higaonons’ practices, beliefs, and traditions still intact, Magsaysay boasts a glimpse into a unique culture unperturbed by the trappings of both the outside world, and modernization. expat 97

q Magsaysay’s extensive coastline is the nesting site of the endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles.q There are 63 known sites along the shores of Barangays Kandiis, San Isidro, and Damayuhan, where the turtles hatch between the months of June and December. Because the nesting sites are close to the communities, the turtles have a low survival rate.

The distinct experience of getting a firsthand look at this formation of life has become an added attraction for Magsaysay visitors.

But a number of Magsaysay’s locals, in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, have been working hard to maintain its shores as a safe haven for the turtles. The distinct experience of getting a firsthand look at this formation of life has become an added attraction for Magsaysay visitors. Magsaysay is also a bourgeoning destination for motocross enthusiasts. The Motocross Challenge, w held a the open-field of the Cabubuhan Elementary School, is one of the town’s annual events that helps position Magsaysay as a sports tourism destination. National, regional, provincial, and local motocross personalities frequently convene to showcase their skills, and compete in various levels of motocross challenges. While still in its infancy, Magsaysay is working on the development of potential tourism sites, which span from its mountains and ridges, to its rivers and dive sites. Located at the peak of Barangay Kauswagan, La Victoria Heights e is being groomed as potential pilgrimage site, with the construction of Stations of the Cross having been proposed. At its zenith, you get a gorgeous 360-view of both Misamis Oriental and the neighboring Caraga Region (Northeastern Mindanao).

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Getting there

The town has yet to develop its own dive resort (you’d have to coordinate with those in neighboring Medina to explore Magsaysay’s underwater sites), but there are virgin dive sites where divers can enjoy the spectacle of varying species intermingling in their natural habitat. If you’re lucky, you can get a close encounter with Hawksbill Sea Turtles, or maybe even a whale shark! r

The most notable dive sites are in Barangays Kandiis, Damayuhan, and San Isidro. With the sites within just a few hundred meters from the shore, prospective divers won’t need to rent a larger vessel for their gear. Every 1st of July, Magsaysay transforms into one big street party with the Tagulambong Festival. r The weeklong celebration fetes the municipality’s founding anniversary, and showcases the rich culture and traditions of the easternmost parts of MisOr. One of Tagulambong’s highlights is a parade that fills the length of the road from the transport terminal to the Poblacion. Often described as a feast for the senses, the colorful display is also dubbed as the “Session Road of Mysticism, Culture and Traditions.”

Magsaysay is around 3 ½ hours from Cagayan de Oro via the National Highway, and two hours via the Claveria-Gingoog Road. Alternatively, if you’re coming from Butuan, it is only 45 minutes away. From the Agora Terminal in CDO, you can take buses/vans headed to Butuan and ask to be dropped off at Magsaysay. Expat tips If you wish to explore Magsaysay’s mountains, or trek along its rivers, it is advised that you drop by the Municipal Tourism Office first to arrange for a guide. For example, if you wish to check out the views offered by La Victoria Heights, there are two ways you can go about it – one will take you through the river, while the other entails traversing a more mountainous trail. Whichever you choose, make sure you pack lots of water, a change of clothes, food, power banks, and a bag to store all your trash.

For more information, contact the Municipal Cultural & Tourism Information Center at (0927) 856-3187 (0928) 733-2935

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Spring Board The quiet town of Balingoan is known primarily for two things—as the takeoff point for those heading to Camiguin Island, and as a springboard towards the bevy of dive spots in Gingoog Bay. Camiguin has long established itself as a renowned Philippine tourist destination both here and abroad. But because it is similarly a popular pilgrimage site, particularly during Holy Week, it is not uncommon for Balingoan to see a madding influx of devotees headed to its port. Recently, there were reports that boarding a ferry headed to the neighboring island entailed a seven-hour wait for the hapless motorists that were left with no choice but to spend a better part of the day on Balingoan’s roads. But with the recent launch of ferry trips from Opol to Camiguin, Balingoan should be spared traffic from those coming from the western towns of Misamis Oriental. Mantangale Alibuag Dive Resort, a family run resort, is Balingoan’s go-to tourist destination, with eight duplex cottages (featuring private verandas), and four executive suites offering families and groups a coastal getaway. Lanzones, coconut, and a host of other fruit trees canopy its thoughtfully landscaped grounds, while an orchid garden provides ornaments for the resort’s rooms and dining areas. The charming 5.5-hectare property also has a swimming pool, a gazebo bar, where you can enjoy a game of pool, darts, and air hockey, as you down cold San Miguel beers as the gorgeous sunset signals an end to the day; and a restaurant that showcases the best of Northern Mindanao seafood fare. The resort also offers fishing (aboard Mantangale’s boats), a glass bottomed boat ride that takes you over the rich marine life of the area, and kayaking. But of course, as the resort’s name suggests, diving is its calling card, as a PADI accredited outfit able to access more than a dozen dive sites in Northern Mindanao. For more information, contact (0917) 801-4560 www.mantangale.com

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Mantangale Alibuag Dive Resort, a family run resort, is Balingoan’s go-to tourist destination, with eight duplex cottages (featuring private verandas), and four executive suites offering families and groups a coastal getaway

Getting there Balingoan is around 88 kilometers (around 2 hours and 15 minutes) northeast of Cagayan de Oro. From the Agora Terminal, you can take a bus/van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City. Expat tips If you’re staying at Mantangale Alibuag Diver Resort, make sure you sample their Cebu Style Lechon (roasted pig) – a dish that never fails to leave guests raving.

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In Bloom Salay Mayor Angelo Capistrano Jr has made it a point to instill discipline among his constituents. He believes that if the community is disciplined, tourists will come because they would know and feel that they’re safe. Having only been office for two years, Capistrano has spearheaded Salay towards being recognized by President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the “ChildFriendly Municipalities” in the country. The distinction is in line with Salay’s upholding of the child’s core rights (survival, development, protection, and participation), and the provision of facilities and services that further them. Among these are maternity and lying-in hospitals, and family care clinics, newborn screening and daycare centers, which provide maternal and health care needs. As well, Salay has established people-to-people programs conducted in every barangay that give

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free medical and dental consultation – while scholarships are given to qualified youths. The local government has also been actively celebrating Children’s Month to recognize performing children in various fields – giving added motivation for its youths to take advantage of the opportunities they’ve been given, and keep pursuing their goals and dreams. The kids are also involved in social activities like coastal clean-ups—part of Salay’s thrust to continually recognize children as an integral part in the development of the community. Locals live by the slogan “Buswak Salay!” – a Visayan word that translates to “bloom” or “blossom.” And with its officials’ proactive approach in integrating the youth into community building endeavors, the blossoming of Salay appears imminent.


Expat tips


Getting there Salay is 62 kilometers northeast of Cagayan de Oro (less than two hours). From the Agora Bus Terminal, there are airconditioned buses going headed to Butuan City. Ask to be dropped off at Salay (fare is around PhP100). Alternatively, you can either take a van, or jeep. Within the municipality, you can take a tricycle, trisikad (motorized cabs), or a habal-habal (motorcycle) to get around town.

is a Amepenican Beach short stretch of cream sand beach parallel the main highway. Absent signs pointing to it, you could be wandering around town, and be clueless that quick beach fix could instantly be within reach. But locals would easily point you in the right direction should you wish. And a short trek down behind locals’ houses later, and you’ll most likely find yourself in an empty shore that’s always a welcome surprise. Apart from Salyhandmade products, other souvenirs you should get a hold of include the Bibingka Intsik e (rice cake made with sweet potato and coconut wine), and Salay’s nito handicrafts. r For more information about Salay, (0917) 125-6269 @lgusalaymisor


Additional photos courtesy of LGU Salay


Salay Handmade In the 1980s, Salay was an area that had to endure not just the safety issues brought about by conflict, but the economic challenges and realities it entailed. It was during this difficult time that an unassuming endeavor would be founded – a project that yearned, simply, to provide Salay residents with a chance at a better life. Initially, the fuel would be cogon—waste grass that was abundant in the town—and the vehicle would be handmade papermaking. Founded by the husband and wife tandem of Dr. Reynaldo and Loreta Rafisura, Salay Handmade Products Industries original mission was earnest – to eradicate the pest grass to free up land for farmers to use, and turn cogon into something beautiful. e

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Today, Salay Handmade Products Industries, Inc. is a producer and exporter of world-class quality handmade paper and its converted products. At the core of its handcrafted products is a mixture of non-tree and sustainable raw materials (that include abaca fiber, salago bark, pineapple leaves, sawdust, among others). Its continually growing catalogue of products t now includes notebooks, boxes, calendars, bags, wallets, and other novelty items. Its pressed flower cards are pasted piece by piece – making each composition not only an exquisite original work of art, but also a reflection of the aspirations of the workers for a better life. Curiously, and contrary to what one might assume in this tech-dominated age, its handmade greeting cards comprise the bulk of its revenues, selling some 500,000 pieces across Europe a year. But apart from being in the business of making handmade paper products, which has a global clientele making for 90 percent of its business, Salay Handmade is also a social enterprise focused on local employment generation, fair trade, and environmentally sustainable practices.

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Its pressed flower cards are pasted piece by piece – making composition not ony an exquisite original work of art, but also a reflection of the aspirations of the workers for a better life. Its social arm, SHAPII Foundation, has spearheaded an environmentally sound community anchored on Filipino values, and reinforced by positive external linkages (the Department of Science and Technology being one of the more important ones) that foster sustainable economic growth. Its bevy of programs span from providing grantaid scholarships and computer literacy trainings, to providing free medical services, and livelihood trainings and seminars—an encompassing thrust that is integral to the community development of Salay.


Blends & Hues The tail end of our Misamis Oriental exploration would find us in the province’s oldest city. History has it that the former Spanish Pueblo was already a thriving settlement for the Manobo tribe way before its western colonizers set foot in the area. Apart from being a haven for migrants (from places like Bukidnon, Agusan, and parts of Iligan), its early development in the field of agriculture – particularly with coconut and coffee – and its logging industry allowed Gingoog to progress towards economic independence before most of its neighboring towns. And though significant historical events that include the Spanish conquest, the American and Japanese occupations, the two World

Wars, the Martial Law of the 1970s, and the EDSA Revolution brought upon Gingoog socio-economic and political forces that it had to overcome – its leaders have been able to revive the progressive development it enjoyed from its nascent stages, leading to one of MisOr’s more enterprising towns. You can get a glimpse of this long and arduous road to dynamic cityhood at one of the city’s more interesting sites – Gingoog’s City Museum and Archives. we The beautiful, white Spanish house that served as Gingoog’s former city hall (and later on as the city jail) is home to a host of interesting artifacts and memorabilia, as well as a photo gallery of the city’s significant personalities and events.

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The sun shone bright that day, which led to a squad of local kids jumping off from the boardwalk to the clean waters of Gingoog Bay. The beautiful views, and the soothing blend of hues render the boardwalk to be as relaxing a spot as you’ll find in the progressive city.


As you’ll learn in one part of the museum, Gingoog is also home to a bevy of heritage houses – former homes to affluent Chinese-Filipino families. Some of the houses have been repurposed for commerce – a nod to the impressive, and highly welcome efforts of the local government to encourage the property owners to preserve the historical remnants. As with any tour of Gingoog, we ended up at its gorgeous Promenade by the Bay q (Pahayahay sa Pantalan). The sun shone bright that day, which led to a squad of local kids jumping off from the boardwalk to the clean waters of Gingoog Bay. The beautiful views, and the soothing blend of hues render the boardwalk to be as relaxing a spot as you’ll find in the progressive city. And the fact that it turns into a bustling food park at night also makes it one with dual character – and epitomizes the discipline of Gingoog’s residents, as its rare to find waters so close to commercial activities to be as clean as what we found that day. That, coupled with the scorching sun and the laughter emanating from the kids were more than enough to leave us with envy – and a mental note to jump in the next time we get a chance.

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Getting there Gingoog City is around 100 kilometers east of Cagayan de Oro (taking some 2 ½ hours). From the Agora Terminal, take a buses/van headed to Butuan or Gingoog City.

Alternatively, you can also come from Butuan City. Gingoog is around 80 kilometers away (about 1 hour and 40 minutes by land).

Bittersweet Café is a homey caffeine haven where anyone can enjoy the full-bodied brews of Kapeng Lumad. Local blend If you’re in the city and are of the sort that won’t have any of the instant coffee variety for your caffeine fix, Bittersweet Café is where you can enjoy Kapeng Lumad r—a homegrown coffee brand that downright hits the spot. According to proprietor Rorich Baguio, the brand (whose name has the literal translation of “native coffee”) was spawned after he attended a government seminar for aspiring coffee entrepreneurs. The son of coffee farmers, Baguio went home inspired by the new knowledge he had in tow, and immediately began brewing, with the future of his family in mind. Today, Kapeng Lumad sells a lineup of roasted coffee beans that include Original Home Coffee Blend (Robusta-Arabica-Excelsa), Liberica Roasted Coffee Beans, Farmer’s Home Blend (RobustaArabica), Pure Arabica, Arabica Roasted Coffee Beans, and RobustaExcelsa. In just six years since it began operations, the brand has earned welldeserved notoriety in MisOr, while its products have branched out to neighboring Butuan, and Cebu. It has also birthed Bittersweet Café—a homey caffeine haven where anyone can enjoy the full-bodied brews of Kapeng Lumad. It’s also Baguio’s way of paying it forward. Having recently passed the government’s TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) barista training course, Bittersweet Café has served as a platform for fellow aspiring baristas to hone their craft. And you can witness the young baristas in action as they brew your beverage through syphon, Chemex, V60, French, or aero press—all of which result in a drink that lends you a taste of Gingoog’s culture. Bittersweet Café is located at Lugod St., Gingoog City. For inquiries and more information, (0915) 871-0392 kapenglumad@gmail.com r


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The first town west of Laguindingan, the sleepy town of Gitagum appears to have not yet been touched by the commercial spillover stemming from the continued urbanization of Cagayan de Oro, and its neighboring municipalities. But whether it’s by choice, or just a matter of time – the relatively small town stands as a quiet reminder of the provincial charm that once pervaded across Misamis Oriental. According to locals, the municipality’s name can be traced back to the time when non-Christians were the main settlers in the area.

The story goes that back then, when people suffered from illnesses, village doctors resorted to treating patients with the leaves of a plant called tagum-tagum. The herbal remedy apparently worked well enough for the locals to name the town after the medicinal plant. While the commercial activities that are slowly spreading across the towns close to the provincial capital have yet to make its mark in Gitagum, the trend of resorts rising across MisOr has. In Barangay Pangayawan, Lagoon Beach Resort w e has afforded locals, and travelers with a charming springboard for their MisOr explorations. With the centerpiece of a charming pool facing the coast, its own restaurant, and fully-furnished rooms – Lagoon Beach Resort can either be where you kickstart your Northern Mindanao adventures, or the last stop before heading back home. Either way, it’s a smart stop to make, particularly if you enjoy yourself some peace and quiet. q

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Expat tips While you may not have a yearning to play dress-up during your visit to MisOr, Gitagum has been known as a go-to resource for renting native costumes


for the plethora of festivals celebrated across the province. Ask any habal-habal (passenger motorcycle) in town, and they can bring you to the small shop where some of the costumes are displayed. Lagoon Beach Resort serves a combination of local and international cuisines at their new restaurant. For reservations, inquiries and more information (0927) 640-0728 www.lagoonbeachresort.com Getting there Gitagum is just 15 minutes away from the Laguindingan International Airport, and is just some 40 kilometers west of Cagayan de Oro. Outside the airport entrance, you’ll find a fleet of vans that can take you in either direction across Misamis Oriental.


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According to locals, the municipality, around 45 kilometers west of Cagayan de Oro, was originally called “Salubsub” (splinter), owed to the abundance of thorny trees in the area. But when the Christians that resided in the town reclaimed control of the territory from the Muslims and Bukidnons, it was renamed Libertad (victory). While it’s been long considered by Misamis Oriental residents as Initao’s sister municipality, in recent years, Libertad has assumed the role of the plainer, quieter sister. As a slew of resorts and tourist attractions mushroomed across the former, Libertad has taken a backseat to its neighboring town. Still, it has a lot in common with its sister municipality – sharing the Initao-Libertad Protected Landscape and Seascape— more popularly known as “Lasang.” The lush protected area is teeming with animal and tree species and enjoys the protection of both local organizations and government units. The area spreads from the foothills of the Kitanglad Mountain Range to the shores of Iligan Bay, and serves as the habitat of rare birds like the green imperial pigeon, serpent eagle, Philippine hanging parrot; rare priority reptile species like the Philippine python, Philippine long-tailed macaque, and the Philippine tarsier.

Recently, a stylish new resort is looking to help put Libertad back on the tourist trail. Overlooking the seascape at Barangay Gimaylan, C Resort q looks to be a promising new player in the area’s collection of venues for recreational, business, and special gatherings. Lined with coconut trees across the property, C Resort has three inviting infinity pools, a cluster of cabanas (good for up to 15 pax), cottages for up to 10 people, accommodations for larger groups, a garden for events, a playground for kids (with a koi fish pond furthering the relaxing ambiance), a restaurant, and a function hall. It’s perfect for stealing happy hours with loved ones, and stands as a must-visit for anyone exploring MisOr.

Expat tips If you’re traveling across the western towns of Misamis Oriental, Libertad offers an ideal pit stop that serves fresh seafood fare. Lins Kinilaw in Barangay Gimaylan has steadily attracted travelers who used to refuel in Initao. The seaside restaurant, which doubles as a resort, offers a wide selection of Filipino dishes, and set platters ideal for larger groups (or just a large appetite). You can choose to dine in the main area, or choose to get closer to the sea breeze, where parasols are located by the mini pools. Take your pick from their Bilao meals (good for 5) – an assortment of steamed crabs, fried shrimp, grilled tuna, squid, among others.

Getting there Libertad is located some 45 kilometers west of Cagayan de Oro (around 1 hour). From the Agora Terminal, you can take a bus/van headed to Iligan and ask to be dropped off at Libertad.

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Sowing the Seeds of

Empowerment Get to know the visionary opening the touristic gems of Misamis Oriental to the rest of the world Words by Timothy Jay Ibay / Photos by Glenn Palacio

About Governor

Bambi A career politician, Governor Bambi Emano became the youngest elected mayor in Philippine history at 23 – an age when most people are just beginning to figure out what they want to do with their own lives. And after serving for nine years as mayor of Tagoloan, six as congressman, Emano is now in the middle of his second term as governor. Progressive is a word that often pops up when people describe his leadership style, while those who work closely with Emano call him a perfectionist – often working until the wee hours of the morning, long after all of his staff have called it a day. Despite being a career politician, and the son of the former governor, Emano understands that the practices and solutions that worked before may not be suited for the changing times, hence the forward-thinking approach many in the province have come to appreciate.

If you’ve reached this page, you’ve gotten a glimpse of some of the tourism possibilities that can be enjoyed in Misamis Oriental. Being naturally blessed has nothing to do with even the best governance. But putting everything needed in place to potentially open the floodgates of tourism does. And that’s exactly what Governor Yevgeny “Bambi” Emano has done. Calling it his flagship program, his efforts bank on the potential economic activities

that a flourishing tourism industry can birth. His inclination towards bolstering the industry is also rooted in his belief that because everyone understands the benefits of a thriving tourism industry, it is one that is absent of political divide. And since being elected into the province’s highest office in 2013, he has empowered all tourism channels to not just put MisOr on the national tourism radar, but to ensure that his province and its people are more than ready for what could lie ahead.

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All these ongoing efforts have led to Misamis Oriental’s beckoning to get explored. And having recently done so ourselves, you’d be wise to heed their call.

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Far too many times, tourism is seen as a quick economic fix, without consideration for a destination’s and its residents’ preparedness for the influx of visitors. But during our MisOr exploration, it felt like everyone we interacted with – from municipal tourism officers and tour guides, to resort owners and staff – were being prepped gradually for the boom that could loom beyond the horizon. And they’ve had plenty of practice handling the deluge of visitors, as each year, tens of thousands of devotees flock to the various pilgrimage sites across MisOr. Empowering governance Part of the tourism sector preparedness can be credited to Emano’s empowering brand of governance, which has created a Provincial Tourism Department with ample resources to seek out and develop potential tourist sites. After necessary infrastructure

and facilities have been put in place, tourism projects are turned over for the respective municipalities to manage. This type of empowerment has been a mark of his time as governor, with the 424 barangays (villages) of MisOr similarly given the resources, and perhaps more importantly, the autonomy to decide which projects should be prioritized—with the requisite transparency in liquidation, of course. This has led to these small government units implementing their own programs like seed and fertilizer acquisition, installation of water systems, and building health centers, among others. Similarly, his scholarship program, which is in its 11th year, has benefitted some 19,000 college and vocational training graduates – enabling less fortunate youths, through education, to reach their aspirations.

Battling misconceptions MisOr’s blessed lay of the land allows Emano and his people to put in the work to open the Northern Mindanao province as a promising tourism destination. But the persisting misconceptions about the region continue to be one of the main challenges in doing so. Apart from close coordination with military and police units to alleviate the understandable security concerns, various PR partnerships exhibit the progressive thinking of the young governor. Last year, Miss Earth candidates visited MisOr at the height of the Marawi conflict, with unknowing foreign-born candidates shocked that they were in Mindanao – and how beautiful the place described as war torn by news outlets was. And MisOr’s thrust to raise awareness goes beyond the persistent cloud of security concerns hanging over Mindanao, as

Emano also encourages a sort of reverse engineered tourism formula—fostering eco-tourism practices to ensure that the province’s natural gifts stay as pristine as possible, which in turn will attract the more environmentally mindful ilk, and leave a lasting impression to even the most pedestrian of tourists. In the municipality of Medina, for example, fisher folk are trained to dive and serve as sea custodians in an effort to protect the teeming marine ecosystem of MisOr. In Magsaysay – measures have been put in place to ensure that the endangered hawksbill turtles can continue to nest on the town’s shores. All these ongoing efforts have led to Misamis Oriental’s beckoning to get explored. And having recently done so ourselves, you’d be wise to heed their call.

Kuyamis Festival The Kuyamis Festival – launched less than a year after Emano was elected governor in line with Misamis Oriental’s 84th founding anniversary – is a weeklong celebration in honor of the Fest of the Black Nazarene, and has become an annual exhibition of MisOr’s top produce and best practices. The different municipalities are provided with their own booths

in front of the Provincial Capitol where the towns’ top products are showcased. The stalls are artfully designed with coconutbased materials, as a tribute to the “Kuyamis” – a fist sized sweet coconut abundant in MisOr. The festival is an instrument that has carved Emano’s legacy in the province by creating a vibrant event that fosters unity sans the trappings of politics.

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Chicken Soup for the Sole Stressed? Sick? In need of some ‘sole’-searching? Reflexology soothes and satisfies, to the very core of one’s being – try it for yourself, at Foot Zone Words by Angie Duarte Photos courtesy of Foot Zone Makati

It’s easy for a person to disregard the importance of their feet. After all, these bottom-most extremities are generally not considered among one’s most attractive features and, as a result, are often forgotten. But the truth could not be further from this perception. Our feet are, in fact, as valuable and important as they essential – not just to our balance, but to our well-being. Cultures across the globe have long recognized this. From foot washing ceremonies of Middle Eastern Biblical times to the ancient Chinese technique of reflexology, varied people groups have long upheld the value of keeping one’s feet in tip-top shape. As it turns out, the benefits of a little foot conditioning are far-reaching. No one knows this better than Foot Zone, a reflexology center and sanctuary for frazzled feet.

Matters of the sole The 3,000-year-old method of reflexology is simply defined as the application of pressure and massage to the feet, with each section of the sole mapped out to correspond to organs and systems of the entire body. Many historians chronicle that it was first established in China, as a practice to bring about healing and balance, through the spiritual tenets of Taoism and Buddhism.

Master-trained local therapists, while at the same time innovating our practice to suite the taste of different clients,” shares Elisa Tapuro, PTRP, MBA, Foot Zone Makati’s Operations Manager.

The four main benefits of reflexology are relaxation, the reduction of stress, improved circulation, and a re-established state of homeostasis or balance within the body. While it is not a massage, per se, reflexology does incorporate aspects of massage.

Happy feet, happy heart While it might sound a stretch to say that happy feet could mean a happy heart, there is a potential link between the two. Studies point to the possibility that, among its many benefits, reflexology can lead to a more efficient heart. Not to mention, the positive effects it has on one one’s wellness, as a whole.

“At Foot Zone, we preserve the authentic Xiamen-style Foot Reflexology by having

“We are proud to say that our local massage therapists, apart from being licensed by the Department of Health (DOH), are trained by a Reflexology Master from China.”

“Our signature treatment is Foot Reflexology and Back Massage. A variation of this signature service is the Foot Reflexology and Head Massage. We also have a twin massage where two therapists massage the client at the same time,” shares Tapuro about some of Foot Zone’s best-selling services. Customers may likewise choose treatments such as Shiatsu, Stone, and Swedish Body Massages, Foot Scrub, Ventosa, and Ear Candling with Head Massage. Heavy foot traffic With branches in Greenhills, Makati, and BGC, Foot Zone has garnered a strong following of clients. “We have clients addicted to us; they come at least twice a week. Our regular clients, who come at least once a week, incorporate foot reflexology as part of their health maintenance,” Tapuro notes.

Foot Zone Greenhills: Unit 103 to 105 Richbelt Tower Condominium, St., 17 Annapolis, San Juan Foot Zone Makati: 3rd Flr. Sunshine Place St., 56 Jupiter, Makati Foot Zone BGC: Unit 208 The Forum Building, 7th Ave. cor. Federacion Dr., BGC, Taguig

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Pamper yourself from the bottom up. Get in the zone the Foot Zone, that is – and give your feet the love they deserve.

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Expat Travel & Lifestyle: Misamis Oriental  

Expat Travel & Lifestyle: Misamis Oriental  

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