“There is a high threat from terrorism throughout the country. Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out attacks at anytime and anywhere in the country.”
– UK Foreign Office in regards to the Philippines
Dangerous? We’ll see.
For the last ten days I’ve had the privilege of hanging out and exploring Cagayan de Oro and some of the surrounding areas and inland to Bukidnon.
On the Northern Coast of Mindanao, Cagayan and the surrounding area is under an “advise against all but essential travel” warning from the UK Foreign Office. Move further south and east and that warning goes up to “advise against all travel”.
To put it in a comparison? The Foreign Office also advises against all but essential travel to Baghdad and South-west Iraq…
Let me tell you a slightly different story. We’ve rafted, caved, ridden a ‘skybike’ over a gorge, eaten pineapple right from the source, swam, hiked, laughed, done not enough sleeping, created a dance floor in a bar no one normally dances at, serenaded passers-by with spontaneous sing-alongs, laughed some more, eaten truck loads of great food and meet a lot of fantastic people. All in all had a fantastic time.
We have found Cagayan and Bukidnon to be a place full of it’s own unique beauty and some of the friendliest people I’ve met. As a large group of young white foreigners (a fairly unusual sight here) you can’t help but stick out like a sore thumb.
While is some places this might cause some discomfort and unease for the wary traveller I have felt nothing but safe, comfortable and welcomed here. Whether it’s been with our Filipino friends or walking about on my own.
A typical walk down the street to the Kagay Office (a rafting and adventure company owned by the legendary Chisum and his friends) is always spiced by waves, nods, smiles and shouts of ‘hey joe!’ (reminiscent of GI Joe) and ‘welcome to the Philippines!’.
It’s undeniable that one of the marvellous aspects of the Filipino culture is a tendency to great strangers as friends and welcome friends and even new acquaintances in as family.
While it is still a third world country which brings it’s own unique flavour and challenges to travel and exploring, who ever travelled (package holidays and tours aside) because it was easy! We travel to see, to experience, to grow, be challenged, break our preconceptions and meet amazing people.
My advice? Just like traveling other parts of the world, don’t be foolish but certainly put this place and the rest of the Philippines on your list of places to adventure.
Especially if you are a diver, caver, mountain biker, climber or a white-water junkie. Your options of less publicised adventures are endless!
Would I come back? Absolutely.
Sadly tomorrow will find me moving on from Cagayan de Oro, but not from the Philippines. Let just say I’m excited for what the next four weeks exploring might bring!
A huge thanks to Chisum, Kyle, Raymond, Kumar, Chardy and all the rest of the crew at Kagay and Bugsay. As well and everyone and anyone else who has welcomed us and shown us around.
Salamat po! Apir!