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18 days on the road: Davao to Manila and back

More than 4 years ago, our family decided to embark on one of the greatest adventures of our lives. It was an adventure that was both quite exciting and challenging and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to do it again. I can only hope so.

I only know a handful of people who were able to accomplish this and since all of us in the family practically free from work duties, we decided to give it a shot.

Here is the brief story about the time we crossed the country from Davao City to Manila and back.

Disclaimer: all of our documentation (expenses, itinerary, etc.) got lost over time so I’m trying to recall all of these from memory. Photos are also just grabbed from my Facebook albums.

Day 1 – Southern Mindanao

From Davao City, we went straight up north-east going Panabo City, and made a right just before we reached Tagum City, heading to Mati. My brother tried skim boarding at Dahican while we enjoyed walking along the shores.

Sunrise in Dahican, Mati
Sunrise in Dahican, Mati

Day 2 – Eastern Mindanao

The following morning, we went straight ahead to Agusan to see “Lolong,” the biggest crocodile. We then proceeded to Surigao del Sur to see the Enchanted Hinatuan River. It was almost summer at that time and there were lots of people so we decided not to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters. Next we went to Tinuy-an falls in Bislig where we spent almost all afternoon. After that, we went back to the town proper where we spent the night.

Tinuy-an Falls
Tinuy-an Falls
Enchanted Hinatuan River
Enchanted Hinatuan River
Sunset in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur
Sunset in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur

Day 3

On our 3rd day, we went straight to Surigao City via Lianga, Bayugan City, and just barely passing by Butuan City. We arrived before noon time and since the ferry going to Leyte leaves in the evening, we still had plenty of time to roam around the city. We had our lunch at the house of my dad’s friend then went to Mabua Pebble and Rock Beach in the afternoon. After dinner, we headed to Lipata ferry terminal and waited to board the ferry going to Liloan, Leyte. At this point, there was no turning back. We were about to leave the island of Mindanao.

We arrived in Liloan late in the evening and immediately made our way to Tacloban City.

Passing by Lianga, Surigao del Sur
Passing by Lianga, Surigao del Sur
Mabua Pebble & Rock beach
Mabua Pebble & Rock beach

Day 4 – Eastern Visayas

We spent the whole morning site-seeing in Tacloban. We first went to MacArthur Landing site and then Sto. Niño Shrine where we saw some of Marcos’ rare collections. By early afternoon we crossed the famous San Juanico Bridge to Samar. We passed by the cities of Catbalogan and Calbayog and arrived in Allen, Northern Samar just in time to to get the ferry going to Matnog, Sorsogon.

Sto. Niño Shrine, Tacloban
Sto. Niño Shrine, Tacloban
Sto. Niño Shrine, Tacloban City
Sto. Niño Shrine, Tacloban City
MacArthur Landing, Leyte
MacArthur Landing, Leyte
Crossing San Juanico Bridge
Crossing San Juanico Bridge

Day 5 – Bicol Region

We woke up to the sound of the ferry captain announcing our arrival in Matnog. It was still dark but you can see the light of the sun coming up. When we got off the ferry, an arch with the words “Welcome to the island of Luzon” greeted us. We found a nearby beach resort to have our breakfast and take some sunrise photos and after that, we went to Bulusan Lake to see what’s there.

After doing those, we went further up north to Legazpi City, passing by the City of Sorsogon, where we had our late lunch while enjoying the view of Mt. Mayon. We then went to Cagsawa Ruins.

Before night fall, we went to Donsol and spent the night there so we can be early the following day for Whale shark encounter.

Sunrise in Matnog, Sorsogon
Sunrise in Matnog, Sorsogon
The beautiful and majestic Mt. Mayon
The beautiful and majestic Mt. Mayon
Bulusan Lake, Bulusan, Bicol
Bulusan Lake, Bulusan, Bicol

Day 6

It’s only our 6th day and yet we feel as if we’ve been on the road for more than a week. Just a week ago, I was at home watching TV.

We woke up early to get a boat heading out to sea and to where the gentle giants are. Unlike in Oslob, Cebu where the whale sharks are near the shore and are almost tamed, the whale sharks here were different. One of the guides in our boat had to climb up on one of the poles to “spot” where the whale shark is. They will then maneuver the boat just near enough and when the head guide gives the signal, we all jump into the water to have a closer look. It was both exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping. Since GoPro’s were still not that famous back then, we only had a digital camera inside a Dica Pac waterproof case to take photos.

Sunrise in Donsol
Sunrise in Donsol
18
The most decent picture I have of this gentle giant

Before lunch time we were already back in the road, heading straight to Naga City where we spent another night after doing a mini-city tour.

Day 7 – Southern Tagalog

The next morning we drove further up north to Sta. Cruz, Laguna where my godfather lived. We stopped at many churches along the way since it was Holy Week during this time and Kamay ni Hesus in Lucban, Calabarzon was one of these stops.

Mt. Banahaw sunset
Mt. Banahaw sunset

Day 8, 9, 10 – Metro Manila

On our 8th day we finally arrived in Metro Manila. We visited some relatives in Muntinlupa and spent two nights in Fairview, Quezon City. Our initial plan was to go further up north to Baguio City, then Sagada province. Pushing it even more, we planned on going as far as Ilocos Region. Upon looking at the map, however, we realized it was still a very long way to go and so we decided to call it off and head back home.

Day 11 & 12

We left Metro Manila early morning and headed to Ibaan, Batangas, my mother’s home town. We went to Monte Maria Monastery to visit our grandmother’s sister. The following day, we visited more relatives in the morning and in the afternoon we went to Malabrigo Lighthouse, a National Historical Landmark that was built in 1896 by the Chinese and before night fall. After dinner, we headed to Santa Clara (Batangas) Port to catch yet another ferry to Calapan City.

Good bye island of Luzon.

Malabrigo Lighthouse
Malabrigo Lighthouse

Day 12 & 13 – Western Visayas

We arrived in Calapan port at around 1-2am. Since we had no idea where to go/stay, we continued driving towards Dangay Port, Roxas to get on another ferry going to Caticlan, Aklan. We had to make stops on the side of the road and take quick short naps as we still haven’t had a good sleep since the previous day. Upon arriving in Roxas, we boarded the ferry and continued sleeping in the bed bunks.

When we woke up in the morning, we were already near Caticlan and we can see Boracay Island just across.

After disembarkation, we left the car in Caticlan Port and boarded a boat towards Boracay Island where we stayed for two nights.

Boracay sunset
Boracay sunset
Star-filled sky in Boracay
Star-filled sky in Boracay

Day 14

We woke up early next day and went back to Caticlan to get to Iloilo City before night fall. We took the west coastal road and by lunch time, we were already at Miagao where we visited Miagao Church, one of the oldest churches in the country. We arrived in the city just before dinner and we headed straight to my aunt’s house where we spent the night.

Day 15

Sunrise in Dumangas, Iloilo
Sunrise in Dumangas, Iloilo

Before day break, we were already headed to Dumangas Port to get on a ferry going to Bacolod City. Unfortunately though, when we got there the ferry just left and so we had to wait two hours for the next one to arrive.

We had our lunch in Bacolod City and then visited the cities of Silay and Talisay. It was already late in the afternoon when we left Silay City and so when we went to The Ruins in Talisay, the sun had already set. After that, we went back to Bacolod City and spent the night there.

Sunset in Talisay City
Sunset in Talisay City
The Ruins, Talisay City
The Ruins, Talisay City

Day 16 – Central Visayas

The following day, we went further down south, heading to Dumaguete City via Himamaylan and Kabankalan cities. We arrived in Dumaguete city mid-afternoon and so we had a chance to roam around inside Silliman University. We didn’t spend much time outside, even in the bay walk area because the wind was cold and most of us were too exhausted.

Day 17 – Northern Mindanao

Hello and we’re back Mindanao!

We took a ferry from Dumaguete to Dapitan City early in the morning and when we arrived, we immediately went to see the House of Dr. Jose P. Rizal. It was raining lightly that time and thus, we didn’t enjoy much walking around.

We left Dapitan mid-morning and had our lunch along the way going to Iligan City. We arrived there mid-afternoon and visited one of my mentors in photography to catch up and have some of his home-brewed coffee.

We left Iligan City and headed straight to Cagayan de Oro City to spend the night at our cousin’s house.

Day 18

Home sweet home!

We had plenty of time driving from Cagayan de Oro city to Davao. We had lunch at Malaybalay, Bukidnon and spent few hours there relaxing. By early evening we were already back home in Davao City.

Summary

We were all spent and exhausted but were very much happy that we made it home in one piece. We were so lucky that the weather cooperated and even though it wasn’t the summer of ’69, looking back, I would still say that those were the best days of my life.

And on our 18 days of travel, we drove across 3,550 kilometers of land, traversed through 210 nautical miles of sea, consumed 198 liters of fuel, passed by 133 municipalities connecting 45 cities, crossed 27 provincial boundaries inside 8 regional territories on 7 different islands with 4 wheels and 1 big happy family.

Indeed, there is no time like family time.

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