I was supposed to wake up at 4am since my friend, Glen of Escape Manila, and I decided we’d leave Davao City by 5am to have more time to explore and visit the famous Bukidnon attractions. This was my second trip to Davao City. I was supposed to travel to the town of Cateel, one of the towns in Davao, which was badly hit by Typhoon Pablo to help with their relief operations. However, we learned that it won’t be till the weekend before they go there. So since I had nothing planned on my last day in Davao, Glen suggested we visit Bukidnon province in Mindanao claiming that it was just three hours away from Davao City. I’ve always wanted to visit the land of pineapples, rolling mountains and beautiful roadside sceneries but had no one to travel with. So the moment Glen suggested the idea of going on a 3-hour bus ride to experience a Davao to Bukidnon trip, I instantly said Yes!
We had no idea what to do in Bukidnon or what to see. That night, we emailed our travel blogger friends who live in the area in case they were free to meet up for lunch the next day. Glen had been there 10 years ago and it would be my first time to visit one of the famous province in Mindanao. Since we’re two crazy travellers, we decided we’ll just let our feet decide our fate the next day.
Leaving for our Davao to Bukidnon Trip
Work and sleeping late stopped me from waking up early that day. Oblivious of the blaring sound of my phone’s alarm clock, I overslept for 2 hours. I jokingly blamed my friend for not waking me up when he was roused from his sleep because of the grating sound coming from my room 2 hours earlier. When I realized what time it was, I immediately jumped out of bed and prepared. The original plan to leave early for our day trip to Bukidnon vanished as we started heading for Davao City’s Ecoland Bus Terminal somewhere past 6 in the morning.
Once we arrived at the Davao City bus terminal just before 7, we started looking for the bus going to Bukidnon and found the bus that plies the Davao to Cagayan route via Buda. When we learned that the bus would leave at 7:30am we decided to find food for breakfast and buy food supplies for the trip. After we were done hoarding the stores nearby, we looked for seats inside the bus.
The Davao to Cagayan bus via Buda looked like the Ceres buses we had back home in Cebu. I was also impressed to see seat belts on this particular bus. We carefully chose the side of the bus we’d sit to enjoy the scenic view of the road without worrying about the sun’s heat glaring at our windows. Glen figured that since we’re headed south (remember we’re taking the Davao to Bukidnon route, ok?), finding seats on the right side of the bus would be ideal. Trusting my ‘tour guide’, we found vacant seats in the middle right side and started eating breakfast.
Glen’s idea for a breakfast were just hard boiled eggs but since I had a bigger appetite, mine included 1 huge bread, biko (as I fancy rice cakes/kakanins a lot) and Cheese Ring. We also bought donuts for desert. We started eating breakfast as soon as we settled on our seats. After taking in two bites of the biko, I realized that I won’t be consuming the whole lot since the rice was not cooked well and it didn’t taste good. While I happily succeeded chewing 1 hard boiled egg on one hand with the bread on the other while my mouth took charge of creating an invisible egg sandwich inside my belly, Glen already consumed his share of the hard boiled eggs and before I knew it, his donut disappeared into thin air.
Choosing the best seats inside the bus
Two passengers arrived as soon as I realized I won’t be able to finish eating the big bread. They were discussing what side of the bus would be best to avoid the sun. One of them clearly said that since we’re heading north, it’s best to sit on the left side of the bus. At that instant, my huge eyes met Glen’s and he consulted our best friend for this trip – the iPad.
The map clearly indicated we were headed north but Glen was still in denial. He had to double check the results again. After looking at the map, I immediately said we’re actually headed northwest. That explains why the other guy who was seated across us was confident when he claimed the seats on the left side of the bus. When we realized this mistake, all of the seats on the left side were already taken. Since there were curtains hanging on the window, we got glued to our seats instead and laughed at that minor miscalculation.
We were still undecided where to go. Thanks to Glen’s iPad, we hurriedly consulted Google and checked for things to do in Bukidnon. I also blasted a shout out on my FB wall. Doc Wends suggested we check out Lake Apo in Valencia and other Valencia tourist spots. We also wanted to visit Dahilayan Adventure Park, Manolo Fortich and a place that Glen saw on the blog of Journeying James. Valencia or Malaybalay? That was the ultimate question.
Davao to Bukidnon travel time
By 7:30 am, the bus started to leave the terminal and started heading for the national highway. Finally, our day trip to Bukidnon was really happening. The bus conductor started collecting fares. When he reached our seats he asked us where we’re headed. We were still undecided on where to go so we asked him how long will it take to reach Valencia. His reply made our eyes bulge as we burst into laughter. The conductor had no idea what just happened and we had to apologize and ask him again the question to make sure we heard him right. Travel time to Valencia Bukidnon is 5 hours, he said. Malaybalay Bukidnon is 30 minutes more. By this time, we couldn’t contain our laughter. The poor guy joined us in amusement at our odd behaviour. We explained that we thought the trip would just last for 3 hours. After collecting our wits, we paid up P330 each for the fare from Davao to Valencia, Bukidnon.
After travelling for 2hours, Glen woke me up and asked if I’d want to go to the restroom. Figures out the bus made its obligatory stop over at the town of Lorega in Kitaotao, Bukidnon. It took me a while to get out of the bus and when I did, Glen seemed to be waiting for me to get off the red clunker. He told me to pass by the center of a railing which has a wet cloth on the ground. I had no idea what it was for. Without asking questions, my obedient side followed those other passengers as they stepped on the wet cloth. It turns out that the whole province of Bukidnon is a Food-and-Mouth (FMD) Disease-free zone. And they want to make certain they remain that way by placing these preventive measures at each border town in Bukidnon. The cloth is said to have chemicals that will kill bacteria/germs sticking on anybody’s footwear.
While waiting for the rest of the passengers, I noticed a change in the temperature in the area. I soon realized that we have already reached the highlands of Bukidnon. The temperature was cooler. The stalls nearby were selling cute plants in small plastic pots. There were assorted plants in there. On another stall, handicrafts were sold and I particularly liked one of those hanging decors where it whirls in the direction of the wind giving that beautiful illusion as the colors swung in circular motion together with the uneven stack of those hanging wooden object. So cute!
A few minutes after we left the FMD checkpoint area of Bukidnon, our bus parked on the side of the road where a free flowing water turned into what looked like a mini waterfalls. The driver gave the tires a bath and soon smoke started coming off the tires. Those tires definitely needed a break. It was also a great thing that the drivers are cautious of their bus’ well-being. I guess it was also to prepare the tires for the series of winding roads that we had to pass through as we crossed the mountainous area of Bukidnon.
the roads the we need to pass through, do you see them?
At some points, we had to slow down due to the ongoing road construction in the area. 2-way lanes became 1-way lanes. We had to stop over a few times to give way for other vehicles on the opposite lane to pass through.
On some areas, the stop overs took a little bit longer. Impatient passengers near the bus’ door would get off the bus. Some of the children in these mountain areas took this as an opportunity to sell snack food to travellers. We also passed by areas where crops were flattened due to the typhoon. On some areas, we saw kids extending their arms to vehicles as if begging for anything.
It was also in this province that I saw too many horses. There were lots of them. Some were tied near the local’s homes while some locals rode them. As per Glen, since there are no public transportation in the area aside from buses, the horses are used by farmers to reach one destination. I dunno if he was just messing around with me or if what he said was true. hehehe. But having horses is indeed practical to travel faster from places to places.
The roadblocks that we encountered made the normal 3-4-hour bus ride going to Bukidnon a long one. Bored with the traffic in the mountains, I decided to use some shut eye. We were awakened from our slumber when the bus conductor announced that we’ll take our lunch first. We reached a certain area in Bukidnon but didn’t bother asking where we were. We simply went out of the bus and followed the rest of the passengers as they entered the terminal’s canteen. We figured we’d have to eat lunch somehow before we continue our trip to Valencia so we followed the long line of people as they waited to get their food orders taken. Due to the number of passengers buying food for lunch, it took some time before we finished buying ours.
The most expensive crappy meal on this (mis)adventure to Bukidnon
I actually failed to take a photo of what we ate but if I knew that it would be the most expensive meal we’d eat on this roadtrip to Bukidnon, I wouldn’t think twice in capturing a photo of it.
Actually we paid roughly 90 pesos for our meal which consisted of two servings of rice, fried cubed pork fat and meat swimming in oil and food coloring that tasted like butakal (yuck! butakal is the term coined for mother pigs or sows), meatballs (bola2x) that tasted like paper (yes, papel. eeew!); and kinilaw na langka (jackfruit salad) – the only decent dish I liked.
Once we finished eating and once we sensed that the bus was about to leave, we entered the bus. Before I proceeded to walk down the aisle to go back to my seat, I asked the driver “Nong, pila pa ka oras padung sa Valencia?” (How many hours more before we reach the town of Valencia?) to which the driver immediately replied “Huh, Valencia na ni!!!”
“Aw, mao ba???” (Really?!#!*&!!!??) and we started laughing again and immediately got off the bus. The driver was also laughing with us too. So basically, we travelled all the way to Valencia and paid 330/head + the meal we ate for lunch just to eat crappy food. If we had known we already reached our destination, we could have eaten at one of the town’s specialty restaurants or Jollibee, if they had one. LOL.
Clueless and lost
When we realized we already reached our destination, we couldn’t help wear a blank face saying “Ok, what now? Where do we go?” for we were clueless. We knew that our plan was to visit Lake Apo so we asked a female vendor for directions. She said that it was too far from where we were. Knowing that we’re doomed, we called our travel blogger friend Kuya Bonz, who’s based in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, and asked for information on what to do in Valencia and how to get to Lake Apo. His reply bothered me a bit. He said that it might not be safe to go to Lake Apo since someone was recently killed there. We also learned that Manolo Fortich and Dahilayan Adventure Park are very far and if we’ll go to Malaybalay, it would take more travel time and we don’t want to go to the Transfiguration Chapel when the sun is at its peak. As soon as we thanked Kuya Bonz for his suggestions and ended the call, we again talked to the vendor and inquired about the killings. She said that anywhere, including in the cities, people die. She seemed not bothered about that news at all.
“Are you willing to go on a suicide mission?” I asked Glen. He shook his head saying he’s not ready to die yet. LOL. Ok, so the safest choice would probably be to head back to Davao or visit Central Mindanao University and Musuan Peak. We can’t go back to Davao City knowing we didn’t see any beautiful sights in Bukidnon. So after a few deliberations, we rode a bus going going back where we came from to visit CMU and Musuan Peak. If we had known where we were going, we would have alighted near the area even before reaching Valencia. Then we realized we travelled all the way to Valencia on a 5-hour bus ride and we didn’t even get to take a photo of the place! Darn! I soon realized that this unplanned trip to Bukidnon was really going to be one crazy road trip.
Visiting Lake Apo
Before we reached our destination, Glen asked me again if I really wanted to visit Lake Apo. I hesitated since I also don’t want to endanger my friend’s life in case we accidentally meet rebels, bandits or worse. But it was a waste of money and time if we leave Bukidnon without accomplishing anything. So, the suicide mission was a go. We asked the bus to drop us off at the Dologon Junction where we could hire a habal-habal to reach the lake.
Kuya Bonz mentioned that we had to carefully choose our driver and make sure that they look trustworthy. But that one was hard since we were just assigned a driver after talking to a barker. When we asked them of the killings in the area, they seemed not to know or care.
When the motorcycle roared to life, we started travelling the bumpy rough road going to Lake Apo. It was a good thing that the sun was high. All we have to worry was eating dust instead of getting stuck in the mud on that uneven terrain. A few times, we’d pass by trucks carrying loads of sugar cane. That’s when we realized that sugarcane is one of the major crops planted in Bukidnon. I was actually looking forward to pineapples but all I saw were sugarcane and corn. It’s just sad that some of them got damaged by the typhoon.
After a 30-minute butt numbing ride, we arrived at the lake. We’re still alive! Horaaay! No one was there and we had the place all to ourselves. When I saw the lake from afar, crickets started playing inside my head.
“Ahhhhhhhhh, so this is Lake Apo? Ok, let’s go home!” joke! But no kidding, that’s one of the things that came to my mind when I saw the lake. I guess I was not in the mood for visiting lakes that day so my sprits weren’t that high when I finally got a glimpse of the place.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm to see greeneries all over me, I still found the courage to take those obligatory shots. hehehe.
Actually, the lake is beautiful. There are a number of floating huts where one can rent for P200/day for some relaxation while floating around this small body of water. Upon entering the area, you will see big trees covered with moss and hanging plants surrounding Lake Apo. On the left side, there are small fishing boats and there were also kayaks. Some trees got uprooted but there were only a handful of them. Giant mosquitos won’t hesitate to suck your blood too so an insect repellant or balm would come in handy.
Out of nowhere, I asked our habal-habal driver and the resident kid in the area if there are crocodiles living in the lake. LOL. But I also asked if there are fishes there too. hehehe. Our motorcycle driver also mentioned that on weekends, the place gets packed with locals.
When I checked back the articles of my travel blogger friends regarding their Lake Apo trip, I found out that there’s this side of the lake with a captivating landscape. I wanted to kick my butt for not exploring the whole area as I clearly didn’t see any of those wonderful photos I saw from my friends’ sites. Somehow, I wish we also rented the floating boat to get to the other side and explore that area. Maybe next time.
Seeing Musuan Peak
Anyway, after we decided we had captured enough photos (without bothering to roam all over the lake’s area) we headed back to the main road in Dologon. On our way, we could clearly see Musuan Peak. It’s like a short cone dropped in the middle of the plains of Bukidnon. What’s interesting about this peak is that it looked like an inverted cone if you are looking from one of those roads going to Lake Apo.
Later on, we discovered that Musuan Peak is in fact one of the active volcanoes in the Philippines thanks to the info provided by our travel blogger friend, Kuya Earl. Hiking the peak is also possible but that never crossed our mind since it was too hot.
Oh, we came out of Lake Apo unscathed. I guess travelling there by day is safe but one has to be careful at night time. It’s probably best to stay out of the area before the sun sets, I think.
Musuan Peak, Musuan, Bukidnon
We asked our driver to drop us off at Lantaw Musuan, a food haus in Dologon with a breathtaking view of the Musuan Peak. We ordered for some refreshments after the bumpy ride back.
Instant PTB Meet-up
Since Kuya Earl was just a town away, we decided we’d pay him a visit too. After exchanging a few text messages, we hopped on a bus bound for Maramag, Bukidnon.
It was very kind of Kuya Earl to step out of his office to grace our presence. For the next 30 minutes, we chatted nonchalantly about our misadventures and we also exchanged stories of our travels.
The great thing about being a part of our Pinoy Travel Blogger’s group is that although you only get to know people who share the same passion as you do online, once you meet them in person you instantly get to bond with them and soon enough, you’d be chatting for hours as if you’ve known them for ages (feeling close?). And that’s what I’m thankful for. Although we left Davao City to travel to Bukidnon without having any idea where to go and what to do, Kuya Bonz and Kuya Earl were super helpful in showing us the light. Thank you so much guys! I’ll definitely go back to Bukidnon and hopefully I’d get to see horses and pineapples next time + the chance of pestering you guys again. hehehe.
Our day trip to Bukidnon was a riot. We travelled 5 hours all the way to Valencia just to eat crappy food at their bus terminal. We didn’t even get the chance to explore Valencia and go camwhoring at their town plaza. We were told that we could still enjoy the scenic view of Bukidnon even though we’re just inside the bus but I was sleeping most of the time so no luck seeing those scenic views as it was close to sunset when we started heading back to Davao City. LOL. We went to see a lake but I didn’t really enjoy the whole scenery (I dunno why). The good thing was that I got to crash out Bukidnon on my list and I got to meet Kuya Earl and hear Kuya Bonz’ voice. hehehe.
Although the trip was unplanned, I’d say that this is one of the best spontaneous trips I’ve had so far as getting lost and clueless is already an adventure in itself, not to mention the countless times I’d have to laugh like a hyena from all the bloopers we encountered. But what really makes this trip a success is the presence of a travel companion who’s as crazy as I am. Thanks for the great company Glen! Nalingaw ko ani nga laag! hahaha
And since we never got the chance to have a photo at Valencia, here’s one from Maramag, Bukidnon instead.
Glen and I
Thanks to Kuya Earl for this great photo with Maramag Bus Terminal as our background. hahaha
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a) Ma-a, Davao City b) Kitaotao, Bukidnon c) Maramag, Bukidnon
d) Musuan Peak e) Lake Apo f) Valencia City, Bukidnon