The cool sea breeze was enough to lull me to sleep. It was a long and tiring day of trying to capture a good fashion shot for me. As I comfortably settled down inside my Aluyan PH hammock, I closed my eyes to just enjoy the breeze and the sound of the waves crashing in the background. It was my first time to sleep under the stars that night and I mean that literally. I slept watching the stars illuminate the night skies with two coconut trees guarding my “nest”. I knew that it was going to be a peaceful sleep along the shores of Cabongaoan.
Our trip started with an informal invitation to join a fashion shoot with a couple of Instagram friends. It was the third serving of #Project_IceCream, a fashion shoot that featured the designs of @vansquared32 with @aizeecream as his main model. The setting for the shoot this time was in Cabongaoan Beach, an off-beat destination in Pangasinan. Interested with the joining the project and destination, it didn’t take long before I finally gave my confirmation for the trip.
The Crashing Waves of Cabongaon
Everyone rushed out and headed straight to the beach after our van pulled into an empty lot that served as the parking lot of the resort. I knew that I was with a bunch of beach addicts because everyone just spilled out of the beach, mesmerized by it, and trying to find a good spot where we can capture its beauty in an IG frame. You cannot blame us because the beach was a refreshing sight after traveling for almost 7 hours from Manila. Besides, Cabongaoan beach was one of the reasons why I joined the project. I needed a beach break.
Caboangaon Beach is one off-beat beach destination located along the western sea front of the country. It is under the jurisdiction of Burgos, a fourth class municipality in Pangasinan, named after one of the three martyred priests of the Philippine revolution. The cove offers a long stretch of fine white sand beachfront, clear turquoise-blue waters, and some rock formations. Unlike other beach destinations, Cabongaoan Beach has maintained its rugged features and has kept itself below the radar of commercialism, making it a great beach escape for those wanting a peaceful and relaxing beach spot.
The first thing that caught my attention when we arrived in Cabongaoan was the huge waves that was crashing along its shores. I remember thinking that the place has the potential to be a surfing spot but my companions said that the beach can also turn calm, like the time that they were there for the ocular. There were very few visitors so we had the beach for ourselves. Our spot was right smack in the middle giving us a great view of the beach and the sea.
Contrasts By The Beach
As soon as we settled down, the crew started preparing for the shoot. Our lone make-up artist was already working on our two models while our designer was busy preparing the selections lined up for the day. Some were already busy taking photos of the beach while the rest of us were busy getting settled in. I found my spot by the beachfront where I mounted my AluyanPH hammock between two coconut trees.
After an hour and a half of preparation, the team was ready to start with the first model. Dressed in a fiery red long gown, Aizee was up and about doing warm-up shoots by the sand. It was then that I noticed the fine white sand of the beach. The sands of Cabongaoan Beach is its pride and asset. Coupled by the fact that the place remains largely untouched by mainstream tourism, this is probably the reason why a lot of travelers and locals prefer to come back for another dose of the vitamin sea that it offers.
But it is not all fine sand by the beach, there are also certain areas of the beach where coral reefs have been exposed leaving rock formations for guests to enjoy. Word of caution though, be extra careful when walking onto these exposed rocks as one wrong slip can give you a gash. But the view here is splendid. It offers a great panoramic view of Cabongaoan’s beachfront. It gives you the two contrasting features of the beach – the fine white sand that is soft to feel and hard rock surfaces that you need to deal with cautiously.
Interestingly, the “rockies” also served as the location for the contrasting depictions of fierce with our two models. One exudes her fierceness through elegance and poise while other depicts a fierce side of a woman through her sexiness. It did add to the mood that waves were crashing onto the rocks sending sprays of saltwater splashing onto our models.
A Shy Sunset
After an hour or so of taking fashion shots and with me struggling to do the same, the team headed on for a change in theme. The crew had to redo a couple of hair styling while the designers lined up the next batch of designs. The rest of the group grabbed the chance to take a short nap or just simply chill down. I was lucky that I was able to get a couple of minutes of sleep on my hammock.
The ladies changed into a more upbeat gowns for their second set. It matched the more upbeat side of the beach. By the time that we started shooting, I guess we had caught the attention of both visitors and locals. I mean who would expect a formal photoshoot would happen in an off-beat destination, right?
But observing from the looks of curiosity of the locals, I figured that the community of Cabongaoan is a laid back community just like Dasol. Its location, about 45 minutes away from the town center, has shielded it from the onslaught of commercialism and has kept it under the radar from travelers. It is probably the reason why activities like photoshoots pique their curiosities.
As the photoshoot took on a lighter mood, the new designs and our models exuded a more tropical beach feel. Everyone was starting to get into the groove of the waves splashing onto the shores. In no time, our attention was directed to the horizon, anticipating the sunset. Cabongaoan Beach should be an ideal destination for sunset watchers as it also sits facing the west. I have always believed that no two sunsets are the same as each destination offers a different “show” for sunset lovers.
Unfortunately, we were not treated to a spectacular sunset during our visit as rain clouds covered our view of the setting sun. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the play of colors as the sun was slowly dipping onto the horizon. I enjoyed catching candid moments as our fellow photographers captured their models in their own frames. It was then that I realized that I have a lot to work on this kind of photography. And just like the sun hiding behind the clouds, I made the conscious decision to just simply focus on catching the candid behind the scenes of the photoshoot.
An Invitation By The Sea
The morning after had me and the gang exploring the beach more. Armed with my phone and action camera, we went on to explore the southern part of Cabongaoan Beach. We headed towards the lighthouse that sits on the edge of its cliff. We were all hoping that we will be able to find our way up to explore the lighthouse.
As you walk along the shores of Cabongaoan, my observations from the previous day became more evident. The shoreline remains untouched by commercialization because parcels of land remain as grazing lands for the local’s livestock. I have noticed that most of the accommodations were concentrated in the area that we were in and these are simple facilities. It is one area where you get to enjoy using a “poso” or a water pump to fetch fresh water from the ground. Again, the place have managed to keep itself under the tourism radar despite the natural beauty that it has.
There is also the contrast between sand and rocks. Although the beach shore has a mix of white and golden sand that beach lovers will definitely enjoy, there are certain segments of the beach where rocks are more evident. You will be amazed by the rock formations that juts out from its waters giving the place that rugged feel. I enjoyed having to do photos by the sea with these rocks giving a dramatic feel in the frame. As others have observed, these are the same features that are present in Bolinao and even in Dasol.
We managed to get to the rocky bottom of the cliff but there was no way up to the lighthouse. The rugged features of the beach are more evident here as these is where rock formations are concentrated. It gives you an amazing view of the beach stretch of Cabongaoan and the rocky islets near the beach. I did enjoy climbing up a huge tree that protrudes towards the sea. If Boracay has a coconut tree then it does not compare to the huge tree that reaches out to see of this place. Word of advice though, take extra precaution when traversing the area.
Heading back to the resort, I was the one tailing the team. I was really taking my time to enjoy the tranquillity and solitude that the place had to offer. You can definitely find your own secluded spot by the beach. The turquoise water was inviting. In no time, I have found myself taking a quick dip in its waters. It was an invitation that was hard to resist.
Post Travel: Bring Out The Horn
We were on our last stretch of the pictorials. As soon as we returned to the resort, the whole team was buzzing with activity. Aizee was ready with her horn and, as she was waiting for her call, a group of visitors sheepishly asked if they could have a photo with her. She gamely obliged with her request.
Capturing Cabongaoan Beach in a frame is both easy and challenging. Easy in a sense that it has a magnificent landscape and seascape that you can capture. It is challenging because unlike other destinations, it really has limited activities that it can offer. One thing though that it can offer is the solitude and tranquillity topped by the beauty of the place. It is a good destination to unwind – the type where you spend your whole day reading a book under a tree with no care in the world. Every once in a while you might decide to take a dip or walk along its shores and then you come back to your spot and do it all over again.
Everyone was happy as we wrapped up the final shots. It was another successful Project Ice Cream shoot and everyone seems to be satisfied with their outputs. I earned additional IG friends while discovering another off-beat destination in Pangasinan. It was a fun project and adventure, rolled into one. And the best way to end it is to enjoy the sand and waters of Cabongaoan Beach.
Again, it was an invitation that was hard to resist.
Getting there: One can take a Victory Liner / Solid North / Five Star Bus to Alaminos or Bolinao. You go down in Alaminos where you take a jeep headed to Dasol. The jeepney station is near the Banco de Oro along the Olongapo-Bugallon Road.
Ask the driver to drop you off at the Burgos Public Market where you can take a tricycle to Cabongaoan Beach. Fare is at Php500 one way. Make sure that you ask the tricycle driver to pick you up on your intended return.
Our group stayed at Roven’s Place. They offer simple but complete facilities. You may reach them at (0927) 9957606.
Special thanks to Aluyan PH for their amazing neck pillow/hammock product. I highly recommend it for frequent travellers. It was my bed for the whole duration of our stay. Check them out through their Instagram account -@aluyanph.
As I start to write this blog, I am waiting for my flight back to Manila at Laguindingan Airport. This was my third trip in Cagayan de Oro in 2 months.
Cagayan de Oro is my happy place and, ever since I was a young kid, I always looked forward to vacations to the city. The city has grown leaps and bounds through the years. This city has embraced developments that has made the city one of the most progressive cities in Mindanao.
The city has definitely evolved from a quaint city to a tourism destination with adrenaline-pumping activities that people from all-ages can enjoy. The rough terrain and the great weather makes the city an amazing choice for travelers who wish to try activities that will make them face their fears. Others can also opt to just chill down by the beach while enjoying their favorite drink. I guess, the city has everything to offer for any kind of traveler.
If the city gave you a glimpse of its rich history, let us now try to catch exciting activities that will keep you pumped up or chilled down when you find yourself in Cagayan de Oro City.
Dahilayan, Bukidnon: Where Height Does NOT Matter
Nestled along the foot of Mount Kitanglad, Dahilayan in Manolo Fortich is one destination close to the city that is taking a lot of traction in the tourism front. Dahilayan is a great escape from the heat of the city as it has a very cool weather that is quite similar to that of Tagaytay City. The place has two park destinations, Dahilayan Adventure Park and the Dahilayan Forest Park, that both offers exciting activities that can be enjoyed by both adults and kids.
The one and a half hour trip to Dahilayan from Cagayan de Oro will give you a glimpse on the rural communities of Mindanao. You will pass by Camp Philips Pineapple Plantation where you get to see the community where their main livelihood revolves around the pineapple plantations of Del Monte. These plants are planted into large parcels of land as far as the eyes can see.
Our first stop was the Dahilayan Forest Park – it is park that offers and amazing view of the mountain ranges and the forest covers of Mount Kitanglad. The general theme of the park is farmland with its Indian themed statues, complete with playgrounds, farm animals, and teepees. The park also has family friendly activities and rides. But for me the biggest pull of the park was Forest Café – a café that offers really good food.
But for those searching a more adrenaline-pumping activity, you can head off to Dahilayan Adventure Park. Its main attraction is Asia’s Longest Dual Zip Line with the length of 840 meters. The experience starts with a scenic uphill drive to the launch point. You are then launched from a height of 4500 feet above sea level and you zoom through Dahilayan’s forest cover at a speed of 60-80 kph. It is definitely a thrilling experience high above the forest covers of the park. I conquered the zip on a fair weather at a temperature of 23 degrees Celsius with a 3 kph windspeed.
There are other ziplines in the park that people from all ages can enjoy like the training ziplines. My kid and I enjoyed the Python Roller Zip Ride that had us zipping through pine trees of the park in a roller coaster kind of way. Of course, the more adventurous ones can try the Drop Zone for a more heart wrenching drop.
Getting there: There are regular van transport to Dahilayan that leaves Cagayan de Oro at 8.30am. The van returns to Cagayan de Oro at 4.30pm. You better make sure that you allot the whole day when you plan to commute to Dahilayan.
Initao: Chilling By The Beach
Cagayan de Oro is a coastal city and has quite a number of beachfronts to explore. Some of these beach areas are in Opol and Cugman. These areas are the closest to the city where you can enjoy the sun and the sands of the city.
One great thing about the recent developments in Cagayan de Oro City is that it led to the discovery of new tourist destinations in the region and that includes Initao. The municipality lies west of the city of Cagayan de Oro and it will take you about an hour and a half to get there. Initao is fast becoming popular because of its white sand beaches that is now starting to become a point of interest for both locals and visitors.
The white sand beach cove was definitely a break from the usual gray sand beaches of Cagayan de Oro. The sand was powdery that walking barefoot along the shores under the heat of the sun was not uncomfortable. There were parts of the beach that was sandy while on one side was a dead coral reef. The resorts that lined the shores offered different activities that can keep the whole family entertained.
I preferred just sitting down by the sand and watching the day pass by.
Getting there: One can take the bus heading to Iligan City from Cagayan de Oro. Just ask the driver to drop you off at Blu Sands Beach Resort in Initao. The resort have a swimming pool and cottages or rooms for rent.
Cagayan de Oro River Rafting: The Heart of Cagayan de Oro's Tourism
At the forefront of Cagayan de Oro’s tourism front is the adrenaline-pumping white water rafting along the Cagayan River, the longest river in Mindanao. Spring water drains from the Kalatungan and Kitanglad mountain ranges through this river, travels a 90-kilometer course, and finally empties into the Macajalar Bay in this city. The river also serves as a natural boundary between Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon. It is THE heart of the city’s tourism with its whitewater rafting activity.
Those interested to do whitewater rafting have two options – the Beginner Course and the Advance Course. The Beginner Course is a 2-3 hour rafting activity that covers 14 rapids while the Advance course is a 3-4 hour activity of 21 rapids. In our case, we opted for the Beginner course because of Asher.
This was the not the first time that Ashe and I tried our hands in whitewater rafting as we tried it before when Asher was still 1 year and 4 months old. But I guess she does not remember the experience. This time around she simply enjoyed the experience.
The two-hour rafting activity had us paddling through the river, getting knocked off our seats, and getting whirled around gushing waters like we were inside a washing machine. We enjoyed the surprise drops and splashes along the course. But the whole activity is not just about splashes and drops, it also has spots where you can relax from the rush by taking a quick dip in the river and just let the current drag you along the route. It did help though that we had a great guide, Kuya Popoy, who filled us with his jokes throughout the experience.
It was definitely a great activity that gave us that adrenaline-rush kind of excitement, one that we will surely remember for a very long time.
Getting there: You can book your white water rafting tours through Great White Water Tours at (0917) 7060677.
Post Travel Notes
Cagayan de Oro has given itself a 360-degree turn in the tourism front when it focused its energies on discovering activities that is uniquely its own, in this case, whitewater rafting. The development and the promotion of whitewater rafting placed Cagayan de Oro in the tourist map of adventours. It carved its own niche in the industry.
As a result, it also gave way to the development of other adventure activities in its surrounding regions making Northern Mindanao a prime destination for adrenaline junkies.
Getting there: Cagayan de Oro can be accessed by land, sea, and air. The fastest is by taking a one hour and a half flight from Manila directly to Laguindingan Airport. Major cities in the country also has direct flight to Laguindingan Airport. You can then take a van going to the city for Php199 per head. The trip takes about 45 minutes from the airport. You can contact Jess of LAX Transport for van arrangements at (0917) 7101529.
There are a lot accommodations in Cagayan de Oro. I suggest Marianne Suites located in downtown Cagayan de Oro because of its accessibility, great service, and affordable rates. You may reach Marianne Suites at (0917) 5776194.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.