Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Promised Land

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead (unless explicitly noted) is merely coincidental.

It has been two years since I've relocated here in Davao City for good. Like any other people who live outside Mindanao, the idea of living in an island filled with negative news is downright scary.

Manila Bay Sunset. Photo courtesy of jhaycalimbo

Leaving my hometown was truly heartbreaking but nonetheless, I regret nothing. It seemed like relocating to the island of Mindanao was truly a blessing in disguise because I learned a LOT of good things not just about the island but about me as a person.

And with that, I will share the most crucial moment of my life.


"Seriously sir? Me? Moving out from Manila and relocate to Davao next week? But, but, it's in Mindanao! I have heard it's dangerous to live there!" 
"Alright, you only have two choices, Mr. Serafico. Either you resign or continue being a journalist." 
"But... but..." 
"No buts Luis. You haven't been to Davao, right? You better visit the place before judging it."

Okay, I have always dreamed of becoming a journalist since seven. I got inspired after watching Kabayan's lahar episode. Journalists know the real stories. Journalists touch the lives of the people. And journalists tell remarkable stories to the whole world. But soon after my boss gave me this long-term assignment, fear started to shroud my mind.

I don't want to die early (repeat three times) was my daily mantra.

Seriously, I don't want to die early; I am still a virgin.

FAST FORWARD - we were on our final approach to Davao.

Aerial view of Davao City. Photo courtesy of Bernard Agulo.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have just landed at Francisco Bangoy International Airport. We welcome you to Davao..."

Ahh great, finally. I just hate flying.

"...for your information, smoking is prohibited in all public places of the city including the terminal building. Thank you!"

Ugghh! What a great way to greet my arrival!

I met up with my two Davao based colleagues, namely Amy and Mario. They were warm and friendly, but something caught me off guard - it's the way they speak. We were inside the van and the two of them were so noisy and excited.

Mario asked me, "Huy, ano nga ngalan mo? Taga saan ka gani?"

I was annoyed by his question because I can't decipher whether if he's speaking in Tagalog or Bisaya, but I still politely replied, "Hey, I'm Luis Serafico, reporter po ako from Manila."

Then Amy said, "Hala, taga Manila pala siya, akala ko Cebu! Ikaw jud uy (poking Mario), dapat mag Tagalog ka dapat sa kanya ba!"

Okay, that made me more confused. I thought my male colleague's name was Mario. Why does Amy keeps on calling him Jude Uy? Mario doesn't even look like a Chinese, for crying out loud.

Anyway, after arriving at the main office of the network, we met up with the chief correspondent and gave us a task for the next several days, a task that forever changed my views about Mindanao.

The Mindanao Tour

The next day, we went to a coastal barangay in Samal Island where we documented the lives of the fishermen and resort owners. I noticed that a lot of people flock the pristine white sand beaches of this island. I can't blame it. It's only a stone throw away from downtown Davao.

Pangubatan Beach Resort, Island Garden City of Samal

We decided to hit the beach before going home and I had the chance to witness the beautiful sunset in Samal Island.


Next stop was Iligan City in Lanao del Norte. I was about to book a flight for the three of us to Cagayan de Oro but my two other colleagues told me that going there by land is more fun and exciting. But the thought of being kidnapped by the rebels in the middle of nowhere seemed to haunt me every minute or two. Are these two trying to scare the shit out of me? Or so I thought.  I was just being paranoid.

We ate lunch at Seagull Mountain Resort and I can't believe that this place is still a part of Davao City! Anyway, their baby back ribs was the best. I even bought two handmade bracelets from a lumad. It was really beautiful.


We traversed the plateaus of Bukidnon and visited the Transfiguration Church at Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. It was designed by Leandro Locsin, a Philippine National Artist. The moment I entered the church, I felt peace inside God's refuge. I know that He will guide me throughout this journey.

Well, talking about reviving my spirituality.

Transfiguration Chapel, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon

It was 3.30 PM when we left the church and I decided to doze off inside the van. The next thing I knew, it was already dark and we were already at Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City.

Yes, at long last! Civilization!

We checked in at our hotel and decided to taste the night life of Cagayan de Oro. And yes, I got happy when we entered Divisoria located just in front of Xavier University. This place reminded me of my beloved hometown, Manila. Of course, I bought a lot of stuff from the night market.

Night market in Cagayan de Oro City


After eating a hearty breakfast at our hotel, we immediately left Cagayan de Oro at seven in the morning. The trip to Iligan City would take an hour.

We went straight to the barangay hall and interviewed a local official; it was part of our documentary show wherein we feature the true situation regarding the ARMM elections. And boy, the official was so warm and hospitable that he gave us food for lunch!

Since we finished our jobs early, we decided to visit two of Iligan's famous waterfalls - Tinago and Mimbalot. Although Maria Cristina was part of our original plan, we thought that it's already late thus we didn't include it in our itinerary. Sucker. But nevertheless my jaw dropped (yes, literally) after seeing these two magnificent falls. I have never seen a waterfall in my entire life until that very moment!

The City of Majestic Waterfalls, Iligan City, Lanao del Norte


On our next assignment, we were tasked to interview two prominent leaders of two different groups of the Zamboanga Peninsula Region - one is the leader of the Rizalista group of Dapitan (a group of people who revered Rizal as the holy one) and the other one's the leader of a Tausug tribe residing at Rio Hondo, Zamboanga City.

We drove north of Iligan, crossed Iligan Bay and passed by different towns of Misamis Occidental. We finally arrived at Dapitan by noon.

The country's national hero, Jose Rizal was exiled in Dapitan and spent a part of his life in this place. Dapitan is a relatively small city. We were greeted by the warm smiles of the locals as we entered the Rizal Shrine. After we interviewed the leader of Rizalitas, my perception about Rizal had changed for good. I used to think that Rizal's just a playboy, a coward and not worthy to be revered as the national hero of our country. But after seeing all the things he contributed in this humble city, I've realized that he truly deserved to be called as our national hero.

Jose Rizal at Dapitan. Photo courtesy of Neil Ramos

Crazy rides at Gloria's Fantasyland. Photo courtesy of Neil Ramos.

And oh, did I mention that I almost puke after riding an insane ride at Gloria's Fantasyland?

Ugghh! But it was still a fun experience despite that.


Hola, hola mi amigo y amiga! Bienvenidos Zamboanga!

The next morning, we drove for the next four to five hours before reaching the pueblo (town center) of Zamboanga. Since it's already late in the afternoon, we decided to conduct our interview-slash-research at Rio Hondo tomorrow morning. In the mean time, the three of us chilled at Paseo del Mar and had a breathtaking view of the sunset. The place reminded me of Manila Bay.

Beautiful sunset at Paseo del Mar, Zamboanga City.

Prior to our Rio Hondo trip, I did some research about it, and guess what, I got paranoid again. According to what I've read, Rio Hondo's one of the most notorious places in Zamboanga City. I was thinking of pretending to be sick the following day and let Amy and Mario do the rest of the job.

But no, I have gone this far and I have to face my fears.

The following morning, we met our local guide, a former barangay leader at the gates of Fort Pilar. Then we made our way to Rio Hondo.

Rio Hondo, photographed by EAZY Traveler

Instead of gunshots and chaos (okay that was exaggerated), I was greeted with warm smiles and nods from the locals. Kids enthusiastically called me to have their photographs taken. It was an exciting and shaky experience as we crossed the dilapidated catwalks and narrow street planks.

And as always, the Tausug leader showed hospitality to us. He even shared tips about traveling, Rio Hondo's history and the cultures of their tribes. After interviewing the Tausug leader, I have realized several things about this particular trip:

  1. Mindanao, like any other place in the world, has its own share of wonderful stories. It would be unfair to say that Mindanao's forever in chaos. And as a journalist, I would love to tell the whole world that there's more to witness in Mindanao. Good things outweigh the bad things.
  2. Mindanao is one diverse island. I've met different people - from those who have the ability to speak three languages in one sentence, to the creative lumads, the devout Rizalistas and to the peace loving Tausug people of Rio Hondo. Indeed, Mindanao is an island draped with different colors. It was really a nice experience to encounter people with different beliefs and cultures. And from that point, I've learned the value of respect. We all need it these days.
  3. I have wrongly judged Mindanao, and I regret it.

After long days at work, we decided to chill at a local coffee shop here in Zamboanga City. We compiled everything before heading back to Davao the next day.

Fort Pilar sunset.

As the sun sank at the western horizon, things became clearer. The people of Mindanao have told me beautiful stories about their island. They have shared a part of their lives to us, and it was a great opportunity.

Two years have passed and I'm still here in Davao. You know, once you enter Mindanao, it's very difficult to leave the island... when you've instantly fallen in love with the genuine hospitality of Mindanaons.

And yes, I'm starting to learn the ability to speak three languages in one sentence. Kayo jud ba! Pataka lang mga sinasabi niyo about Mindanao! Ka-nice talaga dito uy!

And this is Luis Serafico, now signing... oh wait, I almost forgot. I am not a virgin anymore... well Mindanao virgin to be precise!

And this is Luis Serafico, now signing off.


Note: Although this is just a work of fiction, the author would like to point out that the experiences of Luis Serafico are collections of my travel stories (except for Rio Hondo; just adapted the experience of EAZY Traveler last September) in the island of Mindanao.

There are so many underrated places in Mindanao, waiting to be discovered.


This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for the month of November 2011 on the theme “Mindanao Bliss”  hosted by Olan Emboscado of The Travel Teller.


  1. No doubt it's the promise land, (now playing in my head "Lapit mga kaibigan at makinig kayo, Ako'y may dala-dalang balita galing sa bayan ko....

  2. Owwww. Renz, merun ka na nito yey! Sana maka-join din ako. Never been in Mindanao for the last 10 years hahaa. but will be there on November 17, sana maihabol ko. Anyway I'm new to PTB.

  3. @Claire - People should realize na maganda rin sa Mindanao. :)

    @Edmaration - Habol ka lang! Kaya yan! :D

  4. Nice work, hope many will read this post especially people who have misconception and bias about Mindanao. Di nila alam na mas peaceful pa tayo at ang gulo is remotely far from us :)

  5. Awesome work! What with all the misconceptions going around in the media, this article just shows them all how it's not all scary shit down here in Mindanao. This makes me want to explore the rest of Mindanao! Very inspirational indeed, Renz! :))

  6. Truly a lot of people from both Luzon and Visayas misjudge Mindanao based on what they are seeing in news and newspapers. What they do not know is that Mindanao is not a place of war or chaos, Mindanao is a blessed land lived by people with different culture and beliefs. Mindanao is such a great island with amazing places and with more incredible places awaiting to be discovered :)

    Anyways, nice entry :)

  7. @Ricky: Thank you! Was surprised when my friends from Manila texted me, kung okay pa ba ako. LOL!

    @Philip: People should realize na paradise ang Mindanao. :D

    @e.rose: Thank you! Mindanao is such a beautiful island filled with false stories. :(

  8. Thank you for writing about your Mindanao experience. Hopefully, people will finally understand that most of the people here are peace loving individuals. And yes, Mindanao is a paradise. Specially Davao... :)

  9. loretteanas@yahoo.comNovember 6, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    cheers Davao sa dakong timog ng mindanao walang kapantay.

  10. its cute and funny, thank you for writing about the other side of Mindanao...Davao is way safer than long as you're not a drug addict, else beware of DDS, haha =)

  11. Wow, ang ganda ng waterfalls! and btw, your photos are amazing, keep it up man!

  12. hey!! im grace from davao.. :) I liked your work, being a journalist :) thats cool.. hey don't generalized mindanao - DAVAO CITY is much safer :) Godbless you! :)

  13. Lyndsay and Shadow Lifter: Thanks

    Moonliy Ysay: As I've mentioned earlier, this is just a work of fiction BUT the experiences of Luis Serafico are collections of my travel stories here in Mindanao.

  14. huwaw! Galing ng story telling. Haven't been to Davao though!CDO + Camiguin pa lang nararating ko dyan sa Mindanao.:/

  15. Beautiful islands to visit in Mindanao. Relaxing and alluring.

    visit us at:

  16. thanks for this Renz. :) proud to be SONS OF MINDANAO. :)

  17. Thank you Kuya Olan! Can't wait for others' entries

  18. I love this post! I have a similar (well almost) idea about a magazine writer naman na in-assign to cover a story in Cebu. Hindi ko pa nasulat ng buo yung screenplay, but i will bookmark this post for inspiration :) I love Mindanao lalo na Sarangani. Feeling at home ako dun dahil ang daming nagi-ilocano :D

  19. So, pwede na ba ako maging screenwriter, Mica? Haha de joke lang. Feel ko nga parang may kulang pa tong post ko. Pero bahala na. Anyway, thanks for 'loving' this post!!! :D

    And oh? Marami palang Ilokano sa Sarangani? Speaking of Ilokano, Ilokano lolo ko! He's from Ilocos Sur. LOL Ewan ko ba ba't napadpad siya rito sa Davao but I'm still thankful na lumipat siya sa Davao. HAHAHAHA

  20. Hehe baka isa rin siya sa mga nalipat dyan nung time ni Marcos. Yung mga na-meet ko sa Sarangani na nagi-ilocano originally taga-Pangasinan. Dapat matuto ka na rin kahit konti :))

  21. Akshully lumipat sila after world war 2. :D Hihi

    Oonga eh, Okininam lang alam ko! LOL of all words yan pa!

  22. The "Jud Uy" made me laugh! LOL! nice way of presenting it!

  23. Very apt title. Didn't know you just relocated there!

  24. Renz....I agree with Ding. Yong Jude Uy! pahagik-ik ako dito sa desk ko nung mabasa ko to. But on the other hand. This post made me more proud to be as Son of Mindanao. :-).


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