Words and photos: Telly Buhay
I say this with no exaggeration: Mindanao has the best roads, most scenic views, and the warmest people. It has become a habit of mine to go there whenever I can. And every time I do it just doesn’t disappoint.
Last year’s Mindanao Freedom Ride was already as superb as one could have hoped for. I have traveled and seen the wonders that the southern island has to offer. I befriended fellow riders there, as well as fellow Manileños, the DUC. Unfortunately, the guys were a no-go this year due a scheduling conflict, leaving me, the only rider from Manila to experience what I consider, the best Mindanao visit yet ever.
Day 1: A Dinosaur, A Whale, A Welcome Marker, A Badass 1200cc bike, A Big Cheque and Everything Gargantuan
We all started off at Cafe Primo’s, munched a stomach-busting big breakfast, and like deja vu, we departed Davao at a slow steady pace because of the city’s speed limit. I imagined it a one lap pacing like in any grand prix race, getting the feel of the bike and the roads ahead. I was loaned one of the best, most powerful, most premium motorcycles one could only dream of. It has 162 bhp ready to disperse at the twist of a throttle, or tame it a tad by switching to different riding modes on the fly. My bike is the devilishly handsome, Ducati Diavel 1200. Yes it’s the same bike Dingdong Dantes rode to the altar to marry long time fiancée Marian Rivera. You’d feel a little Dingdongy too if you had a bike like this.
The first stop was the humongous sign of Davao Oriental, a most apt welcome for people visiting the province. After a few selfies, cigarette breaks and some coffee, we went on our way but not too far away was another gigantic thing that awaited us that struck awe.
In the province of Davao Oriental, the remains of a sperm whale was the attraction. A museum was built just to house the giant creature. The name of the whale is Davor, a portmanteau of Davao Oriental.
A visit to the Davao wouldn’t be complete without viewing the “sleeping dinosaur”. The island in Mati City is called as such because of its shape resembling a gigantic lizard napping.
I had been given an opportunity to try my bravado in an ultralight plane. “It’s gonna be the preferred transportation of the future”, explained Mr. Jimmy Lopez, an ultralight plane pilot whom I heartily thank for most incredible ride of my life yet. “It’s affordable, it’s light, easy to maintain, and very safe.” Ultralights are equipped with chutes in the very unlikely event of a malfunction, allowing it to glide and slowly land to safety. I describe it as: “think motorcycles, but with wings”. Also, the Mati airport is home to the Mindanao Saga Flying Club.
But the real highlight of the event is when the Mindanao Freedom Riders donated P100,00.00 pesos to the San Rafael Elementary School for their multi-purpose building. It’s these kind of events that make coming to Mindanao and Joining the MFR more than worthwhile, especially after seeing the faces of the children light up when we came roaring in with our bikes.
After much excitement on the first day, we shacked up in Paper Country Inn in Bislig, Surigao del Sur.
Day 2: Waters
We started the day revving up machines, but not after a hearty breakfast again from our hotel. The owner of the hotel was the original Mutya ng Bislig (Bislig’s Pearl) and that title was also incorporated into their menu as one of the most sought after delicacies when in town. We first headed to Tinuy-An falls. Ok, I say this again with no exaggeration, Tinuy-An falls in the most awesome falls I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some. The cool, clean, and clear water coming directly from an elevation had us taking a shower in the majestic waterfalls. We rented a small balsa (raft) so that we could experience what it feels to have what they call a hydro massage and it was fantastic! Thirsty for more, after a therapeutic massage, we headed to one of the most magical places in the land.
There is a reason why they call it the Enchanted River. It’s enchanting! The small strip of accessible water in Hinatuan is half fresh and half sea water. Inward is a small cave where the river runs through, phooey that we were told not to go in as local legend has it that some people, due to the enchantment, would not be able to come out of the cave again and will be stuck there forever. Large fishe are clearly seen in the water and you can swim with them! Truly magnificent! We had our boodle fight lunch here.
After bathing several times, we decided to go straight to our hotel, the Villa Maria Luisa hotel. Governor Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, was there to welcome us riders. He fondly recalls his motorcycling days much to the delight of the riders as we ate our dinner and clinked bottles of beers.
Day 3: The Coastal View
The road to Surigao was simply incredible. Did I not tell you that Mindanao has the best roads? On day 3, we indulged ourselves speeding down the road, which we had all to ourselves. I had a great time enjoying the sea breeze.
The mayor of Surigao welcomed and treated us to a nice and delectable lunch in the park including, of course, seafood.
After the much-needed photo op with Dr. Jose Rizal’s monument in the south, it was only a shamefully short ride to Butuan. We stayed in the Almont Inland Resort.
Day 4: Homeward Bound
It was gonna be a long ride. I wasn’t worried, I was on a Ducati and I intended to blaze the roads of Mindanao one last time. This time, it was inland and no more coastal views for us, as we took a loop towards Davao. I told my riding buddies to go ahead and I would just hook up with them later. Riding solo, I cherished the moments as much as possible. I took my time while on the Butuan bridge, captivated at the marvelous engineering of it.
We had one last final stop, in the beauteous provincial capital of Agusan del Sur. The last group photo of the Mindanao Freedom Riders where a jump shot was warranted.
A mere 6-day stay wouldn’t really cut it to fully enjoy the wonders of Mindanao. I was on the plane wondering at all the fun I had and the stories to tell my friends about how awesome the southern island is. The 1,200 kilometers of pure fun and excitement, I will hold dear in my memories, along with all the friends I met along the way. This year’s MFR was already one of the best adventures already for me, yet Mr. Jondi Lacson already promised to top this one next year. I so am looking forward to what surprises he has for us.
I would like to thank and recognize the following for making this incredible adventure possible:
To Mr. Toti Alberto and Ms. Joy Alberto for the continuous opportunities they gave me to be a Ducatista, if only for a few moments in time, nonetheless the best riding moments of my life.
To Mr. Ralph Reyes for the support he gave me. To Mr. Marc de Joya, one of my ride buddies last year and one of the best marketing people around. To Mr. Jimmy Lopez for crossing out one of my bucket list items, the ultralight plane ride. To Mr. Jondi Lacson, for setting up one of the best motorcycle events in Mindanao and lending me his prized Ducati Diavel, which I consider the best of the best when it comes to premiumness. To Mr. Quito Quema for the wonderful friendship. Also thanks to the beautiful ladies of Norminring, Tina and Szchen for all the assistance you provided the riders. To Arcee, Bing, and Arnie of Norminring Davao for all the help. To all my friends there in Mindanao, old and new, which would be too many to mention, sorry. To Maynard Marcelo, who once again wasn’t available to go so I took his place instead, hooray! He said that he is not going to miss next year’s MFR, pffft. To Spyder Philippines who provided me a matching lid for the Diavel and of course to C! Magazine for publishing this story and letting people know how wonderful the place that is called Mindanao.