about me, my travels

Surviving A Roadtrip to Mindanao

“As in drive?” Everyone thought it was wild that I was going on a roadtrip to Mindanao, but almost a week after my trip–here I am, alive and writing about it. It was an amazing experience. Weeks before this trip, I was fantasizing about going on one after watching “Expedition Happiness” on Netflix–and suddenly I found myself on a mini-roadtrip. I say mini because theirs took them from Canada to Mexico. Hahaha. Anyway, I love going on this roadtrip but I would think it’s not for everyone.

It’s physically taxing, first of all, so if you think it’s all fun–then you’re absolutely mistaken. But it’s not an impossible feat. As long as you’re willing and able, you can survive the roadtrip too! I mean, I did, so should you.

Yes this is me surviving the roadtrip. Hitting the final destination–Cotabato. Where I took a plane back to Manila.

Anyway, here are my takeaways from the journey:

1. Plan ahead. You need to plan because you need to coordinate driving hours with ferry schedules. If you do not want to waste time, you want to be arriving at the port in time to ride the boat–and not too early that you wait for hours nor too late that you miss it. Plans should also include sleep, meals, and designated stopovers (for sightseeing or whatnot). Will you be staying overnight? What good restaurants can you find in this location? What route should you take to hit your mark?

We planned the trip and I organized all the details in a table with ferry schedules, as well as ticket prices.

2. Pack some food. Although you will have time to eat and stopover at places you will find along the way, there will be stretches of travel time in the countryside and sea, where you will crave for something to munch–so you need to have food ready. I packed an assortment of things: chips, pretzels, biscuits, cookies, candies, chocolates, gum, and beef jerky.

The best part of travelling is the food involved. In Negros, I had to enjoy a bowl of Batchoy. This is from Mimilots.

Of everything I packed, the most helpful was the large package of Sweet and Sour Skittles because it provided us with instant energy.

3. Bring enough cash. What do you spend for when you go on a roadtrip from Luzon to Mindanao? Well, a lot–gasoline, various ferry and port fees, food, and hotel. You will be paying, mostly in cash, and there might not be any ATM available when you need money so make sure you’re liquid.

Somewhere in Roxas, Mindoro we wiped out our first withdrawal and couldn’t find a bank. I found a money changer and desperately said, “Oh I have extra dollars from my recent trip. Let’s have it changed!” But we found an ATM, eventually. Hehe.

4. Bring Medicines. Every time you’re travelling, you need to stock up on basic meds because you don’t know when you’re going to need one–and there might be a nearby drugstore for your emergency. I always have my allergy medication because it’s the most important drug to keep me alive. I could accidentally swallow seafood–and it could kill me, so I need to be armed and ready. Pain killers are quite basic too, and for this flight we brought Ibuprofen because we anticipated aches and pains–that could compromise the trip.

It was ride from Dumaguete to Dapitan that was the worst. I survived it with Dramamine.

We didn’t use the Ibuprofen or the Claritin, however. What we ended up really needing was motion sickness medicines, Dramamine. We encountered a typhoon during the trip and during the sea voyage from Dumaguete to Dapitan, the waters were quite violent. As soon as we drove the car into the ferry, we felt it and so we drank 2 tablets each of the motion sickness meds–and thank God we did because the whole trip was quite rough. As a matter of fact, it was a true lifesaver because while most of the passengers were puking, we were merely being rocked to sleep.

5. Prepare to sleep anywhere. If you are into luxury hotels and first class accommodations, you have to toss that thought away for a roadtrip because that’s not going to happen. First of all, you will be sleeping in ferries, and even in “business class” the only luxury you’re afforded is air conditioning. And then there will be locations where there won’t be decent accommodations that you can count on, so you will need to slum it in a “room” with half decent interiors. As long as it’s clean–it will do. As long as it allows you to rest and recuperate to go one with the trip–it will do.

On the way to Dumaguete, we took a very scenic coastal route that was worth stopping for.

6. Bring a Powerbank. You will be on your phone using your mobile data for a lot of reasons–and you will be on the road for a long time. You may or may not have a car charger, but a powerbank can be taken into the boat, where there aren’t any outlets. So have your powerbank(s) around and make sure they’re charged or they’re going to be good for nothing.

Using online maps for directions can easily drain your battery because it uses a lot of data; so having 4 powerbanks for this trip was really helpful. Also, it’s nice to stay connected to the world despite being away and isolated.

8. Connect with family and friends along the way. Maybe you have friends and family along the way; and if you do, it will be a good idea for you contact them so that you can meet-up. It’s nice to take advantage of your sudden proximity to their location, especially if you hardly are in their “side of the woods”, so to speak.

For our trip we connected with a few people. Some for a quick chit-chat. Some for a nice lunch. Some for dinner and a night at their place. Some for a few days. Connecting with people you know, during a roadtrip, makes the journey so much more fulfilling. Going on a roadtrip can be very exhausting. You’re constantly hopping from one boat to another, and driving through isolated roads for most of the time–so meeting some people is good and refreshing.

9. Always have a back-up plan. No matter how well you plan, things can (and will) go wrong because that’s how life goes. For this trip, a few things went wrong:

  • We wanted to take the 4am ferry from Roxas to Caticlan, and rushed on the Calapan-Roxas, but when we got there the boat had already left. Anyway we took a night’s rest instead.
  • We really wanted to take a peep at Boracay and contacted some people we know, but it was a definite no-go. Also, the Caticlan Jetty Port was having some renovation so the boat rerouted to a different location.
  • Typhoon Ompong decided to disrupt our journey. We really planned a night in Dumaguete but we ended up staying for two nights because the coast guard gave a no sail order for the country. It was fine, but I kinda got nervous that we wouldn’t make it to Mindanao to make my flight back to Manila. Of course, I planned several exit strategies–in case I had to rebook my flight or change my route, entirely.

10. Rest. No matter how much you would like to finish the roadtrip and get to your final destination, you need to make time for rest. If you’re sleepy–stop. If you’re hungry–eat. Do not be too obsessed with hitting your end point that you compromise your comfort, too much.

In the middle of the long drive from Dapitan to Cotabato we had to stop over for lunch. We found this small place.

It is a journey that you can enjoy so make the most out of it. Enjoy the sights. Experience the food. Explore the different locations.

I was told, the whole roadtrip from Luzon to Mindanao can be done in 2 days–but we it did it in 8 days because we made several stops in various cities all over the country. It was 8 days of driving, sailing, pigging out and getting lost in unfamiliar places. Hahaha. Just kidding, we didn’t get lost.

Maguindanao. When I saw this sign I felt quite fulfilled. How many people are able to say they’ve conquered a roadtrip from Luzon to Mindanao? It was an amazing experience!

It’s been a week since I got back. Others thought I was still on my trip because they were following my social feeds. Haha. I have been safely back home since Monday and have been back in the clinic, working on people’s smiles, and daydreaming of my next roadtrip.

Where should I go next?

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5 thoughts on “Surviving A Roadtrip to Mindanao”

      1. Yes, Iam. 🙂 I am also a longtime reader of yiur blog. I got sad when you went on blogging hiatus awhile back. So glad you’re back.


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