Marsh Life

First time to visit CARAGA and during this solo backpacking trip in Mindanao, I was very fortunate to witness and experience the community life in one of the country’s most unique and biologically-important ecosystems - the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.

Composed of more than 10,000 hectares of rivers, lakes, canals, swamps and agricultural lands, the Agusan Marsh is the biggest natural basin in Mindanao.

For years I’ve been longing to visit this natural wonder and it was a super high when I reached the banks of Agusan River, the marsh’s “backbone”. Met my guide boatman in Barangay Flora of Talacogon and off we go... 

It took us an hour before we reached Barangay Sabang-Gibong, located in the intersection of Agusan and Gibong River.

For three days, I stayed in this Manobo community, live in floating houses, listened to their stories and experienced the wonderful yet hard life in the marsh.

Community life is based on the blessings and dictates of the marsh and the environment.


Homes are climate-resilient and designed to float (water rises as high as 30 feet during the great flood) and survived strong currents and high tides.

The lakes and river provides bountiful harvest yet drinking water is a scarce commodity. During the dry season, communities dig makeshift wells to access clean water. But during the great flood, people only rely on rainwater for drinking.  

End of the flood means mosquito season so always ready the mosquito net. Dry season brings opportunity to plant and harvest crops, preserve and sun-dried the catch. 

And ooh don’t forget the lurking crocodiles. It is estimated that more than 5,000 crocodiles still reside in Agusan Marsh. Witnesses claimed that crocodiles as long as 30 feet, bigger than Lolong (measured at 21 feet) exist and are still in the wild. Too bad, didn’t saw any crocs during the visit huhu.

Love the community food. Exquisite freshwater catch everyday, yumyum, such as: 


giant gurami 

Yet the marsh, it's lakes and rivers are under threat. Pollution 


and siltation brought by rampant logging in the surrounding mountains have high impact on water quality.  


Invasive fishes such as janitor fish also threaten the native wildlife. 


Hopefully local efforts to save the mighty Agusan Marsh be given full support by the different sectors both in the national and international level.

Last day, 4-hours boat ride to Bunawan and completing my traverse of the Agusan Marsh from North to South, woohooo.

My deepest gratitude to the staff of Heed Foundation and to the residence Barangay Sabang-Gibong for their hospitality and stories. Thank you all for a very wonderful experience.

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
Talacogon-Bunawan, Agusan del Sur


traversing Mt Hibuk2x

When I first visited Camiguin in 2007, I promised myself that I will climb the majestic Mt Hibuk-hibok on my next trip to this beautiful volcanic island. Finally, got the opportunity to fulfill  that promise during this backpacking trip in Mindanao.

The most famous among the seven volcanoes of Camiguin, Mt. Hibuk2x is an astounding beauty, towering silently over the capital town Mambajao and Catarman. Yet, it became famous because of its history of destruction. More than 3,000 were killed during its last eruption in 1951.

We started our day trek in the coastal barangay of Yumbing. Eventhough Hibuk2x altitude is only at 1,330 meters above sea level (masl), the trek started at almost zero masl. We passed agricultural lands and cogon areas before entering the low-land forest of Mt Carling, the adjacent volcanic cone. Saw these amazing fauna and flora – pygmy frog, greens and lovely flowers

After 4 hours, we reached the crater that caused the last deadly eruption. According to my guide Ronald, the crater is “technically” part of Mt Carling. Today the "killer" crater is a shallow lake of freshwater and rainwater. We saw two beautiful brahmy kite hovering lowly on the lake.

I can’t resist having a quick dip after a long trek hehehe.

Another 1 hour of steep climb before we reached the summit. Lots of pitcher plants, mossy trees and bonsai ferns along the trail (reminds me of another famous volcano… Mt Makiling) 

Fog engulfed the surrounding when we reached the summit,

but still fortunate to have a quick glimpse of the crater lake and the town of Mambajao

After a quick lunch, started the steep decent to Barangay Tagdo. Lot of loose rocks along the trail so the trek is a bit tricky.

After one and a half hours of trekking, we reached Ardent Hotspring Resort, a government-owned facility. Here one can can relax, take a dip on hot spring pools and grab a cold bottle of soda or beer.

A great day. Very happy also to meet fellow mountaineers during this amazing climb in one of the country's deadly volcanoes.

Mt Hibuk Hibok
Mambajao, Camiguin