The Planning Stage - Backpacking in Mindanao

by - Thursday, January 11, 2018

img courtesy of google

I can proudly say that planning a trip is really my forte. Doing itineraries excites me and searching for where to stay and what to visit thrills me. Planning this Mindanao trip has been the top most fulfilling yet challenging of them all.

The only provinces I have visited in Mindanao is the Davao Region, with 27 total provinces in Mindanao minus Davao Region that leaves 22 provinces to visit. Backpacking on those provinces is tough, yet alone doing it solo. But looking back, I can say that toughest is the planning stage.

Jumping to 2017, I was the only one who was able to push through this trip. My two other friends were so busy at work that they weren't allowed to go on leave that long. I, on the other hand, left my job last December 2016 and focus on my online job and on organizing tours giving me so much time to fulfill this ultimate backpacking trip. Yep, solo travel in Mindanao.

Thorough planning is one of the key points on this trip. I spend days and months plotting my best entry point, where to stay, what to visit, how to travel from one place to another, checking of plane tickets, checking for bus schedules and everything in between. Plus of course, saving so much for this trip.

How Many Days?

The new plan is to stay in Mindanao for 40 days straight alone. Why it became 40 days? While browsing the internet about the places I wanted to visit in Mindanao I realize that staying for only 20 days is not enough, though the island is just small and within reach, the travel from one province to the other requires so much land travel that it will eat up much of the days, not to mention limited land transfers of buses which has limited time schedule only. After realizing this, I chose what places where I will be staying for just overnight, days, or weeks. Though some I wish I had stayed more.

The Exact Dates?

I was so nervous that this will not push through, why? Plane tickets and all. My target date? August 31 - September - October 09, 2017. I was able to plot my entry point which is CDO and already booked a plane ticket but after that, no definite plan yet.

Plane Tickets?

That was March 2017 when Cebupac's GetGo goes on sale for their 10th year anniversary. All members are entitled to use 10 getgo points to booked on cebupac's destinations and just pay for the taxes. Luckily that time, with my paypal account enough savings in there from my online article jobs I was able to booked my trips to Mindanao and other future trips after that.

With Cebupac's getgo sale I was able to booked the following:

Zamboanga - Tawi-Tawi - Zamboanga - October 06-08, 2017 - P478.24
Zamboanga - Manila - October 09, 2017 - P239.12
Total - P 717.36

Ticket to Cagayan from Manila - August 31, 2017 -  P1299

Total Bought Tickets - 2016.36


My plan is to visit the northern most part of the islands first then my trip will end in Zamboanga. Note that I am no expert on their geography and this is just base on my understanding on the island and from that plot my destinations. Below are the sequence of the "planned itineraries":

CDO -- > Camiguin -- > Agusan Del Norte --> Surigao Del Norte --> Dinagat Islands --> Agusan Del Sur --> Surigao Del Sur --> Davao (entry point to gen san) --> Sarangani --> South Cotabato --> Sultan Kudarat --> Maguindanao --> North Cotabato --> Lanao Del Sur --> Bukidnon --> Lanao Del Sur --> Misamis Oriental --> Zamboanga Del Norte --> Zamboanga Del Sur --> Zamboanga Sibugay --> Zamboanga City --> Basilan --> (back to Zambo) --> Sulu --> (back to Zambo) --> Tawi-Tawi --> (back to Zambo then Manila)

That was the plan. And I decided to stay much longer in Siargao and in Davao Oriental where I will be revisiting Mati again. Most of the provinces I intended to just stay for a day, because part of it is I only wanna see just one spot from there.

Physical Preparation

I am in a bad condition for the past months prior this trip. I have ulcers, history of kidney infections, history of car accident resulting to damage back, ligament tear and some more. I skip going to hikes to save strength for my knee, eat more fruits and vegetables and avoid foods not allowed for me. And I ran 4 to 5 times a week max of 5 km just to keep up with my cardio.

Mental Preparation

Honestly, this is the second most vital in my planning stage: mental preparation. Why? I've been doing solo travel for almost three years now and I know I should be used to this but Mindanao is far different for me. My first visit in Mindanao was in Davao Region, two on that province I was alone, but again, Davao is a lot more different from any other provinces in Mindanao (saying this after I've visited other parts of the island). 

We are all aware how media portrays Mindanao, ever since the chaos happening to Martial Law officially implemented at the place. And this is probably the top most concern I am facing that time. Most of my friends were reminding me about it, and every time I mentioned this idea, people's eyes were on me judging me and telling me how dangerous my plan is and how it is not advisable to go in there at that time. But I did not flicker a bit. I always listen to news and all but I always believe that there are more to Mindanao than the news we heard but of course part of was scared a bit but feeling scared makes me want to do it more. After all, how will we know if we wouldn't try, right?

Before I went to Mindanao, I decided to visit my favorite place in Bicol where I composed and conditioned my mind. Not really necessary, but its just for me. This specific camp calms me and it does help somehow.


Honestly, during one of my convos with my friends, whom this plan was with originally, we talked that twenty thousand is enough. I still follow it but keeps another five thousand just in case. I aloted budget on each provinces but mostly to places I really want to spend more days like Siargao and from there manage the remaining amount to the rest of the provinces.

What To Bring?

I make sure to just pack light. Given the number of days, I will be needing many clothes for that. I decided to bring half of the days I'll be staying and will just wash it wherever I will be staying for long. And after a couple of weeks I will just ship back to my own house some of my clothes so my baggage will be lessen before my trip ends.

Of course, bringing all my meds and first aids are important too. I remember one trip where I forgot to bring the only med that can heal my headache and it was the worst ever.

Contact Information

When you love to travel and do it yourself, I am pretty sure researching is one of your thing. You search and search to finally come up with the best possible places to visit and stay and who to contact for any reservation if needed. For this trip, I almost called every number and contact possible just to ensure my hassle-free stay in Mindanao. Focus is the key. There were times when I jump from one province to another, I get excited but again, focus, and set a budget for each so you know if you are going beyond your budget.

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Also part of my planning is informing most of your friends and your family of your whereabouts. You need also to take notes of the person you will call in case of emergency and inform them that they are your 911 in case something happens. It took me months to finalize my itinerary. Though not really as specific but a general information of the place.

Next post will be about the actual trip. Stay tuned! :)

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Thanks for the wonderful message!