The Unknown Philippines Island of Mindanao
Trip Start Jan 27, 2013
25Trip End Feb 01, 2013
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
My trip to the Philippines will take me to the turbulent south island of Mindanao. This island has had a four decade long insurrection for independence and is still plagued by kidnappings and bombings carried out by rival criminal gangs and political rivals.
There is a whole BBC site dedicated to explaining the conflict
Also this week another armed group has stormed the island of Sulu off Mindanao claiming it was part of an Independent Sultanate and should not have been divided up by the British
My Rough Guide to SE Asia does not even have a section on Mindanao and advises against all travel there. However this edition is several years old during the height of the conflict.
The first question then is why go there? There are so many nice places in the Philippines like Boracay, Cebu, and Palawan full of tourists. I like to do the unusual and explore things off the tourist trail and didnt want the same touristy pics lying on the beach.
First of all, Mindanao is predominantly Muslim, in contrast to the Philippines devout Christianity, part of the reason why they wanted autonomy. They have more affinity with Malaysia and Indonesia to the south, and like many outer regions of a country were opposed to central rule from a rival ethnic group.
So I was interested in seeing the local culture, different from the rest of the Philippines. I'd seen so many temples in Taiwan I needed a contrast and wanted to see local Mosque architecture along with Churches. Also I wanted to be able to eat local cuisine which would be halal, which I usually can't do when I travel, or even living in Korea.
There is a peace treaty now in place and I'd used several blogs as guides of people that had travelled all over Mindanao with no problems. PinoyAdventurista and HabagatCentral are two blogs I heavily relied on although there are more bloggers and sites out there.
Most tourists, including my many Filipino friends, have never been to Mindanao. So it would be interesting for both of them to shed some light on an unfamiliar and neglected part of the country
The landmass of Mindanao is quite large, about a third of the total size of the Philippines. It can take almost a day to drive across so is too large a region of a country to simply ignore.
I was also originally trying to tie this into a trip to nearby Brunei which a friend of mine had done recently and I had long wanted to do. However, a problem with getting all the days I needed off left me short a few days so I wasnt able to combine Brunei on this trip. By this time however my Philippines planning was too far advanced to shelve it for some other trip.
I was still a little concerned about safety and the logistics of getting around as there wasnt much online for one of the routes I was planning and even for booking hotels.
This was the first time I would be travelling without having all my hotels already booked. However, I decided to take the plunge, treat it as an adventure, and hope for the best. I dont look like "a westerner", am not normally a target and easily blend in.
Hopefully I wouldnt end up with a kidnapping story to share or get blown up on a bus!