Every day, I receive many e-mails asking the same question – “Is it safe to go to Mindanao?” No single answer can be correct for each time the question is asked, but let me try to address the issue on this post.
For the most part, Mindanao is a safe destination for your travel. There are some serious exceptions, though. Parts of Mindanao are extremely dangerous, while the majority of the island is fairly safe. One thing to remember is that in today’s world, there is no place on the entire earth that is perfectly safe. No matter where you go you could be hit with crime, terrorism, natural disaster or some other calamity. This is true in Mindanao as well.
Some places in Mindanao are very dangerous and should be avoided by the average tourist. The United States and other nations have issued travel advisories warning their citizens that travel to Mindanao is dangerous, and perhaps should be avoided altogether. Personally, I feel that in many ways these warnings are overblown, and were mostly issued by people who have never been to Mindanao, and also know little about the place. As an example, I have lived in Southern Mindanao (General Santos and Davao Cities) for six years now, and have never felt that I was in any danger at all. But, I also know that if I went to Basilan, Sulu, or even Cotabato City, I would have to exercise caution. or avoid those areas altogether. There are some places that just are not suitable for tourism. At this point in time, I would say that the entire ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) is in that category. Others may disagree, but this is just my opinion.
While this is not a widely known fact, at most times there are United States troops on the ground in parts of Mindanao. I have seen American troops here with my own eyes, so I know they are here, and personally I am happy that they are here in Mindanao. Now, under the Philippine Constitution, foreign troops are not allowed to operate in the Philippines. They can only be here in a training capacity. Now, you can make your own decision. The photo of the Humvee with the soldiers on patrol is of US troops patrolling in Jolo, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold. Does it look like training? All I can say is that I hope that the training mission is very successful.
Now, as I said earlier, terrorism and war is not a huge concern, because places that have those problems are very isolated and few. However, there are many things that can still cause problems on your trip. People who went to Thailand for Christmas of 2004 saw that first hand when the Tsunami hit them. There are earthquakes, floods and such around Mindanao virtually all the time. But, again, it is not the entire island that is hit, only small areas. No matter where you are, in Los Angeles, London or Mindanao, you can have your day spoiled by a pickpocket, right? The key is, use common sense wherever you go. If you are in Mindanao and concerned for your safety, don’t go out on the town until 3am, that could lead to trouble anywhere you go. If it is night time, and you are out on the town, if you see an alley way with a bunch of thugs hanging around, you can bet that this is not a good place for you to explore. Move on to another area! The key point here is this – Use Common Sense!
So, in my opinion, it is safe to go to Mindanao. It’s a beautiful place, I am sure that coming here for a visit will be something you will remember fondly for a lifetime. But, to make sure those memories are fond, do a little research before you come! Check out and see if the city you are planning to visit is safe. Don’t go around flashing a lot of money (here in the Philippines, even $20 is a lot of money to many people). Be aware of what is going on around you. Don’t be careless or stupid! This is just good advice, even if you were going to vacation in Disneyland.
Come visit in Mindanao! Enjoy your stay! If you have a question or concern about a specific area, e-mail me and and I will send you a full copy of our Mindanao.com Travel Advisory, which is updated whenever the safety situation changes. If you decide that you want a more detailed safety evaluation of the area you plan to visit, we can provide that for you as well.
I cannot and will not guarantee your safety, but I am happy to give my advice. The final decision is yours. When it comes to advice, remember that actions can speak louder than words…. and I live here! That should say something.
Update: If you are planning to travel to Mindanao and you wish a report about the safety of the area you are visiting, this story can provide basic information for you. If you wish a more detailed security report, look here and there is a link there where you can obtain a detailed security report for the locations that you will be visiting in Mindanao. I charge $29.99 for this service, and you can pay by clicking on the Paypal “Pay Now” button on the sidebar.