Nature at its best-A A +A
Friday, June 22, 2012
"A LAND of waterfalls, caves, lakes, rivers, towering mountain ranges and forests, gold and silver deposits, sulfuric hot and cold springs, and inland and beach resorts" -- that is how Provincial Tourism Officer Christine T. Dompor describes Compostela Valley (more popularly known as Comval).
No wonder, first time visitors are awed by finding rare and endangered species like Philippine eagle (the country's national bird), the exotic Rafflesia mira (one of the world's biggest single flower), Philippine deer, various kinds of snakes, and a host of still unidentified plants and insects (who knows one of those might be named after you, that is, if you discover it first).
Not only that. Six of the major tribes in Mindanao are living in the province: Mandaya, Mansaka, Dibabawon, Ka'gan, Ata-Manobo, and Mangguangan. All of them have their own myths, legends, arts and music, and age-old customs and traditions.
Recently, we embarked a trip to the country's 78th province. The arduous two-day travel entailed a journey from islands to highlands.
Comval lies in the mid-eastern section of Mindanao and has a total land area of 4,666.93 square kilometers. It is bounded by Agusan del Sur in the north, Davao Oriental in the east and south, Davao Gulf in the southwest, and Davao del Norte in the west and northwest.
The shoreline of Comval forms the northern beach strand of Davao Gulf and stretches for some 50 kilometers from the boundary of Tagum City in the coastal towns of Maco, Mabini, and Pantukan. Since Mabini is located at the center, it has the most number of beach resorts, including Beach View, Manaklay Beach Park, Centro Beach Resort, and Berioso Beach Resorts I and II. In Pantukan, the two most noted resorts are Wellborn's and Magnaga Waters.
Each resort has their own way of attracting guests and visitors. Bern Berioso, for instance, boasts of clear and calm waters ideal for a range of water sports activities; it also has a function hall that looks like a ship. At the Welborn's Beach Resort, the sea bed is flat and there are no stones or coral that makes bare walking dangerous.
The Beach View Resort has the widest vacant space for outdoor events among all beach resorts and has the most modern cosmopolitan bar. More importantly, it is the nearest access to the wonderful 95-hectareKopiat Island, which is about 300 meters away from the resort.
Kopiat Island has crystal clear waters good for swimming and other water fun games. It has wide sections of shorelines blanketed with fine white sand. In addition, it has unspoiled reef areas with rare beds that serve as a sanctuary for exotic tropical fish and other aquatic resources like endangered marine turtles (particularly hawksbill and leatherback).
Not far from Kopiat Island is the Lunod Island (also known as Saint Anthony Island), whose 17-hectare area is covered with lush mangrove forests. Motorized banca ride is about 15 minutes from Mabini coast.
The island is an ideal marine life sanctuary and eco-tourism park; it is a haven for scientific researches. "At night, the place turns into a magical wonder as the whole area is lighted with fireflies," says Ms. Dompor.
From the two islands, off we went to the town of Mawab. We made a stopover at the town's view deck to see the whole province. Then, it was a travel going up bound for Barangay Mainit whose steaming waterfall is a sight to behold. There is a cottage that offers rest to visitors who want to take a dip into the therapeutic steaming warm water fed by tiny rivulets oozing out from the earth's crust high above rocky ledges. If you haven't heard of this place, it's because the area has not been promoted so well yet.
It was almost four o'clock when we reached the town of Maco. In the highland barangay of New Leyte, we had pleasure of being mesmerized by Lake Leonard, a caldera of Mount Leonard Kniasseff, one of the 22 active volcanoes in the country whose last eruption was reported in the second century A.D. The 200-hectare lake was used before as a dumping ground for mining wastes from the Amakan copper extraction of the North Davao Mining Company from the 80's until it ceased operation in the early 90's. Today, the lake is teemed with tilapia. There are some reports that the area around the lake is inhabited by butterflies of varied colors and species.
Since it was getting dark, we decided to proceed to place where we would be sleeping: Maragusan, the summer capital of Davao region. It is home to 30 majestic waterfalls and 300 cold springs and two hot springs. Its total land area of 39,427 hectares is typhoon-free as it is surrounded by mountain ranges, home to the world's largest individual flower, Rafflesia magnifica.
From Maragusan, we traveled for several hours before reaching Nabunturan, the home of the Bibingka Country. Located along the national highway in Barangay New Sibonga, it is a thriving rice-cake based industry that started as a family business in the 1970s. Today, it is now a major industry and the place has become a major roadside food station for travelers plying the Agusan-Davao highway.
While still in Nabunturan, don't fail to visit the popular Toyozu Inland Resort. Although we didn't go there, I had the opportunity of coming to the place some years back. Imagine yourself relaxing in a small Japanese-style pool filled with hot spring water. You can adjust the temperature by moving stones over the water passages.
For sauna, you can't get as natural as sitting inside the tunnels with steaming water in the middle. (Be sure to bring a towel Comval is still the "best-kept secret" of Davao region.
Davao City, 979 kilometers from Manila, is the gateway to the province. On arriving at the airport, take a taxi or a bus ride to Davao City Overland Transport Terminal at Ecoland to board a bus going to Nabunturan. Once you get to the capital town, you can transfer to any public utility vehicles for another ride to any destination in the province.
Single motorcycles and/or habal-habal, locally-known as skylab, are available in any major point of the province. Here's what you need to know about this special means of transportation: A skylab is a single motorcycle with added contraptions not unlike the wings of an airplane. It has a roof above to protect the passenger from the rain or the sun and can carry up to ten passengers. It is also not unlike a flying seesaw where passengers are treated to an exhilarating ride as the motorcycle careens up and down rocky roads and climbs slopes, allowing you to view the chasm below and the vista beyond.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 23, 2012.