Discovering dainty Davao del Sur

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

THE history of Davao is supposed to be the history of Davao del Sur. But when Davao City was separated from the province, it was relegated to the side. As Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental (Compostela Valley became the fourth province in 1998) continue to become more progressive, Davao del Sur seems to stand still.

Governor Douglas Ra. Cagas is very much aware of this. To awaken his constituents, he puts forward the motto: "We're proud to be from Davao del Sur!"

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Today, wherever you go when you visit the towns of Davao del Sur, you will see the sign -- in schools, in government offices, and even in private establishments.

Davao del Sur is composed of 14 towns, namely: Bansalan, Don Marcelino, Hagonoy, Jose Abad Santos, Kiblawan, Magsaysay, Malalag, Malita, Matan-ao, Padada, Santa Cruz, Santa Maria, Sarangani, and Sulop. The only city is Digos, which is also the province's capital.

There are actually many reasons why Davao del Sur is now becoming a popular tourist destination.

To attract tourists -- locals, nationals and foreigners -- the province launched several festivals.

Every January 15, Digos celebrates the Saulogon Festival. Jose Abad Santos commemorates the Kapyaan Festival in February. April is the month of Pista sa Kinaiyahan in Santa Cruz. Kapatagan in Digos comes alive on June during their Dorong Festival. September has two festivals: Padigosan in Digos and Bansaulog in Bansalan.

Davao del Sur is home to several natural tourist attractions. Leading the list is Mount Apo, the country's highest peak (towering 10,311 feet above sea level) and a very popular climbing destination. Forty-two of the 629 identified floral species are endemic, of which 18 are considered at risk, including the famous "waling-waling" orchid (Vanda sanderiana). You can scale the mother of all mountains by following the Bansalan trail.

Mount Pispis, in Barangay South Lamidan of Don Marcelino, is famous for its preserved and numerous wildlife species like deer, monkeys, wild pigs, and birds. Mount Sumadel, also in Don Marcelino, is noted for its shape; townsfolk called it "Babaeng Nakahiga't Nakahubad" (a naked lying woman).

Mainit Hot Spring, in Barangay Caburan, is located 30 kilometers west of Digos City. It sits in forest 365 meters above sea level. Another hot spring, in Barangay Managa, Bansalan, is about 30 kilometers from the town and 200 meters above sea level.

The Lumayon Spring, about 10 kilometers from the highway of Balabag, Digos, has rolling hill and forest on the side complimenting the spring that makes it more suitable for bathing, swimming and sightseeing.

There are several waterfalls found in the province. Tudaya Falls, at Barangay Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, is touted to be the tallest waterfalls in the Mt. Apo Natural Park (at 100 meters). The waters plunge from a rock cliff to a 50-meter diameter pool.

Kipanan Falls in Malita is multi-tiered, consisting of ten drops of varying widths and heights. The Indalugong Falls, in the mountain forest of Barangay Pangaleon (still in Malita), is a big body of waterfall plunging from a height of approximately 80 feet.

Don Marcelino has two popular waterfalls. The Kepiya Falls in Barangay Lawa has seven tiers of cascading waters. The Banag Falls in Barangay Dalupan can be accessed via a motorcycle ride up to a certain portion followed by a one-hour hike through a forest.

Small islands also abound in the province. The town of Sarangani has two famous islands: Balut and Sarangani. Balut has a land area of 6,604 hectares, while Sarangani has 4,014. Balut is a Maguindanaon term which means "an island." It is composed of 12 barangays mostly populated by sangils who landed in the island in the mid-14th century from Sangir Island, North of Indonesia, when the Dutch began to take dominion over the island.

Seventy meters across Balut Island is Marorong, fondly called Balistic Island because of its bullet form. The rock structure built by the Sangils and B'laans served in the past as a fortress against Villalobos's army.

Fr. Jose Luego, a Jesuit historian, and Gregorio Zaide in his History of the Filipino People noted the landing of Ruy Lopez de Villalobos in Marorong in search for the Moluccas Island in 1543: "...and in dire need for provisions, he sailed to Sarangani.." Zaide wrote.

The 16-hectare Olaniban Island, about one-hour boat ride from the town proper in Sarangani, has white seashores, clear water, rare corals, and seaweeds. The island is suitable for scuba diving, water skiing and swimming.

In Bato, Sta Cruz, there is the so-called Passig Islet. This man-made islet was used before as a base for coast guards. It is known for its white sand and clear waters and can be accessed by a 500-meter long footbridge.

Several beach resorts can be found along the coastal towns. The Baetiong Beach in Sarangani has a spread of around 3,200 square meter of black-grained sand.

On the other hand, the Manando Beach has corral and limed-grained sand of about 16,000 square meters.

Little Boracay, located five kilometers from the town of Sta. Maria, has a fine white sand beach, open-air cottages and is backed by a high mountain overlooking the sea. Barangay Kisulad Beach has also white sand beaches. In Sta. Cruz, there's the Paradise Beach.

Aside from the fortress in Marorong, another historical site in the province is located in Padada. At the Itakura Hills, some 30 interconnected World War II Japanese foxholes can be found. Japanese World War II tunnels are also located at the poblacion and barangays Balutakay and Tologan in Hagonoy.

In Kiblawan, the 100-feet high Pandong Bato (derived from the native words for "cover" and "stone") was said to have been used by Japanese soldiers as a protective wall during World War II.

Davao del Sur has several cottage industries. Mati, in Digos, is known for its pottery while wood carvings abound in Sta. Cruz. Both industries are found along the highway from Bansalan going to Davao City.

In Bansalan, two famous agricultural initiatives are known. The Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center is noted for its internationally-known conservation system called Sloping Agricultural Land Technology in barangay Kinuskusan. In the nearby barangay Eman, the Lao Integrated Farm is well-known for its coco sugar, coco honey, and organic farming.

If you like extreme adventure, visit Camp Sabros in sitio Baras in barangay Kapatagan of Digos City. The camp, 3,980 feet above sea level, sits in an immense natural beauty of forest and wildlife. It has an 820-meter zipline, which traverses along the top of pine trees with the majestic Mt. Apo looming on site.

Not far from the Camp Sabros is the Agong House.

If you love diving, then don't miss the fish sanctuary within the Malalag coastal area in Barangay Bulacan. Underwater cave in Sarangani can be explored by diving through its underwater opening.

In Padada, you can do your thing at the Piape Reef, which is covered with a variety of corals. The area is submerged during the high tide and visible during the low tide. The depth of Tubalan Cove in Malita is ideal for scuba diving while the surface is an invitation to water skiers.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 23, 2010.


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