IF HAVEN’S Peak Highland Resort in Maragusan, Compostela Valley can be compared to a fruit, then durian would be it. After tasting it, one foreign journalist described the controversial fruit this way: "It smells like hell but it tastes like heaven."

Haven's Peak is just like that, too. Going up is like hell but once you're in the top it's as if you're in heaven.

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The resort is nestled on Tarago Hills facing the town with 208 beautifully landscaped steps leading to its tidy but beautiful lobby. Count that – 208 steps! You may survive the first 60 steps but if you continue walking without stopping, you're courting for trouble, especially if you don't exercise regularly! So much that there are three stop-overs for those who are dead tired!

"I thought I could go on without stopping," my friend Jose Rey (JR for short) L. Subaldo told me when we were sitting at the bench of the second stop-over area. "I have to catch my breath before I could take another step."

But once you’re on the lobby, it's another story. You get to see the whole town of Maragusan. You can even catch a glimpse of people walking and vehicles going to and from.

In the early morning, it provides sight of the picture-perfect and picturesque view of green foggy mountains appearing like a painting. Or "like backdrop of a stage," JR quipped.

"Although we opened this resort only in 2005," June Louie Iba¤ez (he wants to be called PJ) told us in an interview, "we have succeeded in making the mountain resort as one of the town's tourist destination."

In fact, it has been featured already in the bestselling The Lonely Planet. "We really didn’t know how we landed in its pages," PJ said. "It was not until one Australian guy called me and asked me how to get here."

PJ, who is the resident manager of the resort, gave him directions. Curious, he asked how the guy got his phone number. "From The Lonely Planet," the Aussie replied.

According to PJ, the area was sort of a vacation place for the owner, Edith F. Julian whenever she wanted to be away from her work in Davao City.

"Edith is from this town and whenever she wanted to be alone or just wanted to have a peace of mind, she returned to this place," PJ said. Later on, her friends cajoled her to convert the place into a resort. She did!

Today, people from different walks of life come to appreciate the resort. Its tribal huts and two-storey dormitories are just perfect place to stay. Both the Lantaw Barbeque and Seafood Grill House, and Terraza Adela Bar and Coffee Shop offer a great place to dine and unwind while viewing the whole town.

The ambience is just superb during the day; at night, it is even spectacular.

"I bought the land way back in 2003," Edith recalls. "I bought small parcels until it reached to 1.7 hectares. By 2004, I decided to start a resort instead of a rest house. I have thought that if I love the place, then others might have the same feeling as I have."

The resort now occupies about 2.7 hectares. "I have many plans to upgrade the resort," she says. "Topping the list of my priority projects is the cable car. As the resort is highland, cable car is a necessity. I'm excited with this project; we are finalizing the plans. Hopefully, it will be finished this year."

She is also thinking of putting up a zip line.

"This will follow after the cable car but it will be dependent on the demand from our guests and visitors. We are thinking of other activities that will compliment to the resort."

Everyone raves about the healing wonders that a visit to the spa can give to the body and mind. So much so that Edith is also thinking of having a spa in her resort. "My guests are my concern," she explains. "I want them to have the best comfort while staying in Haven's Peak."

Unlike other resorts that are owned by a group of people, Haven's Peak is a single proprietorship. "I thank God that I survive having it without partners. I exclusively manage the resort although I give PJ the full authority to implement the policies I have."

Edith works full time in Davao City. "Although I'm too busy with commitment here, I still find time to oversee the resort every now and then – especially during weekends and holidays," she says.

When asked what inspired the Bachelor of Science in Commerce degree holder (her major is marketing and she graduated from Rizal Memorial College in Davao City) to put up the resort, she answered: "Maybe because I'm sporty, homebody, and nature lover."

Another plus factor is the fact that she loves to travel. "I travel a lot with my job. During those travels, I see to it that I try to mix business with leisure to get many ideas," she says.

If you want to stay at the Haven’s Peak Highland Resort, contact PJ Ibañez at these numbers: 0918-432-8865 or 0905-651-0906. Edith Julian can be reached at 0926-719-7558.