ASK anyone what comes into their mind once you mention Tagum, they will definitely answer: "gold." After all, the city is the trade center of gold, which mostly come from Diwalwal, a barangay of nearby Monkayo town.

But while visiting the city recently, we found out that there's more to Tagum than just gold. The words of Jose Ma. H. Zaldarriaga echoes this sentiment when he wrote: "If there is but one place in the country which detaches itself unswervingly from the clutches of materialism, it has got to be Tagum City."

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Zaldarriaga cites these benefits: "Its air is free from impurities; its locals are always so kind. Its streets are always uncrowded and the place is always so slow. To get away from the hustles of urban living is just too easy."

For the record, Tagum is home to the biggest basilica in Mindanao. Located at Magugpo South, Christ the King Cathedral has an impressive architecture that incorporates modern and traditional designs. Outside of the cathedral are mesmerizing sculptures created by Kublai Millan, a local known artist.

What is equally amazing is that at the back of the cathedral, you can find the biggest wooden rosary in the world. The rosary, a project of the Knights of Columbus, is built at the feet of the huge statue of Jesus Christ. It is about 100 meters and is made of magkuno (iron wood), an indigenous hardwood native to the hinterland of Pantukan, Compostela Valley. Each bead of the rosary weighs approximately 35 kilograms.

Another must-see is the five-foot Regina Rosarii statue at the Dominican Heights. It is inside the 10-hectare land area and you have to pass a small hanging bridge and take 57 steps before you can reach the top.

Recently, it earned the moniker as the "palm tree city of the Philippines." The reason for this: hundreds of palm trees are planted along the roads. Even government and private buildings, several varieties of palm trees are planted instead of ornamental trees.

In the near future, Tagum will be known for its sophisticated and ultra-modern buildings. Before the year ends, the P800-million Tagum Future City Hall in Magugpo East will be functional. There is also the Energy Park in Apokon, where various national and regional public offices will be built so that people will not be going from one place to another when transacting with the government.

In Savannah, Georgia, one of its tourist attractions is the century-old graveyards and cemeteries. Tagum has that kind of enticement, too, through its La Filipina Public Cemetery Park. The once-crowded, disorderly and dilapidated cemetery has recently been rehabilitated by the government.

"It is one of the very few public cemeteries in the country to be at par with the services and amenities of a first class private memorial park," says Geraldine B. Abella, the city tourism officer.

"In a way, people from our place can experience a very decent and quality burial for their departed loved ones," adds Jose C. Molina, who guided our recent tour.

While Tagum is not "naturally endowed" in comparison with other places in the country -- it has no lakes, caves, waterfalls and other scenic spots for visitors to gaze -- the city has a coastline as it is part of the Davao Gulf.

Beaches may not be as many, but Tagum has one that is comparable -- even better! -- than those found in Davao and nearby provinces. We are referring to Banana Beach, whose volcanic sand is comparable to Boracay in terms of fineness but only differs in color. The resort is developed by the Tuason family in the vast Hijo Estate in barangay Madaum.

Fifteen kilometers away from the city, the world's only beach inside a banana plantation is a haven for family who want to have some fun activities.

It also has a children's playground. For those who love fishing, they can do it at the Spot, where bangus, talakitok, kitang, pompano, and snapper can be caught.

For those who want to stay overnight, there are several casitas (which look like a bahay kubo but is very open like a cabana) available. One or two mattresses are provided along with a mosquito net for protection. If occupants want some privacy, there are wooden blinds that can be unrolled.

At the middle of all these casitas is a common bathroom and comfort room for men and women.

Banana Beach also offers banana boat ride, skim boarding, and water trampoline. Farther from the beach is a forest where wild boars, snakes, monitor lizards and monkeys abound.

Visitors and guests who want some exclusivity can go to the nearby Lanikai Resort (the name comes from the Hawaiian word, which means "heaven by the sea"). The place is so quiet that you can only hear the breeze and the sound of the waves. If you want to have communion with nature, then this is the place to be.

"At Lanikai, our visitors can enjoy a private beach away from the prying eyes of the public," says Lawrence T. Co, the resort's leisure and tourism head. "A speedboat is at their disposal to whisk them away for a day's picnic at any of the neighboring islands."

Once you enter the resort, the first thing that attracts your attention is the two-storey old house with plantation-style elegance. It has been renovated into a guest house with eight air-conditioned rooms.

For sports aficionados, Lanikai is an ultimate private playground. Some thrills that it offers include swimming, skim boarding, sailing, kayaking, fishing, motorcycle riding and bicycling, and camping. The resort also has both a basketball and a tennis court.

If you're wondering where to stay while in Tagum, here are some hotels you can check in: Golden Palace and Eagle's View (both are near the Tagum City Overland Transport Integrated Terminal), Hardrock, Molave, and Lakan's Place. One night stay ranges from P800 to P2,000. There are also several inns and lodges, among them: Borders Inn, Yashio Bulgari, Captain's Deck Inn and Apartelle, RV Travelers, Aureus, and Kingsfield Express. A room for one night ranges from P800 to P1,500 only.

Looking for something to eat? Don't worry; several restaurants and eateries abound in the city, including Arman's Eatery, Secret Garden, Annette's Lechon Haus, Rancho Grill, Rosse 40's Foodhauz, Vannessa's Chicken Barbeque and Grill, Balinsasayaw Restaurant, and Chicken Ati-Atihan.

For further details, you can call the tourism office at this number: (084) 218.4727.ÿ The fax number is (084) 370.1424.ÿ The email address isÿ You can also visit its website: