Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pursuing Putters in Polomolok

At the foot of majestic Mt. Matutum in the flourishing town of Polomolok, South Cotabato lies an idyllic hideaway for the privileged set that’s shielded from public view by the sprawling expanse of one of the world’s largest pineapple plantations—Kalsangi!

Owned by Dole Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of the US-based food conglomerate, the secluded enclave set in a rustic ambience quietly nestles in the village of Polo. Within its exclusive confines, you can find a golf course, an international school, a club house, a swimming pool, and the elegant dwellings of the multinational firm's management people. All that with a year-round pleasantly cool mountain breeze to boot.

And what about those Norfolk pines surrounding Kalsangi? Well, they’ve got their own story to tell. 

According to one of the staff there, the conifers used to be given out as Christmas trees for the multinational firm’s executive expats. Because the resident managers and supervisors there now are mostly locals, the trees haven’t been cut down for several Christmases so they’ve flourished in time.

Polomolok isn't new to me; I’ve been all over the place on several occasions in the past, but never in Kalsangi. I recently made it there because of the executive golf tournament held within its beautifully-landscaped course, which I, along with a ten-man documentation team, was covering as one of the events featured in a biennial sports festival among Mindanao-based utilities.

Together with most of my irrepressible and hardworking team members—Ivan, Tatong, Joey, Vena, Dodong, Verlie, Edgar—I stepped into Kalsangi’s exclusive grounds one late afternoon for an ocular inspection of the tournament venue. But we almost didn’t make it because we forgot to prime the club’s security staff ahead of time about our coming. 

Generally off-limits to the public, access to Kalsangi is quite difficult unless you’ve got some clout with the powers that be. Good thing Ivan, who had befriended one of the regular players in the club, managed to contact the executive over the phone. Minutes later, we were allowed to enter the club’s premises.

Professional and amateur putters would find a tee-off at Kalsangi a challenging but exhilarating experience. Its nine-hole golf course, dotted with elevated tees, contoured greens and sparkling streams, offers numerous challenges to a golfer’s clubbing skill, making it the perfect venue for the Mindanao-wide tournament.

Although it’s not a long course—a return to the tee-off area is necessary to complete an 18-hole event—the pine tree-lined fairways are quite spread out so the name of the game is keeping the ball on the well-manicured grass.

The following morning, only Tatong and I returned to Kalsangi as the rest of the team had to attend to the other events done simultaneously with the golf tournament. Excitedly, we trod the putting green, pursuing the putters and their balls as we tried to capture the best moments of the thrill-filled event.

A day at Kalsangi isn’t complete unless you get to savor its club house’s yummy Western and Asian fare. So, Tatong and I ended up gobbling platefuls of those mouth-watering club sandwiches, courtesy of Brenda and Rowena, after hours of pursuing the persistent putters at the fairways. :D

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