Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mystified by Malagos' Resorts

Malagos never fails to mystify me. The mystery-shrouded watershed and its neighboring environs dazzle visitors with the sheer beauty of the serene landscapes, making you look forward to the next visit. I’ve been to Malagos more than a dozen times already but each time I go there, I get to learn something new that somehow helps demystify this sought-after haven in the outskirts of Davao. 

Home to nearly 6,000 DavaoeƱos, Malagos is one of the 182 villages that make up Davao City. The name Malagos is said to have been derived from the word mala-agos, which suggests continuous flow even during the dry season. This can be attributed to the presence of a vibrant watershed there that’s being maintained by the local water utility. Whenever I want to shut myself off from the rest of the world, I head for Malagos and immerse myself in any of the three sanctuaries found there: Malagos Watershed and Park, Malagos Garden Resort and the Philippine Eagle Center.

Located about 33 kilometers away from the city proper, Malagos Watershed is considered as one of the most vital sources of the city’s water supply. Way back in the 1920s, it was in Malagos where Davao’s first communal water system was established. At present, the local water utility relies on the 235-hectare Malagos Watershed to meet the water supply requirements of the southern portion of the city, particularly the Calinan area. Found within the watershed and park are a number of water facilities, including filters, a chorinating facility and a dam.

At the Malagos Park’s entrance, your attention will be drawn to a row of souvenir stores and fruit stalls where tourists can buy many of the local fruits sold there—rambutan, mangosteen, pomelo, durian—for a song! Inside, there’s a small playground and a picnic ground where you can while away time. There are a number of picnic huts where families and individuals can bask in the loving arms of Mother Nature. Some members of Davao’s indigenous communities also roam around the park to sell handmade bracelets made of natural materials. 

But there’s one more attraction there that really got my attention: the huge pythons that have been domesticated. If you’re not wary of reptiles, you can take pictures with the creatures wrapped around your shoulders. 

Near the watershed park is another sanctuary for nature-trippers: Malagos Garden Resort, which is a sprawling inland nature-themed resort replete with accommodations and function rooms, seminar halls, a restaurant and coffee shop, well-manicured gardens, a bird park and butterfly sanctuary, a swimming pool, a children’s playground, among others.   

The resort is also home to the famous Philippine orchid, Vanda Sanderiana, popularly known as waling-waling as well as indigenous birds and other wildlife species. The works of National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva adorn the gardens of the resort.   

But, wait, there’s more to Malagos than its spectacularly serene surroundings. Back at the Malagos Watershed and Park, there’s this attractive creature whose face you must have seen somewhere—magazines, newspapers, TV, the Internet. But you should see him in the flesh. Endowed with features that cause many heads to turn for a closer look, his animalistic appeal make him one of the most sought-after attractions in Davao City. 
Standing about a meter tall and weighing approximately 5 kilograms, he’s a sober-looking creature who sports a patrician profile highlighted by a pointed, curved beak and luminous bluish eyes. On his pate rests a headdress of light brown feathers that form a crest when raised, giving him a war god’s appearance. His dark brown dorsal feathers, thick and neatly tucked, complement a fluffy white chest. His broad wings, spanning about two meters, allow him to rise almost vertically to maneuver between trees, branches and vines.  

Gifted with a squared-off tail, powerful legs and sharp claws, he’s an excellent hunter who’s always ready for the kill. He feeds on a wide variety of forest species that include squirrels, snakes, civet cats, hornbills, and occasionally bats and monkeys. His primary prey, however, is the flying lemur. He’s none other than the mighty Sir Andy whose species called Pithecopaga jefferyi or the monkey-eating Philippine eagle I had the opportunity of meeting live in the flesh, up close and personal at that, for a spontaneous photoshoot that left me in awe.

The continued destruction of their natural habitat has significantly reduced the eagles’ population to about 500 or so birds. They’re scattered in about four out of the over 7,000 islands making up the Philippines—Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. Their main breeding season is spread out from September through February. Laying only one egg, they rear one offspring every two years. Their life expectancy, particularly those in the wild, is anywhere between 30 to 60 years. 

At Malagos, Sir Andy and his kind have been successfully bred in captivity through the efforts of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), a private non-stock, non-profit organization which serves as the principal organization working to save the eagle and its forest environment. 

Want to catch a glimpse of the legendary creature whose advent has kept hopes ablaze for the country’s endangered wildlife? Then head straight to Malagos and be one with the best that nature can offer.   :D