Sunday, December 27, 2015

Discovering a Haven for the Differently Abled

Discover the unique and unusual—this has always been my mantra whenever I travel. I go to great lengths to explore lesser known destinations to satisfy my desire for new experiences. The thrill and excitement I get from exploring the not-so-ordinary things in life makes the hassles and hazards of the trip worth it all.

Haven of hope for persons with disabilities


Sometimes, however, one doesn’t have to go too far to stumble upon something unusual. Sometimes it could be staring you in the face. Somewhere out there, in a not so distant location, there’s something fascinating just waiting to be discovered that could change the way one looks at life.

DJF provides hope to paraplegics all over the country

Novelist Marcel Proust aptly put it when he wrote: “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” That’s exactly what happened to me recently when I embarked on an unusual yet interesting sojourn to an uncommon destination—Davao  Jubilee Foundation (DJF) in Davao City. 

Organized almost thirty years ago, DJF is a non-stock, non-profit organization offering physical rehabilitation services to amputees and other people with disabilities, particularly those from armed conflict areas in Mindanao. Together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), it has established a state-of-the-art prosthetic and orthotic workshop that is fully equipped to produce lightweight artificial legs and braces made of polypropylene. 

DJF also provides free ear screenings to their patients

DJF is probably the only institution of its kind in the country that’s supported by the ICRC, a neutral and impartial global humanitarian organization that assists and protects victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. ICRC has been sending patients from war-torn areas to the Foundation for over a decade now.

Aside from this, DJF also provides services for the prevention of hearing impairment and rehabilitation of hearing disabilities in partnership with the Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM). The foundation conducts ear screenings and provides interventions and referrals for hearing impaired patients.

I’ve been hearing about DJF but it was only recently that I got to know more about its significant contributions in promoting the welfare and protection of the differently abled, people who have limited and/or impaired capabilities to see, hear and walk—a largely overlooked segment of the population which the United Nations refer to as “persons with  disabilities” or PWDs. 

In its 2006 Convention, the UN defined PWDs as “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” PWDs constitute roughly 10 percent of the world’s population, with about 80 percent of them living in developing countries.

DJF's prosthetic and orthotic workshop

I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are PWDs that is why I was interested to visit DJF and see for myself what exactly the Foundation is doing to alleviate their plight. Through this, I wanted to help make life better and easier for some people I know who are in dire need assistance from the Foundation. 

What made my sojourn to DJF an extra special one was the chance to catch up on things with its Operations Manager—Cheryl Arellano or Che, as we fondly call her—who   happens to be a dear friend from way, way back. Whenever we meet in parties and other gatherings, she always made it a point to remind me to pay the Foundation a visit and write something about it in my blog.

Che, who happens to be a PWD herself, had been egging me and our college buddies to pay her a visit but time constraints and conflicts in our schedules kept us from going there until recently.  When that day came, I was exhilarated to see her as we listened to her briefing about the Foundation.

A couple of years ago, DJF, with the support of ICRC opened its state-of-the-art prosthetic and orthotic workshop that is fully equipped to produce lightweight artificial legs and braces made of polypropylene, instead of fiberglass. With this, amputees can now have access to durable and affordable prostheses manufactured at the Foundation.

Polypropylene, according to Che, is relatively cheap, ductile, recyclable, and has a long storage life. She added that the technology that DJF employs makes it possible for them to tailor-fit the prostheses and make these more responsive and adaptive to the individual needs of their patients.

The ICRC has been providing DJF with support, enabling it to enhance its prosthetic services, which are one of the main needs of people physically disabled by injuries resulting from armed conflict. DJF has a gait training area where patients could practice using their new prostheses.

Short as the visit  to DJF was, I learned a lot from my conversation with Che, not to mention, the quick facility tour she gave me. Indeed, the differently abled—the paraplegic, the sightless, the speechless, the hearing impaired—are just like us. They have their own dreams, hopes and aspirations. With the support of individuals like you and me as well as institutions like DJF, we can help them get back their life and find their respective niches in the mainstream of society. :-D

Monday, November 30, 2015

Getting High at GenSan's Highland Resorts

Imagine yourself having a candle-lit dinner with your special someone somewhere up there in the highlands, with the night sky illuminated by a full moon casting an enchanting iridescence on the dark blue waters of the deep sea. Ah, such a highly romantic evening up in the hills!

Together, you share a lovey-dovey meal—a variety of seafood, steaks, poultry and chops, with an odd mix of sweet temptations, and of course, a bottle of red wine. Now, where’s could be the perfect venue for this tryst? A faraway island in the Bahamas, the Mediterranean, the French Riviera, or the Aegean? Well, any of them is possible if you’re filthy rich and famous.

A glimpse of Sarangani Bay and the mountains of Sarangani Province

(pic courtesy of

But for us, lesser mortals, that would be quite an extravagance. So, why waste your hard-earned dinero in some pricey resort abroad just to get high when you can have practically the same experience right here in the country—up there in the hills of the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines”?

Yeah, you heard it right. The highlands of General Santos City or GenSan, particularly in the coastal village of Tambler, have what it takes to conjure the perfect tryst for lovers. So far, there are two highland resorts I’ve had the chance to visit recently where hopeless romantics can find some enchanted evening: Sarangani Highlands Garden and Mt. Sabrina Panoramic View and Hotel.

(pic courtesy of

Sarangani Highlands boasts of a hotel-in-a-garden ambience that never fails to dazzle visitors searching for a hideaway that provides them a chance to commune with nature. Mind you, the resort isn’t just your typical garden or hotel; it’s also a paradise-in-the-city neatly tucked up there in GenSan’s hilly outskirts.


Sarangani Highlands: a touch of Spanish Mediterranean architecture

The resort, which is fast turning into one of SOCCSKSARGEN’s sought-after weekend home-sweet-homes for lovers, families and friends, is about 15 to 20 minutes away from the downtown area—a leisurely drive along the smooth national road that connects GenSan to the towns of Sarangani Province’s western side (Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum)

The moment you go up the resort, the cool sea breeze suddenly caresses you, placating your heart and pacifying your soul. You know you’re at the highlands when you see the hazy outlines of the mountains beyond Sarangani Bay, whose blue waters are dotted with vessels of various shapes and sizes, a scenery that could have leapt out of the pages of a travel magazine!

The resort caters to a wide variety of social and corporate events—be it birthday and baptismal parties, weddings, debuts, conferences, seminars, and what-have-you. It boasts of several open-air and glass-walled function halls, a covered court, a restaurant, a kiosk, and of course, a garden.

If you’re staying for the night, Sarangani Highlands has about twenty-five Spanish Mediterranean-inspired  suites that can accommodate between one to four guests per room. It also has family rooms that can house as many as eight persons per room. 

And here’s more that would surely make Sarangani Highlands your money’s worth—all the hotel rooms there have a stunning view of the garden or Sarangani Bay! 

Roaming around the resort, you’ll surely be fascinated by the resort’s simple yet soothing landscaping and the numerous flora growing in its lush garden. Here’s a place where the beauty of nature is amplified, not altered—a hideaway in the hills where visitors get a chance to commune with the sun, sea and sky. 

(Here are a few more pics I grabbed from the resort's website,; credits to the owners).

(pic courtesy of


Whether you’re a first-time sightseer or a frequent visitor, you’d surely find the place simply irresistible. Why, you could be prompted into saying, “Magandang Gensan!”, after making it to the resort!
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The resort at night


A glimpse of the Santorini-inspired villas

Mt. Sabrina, on the other hand, is a luxurious resort—I guess “posh” would be the right word for it—that’s still a work in progress (at the time when I visited it). I came to know about it from a fellow wanderer who found its tuna-shaped swimming pool and Santorini-inspired villas quite awesome.

Curious, I visited Mt. Sabrina during a weekend escapade in GenSan. The sojourn to the resort was a leisurely twenty-five-minute drive from downtown area. Arriving there in the afternoon, I was excited to explore the sprawling resort. 

Hunger, however, got the better of me so I immediately looked for the restaurant—Don Pepe Clubhouse, as they called it—where I grabbed a quick bite. Found at the summit, the clubhouse offers a sweeping vista of the whole resort and its environs.

 A portion of the tuna-shaped pool

Down below, I caught a glimpse of one of Mt. Sabrina’s interesting come-ons—the tuna- shaped pool. Whew, it was delightful to see the cool pool and the villas dotting the resort’s hilly landscape. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to stay there or take a dip the pool (I got myself billeted at Greenleaf Hotel in the downtown area) but I was instantly smitten by resort and its fab amenities.

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Incidentally, the five-hectare estate offers an interesting array of accommodations that guests can choose from. They include the pool villas as well as a cluster of apartelles, stilt houses, suites and standard rooms. Mind you, they’re reasonably-priced!  

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Visitors would also find it fascinating to explore Mt. Sabrina’s pavilion. Nestled on the edge of a hill, it provides a breathtaking view of the blue waters of Sarangani Bay as wells as the faraway mountains of Sarangani Province’s eastern side (Alabel, Malapatan and Glan). Geez, it’s the perfect venue for weddings, debuts, birthdays, family reunions, and other social events!

A glimpse of Mt. Matutum

Now, there’s a special treat awaiting those who go up the pavilion—a picture-perfect view of one of South Cotabato’s precious plums—Mt. Matutum! For more about the highland resort, visit their Facebook page or their website, (Here are some snaps I grabbed from the resort’s Facebook page; credits to the owners). 

As the holiday season sets in, you’d probably be out of your wits looking for the ultimate venue for rejuvenation, revelry, recreation and relaxation with your family and friends. Here’s a tip: Why not try these two exciting resorts in GenSan—Sarangani Highlands and Mt. Sabrina—where you’d get a different kind high? :-D