Saturday, February 28, 2015

Magnetized by Marilog's Marvels

Summer is just around the corner. Chances are, you’d most likely be thinking of escaping to the beach or to the highlands whenever the sweltering heat gets too hot to bear. If you’re yearning for some cool, pine-scented mountain air, Baguio, the country’s  Summer Capital, would most likely make it into your list of choices.

Now, if you’re in Davao or near it, you need not go that far. Situated roughly 76 km away from the heart of the city, there’s this slice of paradise near the Davao-Bukidnon border that’s being touted as the city’s “Little Baguio” because of its numerous marvels that have magnetized visitors for they evoke images of the popular destination in the north—the district of Marilog.

Portion of the Bukidnon-Davao Road


The nippy mountain air and thick fogs—so thick they render road visibility to near zero to the detriment of motorists!—that quietly crawls into Marilog’s highlands and envelops the pine trees and wild flowers call to mind that magical ambience that has come to be associated with the City Pines.  Here’s a wonderful slice of Baguio just north of one of the world’s largest cities!

Foggy day in Marilog

Traversing Marilog is the well-paved highway linking Davao to its closest neighbor in the north, Bukidnon. Going to the farthest end of the district, you’d get to pass thru a portion of the provinces of Bukidnon (thru Kitaotao) and Cotabato (thru Arakan). Isn’t it amazing that you get to breeze into these three amazing places in three Mindanao regions (X, XI and XII) in less than thirty minutes?

Marilog's ruggedly alluring terrain

A trek into the highlands of Marilog is like taking a trip back in time when Davao was a vast, largely unexplored frontier. Home to the city’s lumads or indigenous peoples, it offers visitors an exciting peek into the rich history and culture of Davao’s indigenous peoples who have been there long before the coming of the Spanish colonizers. 

The lumads of Davao, particularly the Ata, Bagobo, Matigsalug and Obo-Manobo tribes, are dispersed all throughout the district’s twelve villages—Baganihan, Bantol, Buda, Dalag, Datu Salumay, Gumitan, Magsaysay, Malamba, Salaysay, Suawan, Tamugan, and of course, Marilog Proper. 

Nature bestowed upon Marilog a plethora of awesome marvels—waterfalls, caves, rivers and springs—that make it such an interesting destination for eco-adventurers. Each of the district’s villages have their own natural come-ons but the ones that are magnetizing the throngs are the known attractions in Baganihan, Datu Salumay and Buda. 

Epol Falls: one of Baganihan's most visited natural attractions

Baganihan.  The village’s most popular come-on is undoubtedly the breathtaking waterfalls named Epolshort for "Everlasting Power of Love"—whose rustic beauty provides the perfect backdrop for communing with nature along with family and friends. Surrounded by lush greenery, the falls will surely bewitch visitors with its unpretentious beauty.

Young people basking in the beauty of Epol Falls

Once known as Green Valley Falls, Epol boasts of several small cascades of ice cold waters, with a total drop of about 30 feet, smashing into several boulders below, providing tourists a chilling respite from an exhausting eco-adventure.  It may not be as stunning as Mindanao’s popular cascades but the secluded falls has its own way of charming even the most jaded adventure junkie. 

Part of the trail to Epol Falls

Hidden deep in Marilog’s lush forests, you’ll have to hike for roughly thirty minutes along a forest trail to reach it. Caveat: The trail to the falls can be muddy and slippery during the rainy season.  Take extra caution when you go downhill into the falls.

When you’re in Baganihan, a visit to the cultural village of the Bagobos, the first ethnic group in Mindanao who inhabited the banks of Pulangi (Bukidnon) and Davao Rivers, is a must. Dropping by this enclave gives tourists an opportunity to get a glimpse of the culture and lifestyle of the Bagobos, including their colorful costumes and exotic way of living.

Baganihan's new landmark

Visitors often include spelunking among their adventures in Baganihan. The village has a cave with large chambers adorned with captivating stalagmites and stalactites, which is definitely a sight to behold. There are also mini-lakes there where eco-adventurers can take a quick dip.

Another must-see in Baganihan are the sculptures of the Philippine eagle, also known as the "King of Philippine Skies,” and the natives of Mindanao, located just along highway. The landmark is one the three awe-inspiring creations of prolific Davao artist Kublai Millan whose works adorn many of Mindanao’s towns and cities.

Incidentally, the other two structures in Davao are "Durian and Carabao" in Toril (in the south), and "Waling-Waling," known as the "Queen of Orchids" in Lasang (in the northeast), which proudly greet visitors entering the city from different parts of the island.

A little sea of clouds enveloping the hills and mountains of Datu Salumay

Datu Salumay. Stepping into this farflung village after a two-hour journey away from the heat and hustle of the lowlands, you’d get the strange feeling of being transported into a different place and time. As you traverse the long, almost deserted stretch, you’d most likely see numerous makeshift stalls displaying fresh flowers, ornamentals and potted plants for sale.

Along the way, you’d also be with treated with bucolic scenes that call to mind Banaue, Sagada or some other remote town in northern Philippines—quaint houses standing on rolling hills and slopes bedecked with lush conifers; children in thick clothes on their way to school; women carrying pails and jars overflowing with spring water, etc. 
The road to Bemwa Farms

Datu Salumay gives you all these and more—including strawberries! Known to come mostly from Baguio, these luscious fruits are now being grown extensively in that part of Davao. The recent advancements in agricultural technology have made it possible of strawberries to be cultivated in the highlands of Marilog.

Bemwa Farms

Bemwa Farms in  Datu Salumay, for instance, has several hectares of strawberry fields. It also grows other high value crops  that  require high altitudes, notably lettuce  of different varieties. In  the future, it  wouldn’t come as a surprise if Datu Salumay and the other villages would earn for Marilog the title, “Strawberry Capital of Davao”.

Bemwa's strawberry field 

Visitors going to the mountainous village shouldn’t dare miss the chance to explore this new haven for nature lovers—Jive Highland Resort. Hidden in a secluded part of Datu Salumay, the relatively unknown resort provides the perfect venue for weekend family vacays, spiritual retreats, campings, and other corporate outings.

Here’s a place where time seems to stand still, allowing city slickers to take a breather from the pandemonium of the lowlands and commune with nature in the uplands. Within its sprawling area, nature trippers will be delighted to know that there’s a waterfall and a cave where the intrepid and adventurous can indulge to their hearts’ content. 

Being a new destination, Jive has quite a few amenities to boast of. Except for the modest accommodations, a multi-purpose hall and a basketball court (that also doubles as a parking area), it has no swimming pool, open-air cottages, restaurant, souvenir shop and what-have-you.

What Jive lacks in terms of creature comforts, it compensates with the abundance of natural treats—stunning views of verdant hills and forests,  spellbinding waterfalls, mysterious caves and, of course, fresh mountain air.  If further developed and marketed well, the highland resort could become the next tourist destination not only of Davao but the entire island of Mindanao as well.

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A natural waterfall inside Jive Highland Resort  

Buda. Bracketed by sprawling mountain ranges, Buda’s rolling landscape and refreshingly cool climate make it one of the best destinations for a weekend wandering in Davao.  If eco-adventure is your game, the city’s farthermost northern village—just a few meters away from Bukidnon—is the ideal place to be. 

Frequented by local and foreign tourists who want to escape the din and drudgery of the lowlands, Buda, to some people, is a portmanteau for the Bukidnon-Davao Road. A quick peek into the list of the city’s 182 barangays (villages), however, shows that there’s indeed a place that also goes by that same name.

Buda, like the other villages in Marilog, offers a refreshingly cool ambience that’s similar to the one you get to experience in Baguio. The village’s most distinctive landmark is probably Seagull Mountain Resort (Others, however, consider the resort as part of the village of Lorega in Kitaotao, Bukidnon).

Seagull's cafe and restaurant

Owned by the Durezas, one of Davao’s prominent political clans, the mountain resort is nestled on a sprawling estate with an altitude of about 1,200 m (4,000 ft) above sea level. Its amenities include a golf course, a jogging trail, a chapel, a path for staging the Way of the Cross, a tent and picnic area, a pavilion, a coffee shop, among others. 

Seagull Mountain Resort also boasts of several nice accommodations, including cottages (known as condo units) that can shelter two to four people and log cabins that can house as many as three people each. It also has designated campsites for those who want to sleep outdoors.

Two of Seagull's sought-after delights—suman (glutinous rice cake) 
and sikwate (hot chocolate drink)

Perhaps the resort’s best natural come-on is the waterfalls found just a few meters away from its main complex. The refreshingly cool cascade supplies water to Seagull’s four swimming pools—a deep one for adults, two for kiddos and a shallow one (located near the waterfalls). 

Not to be missed when you’re at Seagull are its sought-after mouth-watering treats—suman (glutinous rice cake) and sikwate (hot chocolate drink), the perfect brekkie for weekend wanderers. For more about this exciting mountain resort in Buda, visit my post at
As your thoughts turn to nature this summer, these are but a few of the destinations that would surely magnetize you when you visit Marilog. So, weekend wanderers, see to it that you add this haven in the highlands of Davao City to your list of options for a vacay. Go there and get magnetized by Marilog’s marvels! :-D