Friday, December 30, 2016

Mystified by Malagos’ Resorts (Part 2)


A few months ago, Chris, a nephew of mine from the US (yep, he’s a certified “foreign-oy” whose mom happens to be my first cousin on the maternal side) visited Davao to reconnect with his Pinoy roots. Although it’s his second trip to the country, it was his first time to visit Mindanao, which many of his mom’s kins call home.
 
Malagos' lush surroundings can be therapeutic



Being the closest relative he’s got in these parts, I felt duty-bound to give Chris a taste of that  brand of hospitality that we Pinoys are known for. Other than that, I had promised my cousin that I’ll look after her son while he’s in Davao. So, like a dad who’s about to see his son for the first time, I rearranged my schedules at work so I can fetch him at the airport. 

It wasn’t hard to recognize Chris who I only got to see in pictures before; he stood out among the exiting passengers because of his height. After the usual pleasantries, bear hug and all, we drove to a nearby mall for his first dinner in the city. 

The Philippine eagle: Malagos' most popular denizen


Because it was a hectic work week for me, I told Chris that I can’t be with him the whole time he’s in Davao, except at night and during the weekend. He didn’t seem to mind. The dude is used to exploring places all by himself—not just in the US but in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and a host of other Asian destinations that even his mom, a constant traveler herself, has yet to visit.

I asked Chris if he’s got an itinerary. He mentioned some places but there’s one thing he asked me to do—to take him to Malagos. Making it there seemed foremost in the dude’s mind. Oh, it must be because of the Philippine eagle, the village’s famed denizen, I thought. He admitted later that he's  eager to see the famous avian, which has been successfully bred in captivity these past several years by a privately-owned breeding center based in that part of Davao.

Chris was veritably excited about our sojourn to the outskirts of Davao. He woke up early—way too early than what his body clock would usually alert him!—as it would take more than an hour to get there from where we’re staying. He wanted to maximize his time in Malagos so we readily kicked off as soon as he was ready, opting to have our brekkie on the road.





One of the city’s sought-after destinations, Malagos never fails to dazzle first-time visitors (like Chris) and frequenters (like me) with the sheer beauty of its lush, rustic and serene surroundings that’s still largely unspoiled by the city’s urbanization. I’ve been there over a dozen times already but each time I hit the road to Malagos, I get to discover something fresh and new that helps demystify this haven that’s fast becoming part of many weekend wanderers’ bucket list. 

Home to over 6,000 Davaoeños, 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 that’s being maintained by the local water utility.

Welcome signage at PEC








The remote sanctuary is special to me, a refreshing refuge whenever I feel the urge to be far and away from the madding crowd. In most instances, I often head for either of the three popular resorts found there: Malagos Watershed and Park, Malagos Garden Resort and the Philippine Eagle Center. Chris and I visited all of them.

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 sand filters, a chorinating facility and a dam.
 
Brahminy kite, another eagle species found inside PEC



After passing through the Malagos Watershed, we headed for our ultimate destination—the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC). Home to about thirty-plus Philippine eagles (half of which were conceived, born and raised in captivity), PEC is a sprawling 8.4-hectare conservation breeding facility located up there in the foothills of Mt. Apo in the district of Baguio, about an hour or so (depending on the traffic) from the heart of the city.

Fighter's formidable look










Aside from providing a simulated rainforest habitat for its most popular but endangered denizens, PEC also houses ten other species of birds, four species of mammals and two species of reptiles. It’s the sought-after Philippine eagle, however, that’s obviously PEC’s most famous crowd-drawer. Standing about a meter tall and weighing approximately 5 kilograms, the creature is a sober-looking avian 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.

We chanced upon one of the specimens of the species—the formidable-looking “Fighter”. Finally, Chris got to meet him live in the flesh, up close and personal at that, for a quick photoshoot that left my American guest in awe. The avian’s exotic appeal, mighty built and regal bearing have earned for him and his kind the title of “Haribon” or Haring Ibon, meaning Bird King. And it’s only fitting that his species was declared as the Philippines’ national bird last July 4, 1995 by virtue of a presidential proclamation.
 





The continued destruction of their natural habitat has significantly reduced the Philippine eagles’ population to less than a thousand or so birds. They’re scattered in about four out of the over 7,641 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.





From PEC, Chris and I headed for a quick tour of Malagos Garden Resort. Owned by the Puentespina family, it’s a sprawling inland nature-themed hideaway replete with accommodations and function rooms, seminar halls, a restaurant and coffee shop, well-manicured gardens, a swimming pool, a bird park and butterfly sanctuary, a science-themed park, a contemporary art open gallery, a children’s playground, to name some. 

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Tired after hours of exploring the tourist spots of Malagos, we called it a day after a super late lunch at the garden resort’s resto. By three in the afternoon, the hideaway got gloomy as rainclouds hovered all over the place. Before hopping into the car, we managed to drop by the pasalubong shop near the parking lot where I bought organic veggies, a bottle of sinamak (popular Visayan spiced dip made from coconut vinegar, Cayenne pepper, onion, ginger, peppercorn, and garlic, among others) and, of course, the award-winning Malagos chocolate. For those who have a fetish for rare flora, the resort is a must-see as it's home to the famous Philippine orchid, Vanda Sanderiana, locally known as waling-waling

Malagos' internationally renowned product




On the way home, Chris had quietly fallen asleep. I took a glimpse at the sleeping dude, searching for any clue about his state of mind. I wasn’t disappointed. I saw what I wanted to see. It was written all over my American guest’s face—pure satisfaction, that is. Well, not surprising. After all, it isn’t every day that someone from the West like him gets lucky to discover a mystifying place in the East, a mystery-shrouded haven like Malagos. :-D

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Taken with Tagum City (Part 3)



There’s a kind of rush pervading Tagum City these days. Whether you’re having a conversation with some locals in one of its malls or watching the construction of new buildings and landmarks along the highway, it’s clear that the so-called “City of Palm Trees” is emerging to be Davao Region’s next most important city.

Tagum is definitely the face of a “city on the rise” in this part of the country. Home to about 260,000 people, the provincial capital of Davao del Norte definitely knows a lot about rising and falling and rising again. From being a sleepy town several decades ago, it has risen into one of Mindanao’s most competitive, first-class cities which are driving the island into new heights of sustainable development. 

"Bangka",  Tagum's newest landmark along the national highway highlight's the city's role in advancing development in both fisheries and agriculture







Panoramic view of Tagum's Energy Park


Strategically located at the heart of the province, Tagum boasts of having two major road networks intersecting at its center–the Davao-Mati Road and the Davao-Agusan National Highway. This has definitely contributed much to the city’s accessibility and suitability as a hub for commerce and trade.

"Dahon", a monument at Tagum's E-Park (Energy Park) depicts the contributions of the Scouting Movement towards nation-building, with the three leaves representing the pillars of the Scouting Law


Relying mostly on agriculture during the early stages of its development, Tagum   evolved into a major trading center for gold following the gold rush in neighboring towns during the late 70s and early 80s. 
 
Soon, commercial and business establishments, taken with the rosy prospects that Tagum offered, sprouted in different parts of the once sleepy town. Rapid urbanization ensued and the provincial capital was later elevated to a component city in 1998.


There are a lot of reasons to fall in love with the "City of Palm Trees"















Tagum's state-of-the-art new City Hall draws visitors not just for its massive structure but also for its “green” design and technology


































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 Holy Rosary Garden: one of the favorite sanctuaries of the Catholic faithful




It wasn’t always a case of rising for Tagum, though; the city has had its share of falling, too. It has survived many obstacles: the decline of the local gold mining industry, the unstable peace and order situation in the hinterlands, the global slump in the demand for bananas, which happens to be one of its major products and the region’s top dollar earner, to name some. 



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Newest mall in town












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Today, Tagum is on the rise again. With its real property values going up, a continuing influx of retail stores and restaurants and the arrival of some of the country’s heavyweights in the corporate world, the city has become a magnet for migrants in search for a safe place where they can find gainful employment, raise their families and lead a life that’s stable and secure here in this big island that’s a melting pot of diverse cultures.


San Agustin Botanical Garden




From profitable opportunities to productive activities for locals and visitors alike, there is obviously more to love about Tagum than ever before. I bet first-timers and those who haven’t seen it in years would be smitten with the city once they get to see it these days, in the same manner that I’ve been taken with it.
 
Various local and foreign species of trees are cultivated at the 
San Agustin Botanical Garden



With Davao City now being positioned as the country’s seat of power in the south, Tagum could readily take over its role as administrative center for Davao Region. I bet more and more people will be taken with the city in the coming days, with not a few opting to stay there for good to carve out a life for themselves and their families.
 
So watch out for this “city on the rise”–things are just starting to get even better. :D