Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Revisiting Saliducon Cave, our last Adventure with Irvin Joy Alcoriza

From total exploration of trekking trails my team suddenly had the urge to rediscover an underground attraction in Sta. Cruz which I last visited ten years ago. Yes, that is how long Saliducon Cave is being stepped anew by a human foot. It has been left out in the ecotourism picture for quite some time because there was a notion that it is connected with the present potable water source and we chose not to disturb it for valid humanitarian intention. It was only last year that this cave in Sta. Cruz is not at all intertwined with the water concerns as confirmed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) when the Saliducon Cave Development and Management Plan was crafted and approved.


In one of the salient components of the development plan I learned that ecotourism was considered and that the DENR is aggressive in its stance to tap the local governments, both municipal and barangay, to be partners in the said endeavour not very far from now. Everybody obliged, of course.  

On June 5, we had a short caving here. Not a single weekend was missed by LOGSAC, a hyper group which have been scratching wanderlust since day one of the pandemic. This one though was a unique experience. After a short chat with Barangay Captain Renon Sombilon of Saliducon, we drove a short paved road off sitio Tibaol. I remember doing caving in Saliducon three times in a separate trail in Melilia and the one we had last week was actually shorter and a lot easier. Our guide was Nong Elmer Turado, a Barangay Tanod in Saliducon. A 20-minute single track of farmlands is required to reach the entry point of the cave.

As the only one with knowledge in caving (at least in Saliducon Cave) I conducted a short orientation to the group. The night before this schedule Davao Oriental was hit by an intensity 6.6 earthquake which left me in doubt of possible aftershock and that could happen anytime while all of us are inside the cave. Thank God there was no shaking that day. The entrance of this cave is very small, enough for a single person’s body and if you are a certified heavy weight you have no chance of going in here.


By the way this is my fourth time in Saliducon Cave but I am still amazed by the huge cobblestone formations distributed through all its chambers. This might not be the best cave in Mindanao but it can be a really good site for minor spelunking. Just like any other tropical caves, Saliducon Cave has an attractive and wide caverns and some chambers where speleothems are found. I am pretty sure only few Sta. Cruzians have explored and witnessed the glory of this underground heritage in our place. The pictures below are some snaps for you to take glimpse of.  


Cave wildlife was also recorded during this visit. The Pit Viper I saw in 2009 was no longer here for now but consistent dwellers are bats, crickets, millipedes and Big-eyed Frog. Outside the cave perimeter are good bird species such as Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Amethyst Brown Dove, Philippine Serpent eagle, among others.
It won’t be for long and Saliducon Cave will be another good ecotourism site in Sta. Cruz. At this point we are grooming the community to do most of the operation and conservation at the same time. The fact that Saliducon and nearby barangays are baskets of tropical fruits is a sure compliment. 


Lastly, this adventure was the last time for LOGSAC with the company of the late Irvin Joy Alcoriza who chose to leave this world ahead of us on June 10. We fondly call him Joyjoy because he was a jolly, good fellow and had always been part of our adventures in the past. He is that person in the picture background of Mt. Pulag used as header of this website. 

To you our brother, may you rest in peace. You now have a good adventure wherever you are. 

P.S. Supplemental wildlife photos provided by Mr. Jake Caspi. Thank you.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Forest and Farm Trek in Ayala Darong

Trekking is always a good form of outdoor activity and has been one of the fastest growing adventure types. The numerous mountain ranges and summits in Sta. Cruz offer good venue for trekkers and mountaineers for camping and day hikes. Mt. Loay and Mt. Apo top our trekking list, while several newly-discovered waterfalls are also starting to become popular such as Tomari Falls in Sibulan, Balusong Falls in Tibolo, Langan Falls in Coronon, Tarasoban Falls in Zone II and Tacob Laya and Karamagan Falls in Sinoron.

Unknown to many, the Ayala Farm in Darong is also a good trekking site. This 600-hectare coconut plantation and cattle ranch offers a good secondary growth lowland forest and a farm trail highly suitable for day hiking in flat to gently rolling terrain. We were lucky to have been given permission by Sir Maui Chu of Darong Agricultural Development Corporation (DADC) to do trailblazing trek last May 22 together with my LOGSAC friends.

The farm house serves as the jump off point where Sir Maui gave us a briefer and a guide in Dodo Bagal. We started with an easy trek off a tractor trail and then got inside the jungle of endemic trees until we reached a little stream of slippery rocks. It was a short traverse of the stream and we were back to a tractor trail, this time we followed a single track outside the forest edges.

Inside the forest is a dense environment where interesting wildlife was recorded. Notable species appeared are Philippine Long-tailed Macaque and some good birds to include White-eared Brown Dove, Amethyst Brown Dove, Black-naped Monarch, Brown-Tit Babbler, Philippine Bulbul, Rufous-fronted Tailorbird and Yellow-wattled Bulbul.

DADC, formerly called Ayala Agricultural Development Corporation, is one of the largest and pioneering agricultural production areas in Sta. Cruz. It has become a pilot site for Tagnanan variety of coconut before in partnership with Philippine Coconut Authority. Several portions of the property were converted for industrial purposes but still has huge retained site for coconut production and cattle pasture bordering Sibulan River, sitio Piping of Sibulan and SODACO Farms of Inawayan. 

An abandoned lake within is a good area for water and chocolate break. This served as the turning point before we head back to the farm house using a different path. The trekking lasted for more than four hours with a total distance of 10.9 kilometers. It was a hot trek actually but the exciting part was the cool and sweet juice of buko prepared to as by Sir Maui in the farm house.

It is always nice to be back to this place after sometime. In my childhood days we always visit this area to take a bath in the river. In late 90s the DADC became a take-off point of the water tubing during its peak before it was totally impeded by the presence of a hydro power plant. The vertical rock wall in the upstream portion of the river was also our venue for rappelling adventure in the past. Indeed, the management of DADC has been very supportive with the ecotourism program of Sta. Cruz in the last 10 years. I hope that forest and farm trekking, as well as trail biking will be welcomed by the management as option activities in this area.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Chasing waterfalls in Karamagan, Sinoron

In my previous article about Sinoron last year I mentioned that aside from being a huge carpet of green canopy this barangay is also a chain of active creeks conniving to form the mighty Pilan River which now serves as the wellspring of south Sta. Cruz. From my humble observation when properly tap and sustainably utilize Sinoron can really supply potable water to this town composed of more than one hundred thousand people. From this fact it is well and fitting to shove my idea of christening Sinoron the Water World of Sta. Cruz, or Davao del Sur for that matter.


With COVID-19 still hemming in and continuously wreaks havoc in the country, I beat the opportunity to explore other places in Sta. Cruz. Along with my LOGSAC friends the latest site we explored and documented was sitio Karamagan in barangay Sinoron. It was undertaken in response to the request of the tribal group who is out to consider ecotourism in their place soon. Karamagan is just 5 kilometers from Barangay Hall. The first 3 kilometers is a dirt road all the way to the hanging bridge in sitio Pilan. From here we started the single-track hike to our first target destination Dumagok Falls.


After an hour and a half of uphill trailblazing, we witnessed the spectacle of Dumagok Falls. According to our guides Kagawad Banglos, IP mandatory representative Wilmar and Nong Pe Maloon, we were the very first “outsiders” who stepped into the waterfalls. To make it legitimate I asked their consent to consider that climb the first recorded ascent to Dumagok Falls, a flattering feat once again for LOGSAC. This 3-tiered waterfalls is nestled southwest of Sta. Cruz and edges sitio Mahayag in Digos City. The highest tier is around 30 feet with a moderate drop through a cold and chilling natural basin of more or less 15-foot diameter. Similar with other unspoiled attractions in Sta. Cruz, Dumagok Falls is also filtered with endemic trees and bushes and backgrounded with intimate sounds of birds.


We had to leave Dumagok after a short stay to proceed to its twin sister Kalasisi Waterfalls which is situated less than a kilometer. But prior to that we instantly visited Tacob Cave, an open rock formation above Dumagok Falls. This cave is a good consolation for us. The creek inside near the little opening is a reception that welcomed us through the cathedral-like chamber. The open façade of the cave serves as window to the green scenery in Karamagan and an affirmation that Tacob Cave is a hostile mediator of Dumagok and Kalasisi Waterfalls. 


With a height of around 40 feet, Kalasisi falls is taller than Dumagok but the vertical flow is a bit slender. The pool is also smaller and shallow but we stayed here longer for snacks, bathing and pictorials. And that being done I was able to refresh my body and soul by acquiring dose of fresh air as aid to my nasal sacrifice which they said part of the new normal in my workplace.


Our trekking accounted for 15 kilometers in a moderate to slightly rolling trail. Of course, birding always has a place in activities like this for me. I already considered Sinoron a personal birding hotspot starting from sitio Pilan to as far and denser forest of Saroso and Vega. That hike in Karamagan had me recording 43 species of resident and endemic highland birds to include good sightings of Philippine Serpent Eagle, Mindanao Hornbill, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, Brown-throated Sunbird, Philippine Hanging Parrot, Yellow-wattled Bulbul, Brown Tit Babbler and Purple-throated Sunbird. I have a feeling that Sinoron will finally give me a glimpse of the Philippine Eagle within the year.


Our last stop was in Pilan River for a final cooling down to rejuvenate our muscles after that challenging trek.

As a Tourism Officer who do outdoor trips regularly I thought I have known 99 percent of my hometown. But with this latest discovery I realized there are a lot more out there which remain unexplored. It is good to have them documented to help authorities craft measures for conservation and protection because these are natural heritage which deserve to be in infinite existence.