Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A journey to the East Coast

Two days after completing the 2017 version of Pista sa Kinaiyahan (PSK) had me joining a trip in Davao Oriental for an experiential field visit to some of the province’s protected areas last May 3-5. It was the first time I completed the Davao Oriental loop and I personally discovered that this province is as good as advertised in terms of tourism. I also considered the expedition a breather of sort because I was practically worn out of the PSK and, as expected, the trip somehow gave me a respite and mental recovery.

The first day saw us visiting the Mt. Hamiguitan Natural Science Museum located in Barangay La Union, Municipality of San Isidro. The museum was erected after Mt. Hamiguitan was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2014, basically to provide guests with comprehensive details of Mt. Hamiguitan without climbing it. Inside the museum is a walk through the rich biodiversity of Mt. Hamigutian, ranging from its unique flora and indigenous fauna species.

Although I already climbed this mountain twice there are still other things I learned only in the museum. I also appreciate the conservation mechanism of the provincial government in order to maintain the mountain’s natural state. While staying in San Isidro’s government-owned accommodation center called Huyu-anan, I learned that sustaining a UNESCO World Heritage site is very challenging as conversed by no less than the town Mayor Madam Tina Yu. Upon listening to her I instantly realized that the mayor is serious in her quest to save Mt. Hamiguitan from destruction. In her early tenure as Local Chief Executive of San Isidro there were already persuasions for her to open up chromite mining  within the Hamiguitan Range and Wildlife Sanctuary but the good lady mayor refused the offer. She set aside immediate economic benefits of mining in exchange of environmental protection. Mayor Yu always believed that there is no amount of economic gains that could replace the damaged environment.

However, the mayor strongly supports ecotourism as a tool not only to propel livelihood in the area but also to further safeguard the mountain. In fact, she revealed that by June this year Mt. Hamiguitan summit will be reopened for mountain climbers in close coordination with the Protected Area Management Board of Davao Oriental comprising 3 LGUs in Mati City, Governor Generoso and San Isidro. Mayor Yu’s pronouncement reaffirms the thought of this blogger that indeed, ecotourism is not a problem to any mountains in the country but mining, illegal logging, kaingin and the likes.

After a fruitful stay in Mt. Hamiguitan museum our team travelled southeast to visit the historic destination of Governor Generoso particularly in Cape San Agustin which is identified as the tip of southeastern Philippines. I was amazed by the geography of Cape San Agustin, which junctioned three major gulfs, Davao Gulf in the right side, Celebes Sea in the center and Pacific Ocean in the left side. A towering lighthouse was installed to provide sight guidance to ships which eventually formed part of the tourist attractions in the area. In a cave structure just below the lighthouse is the very sight where San Agustin officiated a mass in the pre-Spanish time. To some who love to trace a certain place’s history, Cape San Agustin is a must-visit destination.

On the second day we stayed in Mati City to visit Dahican Beach and other significant places in Davao Oriental. We were greeted by the famous sleeping dinosaur island strategically laid out in the pacific ocean. We also visited the Subangan Museum in Mati where all features of Davao Oriental is being fused together and showcased. To be honest, this is the only province I know of having invested so much on museums.

In the evening of May 3 we camped overnight in Menzi Beach Park, an LGU-operated beach front which is perhaps one of the most-visited resorts in Mati. The white sand beach and crystal clear water is being intermingled with the warm people residing in Dahican. The resort also housed several surfing and skim boarding enthusiasts  and a dwelling place of the very popular surfer Bayogyog.

The town of Cateel was our last destination on the third day. We had to see for ourselves the alluring Aliwagwag Falls situated within the Aliwagwag Protected Landscape. But before heading directly to Cateel we had to pass through the town of Caraga where we dropped by Pusan Point, a legendary spot where the first sunset sprouts every single day. Pusan Point became famous in year 2000 when a lot of people flocked there to witness the first sunrise of the new millennium. The same  date was the establishment of the Jubilee Cross as official millennium landmark.

Again, the provincial government put up another museum in Pusan Point. Because it is located in the municipality of Caraga, history is the main subject of the place. Caraga is the oldest town not only in Davao Oriental but also in the entire Mindanao Island and the historical significance of the town is being exhibited in Pusan Point.

Adjacent to Caraga is the town of Baganga which is known for its Sunrise Boulevard located just along the national highway. There we saw the remnants of Typhoon Pablo through the mangrove barks in almost the entire beach lines of Baganga. The mangroves slowly started regenerating though and few years from now Baganga beaches will once again be a greener scenery.

Meanwhile, the Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel is spectacular. This multi-tiered water body showed its splendour to us featuring cascading waterfalls in different sizes and currents that eventually formed into a mighty river downstream. This is one of the country’s most valuable natural heritages. Personally I am less appreciative of waterfalls but Aliwagwag Falls for me is incredible. The way it was laid out opposite the lush forest of Cateel is breathtaking. This is proudly Mindanao and I pray this would be preserve through eternity.

We completed the Eastern Mindanao loop trip by taking the Cateel to Compostela Valley route on our way to Davao. This is a much shorter way and could be a good option instead of taking back the Mati City highway.

The way Davao Oriental is positioned for tourism is perfect. With its beautiful beaches, unspoiled waterfalls, picturesque mountains and historic places of interests, I can safely say that this province alone is enough to represent Mindanao.