Official duties prompted me to lead a double traverse climb in the mountain ranges of Batuno, Sibulan and Tibolo together with other local stakeholders to scout for possible bridge projects that may connect small sitios in far-flung areas of Sta. Cruz. The presence of major rivers in these areas necessitates putting up of bridges and even wider roads to cater to the needs of the community in terms of agriculture and education. Local residents also see potentials for tourism because there are unspoiled waterfalls, beautiful sceneries and caves that could be future destinations.
The 2-day climb happened last May 8 and 9. Our first stop was Mt. Batuno located in Barangay Jose Rizal. The long and moderate trail from Jose Rizal proper to Batuno can be a good day hike and can even be an excellent route for trail running given with the uphill single tracks. This mountain is occupied by the Bagobos and although almost all portions of the area are titled lot, biodiversity is still a thing to consider in establishing program interventions especially infrastructure projects.
While taking our lunch in Batuno we chanced upon a century-old man doing chores in his farmlands. His house was a vantage point where we saw the panoramic sites of Davao City. Some agricultural farms made up of coconut, banana and fruits trees are in abundance for which the old man also retained.
As we headed to Sibulan via sitios of Gurem I was refreshed by my experience more than 10 years ago of the European-funded project called Upland Development Programme (UDP) especially in the areas of Tabug, Gurem and Dariango where we used to climb with my UDP colleagues. The vegetation in Tabug remains lush and the river bordering Tabug to Dariango is still very attractive even if some of its features were eliminated with the passing of time when the hydropower plant progresses in the area.
We took a short break in the Christian church of Dariango and had some native coffee break in the house of Tribal Leader Datu Gideon Tolentino. From there we hiked up west to see the other target site for bridge project in the circumference of sitio Tabug and sitio Landig and later went back to the Datu’s house. It was already late afternoon when we left Dariango. A 30-minute descent to Sibulan River was equally interesting, as we crossed Sibulan river in a twilight zone, passing several familiar sceneries in Sibulan which includes sitio Cagas Compound, Sibulan Proper and sitio Piping.
On the second day we took a 270-degree turn to Lower Tibolo via Kapatagan road to do ocular inspection of an even extreme upstream portion of Sibulan River, the Cabarisan-Lower Tibolo border. This is place I am used to because we always take this as a venue of the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge specifically the trail where mountain bikers carry their mountain bikes from the river to the open road of Tibolo and Kapatagan. Surprisingly, we were greeted by a juvenile King Cobra on our way back.
Lower Tibolo is an approach to sitio Tudaya up northwest, sitios Landing 1 and 2 in the southeast and Barangay Kapatagan in extreme north and Davao City in the northeastern part starting from sitio Cabarisan.
Establishing bridges in all these places will definitely enhance connectivity and beef up accessibility in transporting the abundant farm products and at the same time enable barangay authorities to propel ecotourism.