Monday, December 28, 2020


By Julius R. Paner

As year 2021 approaches there is only one thing I considered certain and that is UNCERTAINTY. Yes, the strain brought by the hostile 2020 will be carried over, which to me could underscore so much questions rather than answers as the New Year unfolds.

Just like you, I yearn for a better 2021. To be able to go back to what we all have been used to in the pre-pandemic glory days. To travel without reservations to places we long to visit and finally check some important piece in the bucket. To be with anybody else in the planet without the fear of acquiring the virus they referred to as lethal and detrimental. To be psychologically stable without thinking too much about government policies and guidelines which stigmatized the society.

Just like some of you, I prayed hard that government regulations should favor economic repositioning to gain back the momentum we enjoyed before COVID-19 came into our minds. I am not sure though, if all of us have fully realized that this epidemic appears more in human being’s brain instead of them saying it paralyzes the respiratory system. Just like most of us, I prayed hard that a more comprehensive adaptation mechanism, rather than, as they said, prevention will be employed within all of us.

But for now that we have embraced the COVID-19 existence and that we have shown average tolerance to live life in the bubble, I will be seeking indulgence to live the exact opposite to whom it may concern. When all else wanted to reap good things while spreading hatred and culture of vindication I would rather go to the mountains and look for birds and other wildlife. When all else found splendor over fake news in facebook and twitter I would rather spend time cuddling beautiful memories in the outdoors where face mask is not required and social distancing is as free as the air we breathe. When all else are busy counting COVID-19 positive cases and wrecking their minds of numbers I would rather take my six-string and strum my thoughts out in a personal playlist I have been listening since childhood days. When all else are disinfecting themselves to get rid of the virus I would rather have inner cleansing and be with people I consider friends, I don’t care if they are tagged positive. When all else are praying for the pandemic to be over so that no more cremation of their dead love ones I would rather pray to God to give me strength to accept death as an inevitable phenomenon.

Just like you, I would like to believe that what is happening in the world today is all more of a paradox and there is no amount of community quarantines and lockdowns can settle it. It goes without saying that the best remedy is to deactivate our social media accounts, entertain only good news from your neighbors and pray, just pray. And if you are not inclined of this humble interpretation from this lowly citizen, you can always block or unfollow me in all my social media accounts.

But for as long as you consider me your friend and believe me in the platforms I stood for you can always join me in taking the less-traveled road. For as long as you thought all these things happening are meant for the majority to go with the flow you can always join me in the counter flow.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Mt. Dinor Traverse Day Hike, Sinoron Sta. Cruz (1,274 MASL)

The Barangay Council of Sinoron and Tribal Community recently invited my group to explore one of its proposed trekking sites located in sitio Sangay. I was informed during the climb that they are few steps away from finally crafting its mountaineering and trekking ordinance which should pave way for the official take off of its ecotourism program in Pilan River, Bagon Spring, Gisi Falls, Kasisi Falls, Dumagok Falls, Sampo Falls and Tacub Laya Falls. If I have this correct vibration I think Sinoron will become the next adventure destination not only in Davao del Sur but the whole region as well.


Finally we have scaled a summit here taller than the famous Mt. Loay in Zone 2. The official elevation is 1,274 MASL and the total trekking distance from Barangay Hall to the Summit Campsite is 9 kilometers. The Bagobo-Tagabawa is the dominant community occupying the entire track made up of farm lands and tropical rainforest. From the difficulty scale employed by Philippine Mountaineering this mountain is within the 5-6/9 category.

Mt. Dinor is the exact opposite of Mt. Loay in terms of overall features. Mt. Dinor is the first of three dominant mountains located in central ranges of Sta. Cruz. The other two are Mt. Tinako and Mt. Baryara. A 45-degree turn southward from Mt. Baryara is Mt. Loay, making these sites a good trekking loop in the municipality. Imagine that, four beautiful summits in one town interconnected to each other is a tremendous mountaineering corridpr in Mindanao. Lovely 

Unlike Loay which is a bald heap, the summit in Mt. Dinor is situated in an old dipterocarp forest within the Mt. Apo Natural Park. The word “Dinor” is a Bagobo term for Almaciga, an endemic tree species in the Philippines and plenty of them can be seen in this mountain. The last 400 meters of the trail is a bed sheet of beautiful mossy plants and wild flowers. Tracks of Philippine Deer and Philippine Warty Pig were also seen in the summit. And some birds of assorted species were observed, including several raptors Philippine Honey Buzzard, Brahminy Kite and Philippine Serpent Eagle.  


The summit campsite measures 1,274 meters above sea level. I recommend this will be utilized as official campsite for trekkers once Mt. Dinor is ready to cater mountain climbers in the future. Although there is no water source in the campsite but the last water source is just 700 meters away, particularly in the farm house of Nong Dondon Cana. The smaller trees can serve as hammock anchors for visiting day hikers and trail runners. For overnight campers, a trek further 200 meters from the campsite could lead to a ridge that connects Mt. Dinor to Mt. Tinako.

After a good lunch at the summit campsite, we trekked in a different trail downward. We used a hunter’s trail off to sitio Kapula-pulahan, another mountainous site in Sinoron. Once established, this is a much exciting traverse trail. But again, this has to be established because if you are not familiar in the area this trail could lead you to other hostile sites in Sta. Cruz Mountains or worse, you might get lost.  In the meantime the most friendly and suitable trail for ecotourism is the one from Barangay Hall to the summit and back.

There are important stopovers along the trail of Mt. Dinor that serves as rest areas, all have potable water sources. Most of them are farm houses as temporary shelter and in their own can become attractions already.

Pilan Hanging Bridge (Kilometer 3.5)

Armando Bago Farm House in Lumaban (Kilometer 4.2)

Jimmy’s Farm House in Sangay (Kilometer 6.9 (770 masl)

Dondon’s Farm House (Kilometer 7.8 @ 1,005 masl)

Summit Campsite (Kilometer 9 @ 1,274 masl)

Overlooking sceneries in Sta. Cruz can be seen on clear day in these areas. This climb was an affirmation that Sinoron is one of the biggest mountainous barangay in Sta. Cruz. From Dondon’s Farm House where we took a boiled banana break I saw forest edges of Zone 2 in the eastern side and the huge cover in sitio Saroso, Licop, Karamagan and Pilan.

The total trek distance of that traverse day hike is 22 kilometers. We arrived at Pilan Hanging Bridge by 4:00 PM and we instantly took a dip in the river to cool down. Thank you so much to my group LOGSAC for always taking time to join me in expeditions like this.

As a new site for trekking, inquiries can be addressed to the Barangay Council and Tribal Council of Sinoron. The cellphone number of IPMR Datu Wilmar Obedencio is 09121613218. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Maco, Davao Region’s Ultimate Destination for Volcano Tourism

On October 28 I was invited by the Local Government Unit of Maco, Davao de Oro and Mountaineering Federation of Southern Mindanao (MFSM) for a talk which aimed at sharing best practices of Sta. Cruz to the stakeholders of Lake Leonard in Maco, Davao de Oro. My subject matter was all about Community-based Ecotourism (CBET) which clearly defines where the direction of Maco Tourism is set. It was the first time I visited the laid back but mining-infested locality situated in the province of Davao de Oro.

I appreciated the management scheme of the tourism in Lake Leonard and thought of it as one of the better CBET attractions in Davao Region. This site should be marketed more so that people would be able to experience, understand and appreciate the real tourism value.

Lake Leonard is for me one of the biggest highland lakes in region XI and it is but fitting to consider it for CBET being located within an Ancestral Domain of the Mansaka Tribe. There is always a touch of heritage here, natural and cultural, that should be recognized by everybody especially local authorities for its appropriate conservation and one key answer to that is ecotourism. The people of Maco for sure have realized how mining was injurious to biodiversity and I hope they realized the need not to welcome any mining-related ideas in the future. Again, the only way to conserve heritage in Maco is ecotourism.

Meanwhile, Lake Leonard serves as jump off site for a trek up Amakan Crater. Having extra time in the morning before my turn for a lecture I trekked the crater despite occasional downpour the whole day. I have heard good stories about this minor hiking attraction particularly its volcanic feature as its ultimate selling point. Amakan Crater is an 8-hectare site that hosts a boiling cauldron of greenish-yellow murk, surrounded by mountain walls. The sulfur content of the lake makes it an acidic water body that should only be seen and photographed. Other activities like bathing can be tried in Arabaton Waterfalls located 30 minutes from the crater.

The trek lasted for more than three hours back and forth and from the trails I witnessed damages brought by logging and mining in the past. Few farmlands still exist but the most vegetation available are sets of invasive plants. Some rivers and creeks are contaminated with mining chemicals.  Somehow there are good birds roaming around. In fact I spotted Coletos, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, the endemic Mindanao Hornbill and Everett’s White-Eyes. On the way down I’ve been thinking how in the heck government authorities could restore the lost glory of its biodiversity. I don’t know. I’m not sure.

The only thing good I saw here is ecotourism. Maco is for me should be positioned for volcano tourism in the region. The Camiguin experience is a hit here for sure. I also remember beautiful volcano attractions in Java, Indonesia where highlights are its volcanic icons such as Mt. Bromo, Mt. Semeru and the famous Ijen Crater Lake, encouraging more people from practically everywhere in the world to visit. Maco is a big thing in terms of showcasing remnants of dormant and extinct geologic heritage. It is high time now that Davaoeños in particular and Mindanaon in general should escalate volcano tourism and I see no other sites as appropriate except Maco, Davao de Oro.  

P.S. My trip in Maco would not have been made possible without the invitation of its Tourism Officer Mam Marestan Villacarlos and MFSM Event Organizer Dan Bacus. I seldom let go of an invitation like this as I was committed to always help the tourism sector in Davao Region in whatever ways I could. Thanks for joining this trip Meggy and Jacko.