Check out Jabonga! A haven for the ecotourist
Mark my words: Jabonga, Agusan del Norte will be the next biggest ecotourist destination in the Philippines. The nature lover is just beginning to discover this treasure in the Caraga region, and a lot of surprises await him.
Clear blue waters and a landscape rich in gentle slopes and abundant greens surrounds the town of Jabonga. Not far from the municipality is a handsome mountain, which provides a panoramic view of Lake Mainit, the third largest freshwater lake in the country. If mountaineering is not your thing, then a week-end drive along the national highway will also give you a splendid view of the lake. Either way, you will agree with me when I say that the picture you will see is truly breathtaking.
Endless natural wonders
In my recent trek up the mountain of Jabonga, every turn I made showed me one awesome sight to another.
From the one spot where I stood, the lush peaks looked like graceful eyelashes from below. And as I turned a little to my right, another stunning view met my eye: The snake-like Calinawan River that settled boldly below the slopes.
To my left were more natural wonders to see: The Butuan Bay and Camiguin’s Hibok-Hibok Volcano in the distant background. I thought then and there that Tagaytay’s view from its highest point—the Taal Lake and Volcano, specks of the Batangas countryside and Laguna de Bay in the distance—paled in comparison to what I saw.
One of the mountains encircling Lake Mainit is the 1,850 meter high Mabaho, which is one of the tallest peaks in Caraga. Moreover, it is in this elevated region that Caraga’s endemic species (the Philippine Eagle among them) can be found.
The clouds were fun to watch too. At one moment, they billowed like waves above the towering peaks. Everything looked so peaceful, so calm, from up there.
A trip to town
After the exhilarating nature trip, my host, Jabonga’s boyish-looking mayor Lolong Monton, took me to the town hall for refreshments. More sight seeing followed at the nearby parish church. The religious edifice, I was told, is the town’s most prominent landmark.
Our Lady of the Assumption Church is the oldest surviving church in Caraga. The Augustinian Recollect Friars built it in 1622, but the structure was eventually damaged in a fire. In 1878, the Jesuits rebuilt the Church using 14 types of hardwood, including narra, mangcono, tugas and bayong. Today, you will see an impressive altar made of 25 centimeter thick molave slabs. The beams and points are even thicker and are as hard as rock.
Beside the Church, meanwhile, is the municipal museum, housing artifacts that back to 1007 AD. The pieces, attest to a trade between Agusan del Norte and China and Vietnam.
In the end, I was sad to leave the picturesque town and the lakes and hills of Jabonga. But luck was on my side when I boarded the Super Ferry. It was a beautiful night, and although there was not a star in the sky, lights from the lower lands of Jabonga shone from afar. I could almost make out the beauty that lay behind them.
(First published in Manila Times on September 24, 2004)