Highlands with a View
Davao region may be the Philippines' ultimate highland escapade. It's not that the Cordillera region isn't short of tourist attractions, but I was astonished at what I discovered during my first visit to Davao three years ago - lots of multi-tiered and plunging waterfalls, assorted hot and cold springs, breathtaking vistas of verdant mountain ranges.
In Davao, several peaks rise above 8,000 feet. Most of them are found in Compostella Valley. This southern province was once part of Davao del Norte. It became independent in 1998 via the Republic Act No. 8470. Mountains are the first things I see whenever I visit Mindanao. It's also the sight that lingers in my mind long after the trip is over. But it's a different level in th case of Comval, the province's nickname. My recent visit tells me that it's the final frontier in local tourism.
Leonard Kniaseff, one of Mindanao's active volcanoes, is located in Comval's southern region. Like Mount Pinatubo, this strato-volcano is a few thousand feet high and one must ride on a plane in able to identify it. In Leonard's case, the areas close to it would give visitors a hint of its presence.
Some Like It Hot
Several kilometers away from the municipality of Maco is Mainit Hot Springs. Water cascades down a 15-foot, sulfur-covered slope. The chemical substance makes the water hot. Not suitable when the sun is way up, which I found out when I dropped by one humid afternoon.
Half an hour later, I explored Maco, a sleepy town near Lake Leonard. It doesn't take ten minutes to reach the crater lake, which is a source of livelihood to the inhabitants. Rows of bamboos on one side indicate that the lake is a breeding ground for tilapia, mudfish and milkfish.
Lake Leonard looks splendid from above. A tree-covered slope on one side of the lake looks gorgeous when it's bathed with the afternoon sun. But even in faint sunlight, the lake is an eye-catcher. No one can tell the depth, but this isn't important, as the clear reflection of the clouds and the mountain range makes this lake a must-see.
Water is eternal in this province. In every town I went, there were pools that locals flock to during weekends. It's like the resorts lining up in Calamba and Los Banos in Laguna.
One of the barangays near Nabunturan (the provincial capital) is home to one of the province's lumads, a tribal group found only in the Davao areas. Some of the elder residents were hospitable to perform a tribal dance for us. They didn't don tribal costumes or use native instruments, but the rhythmic music and dance steps reminded me that Mindanao, like India, is multicultural.
Comval isn't only about highlands; Mabini is a seaside town with a scenic spot to offer. One of its resorts is on stilts, several meters away from the beach. Not far from it is Kopiat Island, a pear-shaped isle surrounded by white sands. The island isn't developed yet, but it offers some potential; Christine Dompor, the Provincial Tourism Officer, said that it's ideal for water sports activities, and its vicinity has unspoiled reefs that are homes for exotic tropical fish.
I like Kopiat's fine sands and clear waters, but it's the highlands that I want to explore next time. There are more waterfalls to see and more springs to check out.
(First published in Zest Air Inflight Magazine on December 2009)