Uncovering the natural treasures of Davao del Sur

It was a trip I longed for many years. A mountaineer in my younger years, I summitted Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia but never had the chance to climb our country’s highest mountain, Mt. Apo. After being postponed for almost a year, a trip organized by the Tourism Promotions Board finally pushed through. I was excited to be included in the group but, alas, we had to cancel the climb due to bad weather. Still, when man and nature co-exist harmoniously, beauty emerges. This was evident when more opportunities to explore Davao del Sur was found when we visited Salinta Monon’s place, and other treasures the province had to offer.

Weaving heritage 

Salinta Monon, the late GAMABA (Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan) awardee was a textile weaver of the Bagobo-Tagabawa. She would weave for three to four months to produce a work of art called ina-bal. The Bagobos use abaca as a raw material which is ornamented with embroidery, shells, beads, and metal discs. Her best work was “binuaya” (crocodile design), her last piece based on a dream before she passed away. During our visit, they demonstrated the first stage of weaving using the trunk of an abaca tree. They also showed how to wear a “tangkulo.” This triangular textile with tassels can only be worn on the head of a male warrior. Fortunately, Monon shared her weaving knowledge with some members of the community with Estella Barra as her first student.

Monon’s first student

Another weaver is 74-year-old Trinidad Bugoy of Hagonoy, Davao del Sur. She has been weaving for 64 years using material from “puno ng romblon.” Her “lala” (weave) are turned into mats, table runners, wallets, and many more.

Mountain resorts

Mt. Apo

From weaving, we went chillin’ on the hillside towns. With Mt. Apo towering over the province, we had to drive up to the mountain resorts, although the drive took only an hour or so with hardly any zig-zag terrain. In fact, one mountain village is called Kapatagan which means flat. It’s like experiencing Baguio on a level terrain.

Comfy stays with a view

Camp Sabros Diner

The best place to stay hillside is Camp Sabros at an elevation of 1,200 meters. Established in 1994, the owners planted pine trees and converted them into a classy cowboy-themed mountain resort with vintage items such as cars, pick-up trucks, and motorcycles. There are several restaurants and bars to choose from. I was drawn to the bar with a billiard hall while they were playing “Born to be Wild” on a TV screen. Now, that is a rock classic worth a bottle of beer! After our nightcap, we stayed at the Upper White House which can accommodate up to 10 persons. It has a magnificent view of Mt. Apo and is right beside the chapel. For the adventurous, there is a Superman zipline and a cable car ride.

Montefrio Garden Resort

Another good accommodation is Montefrio Garden Resort. Don’t be deceived by its address, Sitio Mainit, for it is as chilly as Baguio. Montefrio literally means cold mountain and it is recognized as one of the best resorts by Digos City Tourism. This Santorini-inspired mountain resort has a restaurant, cafe, and a game room for kids. It also has a pool and a jacuzzi. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Apo.

Best eats

We had one of our best meals at the Twin Mountain View Resort. This resort has the distinction of having a twin view of Mt. Apo and Mt. Matutum. For coffee and snacks, head to Sir Ped’s Coffee Mount Apo in Bansalan. Equally beautiful with a superb dining experience is Altamers, the mountain version of Mers in downtown Digos but much classier.

Create photo memories

Jardin de Señorita

For the best photo memories, uphill Davao del Sur is replete with flower gardens and theme parks. Jardin de Señorita in Kapatagan prides itself on its Purple Hill and other colorful flower gardens and structures including a mini Eiffel Tower. Mt. Apo Agri-Ecotourism offers unli-fishing for only P150. Awaiting completion are a convention center and amphitheater. At Haven’s Dew Resort, visitors can try their sky bicycle amid multi-colored flower gardens.

Berries, Coffee, and Organics

The mountain villages of Davao del Sur are blessed with good soil and a cool climate which are ideal for planting coffee, berries, vegetables, and many more. Balotacay Coffee Farms produce specialty coffee from Arabica which are planted in high elevation and are self-pollinating. Berry’s Farm Resort has a restaurant with a scenic mountain view. It offers strawberry, mulberry, and raspberry picking. Impressive is Lao Integrated Farm which preaches organic farming whether for plants or animals. The surroundings are very clean and organized. They also have a collection of threatened Philippine trees. After the very informative farm tour, we were served organic snacks composed of peanut butter plants, durian ice cream, turmeric juice, and pizza with ingredients from the farm.

Blaan at Humbled by Nature

The most scenic among the farms was Humbled by Nature. Imagine a vineyard of raspberries, strawberries,  mulberries, grapes, and dragon fruits with a backdrop of mountains. Part of the farm tour was a dance performance by the Blaan. The Blaan are one of the indigenous peoples of Southern Mindanao. They are known for their brasswork, beadwork, and tabih weave. They proudly wore colorful embroidered attire with beadwork. They use “faglong” which is a two-staged fretted boat-lute. At the Tibolo Cultural Village in Sta. Cruz, which showcases the culture and tradition of the Bagobo, their tribal leader led a prayer before meals. Whatever faith we adhere to, reaping the benefits of nature’s bounty is God’s reward for the auspicious co-existence between man and nature.

Mt. Apo may have evaded me but Davao del Sur has captivated me.

Thank you to the Tourism Promotions Board for the invitation, Davao del Sur Tourism, and special thanks to Jonathan Engbino for being an excellent tour guide.

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JP Ordoña (Manilakad) leads Manilakad Walks in Intramuros, Binondo, Quiapo and more. Let him guide you to several walking destinations in Manila. Manilakad (Jing Ordoña) can be reached on Facebook Messenger or through text at 0916-3597888 and Viber (George Ordona) at 0960-6975930.