Monday, February 21, 2011

Bukidnon: Asia's longest zipline at the Dahilayan Adventure Park

On the way back to Cagayan de Oro from the Monastery of the Transfiguration, I made sure to stop over at the Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Unfortunately, you will need to arrange transportation to get there. So I met up with Tito Mora of Swift Travel + Tours along the National Highway in Barangay Alae. And we proceeded to Dahilayan from there.

To get to Dahilayan, you have to pass through Camp Phillips and the Del Monte Plantations. I heard they serve really good steak at the Del Monte Clubhouse. But I'll reserve that for another trip since we had lunch at Cowboy's Grill up in Dahilayan. On the menu was Ostrich (Php220), Lamb (Php260), Pink Salmon (Php270) and Wagyu Beef (Php450) among others.

After lunch, we proceeded to ZipZone at the Dahilayan Adventure Park for the 840m zipline, the longest in Asia so far. They actually have three ziplines in the park, the 840m (Php500) and 320m & 120m (Php250) ziplines. If you want to try them all, they have an All Ride Package at Php600. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it was quite foggy and drizzling. But we still proceeded with the zipline which was quite fun even if it meant 'flying' through thick fog.

There are other adventure activities further down the road at the Forest Park. I didn't expect that there would be a Zorbit (Php250) all the way up in Dahilayan. But there was. And it was the first thing I got to try. I'm actually motion sick. So trying out the Zorb was a test of my limits. They sometimes refer to the Zorb as the 'astronaut-in-training' ride. I'm not surprised why since I was screaming like hell all the way down, more to get my mind off the motion sickness.

It took quite a while for me to recover from that. But despite the rains, we proceeded with the ATV Trail (Php500). Taking the ATV around the 3.1-kilometer trail in the Forest Park was an experience in itself. It was a challenge driving up the muddy slopes but fun nevertheless.

On sunny days, the Forest Park also offers great picnic grounds and playgrounds for kids. I was told the trees they planted in the park came all the way from New Zealand. So the ambiance and feel of the Forest Park is quite different from that of Baguio or Tagaytay. For those who want to spend the night there, rooms are available from Php2,800 (good for 3 persons). There's a cafe there too which serves some great comfort food. Make sure to try out their pizzas!

Swift Travel + Tours
14 G/F Pelaez Sports Center, A. Velez Street, Cagayan de Oro City
(088) 8573897 / (08822) 727629 / (0922) 8333136 to 38

Dahilayan Adventure Park
(0922) 8801319

Dahilayan Forest Park
(088) 8555346

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bukidnon: Overnight stay at the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay

Have you ever wondered how it is to live a monastic lifestyle? I've heard a lot of good things about the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. While most people just do day-trips to the monastery, I got a chance to stay overnight at the guest house.

The centerpiece of any visit to the monastery is the church designed by Leandro Locsin, National Artist for Architecture. Although Locsin did not live long enough to witness the completion of the church, the plans of the church were the last he signed before he passed away.

If you stay overnight, you can actually join the monks in prayer. They pray seven times a day beginning at 3:40 a.m.

Staying at the monastery is actually a great opportunity to get away from city life and reflect. Personal retreats at the Monastery of the Transfiguration are quite popular. And it's quite affordable too since they charge just Php750/person (Php700 for twin sharing) for a one-night stay inclusive of really delicious meals.

The monastery is quite famous for its Monks’ Blend Premium Coffee (which is the coffee used for a popular ice cream brand), Monks’ Peanut Butter, roasted peanuts, and piniato (peanut brittle).

And it also serves great food which I got to savor while during my stay. With Dom Martin Gomez, OSB, a Kapampangan, in-charge of the kitchen, it's no surprise that the food they serve is superb. I was lucky they served me the Pinutos na Humba which is among their specialties.

In fact, one of the more popular activities they organize at the monastery every second Sunday of the month is Breakfast with the Monks, a sumptuous buffet spread they prepare for Mass-goers after the 8 a.m. Mass. Every month follows a different theme such as Spanish, Chinese, Kapampangan, Ilocano, Visayan, and other types of cuisine.

Another attraction of the monastery is the Museum of Transfiguration Monastery which houses an exhibit of Filipino liturgical vestments. A project of Dom Martin for the Philippine Centennial, it highlights the various weaving traditions all over the country elegantly used in church vestments. Dom Martin or Gang Gomez, was a top couturier before he chose to live the monastic life. I was impressed with the intricacy of the different Philippine hand-woven fabrics and how they were creatively harnessed for religious vestments.

To inquire and reserve for a stay at the monastery, contact Dom Martin Gomez, OSB at (0917) 5105585.

Monastery of the Transfiguration
San Jose, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon 8700
Tel. No. (088) 2212373 / 2214708
Monastery Farm (0927) 3975350
Gift Shop (0915) 9860167
Guest House Reservations (0917) 5105585
Wedding Reservations (0915) 9860167
Breakfast with the Monks (0916) 4545916
Vocation Inquiries (0916) 3650147

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Metro Manila: Birdwatching at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat

Last December, I joined a guided birdwatching trip hosted by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area along Coastal Road. It's the only remaining patch of mangrove in southern Metro Manila.

During this time, migratory water birds converge in the area to spend the winter here such as Little Egrets, Whiskered Terns and Common Sandpipers. Resident species include the Black-crowned Night-Heron, Chestnut Munias and Collared Kingfishers.

According to the WBCP, "The site was declared by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during Earth Day ceremonies two years ago as a 'critical habitat and ecotourism area.' Little has done been to improve the site and the Philippine Reclamation Authority continues to threaten the habitat with plans for more 'income-generating' developments."

I hope we are able to preserve this critical habitat. Corporate and government greed should be regulated to ensure that both our natural and cultural heritage are preserved as part of our drive towards progress. This area should be protected from greedy developers. Anyway, if you're interested to try out birdwatching as a hobby, you can e-mail Mike Lu at and request to be included in their mailing list for future guided tours.

Boracay via SEAIR & Two Seasons Resort

Suddenly I'm craving for a trip to Boracay again! This photo was taken during my trip last December right at the doorstep of Two Seasons Resort in Station 1. Beach front properties in Boracay, especially those in Station 1, are the best! I stayed a night in Two Seasons right before Christmas and enjoyed the convenience of staying close to the beach.

Of course, I flew to Boracay on SEAIR. I've never had to worry about airport transfers since they take you all the way to Boracay. To book a flight, visit

Two Seasons Resort
Station 1, Boracay Island
Tel. No. +63 (36) 2884384 / +63 (2) 4154652

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ifugao: Trek to Batad Rice Terraces & Batad accommodation

The Batad Rice Terraces are among the most spectacular of the Ifugao Rice Terraces. And aptly so since it's one of the five rice terrace clusters inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List under Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras. The other four are Bangaan, Hungduan, Mayoyao and Nagacadan. I've see the first three. And finally, I've been able to trek to Batad! Which leaves just Nagacadan on my list of rice terraces to visit.

We took the late evening bus to Banaue and arrived early the next morning. As soon as we arrived, we purchased our bus tickets home since demand is really high and we wanted to make sure we had our tickets back. For more information on getting there, read How to get to and from Banaue, Ifugao.

We then proceeded to the Banaue Hotel, the best accommodation in Banaue, where we stayed for the night. I spent the rest of the day catching up on sleep so that I'd have the energy to trek the next day. I actually spent the whole time at Banaue Hotel where I had all my meals, including the buffet dinner, since I was just too exhausted to go out.

Banaue Hotel is one of two places where you can hire accredited jeeps and guides at fixed rates. Be careful dealing with unaccredited guides and transportation since there have been not so nice stories from guests that were cheated or abandoned. The jeep to the Batad Saddle costs Php2500 while the guide fee is Php900.

The trip to the Batad Saddle was about an hour and thirty minutes. Unfortunately, it had been rainy the past few days. And since the road to the Batad Saddle is quite bad, when it rains, it can become impassable to vehicles. So we had to get off our jeep and walk a few more hundred meters up to the Batad Saddle.

Good thing, it's mostly downhill to the Batad Rice Terraces from the Batad Saddle. It takes another hour of trekking to get to Batad. I noticed the road was being widened and it seemed like they were building a road all the way to Batad Village.

One thing which is sad about Ifugao is that despite the fact it's one of the provinces most visited by foreign tourists, the roads are still bad. Maybe because foreigners don't vote? Well, it's part of the experience I guess. But the rice terraces deserve better roads. But it must come with stringent development safeguards to ensure that the rice terraces outside Banaue are protected and preserved even when infrastructure to get there is improved, so that they don't suffer the fate of Banaue.

At the entrance to Batad Village is a tourist information booth where visitors log and pay a donation to the community. It also offers a really great view of the Batad Rice Terraces. While many visitors stay overnight, we had to rush back to Banaue to catch our bus back to Manila. So after having lunch at Simon's Place (I had the Batad version of pizza), we made our trek back up. And that's the hard part!

But I did make it up in one piece and we finally got on board our jeep for the bumpy trip back to Banaue. We had about two hours to spare before our bus left, just enough time to freshen up and get a quick snack. Despite that quick stay, the trip to Batad was most worth it.

Where to stay in Batad
The accommodation in Batad is quite basic and not that many. Note also that mobile signal in Batad is close to none. So to book a place, send an SMS/text message and wait for the lodge to respond. Calling them would be difficult. Here's a list of places to stay in Batad Village:
Hillside Inn +63 (929) 1268340
Kadangyan Homestay +63 (920) 4686307
Ramon's Homestay +63 (929) 6124423
Rita's Mountain View Inn +63 (910) 8423076
Simon's Viewpoint Inn +63 (930) 5077467
Batad Pension +63 (921) 7371745
Cristina's Main Village Inn +63 (906) 9773771

For some activities in the area, you can visit some of my previous posts on Banaue, Hungduan, and Mayoyao. And here's a list of Banaue hotels and budget accomodation.

Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel
+63 (74) 3864087 / 3864088
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