Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
If you ask someone in Davao Region where Balutakay is, it seems no one knows. If you google it, you will be directed to Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (BACOFA). It’s a group of coffee farmers who banded together and produce the award-winning coffee, now known all over the country.
Purok Pluto, where these farmers are living, is located at an elevation of 1,200 meters above sea level, an ideal location for growing coffee, particularly the Arabica (the most dominant cultivar of coffee around the world).
Below this place is Purok Mercury, where Twin Mountain View Resort can be found. The newest among the ecotourism destinations in Balutakay is about 200 meters from the main road of Managa-Kapagatan Highway.
There’s an interesting story on how the resort got its name. “On your left side, you can see Mount Matutum on a clear day. On your right side, you can clearly see Mount Apo,” explains Armand Mortejo, the marketing and resort consultant.
Mount Matutum is an active volcano situated 30 kilometers north-northwest of General Santos City. Mount Apo – with an elevation of 2,954 meters above sea level – is the country’s highest peak.
Mount Apo is the 24th highest peak of an island on earth. Like the Yellowstone National Park of the United States, it is a national park (through proclamation No. 59 by President Manuel L. Quezon).
Actually, the mountains are not twins; one is located in South Cotabato while the other is in Davao Region. But it could still be called twins, just like the twin cities of Minnesota: Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
Just like my trip to Yellowstone National Park, the 30-minute drive from the town proper of Bansalan, Davao del Sur, to Twin Mountain View Resort was scenic, enthralling, and appealing. But unlike those of Yellowstone’s trip, there are no more verdant trees along the cemented highway. What you can see, however, are some farms planted to various crops like banana, coffee, vegetables, and root crops.
Most of the developments around Mount Apo are concentrated in Kapatagan, which is part of Digos City. Most of the areas in Balutakay are planted with vegetable crops like cabbage, carrots, and green onions. A few sites are planted for coffee.
“Where are the trees,” asked Rex Cagas, the chief executive officer of Twin Mountain. “I am an environmentalist and I want to plant trees in this part of the country. But I also want to help people improve their standard of living.”
So, the man who works in Canada as a certified public accountant decided to put up the resort. “We travel a lot,” he admitted. “Mount Alberta can be comparable to Mount Apo. It is an hour’s drive from our home, and you will see camping sites along the river.
Rex Cagas Main house
“We are thinking of having the same here in Mount Apo,” he said, adding the idea came to him in 2015. “We want to promote ecotourism in this part of the country. This is in line with the government’s program. We believe this is the way we can promote tourism in Davao del Sur.”
Aside from helping the economy in the area, he also wants to do his social responsibility by planting trees in the national park. “We want to plant trees in another area. If we cut the trees here in the resort, we need to plant trees somewhere.”
Right now, only about 1,000-square-meters are used for the resort. “We will be expanding the place later on,” he said. “We will build more solid structures. We will also plant trees below, where our visitors can walk under the trees.”
The resort is a corporation composed of seven owners. Leila Cagas serves as resort manager, while Liza M. Cagas is the assistant resort manager.
The promotional entrance fee is P100 per adult person. For children (ages 4 to 11), the entrance fee is P50, while those below three years old are free of charge. Only 100 people can be accommodated per day since the country is still in a pandemic.
A discount of 20% is given to people with disabilities and senior citizens; the discount, however, is not applicable for the promo rate). “We required booking to all our guests and visitors before their arrival,” Mortejo said.
If visitors want to use the swimming pool, an additional P100 is needed. Only 20 persons can be accommodated in the pool. Right now, the pool is offered only to in-house guests.
There are only three rooms available for staying guests. One room can accommodate two people. From Mondays to Thursdays, the rate is P2,800; on weekends (Fridays to Sundays), the rate is P3,000. Inclusions include room amenities, complimentary plated breakfast, pool access, and hot/cold shower. Check-in time is 2 pm, and check-out time is 12 noon.
If non-staying guests want to use the swimming pool, an additional P100 is needed. Only 20 persons can be accommodated in the pool. Right now, the pool is offered only to in-house guests.
The Gemelo Restaurant serves Filipino dishes and international cuisines (Chinese and Americans, among others). For staying guests, it is open at 6 am. There’s also a coffee bar named Vista Café, where you can taste the award-winning coffee of BACOFA. Open from 2 pm until 9 pm.
Rooms Gemelo Restaurant
The resort can also be rented for photo shoots and pre-nuptials for P6,000 for six persons. Inclusions include free room for changing clothes, and snacks, and welcome drinks. Shooting must be done from 8 am until 12 noon only (Mondays to Fridays). Excess people will be charged P500 per person with a welcome drink.