Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
In the Bible, the Garden of Eden disappeared without a trace after the first man and woman committed sin. In Davao City, a portion of a barangay named Eden was saved from total devastation of deforestation and soil erosion.
This can be considered a paradise, commented my three sisters whom I brought to the place. My two sisters, Elena T. Chase, and Marilou T. Eplite, came home for a short vacation; both live in the United States: Minnesota and Florida, respectively.
Elena had not been in the country for 13 years already, while Marilou’s last visit was in 2011 yet, Evangeline T. Capuno and her family live in Digos City, Davao del Sur. The trip to the place was their first time.
The place is called Eden Nature Park. At 2,650 feet above sea level, it offers breathtaking views of Davao City and the Davao gulf. “This place was remnant of logging concessionaires in the 1970s and was covered only by a blanket of wild grass,” our tour guide said.
The late Jesus V. Ayala saw the potential of the place in 1971. He instructed his people to make terraces carved out of the mountain slope. As this developed, he told them to plant thousands of pine trees all over to rejuvenate the area. Bamboos, which grow sporadically, were left to flourish.
Growing pine trees created canopies, but not so densely that other trees and plants could also grow. A huge area was also planted to mangosteen and dragon fruits. As years went by, a secondary forest was developed. Today, there are over 100,000 pine trees spread across about 80 hectares, making the resort 95-percent man-made.
The once-barren piece of land now provides a relaxing alternative to Davao’s bustling city life with its cool weather and unpolluted air. If you happen to visit the place past five in the afternoon, you better bring your own jacket as it becomes cooler. It’s like Baguio during the old days.
It was almost 10 in the morning when we arrived at Eden. We immediately joined a group that was leaving for a tour.
Brenda Ocampo, the resort’s marketing manager who personally picked us at SM Ecoland, accompanied us. Despite her busy schedule at the resort, she went as far as bringing us back to Davao City.
Eden’s day tour takes about almost an hour. And there were only three stopovers where the tourists could take photos of themselves. The first one was the amphitheater, where various flowers and ornamentals abound. Except for Evangeline, all of us had our cameras. So we had fun clicking here and there.
Tinubdan was the second stopover. From our guide, we learned that the word comes from the native dialect tubod, which means “spring” or “source of water.” It was called such because Tinubdan is a source of wisdom. “As you enter the place, you get a glimpse of the customs, traditions, beliefs and how these groups of people live in Mindanao,” she explained.
To educate visitors, various signs are scattered all over the park. At the entrance, you get to see this sign: “Madayaw na Pagkani.” Simply, it means “a blissful welcome.” You are immediately captivated by the beautiful garden called “Tana-Tanaman.” Tana signifies land while tanaman means garden.
There is a house that never fails to attract the curiosity of those who come to the place: the balai kalimudan or datu’s house. Actually, it is a traditional house (balai) where the datu (tribal chief or monarch) lives and holds office.
The last stopover was Lola’s Garden. This area is cooler as it is situated in one of the park’s upper portions; it is also the best place to see the panoramic view of Davao City. This place is famous for its carabao statue and wishing well, whose water is decorated with various colors of gumamela flowers.
The tour was over by about 10:45. Since it was too early to have lunch, we decided to go to the aviary, where some of the most beautiful birds were placed in a cage. After taking some photos, Elena and I went up further — to the Butterfly Garden (Marilou and Evangeline did not go with us since they were already tired and hungry).
Elena was impressed with the butterfly collection. But what made her laugh was when the butterflies started to take a rest in her hands, shirt, and even her hair. “You must be the Butterfly Lady,” I teased her.
At 11:30, we went to the Vista Restaurant for our buffet lunch. Evangeline and Marilou had beef and chicken, but Elena and I had fun eating the delicious fresh salad. I relished the salad since the vegetables were organically grown via hydroponics. “This is great, Manoy,” Elena said.
We rested for a few minutes after taking our lunch. Before the clock struck 1 p.m., we went to Edenfield’s, some 800 meters away from the resort. This was where the trip became more interesting.
It was Marilou’s idea to do the Skycycle and Skyrider. Since she had no companion to do it, Elena finally agreed to accompany her sister. And they did it! They were so courageous enough to do the extreme adventures!
The two did not try Skyswing, though. I have told them that I tried it once, and it was fun.
There are rooms, cottages, mountain villas, and suites available for rent just in case you want to stay for the night or spend the entire day there. Check with the Activity Center, the information nerve, for the accommodation and overnight rates.
By the way, the park was called so after the name of the barangay where it is situated. According to some people, the barangay was named in honor of a beautiful resident named Edeng. Her Japanese husband reportedly couldn’t pronounce her name correctly, so he called her Eden. Because of her beauty, the barangay was named after her.
How do you get there? From Davao City, you must travel south towards the Toril District. At the corner of Mercury drug on the main highway, make a right and just follow the signs towards barangay Eden. From there, it is a 12-kilometer uphill climb (enjoy the scenery, though) consisting of asphalted, cemented, and short stretches of dirt road. Travel time is about 45 minutes.