Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
I have been to the United States several times. Each time I visit a place there, I usually go to places where I have communion with nature. When my sister Elena was still living in Livingston, Montana (which figured prominently in Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It), she brought me Chico Hot Springs, a stone’s throw away from the Yellowstone River and a short, scenic drive into the Yellowstone National Park.
Here, you can enjoy soaking yourself in the open-air natural hot spring pools – even during wintertime. Just imagine that as you swim, you are with Hollywood actors Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Dennis Quaid, and Jeff Bridges, who frequently visited the place whenever they were in the city.
The reason why I am telling you this? Nothing, except that I can help but compare Yellowstone National Park to Mount Apo National Park, which was declared as such by then-President Manuel L. Quezon in 1936.
In 1987, the Washington, D.C.-based National Geographic Society noted Mount Apo as a “site of World Heritage caliber” in its book, Our World’s Heritage. With an elevation of 2,954 meters above sea level, it is the country’s highest peak.
Mount Apo is considered a dormant volcano as it is known to have had historical eruptions. But what makes the place a tourist destination, especially during summer, is its cooler temperature. The weather reminds me of Columbus, Ohio, at the end of autumn.
Here’s what Wikipedia states: “Mean monthly temperature ranges from a low 26.4°C during January to 27.9°C during April. Monthly relative humidity ranges from 78% during March and April and 82% during June and July. It reaches 16°C in January and February.”
There are many barangays occupying the foothills of Mount Apo. One of these is the bustling Kapatagan (which was derived from the Bisaya word “patag,” which means flat), about 28 kilometers away from the heart of Digos City (about an hour drive from Davao City).
Formerly, it was called Rizal, named after the national hero. Today, the place is planted to assorted high-valued vegetables, which are traded in Digos, Davao, and neighboring areas. About 20% of the area is planted with Cavendish banana, 15% with corn, 10% with coffee, and 5% with abaca and other agricultural crops.
Dr. Rod Estigoy, who’s from Pangasinan and was connected with the Department of Agriculture before he retired recently, said that Kapatagan has a “Baguio-like climate.” That was his comment after visiting the place.
Baguio is known as the Summer Capital of the Philippines due to its cool climate since the city is located approximately 1,470 meters above mean sea level. The temperature ranges from 15°C to 23°C.
In fact, there are some reports that Kapatagan will be made a tourist destination just like Baguio City. Or, perhaps a better version of Buda, the highway connecting Bukidnon and Davao, where several places to stay have sprouted.
Due to its cooler temperature – thick fog often blankets the place as the sun starts to set – several establishments have already been built. Here are some of them:
Montefrio Garden Resort: More often than not, you find swimming pools in highland areas. But what makes the infinity pool unique to this resort (which is a combination of the Spanish words for Cold Mountain) is that it has a three-in-one pool.
The bigger one is only five feet deep. The other two pools are smaller; actually, they’re jacuzzi types. While the water in the bigger pool is cooler, the two jacuzzi pools are somewhat hot; they are heated in the morning at 10 am and in the afternoon at 2 pm.
Near the two jacuzzi pools is the bar, where you can have coffee or beer. Cocktails are also served. If you go further from the pools, you can have your tummy full with the mouth-watering foods the restaurant – named RestoNante – offers.
If you’re lucky, you could see Mount Apo up close; it happens when fogs are not around. On a clear day, you can also see the very far Mount Matutum, an active volcano located in the province of South Cotabato.
Campt@gan Lake Mirror and Hillside: Is painting or photography your hobby? Try this resort. Stay in one of its houses and then wake up early in the morning – before dawn – and go straight to the lily pond.
When the weather cooperates, you can marvel at the kaleidoscopic sunrise hues on the country’s highest peak with its reflection on the lake just like a mirror, which is why it is called as such. It is one of the most spectacular sights you will never forget.
You can also go camping here – aside from boating, fishing, and paddling over Lake Mirror.
Camp Sabros: If you’re looking for some adventures, this is the place to go. Located in the highlands of sitio Barras, the outdoor camp has several zipline facilities. With 820-meter cable zip, it has the second-longest zip line in the country.
You can ride in tandem in its 380-meter zipline or do the thrilling solo ride on the 400- and 820-meter zipline. Or, you may prefer the more relaxing cable lift or treetop rappel. You can also request horseback riding if you want.
If adventure rides are not your thing, you can always walk under the thick foliage of pine trees and see the panoramic view of the green forest – it’s like you are in Baguio City, indeed. Don’t miss going to its souvenir shop; you get to be transported somewhere in the Wild, Wild West of the United States.
Agong House: If you come to Davao City via the international airport, then you may have seen the giant durian sculpture. It was executed by Kublai Millan, a Datu Bago awardee, the highest recognition given to Dabawenyos. If you were fascinated by it, then visit his awe-inspiring art garden called Agong House.
His work arts are scattered all over the place. Each collection of sculptures has a meaning. The first one is called YOU. Here, a group of people (a Christian, a Muslim, and a tribal, among others) forms a round circle while holding hands. Space is provided for a visitor to join the group.
The next collection has the word I as the theme. This is one of the most intriguing as it depicts a man plowing the field with the carabao in the middle. GIVE has statues of men and women as if asking from someone up there to answer their petitions.
But the centerpiece of all these collections is the Agong House, which is located at the upper portion of all the other pieces. The house is a sight to behold.
Wine Woods Apo: This is a wine-themed restaurant, resort, and spa. What makes it unique is its wine pool – the first in the country – complete with mini falls. Actually, it’s an organic message that comes with mangosteen wine.
There are several other wines you can select, which are locally made: mango, jackfruit, and guyabano, among others.
If you want to stay for the night, there are different rooms suitable for couples, families, and groups. You can experience bonfires with matching fog – just like in the Hollywood movie, Twilight.
Princess Ednes Garden Resort: Located at sitio Palo Singko, it has a swimming pool and a house you can rent for your group. If you love flowers, then it is the best place to visit. There are some cottages available for rent for your group.
Marawer Cold and Hot Spring: The two hot springs complement each other. The hot springs provide warm comfort in the cool atmosphere. The cold springs, on the other hand, make you a little bit cooler than usual.
Depending on the type of vehicles you ride, Kapatagan is more or less an hour ride from Digos City.
So, what are you waiting for?