CHARMED BY THE FARM AT CARPENTER HILL

In my recent visit to South Cotabato, I was very privileged to be hosted by one of the finest hotels in the entire South Central Mindanao, the charming The Farm at Carpenter Hill in the Koronadal City, the capital of the province.

The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 4The Farm @ Carpenter Hill remains to be the only garden resort in Koronadal. With a fascinating 11-hectare area, it reflects the warmth and cultural charm of South Cotabato while it exudes an atmosphere of luxury and comfort in total harmony with nature.

The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 3Conveniently located along the National Highway, The Farm is about six kilometers away from the city proper. Being the only garden resort of its kind in the city, it has since become the most favorite among the locals and even guests coming from the neighboring towns and cities. Those who frequent here consider the place as their quick escape from a busy day and some just come back to enjoy the food that have become Koronadal’s signature dishes.

The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 52The sprawling 11 hectare property consists of Japanese-inspired Garden Villas and Hotel, convention centers, recreation facilities including spacious karaoke rooms, a number of restaurants serving good food, large functions halls, children’s playground, a butterfly garden and a lot more.

The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 63 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 35

Among the many astonishing features of The Farm, the Japanese Hall and Bonsai Garden is my personal favorite. The garden is a unique showcase of well-crafted bonsai trees in a Japanese setting. I really enjoyed the construction architecture of the place, as a retired Orlando roof restoration services expert. The wooden structure, the thatched roofing, the man-made stream, the bamboo fence, pebbles and rocks and the marvelous bonsai collection were incorporated to complement that Japanese feel. I learned that this is also among the favorite features of the resort especially for those who are first time guests.

The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 34 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 35 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 37 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 49 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 54Another personal favorite is the Japanese Courtyard Hotel where we stayed at for two nights. The cozy layout of the 22 rooms is designed to exude comfort and ease to its guests. All rooms are facing an indoor garden with a pond of brightly-colored koi in the center. The pond is accentuated with bamboos and other tropical plants in every corner. All rooms come with complimentary breakfast, complete morning kit, hot and cold shower, cable TV, and telephone with access to outside line. Room rates ranges from Php 2,000.00 to Php 4,000.00.

The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 62 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 63 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 64Aside from the Japanese Courtyard Hotel, another best feature of The Farm @ Carpenter Hill is the 6 well-appointed Japanese-inspired villas. Each is uniquely designed with individual gate, terrace and a Zen garden. The villas are equipped with high-end fixtures with orthopedic beds and pillows assuring guests of comfort and a stress-free stay. The villas are just facing the Courtyard Hotel. Room rate of Garden Villa is Php 3,500.00 and comes buffet breakfast for two.

The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 7 Adding to the many exquisite features of the property is the newly constructed Swimming Pool built in the middle of the lush verdant portion of the property. A clubhouse is also being constructed beside the pool. The themed pool which is designed for both children and adults is a perfect venue for exclusive pool parties and special events. It is not open to the public yet but in-house guests are allowed for the free use of this new pool. Once the construction of this facility is complete, I believe this will be among the must-visit destinations in the whole Koronadal City and South Cotabato.

Talking about good food, The Farm boasts itself as home to some of the must-try food in Koronadal City. The Aviary Bar and Café serves some of the most delectable flavors I’ve tasted in South Cotabato. It offers a wide array of local and international menu. For me of course, Filipino dishes top the list of the must-try food here. There are also other Asian cuisines as well as some continental dishes serve at the Aviary Bar and Café. And why called Aviary? Because the restaurant is surrounded by old trees and tropical garden while birds freely fly from branches to branches providing a soothing avian sound.

The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 23 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 56 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 108 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 91 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 97 The Farm At Carpenter Hill Koronadal 101Staying at The Farm @ Capitol Hill is truly remarkable. It doesn’t only provide comfort and quality service but it lets their guests to commune with nature as verdant life abounds in this 11 hectare property – a serene kind tropical set up perfect for a very soothing stay.

I have stayed to a number hotels and resorts in the different parts of South Cotabato but I must say, I am charmed by The Farm @ Carpenter Hill and staying with them is among the most remarkable. Highly recommended!

THE FARM AT CARPENTER HILL
Brgy. Carpenter Hill, National Highway,
Koronadal City, South Cotabato

Telephone Number: (083) 228-1888 / 228-9010
Telefax Number: (083) 228-9010
Mobile Numbers: (Smart) 09189210425 / (Sun) 09228489098 / (Globe) 09177260721
Email Address : [email protected]
Website : www.farmatcarpenterhill.com

SARBAY FEST 2016: A Summer Ender to Remember

It has been two years now since my last Sarangani Bay Fest experience. It was incredibly cool and remarkably fun I promised to go there again for another year. Thankfully, I had a great chance to make it for this year and just like the old SarBay Fest experiences I had, it never failed to amuse me.

SarBay Fest 20164Tagged as the “biggest beach party festival in the Philippines”, Sarangani Bay Festival has become the most attended beach event in the South drawing hundreds of thousands of beach fanatics, partyphiles and beach sports enthusiasts to come to the coastal town of Glan for this annual event. The crescent-shape white sand coastline of Gumasa is home to this bay fest.

SarBay Fest 2016 18For the past years, Sarbay Fest was held annually in May. For some reason, the bay festival was moved on the first week of June this year, thus, making it the perfect summer ender especially for those who come here every year.

SarBay Fest 201618When it started ten years back, there were just about hundreds of people who came. But year after year, the festival grows bigger and has since attracted more and more visitors to come and join the celebration. The biggest recorded number of guests who flocked Gumasa during the festival is said to have reached more than 200,000 from different corners of the country. Such overwhelming attendance for one event garnered SarBay Fest as the biggest beach festival in the country.

Gumasa Beach on regular days.
Gumasa Beach on regular days.

The annual celebration of SarBay Fest has also boosted influx of tourist in the host town of Glan. In fact, Glan today is considered as one of the most important tourist destinations in the SoCCSKSarGen Region with Gumasa Beach as the prime tourist spot. Even on regular seasons, a number of tourists visit Glan. More than its beaches, Glan also takes pride being the tourtown of the Province as it hosts heritage landmarks dating American regime in the country.

SarBay Fest 2016 2 SarBay Fest 2016 5Because of the annual celebration of SarBay Fest, the road to Gumasa which used to be rough and dusty is now concrete and well maintained. Beach resorts are also sprouting along the white coastline. Every year, these resorts along with the few Lodging Houses in the town center are already booked even months before the celebration. That is why I always choose another option like renting a camper for travelling.

SarBay Fest 20162
Kite Flying during SarBay Fest

Like the previous celebration, this year’s staging of SarBay Fest are lined up with various events participated by different groups and individuals coming from different parts of region and neighboring provinces. Two of the highly anticipated bay events were still among the favorites – the Swim Across the Bay that starts from the coast of Maasim to the coast of Glan and the annual SarBay Bancarera participated by different individuals from the neighboring coastal towns of Glan.

Swim Across the Bay
Swim Across the Bay

For beach sports, beach volleyball, beach football and Frisbee competition were among the highlights. I learned that some of the competing groups came outside of Mindanao. Body painting was still one of the featured events and dubbed as Pinta Sa Baybayon. My personal favorite is the Sand Sculpture. I have to give credit to these artists who can create mind-blowing sculptures out of nothing – just the sands, their creative minds and their beautiful hands.

SarBay Fest 201612 SarBay Fest 201617 SarBay Fest 201615 SarBay Fest 20169At night, the party got started as SarBay citizens, as they call it, cheered for their bet in the annual search for Bay Bodies Ultimate Hunk and Babe. The candidates put the crowd on fire as they flaunt their muscled, toned and lean bodies apt to be called ultimate SarBay Bodies.

SarBay Fest 20166 SarBay Fest 201614SarBay Fest is also best known for its wild rave parties with local and international guest DJs. SarBay citizens are likewise known to have partied harder till dawn. Year after year, it grows bigger and bigger. This year, sponsor Talk N Text brought the DJ Lunatics for the foam party. It was one crazy night filled with great EDM, some booze, great company of crazy friends and of course the wild wild SarBay citizens. Although, the crowd went wild and high but it was natural high. You can read it everywhere, the use of illegal drugs and party drugs is strictly prohibited.

SarBay Fest 2016 10 SarBay Fest 2016 11 SarBay Fest 2016 12 SarBay Fest 201619 SarBay Fest 201616But more than the party, good times and amazing experiences, Sarangani Bay Festival stays firm and strong in its advocacy to protect Sarangani Bay which is a 215,950 hectares protected seascape. Organizing committee encourages all the SarBay citizens to party responsibly and take part of some environment-related events.

SarBay Fest 2016 14Partnering with Smart Communications, there were daily activities and featured events that aimed to educate and raise awareness for the protection and preservation of the marine life of Sarangani Bay. People were encouraged to collect garbage. For every 10 kilos of trash collected and handed over to the Organizer’s Stations, one gets a shirt or a prepaid load cards from Smart. Another campaign was the pledge to preserve the marine life of SarBay by buying a propagule for only Php 35.00. These mangrove seedlings will be planted by the organizers to identified the coasts of SarBay as part of its conservation advocacy. All these are part of the #ILoveCleanSarBay campaign which many party goers took part including myself.

SarBay Fest 201613 SarBay Fest 201611 SarBay Fest 20161Likewise, a triathlon event called Sarbay Swim-Bike-Run for the Environment also spearheaded by the Province of Sarangani and Smart was organized to help raise public awareness on the preservation of the rich marine life of Sarangani Bay. The clean-up drive on the very morning after the two-day festival was also very successful. It was followed by the releasing of baby pawikans back to the waters of Sarangani. It was heartwarming to see that many took part of the call for the #ILoveCleanSarBay.

SarBay Fest 20163
Releasing of Baby pawikans back to Sarangani Bay

I’m so glad I was at SarBay Fest this year. I partied harder like a real partyphile with the company of my old and new friends. Plus of course I got to take part of the #ILoveCleanSarBat campaign. Indeed, it was a summer ender to remember.

Beautiful Sunset of Gumasa
Beautiful Sunset of Gumasa

TUPI, SOUTH COTABATO: Simply Beautiful

South Cotabato now gradually known as the Land of the Dreamweavers is best known for its vast plantation of fruits and vegetables. The province owes its fertile soil to the volcanic waste that eroded from the orifice of the magnificent Mt. Matutum. One of the towns in the Province richly endowed with this natural resources is the town of Tupi.

WELCOME TO TUPI
WELCOME TO TUPI, SOUTH COTABATO

Tupi is known as the fruit capital not only of South Cotabato but the whole of SoCCSKSarGen Region. It boasts of its vast pineapple plantations just located along the national highway with the imposing view of the majestic Mount Matutum dominating in the background. Aside from pineapple and other fruits, Tupi is also greatly known for its vast cut-flower and vegetables lantation.

South Cotabato is also known as the Land of the Dreamweavers.
South Cotabato is also known as the Land of the Dreamweavers.
The Majestic Mount Matutum
The Majestic Mount Matutum
The Vast Pineapple Plantation of Tupi, South Cotabato
The Vast Pineapple Plantation of Tupi, South Cotabato

Along the national highway is the Tupi Fruit Stand that sells tropical fruit produce and preserved fruits from Tupi. It is strategically located along the national highway within Barangay Kablon and Polonuling. If you’re into bottled fruit jams, perhaps you’ve heard of Kablon Farms. They’re from Tupi.

Tupi Fruit Stand located along the national highway within Barangay Kablon and Polonuling.
Tupi Fruit Stand located along the national highway within Barangay Kablon and Polonuling.
sweet fresh delicious pineapple
sweet fresh delicious pineapple

In the heart of the town is the charming Tupi Municipal Hall and Town Plaza. Its unique architectural design with attention-grabbing colors possesses a stunning appeal that has become a unique attraction to passersby. Believe me, I was captivated too by this structure when we passed by the town.

I was captivated by this structure when we passed by the town.
I was captivated by this structure when we passed by the town.
Attention-grabber Municipal Town Hall
Attention-grabber Municipal Town Hall
Beautiful Tupi
Beautiful Tupi
The Municipal Town Plaza
The Municipal Town Plaza

About 20-minute drive from the town proper is the Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape. Deep into this forest reserve is the Linan Tarsier Sanctuary situated in Sitio Bagong Silang, a small B’laan village in Barangay Linan.

Tupi South Cotabato 4
Linan Tarsier Sanctuary Reception Area
The Travel Teller in Byaheng Mindanaw | Tupi Leg
The Travel Teller in Byaheng Mindanaw | Tupi Leg

Long before the strict conservation of Tarsier and other wild life in this protected area, B’laans were used to cut trees and burn them to make charcoals as source of livelihood. When the local government implemented the protection of the wildlife in the site, they found it hard to convince the B’laans to stop this practice. But with the alternative livelihood program and intense information drive introduced to the community about the necessity to protect the habitat, the locals eventually realized the importance of the wildlife and the need to conserve them.

B'laan House in Sitio Linan
B’laan House in Sitio Linan
Tupi South Cotabato 38
Fadlung, a B’laan Musical Instrument
Tupi South Cotabato 40
I bought this tribal musical instrument for only Php 300.00

Today, Linan Tarsier Sanctuary is both managed by the local government and the B’laan community with the support of the NGOs and other agencies. Together, they work hard to preserve the Tarsiers that they locally “tukay mal” or “small monkey” and other wildlife that can be found at the foot of Mt. Matutum like squirrels, flying foxes, civets, and several species of eagles.

Tupi South Cotabato 101
THE TRAVEL TELLER and the B’laan Culture

Those who’d like to Visit Linan Tarsier Sanctuary can also experience immersion program with the B’laan community. B’laans are generally hospitable and good-natured people. Here, you will experience indigenous culture, local food and their way of life. You will not only be amazed by the wildlife of Sitio Linan but also by the rich culture of the IP community living and protecting the area.

Tupi South Cotabato 11
Native Chicken Soup
Tupi South Cotabato 14
Deep Fried Freshwater Crablets
Tupi South Cotabato 19
Native Chicken Adobo in Bamboo Loot
Tupi South Cotabato 21
Ampalaya Leaves Salad
Tupi South Cotabato 29
B’laan Delectable Dishes

So the next time you visit South Cobatabo, don’t just pass by Tupi. Perhaps, you can park your car on the side, run to the vast Pineapple Plantation and get yourself a striking selfie there with Mt. Matutum at your background. Or perhaps, a selfie at the Municipal Hall or maybe a selfie of you eating pineapple at the Tupi Fruit Stand. Or better yet, go to Linan and spend the night there with the B’laans and the Tarsiers. Because just so you know, TUPI IS BEAUTIFUL.

TALAKUDONG FESTIVAL: Wear a Hat and Be in the Groove

“Wear a native hat and be in the groove!” I was told. “Wear it not only to shield you from the burning heat of the sun or the unexpected drizzles, wear it to blend in with our people as we celebrate and honor the symbol of our City’s culture.” Without hesitation, I obeyed. And when I looked around, I saw a great multitude wearing the same native hat each with different designs. I was on the street now readying my gears as the sea of performers dressed in multicolored costumes dancing their way towards us – all armed with native hats called kudong. “So this how to Tacurongons celebrate Talakudong Festival!” I concluded. With the kudong on my head, I started nodding and wobbling like a guy with a cool bobblehead, I blended in.

Tacurong Talakudong Festival 2014 (52) copyTalakudong Festival is the most celebrated event in this City of Goodwill. It is a neo-ethnic festival honoring the most prized symbol of the City’s history – the kudong, a head covering worn by early settlers of this city. Talakudong which comes from the word kudong refers to something that covers the head against the sun and rain. It is said that the early people of Tacurong gave the Sultan of Buluan, now Buluan town in Maguindanao, a golden kudong as a special gift for his enduring efforts in instituting peace and progress in the area. Thus kudong becomes symbolic to the city and its people. In fact, the name Tacurong is derived from this emblematic Talakudong.

Glan Centennial Celebration 1Gaining a good reputation as the festival of hats, Talakudong Festival has become a historical and cultural spectacle in South Central Mindanao. It is highlighted by street-dancing and field demonstrations with lavishly decorated talakudong as the main feature accompanied by the sprightly sound of bamboos and drums. The dances and performances showcase the history of Tacurong from being a barrio of Buluan into a multi-cultural town of Sultan Kudarat and eventually into a bustling city.

TACURONG CITY TALAKUDONG FESTIVAL 2014 (51)The annual celebration of Talakudong FesItval is done alongside the commemoration of the founding anniversary of Tacurong City which falls every 18th of September. This year marks the 14th year of Tacurong as a city and this year’s celebration was anchored with the theme “Talakudong:  Ipasundayag ang Imo Katahum” (Talakudong: Show Your Beauty).

TACURONG CITY TALAKUDONG FESTIVAL 2014 (84)Like the previous staging of this Festival of Hats, participating contingents from the different districts of the city spent months rehearsing for the most coveted prize and honor as the grand champion of the Talakudong Festival Street Dancing Competition. Hence, Tacurongnons and even local tourists coming the different parts of SoCCSKSSarGen Region always look forward to this event. Every year, these contingents who are grouped into different tribes never fail to surprise and amuse spectators with their well-choreographed performances and exhibitions highlighting talakudong as the festival icon.

TACURONG CITY TALAKUDONG FESTIVAL 2014 (78)Five groups competed in this year’s Talakudong Street Dancing Competition. Contingents competed at both street dance called “Lumbayag sa Dalanon” and the field demonstration called “Kiay-Kiay sa Talakudong”. Out of the five competing groups, Tribung Manubiaw was proclaimed the Grand Champion with Tribung Kudong and Tribung Kadsayap as second and third. Consolation prizes went to Tribung Salakot and Tribung Naragsak. Tribung Manubiaw, the grand campion, was my personal choice and I was as euphoric as them when they were proclaimed winners! 

ONE HUNDRED CAPTURED MOMENTS.
ONE TALAKUDONG VIBE.

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Indeed, Tacurong City has gone far from being a barrio to a multi-cultural town and eventually into a bustling city. But it is so remarkable to know how the Tacurongnons place a great value of this innate culture and the preservation of it as one of their principal goals. Undeniably, this colorful Talakudong Festival is a great reminder of the city’s rich past and a promise of a brighter future.

Ida Damo of ChoosePhils, Bernie Arellano of habagatCentral and yours truly, The Travel Teller
Ida Damo of Choose Phils, Bernie Arellano of Habagat Central and yours truly, The Travel Teller
Talakudong Groupie
Talakudong Groupie

My deepest appreciation to Tacurong City Mayor Lina O. Montilla and City Tourism Officer Emelie Jamorabon for giving me this opportunity to experience the vibe of Talakudong festival for the first time. The same goes out to all the staffs of the City Government for making our stay very remarkable. My special thank you shout-out to my Choose Philippines family most especially to my Lalabs Ida Nanette Damo as my travel partner documenting this festival now I considered as one of the best in South Central Mindanao.

ONE WORTHWHILE WEEKEND AT POLOMOLOK

When a grade school friend invited me to speak before a group of students for a Travel Photography and Blogging Workshop, I never hesitated to say “YES” even if it was scheduled on the week after my 10-day ASEAN trip. I have two reasons for affirming. First, it will be held at Kalsangi Clubhouse of DOLE Philippines in Polomolok which I have longed to come back since my first visit in 2005 and the second and most significant, I’m taking another opportunity to share and inspire young individuals with my tales on the road and the humble learning I got from these unceasing travels.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (26)
The imposing view of Mt. Matutum from the vast DOLE pineapple plantation.

Polomolok is richest municipality in South Cotabato. In fact, it is said to be to the richest in Mindanao. The biggest contributing factor to the town’s great wealth is the presence of DOLE Philippines Incorporated, the world’s largest producer of bananas and pineapples. Majority of the company’s pineapple production facilities are located in town. Thus, Polomolok becomes synonymous to DOLE Philippines.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (1)
Old trees surrounding Dole Philippines School.

My invitation to conduct a Travel Photography and Blogging Workshop was from the DOLE Philippines School (DPS). The school is administered by the DOLE Philippines Foundation and most of its students are children of DOLE Phil employees. Through my friend Alner Fernandez, the school PTA President and DOLE Logistics Manager, this workshop was made possible.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (2)
DPS is situated inside the exclusive DOLE’s Kalsangi Housing Facilities

I had conducted workshops and trainings in the past with other resource speakers but doing it alone for the whole day was my first. Though I knew it’ll a lot of work and talk, I was gladly excited as my topic will spin around travel photography, travel stories and lessons I learned from the road – things that I’m all passionate about. And the thought of inspiring other people with these stories is something that I look forward to.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (3)
My students at Travel Photography and Blogging Workshop.

The workshop was attended by 28 students mainly from Grades 7 and up. They were one of smartest kids I ever met and I’m just glad they were attentive and keen about learning the basics of photography and blogging. I talked about traveling around the country and some parts of Asia and how it changed me as a person. I shared to them how all these unceasing travels started – from elementary dreams to realizing them. I’m so delighted to be able to inspire these little souls to start sowing their dreams and nurture them. At the end of day, I’ve got to see the output of my workshop through the photos they individually took while applying some of the tips I discussed during the workshop. Seeing those lovely photos was my greatest reward for that day.

DOLE Polomolok (2) DOLE Polomolok (4)Since I was housed at no less than the beautiful house facilities of Kalsangi, I also took time enjoying the cool atmosphere of the place and lavished myself sightseeing the imposing landscape that surrounds Kalsangi.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (5)Kalsangi is an exclusive place where expats and top management of DOLE Philippines reside. It is nestled on the foot of the grandiose Mt. Matutum in Polomolok brilliantly designed with beautiful lawn, pine trees, cool breeze, American style houses, restaurant, and a 9-hole golf course – all in the middle of  the picturesque 10,000 thousand hectares of DOLE pineapple plantation. Though I’ve visited this beautiful community sometime in 2005, I was still fascinated by its captivating ambience like a first time guest. And by the way, I tasted the fresh pineapple of DOLE. Refreshing!

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (4) DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (8)DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (23) DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (24)On Sunday, Alner and his family brought me to Trappistine Monastery of the Our Lady of Mt. Matutum situated on the highlands of Landan. The quaint monastery is run by the Trappistine nuns, a congregation under the Cistercian Order which started in France around 1098. The monastery is tranquil place of prayer, meditation and reflection. On Sunday, the monastery church is open to the public for the Sunday Mass.

Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (1) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (2) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (3) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (5) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (7) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (8)Thanks to DOLE Philippines School (DPS) through Alner Fernandez, I had one worthwhile weekend at Polomolok not only because I got to marvel at vast pineapple plantation of DOLE and that majestic Mt. Matutum but because I had the chance inspiring other people with all tales and learning I’ve learned photographing and blogging about places I’ve been . To be able to inspire young souls is I think the highlight of this recent worthwhile weekend trip.

With Ate Maia, Alner's eldest and one of my students at the workshop.
With Ate Maia, Alner’s eldest and one of my students at the workshop.
Thanks Al for the wonderful weekend.
Thanks Al for the wonderful weekend.

To Alner and Ann and their beautiful kids, my deepest gratitude!