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 @ 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.
Conveniently 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 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.
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.
Another 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.
Aside 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.
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.
Staying 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
South Cotabatonow 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Living in a country where colorful fiestas and grandiose festivals are reveled all year round, witnessing a convergence of indigenous colors depicting rich culture and living tradition is such a rare experience. Seeing it right at the very heart of the province where the value for culture and the arts is highly regarded, this kind of festival is a feast for the eyes. This is the T’nalak Festival of South Cotabato, the most celebrated festivity in South Central Mindanao.
T’nalak Festival is the province’s annual celebration showcasing the significance of T’nalak cloth as the cultural icon of South Cotabato. An intricately woven tapestry of intense and striking colors, T’nalak is dreamt to life by the T’boli weavers who translate their dreams into intricate geometric patterns of tie-dyed abaca fibers.
T’nalak’s significance to the South Cotabato’s culture has earned its place as the cultural emblem of the province. This unique tradition of woven dreams has put South Cotabato in the world map of traditional tapestry making and has earned them the title “Land of the Dream Weavers”. Thus, the annual celebration of T’nalak Festival displays the importance of the T’nalak cloth as part of the cultural image of South Cotabato amidst the dual presence of tradition and progress.
T’nalak being the province’s cultural emblem symbolizes the blending of culture, strength and unity not only of T’boli people but of various ethnic groups living in the province. It is during this festive celebration of T’nalak Festival that people of South Cotabato showcase their vibrant cultures and venerable traditions through dazzling cultural performances and pulsating street dancing.
Hailed as the biggest, brightest and the most colorful festival in South Central Mindanao, T’nalak Festival is not just a cheerful celebration of the province’s cultural identity but a great way to showcase the all the best that South Cotabato has to offer including its gentle people.
This becomes evident as the main thoroughfares of Koranadal City, the capital of the province was filled with sprightly music, outstanding performance and vibrant colors as nine contingents coming from different schools, communities and towns converged in the much awaited Street Dancing Competition, the most watched festivity of T’nalak Festival that pays tribute to South Cotabato’s artistic, cultural and historical heritage.
In this highly anticipated Mardi Gras of Indigenous Colors and Dances, the heart pounding ethnic music reverberated all over the city’s downtown district while the vibrant colors of captivating black, red and white – the colors of t’nalak – dominated the streets. These were the pulsating beats and glowing hues brought by the 9 contingents as they showcased rituals and dances of their respective tribes dressed and accessorized by multihued costumes as they performed with great intensity, passion and enthusiasm.
I have always been proud of my roots and heritage as Mindanaoan and witnessing all these made me even prouder and grateful to have been born and raised in this beautiful Island blessed with multi-cultural influences – a privilege I will always be proud of for as long as I live. And just like these multicultural differences showcased during this spectacular street dancing festivity, there is unity in diversity – just as I embraced living and enjoying this huge island of great multicultural diversity.
From Koronadal City, South Cotabato, I am OLAN EMBOSCADO and this is THE TRAVEL TELLER.
Weekend wanders seem unstoppable over the past few months. Juggling between work and this unceasing travels is becoming strenuous and sometimes all I wanted is to stay at home and do nothing but put my feet up. I must admit, unending weekend getaways can sometimes make me wonder why wander at all times. I wanted to halt for a moment but when one weekend adventure was laid before me, I can’t simply say no. It was a kind of trip I prepared so hard – a kind of meander I would die if I missed. This is my journey to Lake Holon.
Found in the municipality of T’boli, South Cotabato, the majestic Lake Holon is the crater of Mt. Melibingoy, a dormant volcano towering at about 1,750 meters above sea level. It takes pride for being recognized as the Cleanest Inland Body of Water for 2 consecutive years (2003-2004). It is the source of five large rivers in the Region including the vast Allah River. There are two trails to get to Lake Holon. The more established is the Sitio Nabol trail and the harder one is the Sitio Kule. Since our outreach program for the T’bloli Community was at Sitio Kule, our journey to Lake Holon commenced there too. As our trek started, we were informed that what we were trekking through, the Sitio Kule Trail, is a hunter’s trail – a treacherous trail apt for adventure seekers like me.
Lake Holon is about four hour hike from Sitio Kule – that’s three hours ascend to reach the view deck overlooking the majestic lake and another one hour trek going down to reach the lakeshore. I must admit that it wasn’t an easy trek. In fact, it is more challenging compared to other mountain trekking I’ve made in some parts of the country. But the tougher it got, the more challenged I became to reach our goal. Thanks to the gods of the mountains, my physical preparation for this trek really worked.
The weather that day was cloudy. There were drizzles in between but it was generally a perfect weather to climb and marvel at this sacred place of the T’boli people. Along the way, we were sweetly greeted by the wild flora and lush vegetations that environed that whole place. In fact, it caused a little delay as we had to make stops and photograph these wild plants and flowers we cannot see in the concrete jungle. And for someone who truly admires everything that is wild and untouched, seeing them was a great joy. The wild orchids, pitcher plants, wild berries, gigantic ferns and more that we captivated us were among those that made the trek more satisfying.
As ascended further, the trail got rougher and the slopes were getting more challenging. This time I was beginning to catch my breath. I was panting and breathing so hard and so fast while my knees was shaking uncontrollably. Sharp grasses started to scratch my calf and it went on and on. And as we moved further, I was already carrying bleeding legs. Few steps more and we reached the view deck.
The view deck sits at the topmost point of the hill overlooking the majestic crater of Mt. Melibingoy. The view from the top is so superb that I forget about how I braved so hard to get there. It is so gorgeous and it possesses a striking appeal that all men will adore. It has a bewitching magic that can stop your world for a moment and has the power to ease all tired veins and exhausted body in just a snap. Lake Holon as viewed from the top is so grandiose that left me dumbfounded. Softly I muttered, “Wow! Wow! Wow!”
I almost glued myself from where I stood savoring the full top view of Lake Holon when suddenly an excruciating pain hit my legs. Just as I thought scratches were enough, this time I was stung by a bee. It was itching painfully I had to go back trail and eased it for a moment. But itching continued. Damn that bee, it ruined my instant romance with the Lake from the above.
And so from the view deck, another hour was spent hiking down to reach the bank of Lake Holon. I thought going up to reach view deck was already the hardest part of the trail, to my surprise, going down was worst. The one hour trek was the most challenging that I had to endure bruises and wounds when I slid for four times. I had to use my kung fu skills, tinikling expertise and tarzan-like ability to survive the steep and difficult trail. Yes, it was very difficult I reminded myself, “kay nganong ni-enter?”
One hour passed and there I was finally descending down to the bank, down to the lakeshore, down to our main destination, the mesmerizing Lake Holon. And when I finally got to the grounds, I dumped my things at one side and hurried to the lakeshore. There I stood and paused for a long moment staring at the mirror-like body of water murmuring whispers of adoration for such perfect work of nature. It was getting dark when we got there but even dusk cannot conceal the striking exquisiteness of the lake. And I said, “Lake Holon, here I am, an avid fan of yours long before I met you”. And suddenly I felt a cold wind caressing my face. Ah, the nature heard me.
As darkness devoured the tranquil surroundings, the coldness of the night began wrapping us. The lake was still as if it was in deep slumber. I waited for the moon to show up but seemed shy. I listened to sound of nature encircling us. I listened to the giggles of the mountains, the chirping of the wild crickets and the music of the forest. My ears cannot hear them but my heart can. Inside the tent lying so close to the cold earth, I thought of the comfort of my bed. But it was just a thought. I never wanted it for that night. For I was in the comfort of true home – in the comfort of Mother Nature. Lake Holon is Mother’s nature’s great creation. I was being cuddled. It was lullaby to sleep.
The chirping of birds woke me up in the freezing dawn. The cold morning mists kissed my cheeks waking my full senses. And when I finally got into it, it was the incredible view of Lake Holon that greeted my implausible morning. The dawning of the day slowly revealed the true and mystical beauty of the lake. My admiration for her grew deeper. As sunlight shone on her, her radiance was becoming spectacular. The greens enveloping her reflected on the water and I felt like I was in a reverie floating in those placid waters.
I grabbed from camera and started photographing every inch of her beauty. I prayed inside me that I can capture her true radiance because my naked eyes can. I prayed I can give justice to her incomparable gorgeousness because she truly is. She is lake placid; she is lake of the gods.
As the sun rose up, I felt the sharp ray of light hitting my face. But as I looked at the lake and saw the dazzling reflection of azure skies reflected on the waters, I thanked the heavens for giving us such clear weather that day to compliment the beauty of Lake Holon. Stunned, I sat on a rock gazing at the waters that seemed to embody the mystery of nature. And I sat and paused there wishing I could spend more time relishing every bit of her. She’s just absolutely adorable.
And when our time was up to say goodbye to Lake Holon, I took a deep breath and say my own prayer. I thanked God for giving the rare opportunity to be who I am – a wanderer and worshipper of His creations. But I thanked Him more for bringing me to this place and let me be clothed by the wonders of Lake Holon. So thus I pray, I pray harder that this masterpiece of nature will be preserved and nurtured. I prayed that when time comes that I come back there, she is still there at her most exquisite natural beauty waiting for me – untouched and unmolested – for me to worship her again because she’s worth all praises, all admiration. Lake Holon is worth it. Now I understand why Lake Holon along with Mount Melibingoy is a sacred place of the T’boli tribe.
Now I’m a captive of her beauty but I don’t have the intentions to be freed. I shall see her again.
How To Get To Tboli:
From General Santos City, the Municipality of T’boli is just 1.5 hour away by private ride or barely 2 hours by public ride. If you are traveling from Davao City, it will take you around 3.5 hours to get to General Santos City. Buses and utility vans are available for those who will take the public transportation.
Travel Time and Transportation Fare: Davao City to Gen.Santos City – est 3.5 hours – P270.00
Gen.Santos City to Koronadal City – est. 55 minutes – Php 97.00 by bus, P75 by van
Koronadal City to Tboli – est. 45 minutes – Php 70.00 by van
WRITER’S NOTE: I would life to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Friends of Holon and Melibingoy (FHM) and theMindanao Tourism Council (MinTC) for organizing this event and for inviting us to be part of it. Special thank you shout out goes toLouie Pacardo and Jonalier Perez.