Among the 11 municipalities of Davao Oriental sharing these untouched coasts, the Municipality of Baganga secretly possesses long beaches and lengthy coastline teeming mostly with captivating white sand shores. Secluded from crowded commercial tourism, these coastlines remain exquisitely unspoiled keeping its old world magic that exudes quaint setting of untouched nature – the kind of beach so perfect for those who love off-the-beaten type of beach adventures.
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
In the Philippines, out of the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, only one can be found in Mindanao. That is the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary found in Davao Oriental, the only mountain range heritage site in the country. It is for this reason that the province deems it as its “Most Treasured Natural Jewel”. Inscribed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2014,the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary boasts of a unique pygmy forest of century old trees in ultramafic soil considered by many as one of the very few all over the world and hosts a rich biodiversity of endangered, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna. Among the residents of this wildlife sanctuary is the country’s national bird, the endangered Philippine Eagle.
Mount Hamiguitan lies in the middle of a narrow peninsula with the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Davao Gulf to the west. Situated at the southern end of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor, Mount Hamiguitan covers 31,879 hectares of beach, lowland, montane, and mossy forest types. It occupies the land area within the political boundaries of San Isidro, Governor Generoso and the province’s capital, the City of Mati.
On July 30, 2004, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as Protected Area by virtue of Philippine Republic Act No. 9303 “declaring Mt. Hamiguitan Range and its vicinity as protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary and its peripheral areas as buffer zone”.
In 2007, Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon led a highly ambitious initiative to have the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary inscribed in the highly prestigious World Heritage List. She believes that the inscription of the wildlife sanctuary to the World Heritage List is an excellent opportunity to draw the attention of visitors and remind local residents of the “Outstanding Universal Value” of the mountain range.
Seven years after, during the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in June 2014 in the City of Doha, Qatar, the crown jewel of Davao Oriental was finally enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first inscribed mountain range in the Philippines and the first World Heritage Site in Mindanao.
Being part of the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List, it is expected that Mt. Hamiguitan will not only attract more tourists but also scientists and researchers coming from both national and international communities. Hence, public awareness of Mt. Hamiguitan and its outstanding values to the world will be heightened to raise global awareness.
Long before it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is a favorite among mountain climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s not only because of its amazing landscaped Pygmy Forest but also with other natural wonders that abound the mountain range. Two of other favorite features of Mt. Hamiguitan are the Tinagong Dagat (Hidden Sea) and Twin Waterfalls.
As a World Heritage Site, the Provincial Government is required by the UNESCO to develop an interpretation site to purposely promote and educate the locals as well as tourists about its outstanding universal value. With support coming from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) of the Department of Tourism, the Provincial Government then spearheaded the development of a tourism facility complex at the buffer zone area of the heritage mountain. This world class facility is known as Mount Hamiguitan World Heriatge Park and is situated in the town of San Isidro.
The Eco-Park covers 12.84 hectares and features a Natural Science Museum with an interpretation center for tourist who wants to have an experience of the area, especially the pygmy forest. It has also a Research Center and cabins for researchers. For outdoor enthusiasts, the complex also boasts of exciting mountain trails, a hanging bridge, adventures tree top, butterfly trails, bird watching deck, gardens and camping grounds. It has also souvenir shops and a restaurant.
From the highway up to the site, the Department of Public Works and Highways provided the access concrete road. On the other hand, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources set up a Hamiguitan Biodiversity Research Center within the site.
The construction of the entire complex including all the buildings, museum interiors, park amenities outdoor interpretation as well as its landscaping took 13 months to complete. The construction started on November 2014 until December 2015.
Five months after its completion, finally the Mount Hamiguitan World Heritage Park is open to the people and the rest of the world. The historic unveiling was spearheaded by the mother of the Province, Governor Corazon Malanyaon with President Benigno Aquino III as the special guest of honor.
Truly, the UNESCO inscription together with the development of the Mount Hamiguitan World Heritage Park provide a great prestige and honor not only to the leaders and the people of Province of Davao Oriental but the country as a whole. It showcases and celebrates the fortitude of its people in protecting and conserving their natural treasures.
As someone who hails from Davao Oriental, I feel so honored to share this greatest achievement with my Province. There is so much pride in my heart knowing that my home province is now known as home to world-class destinations like our most treasured jewel, the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary. My shout-out of gratitude to our dearest outgoing Governor Corazon Malanyaon. Your legacy and dedication will never be forgotten.
Among others, this has been what I’ve been seeing on social media these days. Friends heading up north to Zambales to see and frolic in the ashen sands of Anawangin and enjoy the unique coastal feel of this once-a-sleepy beach spot in the town of San Antonio. Those photos online enticed me and my friends to fly from Davao to Manila and head up north to experience it for ourselves. And when we get there, we realized there is more to this town than Anawangin – there’s Capones, there’s Nagsasa.
Honestly, Anawangin is more popular to me than its mother town, San Antonio. But what I didn’t know is that San Antonio has already gained its good reputation as holiday destination in Zambales because its beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, rolling hills and scenic coves. Campers and beach lovers living nearby even in Metro Manila considered this as one of top choices.
Beach hopping or simply just beach lounging is mainly among the reasons why people flock to San Antonio. Home to secluded yet picturesque coves, this town is undeniably a paradise for beach fanatics. Of course, there is the famous Anawangin, the most popular among the coves in San Antonio. But what impressed me more is the Nagsasa Cove that has become a popular alternative as Anawangin becomes crowded especially during weekends. Nagsasa on the other hand is wider and longer and offers much scenic landscape although about an hour boat ride from Pundaquit, the jump off site to all secluded coves of San Antonio.
Both Anawangin and Nagsasa Coves are crescent shaped coves with pristine ashen sand beach. What makes these beach spots so unique is the unusual presence of tall pine-like trees that grow round there vicinity. These are not actually pine trees; they are Agoho trees said to be endemic to the Philippines and to some Southeast Asian countries.
Just like all the photos we’ve seen online, we didn’t miss climbing the hills that embrace these coves and marvel at the stunning view of these beach havens. From the top, the view of the beach and the landscape of agoho trees is remarkable. Maybe, it is one of the reasons why people come back here. The view is incredibly remarkable.
Aside from the isolated coves, Capones Island which can be easily accessed the Pundaquit is among the must-visit spots when in San Antonio. The island is to home to the century-old Capones Island Lighthouse which was built 1890 by the Spaniards to guide ships entering Subic Bay and Corregidor. Visitors may enter the building and climb to the top of the tower. Adjacent to Capones Island is the rocky Camara Island. Both are popular island-hopping sidetrip destinations when in this part of Zambales.
Visiting this popular destinations in San Antonio made me understand why people flock to this part of Zambales especially during weekends. Secluded and semi-private, San Antonio’s pristine coves are worth the long trip. I would say one of the scenic beaches I’ve visited in Luzon. And yes, though from from Davao. I would still come back.
2014 was an awesome year for me traveling around the Philippines and discover many interesting places especially those that I’ve never been. But I guess the highlights of my travels are those journeys and experiences that have left indelible marks in my heart. My journey around these beautiful islands of Mindanao on the other hand was an enriching experience. Not only because I’ve got to see and discover new places but because of the different culture I’ve learned and somehow lived along the way – something that has changed me in a way today. I did so many amazing crazy never-wracking things that I never even imagined I would be doing. Above all, the great people I met along the way who share the same passion and love for travels and culture like I do. And some of these awesome people became my instant family and together we swore to the loyal brotherhood of #ByahengMindanaw, capturing the beauty and culture of Mindanao and share it to the world. These photos below are some of the funnest and memorable moments I had in 2014. Enjoy! It was an awesome 2014!
THE TRAVEL TELLER’S BEST OF 2014
AWESOME 2014: The Year That Was. Now, bring it on 2015. I’m so excited for you!