Bernardo M. Villegas
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New Baguio of the Philippines

           Once again, I experienced what the American colonizers must have felt in the early years of the last century when they discovered the Mountain Provinces in the north of Luzon as a welcome relief from the hot climate of the lowlands.  That is why they created Baguio as the summer capital of the country.  In the twenty first century, I predict that the new Baguio for Filipinos, who can now travel more easily from island to island, will be Manolo Fortich at the heart of the province of Bukidnon, where for the second time I spent more than three weeks of study, sports, agribusiness tourism, and mountain trekking.  Some of my younger and more athletic colleagues enjoyed mountain biking, Great White water rafting, zipriding,  island hopping to Camiguin, and swimming in some of the dozens of water falls that dot the province of Bukidnon.  This province has the potentials of competing with the Genting Highlands of Malaysia that attracts millions of foreign tourists annually in the same way that Palawan will give Bali a run for its money once some of the thousands of islands in that province will be endowed with the appropriate infrastructures.

          We used as our "center of operations" in Bukidnon the Mountain Pines Place (MPP), a mountain resort-cum-conference-center, located in Kalugmanan, a baranggay of Manolo Fortich.  Any one who is fortunate enough to spend some time  in MPP will realize that it is no exaggeration to state that it is really a place "where time stops and discovery begins, from within and without; to experience and to remember, to aspire...to transcend; to forge ahead and to shape the future" (from an MPP brochure).   The delicious climate (18 to 20 degrees centigrade in July) and surrounding pine forests, flower and vegetable gardens are very conducive to strategic planning conferences, executive and spiritual retreats, family bonding, and simply getting away from the hubbub and pollution of the urban areas.  MPP is two hours and 30 minutes by car from the Laguindingan airport. Booking office can be contacted at (088) 851-6847 or 309-6477 or email MPPNKAC@yahoo.com.

          Among the leading resorts in Manolo Fortich are the Pinegrove Mountain Lodge, located at Brgy. Dahilayan (0917 622 3204).  It is the "Staycation Destination" for the Dahilayan Adventure Park, which boasts of Asia's first longest dual zipline, comprising of two 840 m Ziplines with a drop of 100 meters.  Bookings can be made through 0922 880 1319 or email zipzoneing@yahoo.com.  Then there is the Dahilayan Forest Park which offers activities such as bungee bounce, net trampoline, tree top adventure, buggy ride, mini golf, jacuzzi and luge ride.  There are picnic grounds for family outings.  Bookings can be made at 0917 715 4399 or email dahilayanforestpark@yahoo.com.  Still another is Kampojuan in Sitio Mapait, Dicklum where agribusiness enthusiasts can visit a demo farm with plants breeding. Visitors can also enjoy ziplines, anicycle and rappelling at a height of 180 feet and angle of 90 degrees.  Reservations can be made through Mercy (0926 621 2192).  For those who have their own favorite hotels in Cagayan de Oro or nearby municipalities, points or events  of interest in Bukidnon are the Kaamulan Festival, a major celebration held annually in the first week-end of March, presenting the rich customs and traditions of Bukidnon's seven hill tribes; Mt. Kitanglad National Park, located in North Central Bukidnon with an area of 31,297 hectares and declared as ASEAN Heritage Park; Benedictine Monastery in Malaybalay, the Capital of the province; Del Monte pineapple plantation, the largest single pineapple plantation in the Far East; and the Kaamulan Park, which with its thick pine forests, is what Baguio was before it was ravaged by urbanization and industrialization. 

          Bukidnon can avoid the fate of Baguio and the Mountain Provinces as a whole because as I wrote in another article, it can be preserved as a food belt, concentrating on agribusiness which is very compatible with tourism based on natural endowments.  Urbanization and industrialization can be controlled and contained, especially if the leaders are very conscious of protecting the physical environment.  As land use policy increasingly allows the consolidation or aggregation of bigger farms, there will be more agritourism that will be made possible, such as plantations of palm oil, coffee, cacao, rubber and other crops that can attract "city slickers" who want to see how their food is grown, harvested, and processed, as I did when I visited the only palm oil plantation and mill in the province, operated by the A Brown Energy Resources, Inc. in Dalirig, Bukidnon.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.