When traveling from Cagayan de Oro to Bukidnon, the only option worth considering is the scenic route. Having experienced this route during a previous visit to the province, I made a concerted effort to stay awake throughout our journey. The sight of the mountain ranges leading to the summit of Mount Kitanglad signaled our arrival, promising the embrace of cool, pine-scented air and the lush greenery of Bukidnon.
Fresh from a couple of water adventures in Cagayan de Oro, we were ready for an adrenaline-pumping experience at Dahilayan Adventure Park in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Here, we would face not one, but two exhilarating activities that would challenge our fear of heights and thrill-seeking spirits.
Minutes after arriving at the picturesque park, we grabbed a cup of coffee to acclimate to the cool weather and savor the breathtaking scenery. Just as I was settling in with my hot coffee, our guide called us to prepare for our first activity.
"What's our first challenge?" someone from our group inquired. "We're taking turns on the Dropzone," our guide, Milo, informed us.
The mere mention of the word was enough to make anyone reconsider. However, our group had pledged that no one would back out. So, we set off for the site, following a scenic trail for a 10-minute stroll.
The Dropzone, as the name suggests, involves strapping a person into a web of harnesses in a Superman-like pose and hoisting them up on a towering pendulum swing installation, 120 feet high. With a gentle pull of a string by the rider hanging on the left side, a freefall is triggered, bringing the rider tantalizingly close to the water of a manmade lake below.
Julie, one of the three Malaysians in our group, bravely volunteered to go first. As we watched in anticipation, Julie was securely fastened into the harness and elevated into the air. The atmosphere was thick with suspense as the Dropzone staff initiated the countdown, yelling, "3, 2, 1, pull!" Without hesitation, Julie, displaying her bravery, swiftly pulled the string, setting off her adrenaline-charged freefall.
As she descended rapidly, her screams echoed through the park. After swinging back and forth in the air, her screams turned into joyful exclamations. Her courage inspired each of us, confirming that the Dropzone was indeed a thrilling and exhilarating adventure.
I was next in line to be strapped and lifted into the air. As I gazed down at the water below and listened to the countdown, a surge of electricity coursed through my body. Without hesitation, I instinctively pulled the string and descended into the exhilarating embrace of gravity, feeling the rush of wind against my face. It truly felt like being Superman for a brief moment.
Following the Dropzone, we wrapped up our Dahilayan adventure with an 840-meter zipline that raced through a canopy of towering trees at 60 kilometers per hour.
Before proceeding to our next destination, we made a detour to the municipality of Impasug-ong to see the enormous statues of women wearing distinctive headdresses.
These statues, known as the Kaamulan headdress, are the work of Mindanao-born artist Kublai Millan, famous for his giant sculptures that have made him famous around the world. Some of his most notable masterpieces include the Kampilan in Sultan Kudarat, the Risen Christ in Tagum City, the Lantapan Monument also in Bukidnon and the giant Durian at Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City.
Impasug-ong's statues represent the seven ethnic groups of Bukidnon: Bukidnon, Manobo, Umayamnon, Tigwahanon, Higaonon, Talaandig, and Matigsalug. They are part of the celebration of the Kaamulan Festival in Malaybalay City, a gathering to celebrate the province's rich culture and traditions.
Our journey also led us to the Tagolwanen Women Weavers Association (TWWA) showroom in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. This social enterprise comprises over 80 weavers from the Bukidnon-Tagolwanen tribe. These skilled weavers primarily use sodsod grass, native to the wetlands of Bukidnon, to craft exquisite mats and other household items. Their creations are adorned with vibrant colors and intricate patterns, resulting in stunning works of art.
A visit to this place along Sayre Highway in Malaybalay not only lets you bring a piece of the Tagolwanen People's culture into your home but also contributes to the education of Tagolwanen children. Your support inspires more Tagolwanen kids to engage in the art of mat making.
After a two-day exploration of some parts of Bukidnon, we wrapped up our provincial journey at the stunning Taglucop Strawberry Hills in Kitaotao, Bukidnon. This haven in the highlands welcomed us with a glass of Strawberry Ice Wine and a platter of freshly picked fruits and cheese as the day's light faded and the fog rolled in.
A sumptuous dinner followed, featuring an array of organic dishes, many sourced directly from the farm on the property. We had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with the owners, Ferdinand and Jenny Taglucop, who shared the fascinating story of Taglucop Strawberry Farm.
The farm boasts spacious geodesic dome tents perched on uneven hilltop terrain, enveloped by towering pine trees. Most tents come with a private outdoor jacuzzi and a patio, perfect for morning coffee or stargazing.
In 2016, Ferdinand and Jenny Taglucop purchased the property without specific plans for it. After planting hundreds of pine trees, their interest shifted to cultivating various berries, including strawberries, mulberries, and blackberries. During the pandemic, they expanded their vineyard, created their own line of wine, and developed an all-natural menu to cater to their guests.
Returning to my geodesic tent, I fell into a peaceful slumber, waking just before sunrise to a breathtaking sea of clouds. Shortly after, we embarked on our morning activities: an ATV ride to a higher hilltop and a hike to a nearby waterfall. Before bidding farewell, we promised the owners we would return for a longer stay next time. And we definitely will. The combination of cool weather and the warm comfort of Taglucop Strawberry Farm is a perfect environment for a writer like me to tap into my creative energy. I thought to myself, "I could finish a film screenplay here."
Our journey continued as we headed to Davao City.
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