Maragusan: ‘Sucha’ cool place

Monday, 31 May 2010 08:00
"Maragusan is such a cold place, just like Baguio and Tagaytay.”... “There are so many beautiful and exotic spots to visit.”...”There are so many I can’t mention them all.”... “It is a cold region surrounded by high mountains.”...“In the morning, it’s really so cold that even cooking oil would solidify like ice candy in the freezer.”
These were just some of the remarks we heard from people who have been to Maragusan, a first class municipality in the province of Compostela Valley.  Recently, my friend Jose Ray L. Subaldo (who works for Digilution) and I went on a two-day journey to the place located 138 kilometers from Davao City.
It was almost lunch time when we arrived in Maragusan.  A landmark with a message that read “Welcome to Maragusan, the summer capital of the Davao region” greeted us.  You won’t miss the sign since all vehicles have to pass the circumferential road where it is located before entering the town.
Maragusan is located in the province’s highland region.  I found out later that the town is bordered by the mountains of Caragan to the east and Mabugnaw (meaning ‘very cool’) to the west.  These mountains supply the townsfolk with cool and refreshing air 24 hours a day and provide shelter from howling winds.
Our contact, Dennis B. Radin, who happens to be the municipal tourism officer, picked us up at the ultra-clean bus terminal.  After some introduction, he immediately took us to the Haven’s Peak Highland Resort, where we were billeted.
Haven’s Peak is nestled in the Tarago Hills facing the town with 208 beautifully landscaped steps (with three stop-overs for those who are tired!) leading to its tidy and beautiful lobby. This mountain resort provides sights of the picture-perfect and picturesque view of green, fog-shrouded mountains appearing like a painting or like the backdrop of a stage.
“Although we opened this resort only n 2005,” said June Louie Ibañez (he wants to be called PJ), “we have succeeded in making it as one of the town’s tourist destinations.”  In fact, it has already been featured in the bestselling The Lonely Planet.
Today, people from different walks of life come to appreciate the place.  Its tribal huts and two-storey dormitories are just perfect places to stay in.  Both the Lantaw Barbeque and Seafood Grill House, and Terraza Adela Bar and Coffee Shop offer a great place to dine and unwind while viewing the whole town from above. The ambience is simply superb; at night, it is spectacular.
After taking our lunch, we immediately started on our trip.  Our first stopover was the Marangig Falls in barangay Albay some 10 kilometers from the town proper.  We left our vehicle at a secure place and walked for about eight minutes before reaching the first of the series of 13 falls.  We had to climb some more to see the other falls.  We stopped at the third falls, and what I right away  noticed was the lush vegetation surrounding the area and the rocks covered with green algae. It was great to see nature’s beauty in the raw!
From barangay Albay we went to barangay Coronobe, the place of the famous Tagbibinta Falls.  Unlike the first falls we went to, this one is actually a series of seven falls, the first one measuring approximately 70 feet in height. If your thing is trekking and climbing, then this is the place you should go to.  There are cottages for rent not far from the first falls.  It is only five kilometers from the town.
We were supposed to see other falls surrounding the municipality, but it was too dark to travel we decided to call it a day.  Among the falls which we failed to visit were Pyalitan (which we heard looks like a mini-version of Venezuela’s Angel Falls), Miyaya, Pyagabunan, Manabas, Tarago, Maputi, Lahi, Mabuganao, Kyalinawan, Kolon, Kasigpitan, Gipadpalan, and Tangcalao (whew!). “Some of these falls are too far to visit,” Radin said. Sayang.
After taking dinner at Haven’s Peak, I talked with PJ for a while and, feeling tired, I begged his indulgence so I could go to bed. No sooner did I hit the pillow than I fell asleep. Just like that.
I woke up early the following morning, about four o’clock,  and went out and, to my amazement, saw the town below me covered with fog.  Watching the sight reminded me of the California fishing town in John Carpenter’s The Fog.  Eerie, but a sight to behold!
At 8:00 am, we left Haven’s Peak and went straight to a mountain with banana plantation surrounding it.  We were trekking when it started to rain.  “We have to climb up to see the raffleasia,” our guide, Nestor A. Badilla, told us.
Yes, raffleasia, the world’s biggest single flower.  Some people call it “corpse flower” due to the vile odor (“like rotting meat”) it gives off. The obnoxious smell attracts insects though, which transport pollen from male to female flowers.  The diameter of the flower can grow to over 100 centimeters (more than one meter) and can weigh up to 10 kilograms.  Even its smallest flower specie (the ones commonly found in the countryside) measures 20 centimeters in diameter.  It has a lifespan of only five to seven days.
Had it not been for Bong – Badilla’s nickname – raffleasia would have never been discovered in Maragusan.  He said that when TV host and former Miss Universe Margie Moran came to town, she showed him the picture of the flower and was asked if that was the flower he had seen.
He answered affirmatively.  After it was shown on television, some Filipino scientists came to the town and made a study.  True enough, it was raffleasia, a new species.  There are about 27 species and all of them are found in southeastern Asia, including the Philippines.  The species found in Maragusan is named Rafflesia magnifica.
The remainder of the day was spent in visiting springs; the town has 300 cool and two hot springs!  We took our lunch at the Aguacan Cold Spring Resort, an idyllic “all in one” resort located just a kilometer from the town’s center.  It has an Olympic-size swimming pool, a boating area, conference hall and restaurant, cottages for overnight stay, tent area, souvenir shop, billiard hall, videoke facilities, table tennis and volleyball and basketball courts.
We visited the two hot springs: Kasilac and Kanlawig.  “Kasilac is privately-owned and is open to our banana growers during weekends,” said Jelfriend Lamparas, who used to work with a government television station in Davao City.  “During weekdays, it is free to the public as long as they inform us ahead of time.”
Kanlawig Hot Springs Resort is just along the road going to the poblacion proper. The location is great with a wide plain in the background as well as the mighty Mount Candalaga (which measures up to 7,880 feet above sea level). The resort has many cottages with a store which caters  to visitors’ basic food needs.
“Be one with nature and friendly people,” urged Mayor Cesar ‘Loloy’ Colina.  “Visit Maragusan and be our guest.”
The name Maragusan was derived from two native words of the first people (Mansaka tribe) who inhabited Maragusan.  Mara means “dry” while agusan means “flowing river.”  The Agusan River is the longest in the Philippines and Maragusan Valley is located at one tip, the drier portion of the entire Agusan River.
Maragusan was separated from its mother municipality (Mabini) by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1247 on November 25, 1977.  It was called “San Mariano” after Don Mariano Marcos, the father of the then president, Ferdinand E. Marcos.  On October 12, 1998, it was returned to it got back its original and current name under Republic Act No. 6678.