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www.lakbaypinay.com.ph FEBRUARY 2014

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FEBRUARY 2014 www.lakbaypinay.com.ph


Editor’s Note

Start of a New Beginning Hello there, a very warm welcome to Gaia Discovery. Whether you were invited to this magazine or stumbled upon it by chance, I’m happy you’re reading this because you can make a positive change to the way we live and travel. Gaia Discovery sniffs out environmental news and captures inspirational life stories. It zooms in on people, sometimes ordinary people, who make a difference. Our planet’s a curious place and there’s a lot going around than what meets the eye. Untold travel stories, unchartered territories and harmonious simplicity with Mother Earth. Precious heritage. We hope to bring you exciting tales based on personal experience so that you know you’re not simply relying on a glossy brochure when you head out to foreign lands. Our Role Our planet is ailing. Travellers with a spark of conscience can help by seeking out eco-friendly places to visit and stay, not least because commercial support is needed to support green enterprises that bother to make a difference. Gaia Discovery hopes to continually seek out these eco-friendly destinations and resorts, plus feature change agents who may be developers and hoteliers. In doing so, it hopes to raise the awareness and sustainability of eco-tourism. Gaia Discovery online publication also aims to influence industrialists, builders and hoteliers to forsake their myopic stance in developing properties that are commercially viable but detrimental to the balance of eco-systems. Through Gaia Discovery, we will urge them to exercise greater thought and care in protecting the environment and its inhabitants, and when they do, we will recognize them for making the change.

Gaia Discovery is a green reference point to cultivating pro-planet practices, incorporating home, living, business, travel, music, art and adventures. Your Say We want all our readers, including you, to get involved in reading these articles and to do your part. No matter where you are, who you are, how great or little travel experience you have, you can contribute views, original travel articles, original photos and videos of people and places that have made a difference to our world, Gaia. And remember to sign up as an eNewsletter Subscriber if you wish to receive updated stories by email (check out eNewsletter archives) and to take part in attractive promotions (such as resort stays in lovely places). Or get an RSS feed on the homepage. Enjoy reading Gaia Discovery and let us know what you think at the end of each section. Until then, tread gently.


CONTENTS

Sultan Kudarat. The name itself evokes images of royalty. An ancient Muslim sovereign, Sultan Muhamammad Dipatuan Kudarat ruled this area under the Sultanate of Maguindanao, one of several sultanates in the country. One of the greatest leaders of his time, he bravely resisted the Spanish occupation during the colonial period. From hilly inlands to coastal towns, the province is incredibly blessed with natural resources; so rich in fact, that much of the flora and fauna have not been fully discovered. And it has just opened its doors to investment and tourism. So head on out and blaze your own trail. Looking for low-key and sun soaked beaches? Try the town of Kalamansig. From the pebble-washed white of Lenek, Santiak and Tayandak to Poral’s dark grey, the beaches are special coves you can have all to yourself. The emerald waters are so clear, you don’t need to get off the boat to see what’s underneath. And here’s a well-kept secret: the coastal towns of Kalamansig, Palembang and Lebak are swarming with yellow fin tuna, dolphins, and whales. In Tacurong, view thousands of birds at the Baras Bird Sanctuary. In 1996, there were only four egrets in this area, and now it’s home to 20,000. No one knows why they are here, but we sure are glad these migratory creatures chose to stay. After a busy day of beach and bird-watching, the capital Isulan provides a glimpse of Philippine Islamic architecture. The five-storey Capitol building, with its golden dome, is one of the most attractive state buildings in the country. Take a tour and see for yourself. And of course, a capitol building isn’t complete without a monument to the greatest leader of the Maguindanaoans—Sultan Kudarat

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0004 INTRODUCTION 0011 MAP INDEX

0012 EXPLORING SULAN 0001 SECRET BEACHES


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The name ‘Sultan Kudarat‘ rings a bell because I love history since my elementary years. I still remember that I was one of the finalists in a History Quiz Bee during 5th grade. Anyway, I wanted to share my little knowledge about Sultan Kudarat, first as a hero and then as a Philippines province. I write this to encourage readers to re-read Philippine history in light of Mindanao and also visit Sultan Kudarat Province which is just 2 hours away from General Santos City.

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Sultan Kudarat of The Sultanate of Maguindanao. Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat (also spelled Qudarat or Corallat) succeeded his father Kapitan Laut Buisan in 1619 as a 7th Sultan of Maguindanao. He reigned to almost all of Mindanao from January of 1625 to 1671, including what we now know as Cagayan de Oro City (CDO) and the CARAGA Region- Agusan del Norte and Sur, Surigao del Norte and Sur and Dinagat Province. Misamis and Bukidnon were among his tributaries, meaning these two provinces pay dues to his kingdom. S u l t a n Kudarat Monument in front of the Provincial Capitol in Isulan His kingdom was one of the greatest in the history of Maguindanao Sultanate. He has friendly trading relations with the Spaniards and the Dutch. There was also a time when Spaniards tried conquering some of Sultan Kudarat’s subject but was unsuccessful, making them suffer the consequences of paying a huge amount of ransom to get their soldiers. Governor General Diego Fajardo Chacon made a treaty on June 25, 1645 with him so they can send missionaries and build a church in Mindanao. The last known battle he did was when they raided the town of Baybay, Leyte. That was too far-fetched but not for someone named Sultan Kudarat as his power was felt even in the Visayas, Leyte to be exact 10

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Exploring Isulan - Trek to Tenubak Falls in Lebak From the town of Surallah in South Cotabato, I rode a van going to Isulan (₱40), the capital town of Sultan Kudarat. It took us a little more than an hour. From where the van stopped in Isulan, I crossed the highway to check in at Sultanate Lodge. A night at their single AC room costs ₱450 with television included. Truth is, I don’t have any particular plan about Sultan Kudarat since I thought wandering around the outskirts of Isulan won’t be safe. Everything changed when I got to this internet shop where out of curiosity, I googled of places this province has to offer. I found an article about this newly discovered waterfalls in the town of Lebak, a coastal municipality which happens to be 5hrs away from Isulan! I said there’s no way I’m going there because it’s too far not to mention concerns regarding safety. Well guess what, in the end I decided I’ll do everything just to set foot on that super isolated waterfalls. I listed down all the important things I need to get there then hired a tricycle to Sultan Kudarat Capitol.

I was truly amazed by the greatness of their capitol building. Its Muslim-inspired architecture is really superb. I greeted the guard at the entrance and asked if I can have a look inside and luckily, he endorsed me to this beautiful lady at the counter who’s in charge of touring visitors in this immense capitol building. Everything is elegant inside and it appears like it’s properly maintained. We visited several conference halls and rooms including the governor’s office!

This capitol was built under the administration of Sultan Pax Mangudadatu, the first Muslim governor of Sultan Kudarat, while further improvements were carried on by his son, Datu Suharto Mangudadatu. I used to think that politicians in this place are not that good, but really after learning and seeing more stuffs about this place, I figured out I’m wrong. Travel indeed widens one’s perspective. I thanked Czarina (the tour guide), and roamed around the vicinity some more.

Sultan Kudarat is a province named after a Muslim hero who fought against invading Spaniards. Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat (1581-1671) is considered to be the greatest Sultan of Maguidanao and most powerful Sultan of Mindanao. He is a symbol of bravery and honor as shown by his determination to preserve the heritage of his land. If not for his cunning, this area of Mindanao could have lost its genuine identity, like what happened to many areas of this great island.

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I went to the bus and van terminal adjacent to the capitol to reserve a ticket going to the town of Lebak. The lady told me to be at the terminal by 4:00am since the big jeep to Lebak will leave early tomorrow. The fare is ₱300. The town of Isulan remains alive even during the night, I even had time to walk around and do some food trips. I honestly didn’t feel any threat to my security or it could be because I’m prepared to face them.

KringggGgg! or not. Bloody hell I wasn’t able to wake up to my phone alarm! It’s already 4:50am and I’m not even sure if the jeep to Lebak has already left the terminal. I assumed it didn’t so I immediately changed my clothes, placed all my stuffs scattered in the room inside my bag, left my room key at the front desk of Sultanate Lodge and poof, hired a trike to the terminal. I wasn’t able to take a bath!

Fortunately though, the jeep hasn’t gone yet so yehey time to celebrate! And when I say celebrate, I mean washing my face and brushing my teeth at the terminal’s comfort room. I paid the fare of ₱300, sat at the front beside the driver and let’s do this! Our trip started at 5:30am heading to Cotabato City where the junction to Lebak is located. According to the locals, during the past, it takes more than 8hrs to get to Lebak from Isulan since the route passes by unpaved mountain roads at the center of Sultan Kudarat. It was brought down to 5hrs after this highway from Cotabato City to Lebak was constructed. On the way we passed by dozens of military check points, garrison, detachments, whatever you call it. This highway had several events of ambush, gunfires, bombings, etc. and this road is where our jeepney is rockin now. We passed by the towns of Maguindanao made popular by the massacre of many civilians including journalists; towns named after datus and members of the ruling clan: Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Odin Sinsuat and the town of Ampatuan. I honestly had a hard time breathing since I think anytime something bad will happen. I’m seated in front so I don’t know, it really freaked me out. The people I saw along the roadside had a different look probably brought by their frustration to this endless war, or it could only be me. There were these white banners bearing messages about peace, telling everyone to stop fighting.

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I’ve done researches about the root of this war and it dates back to old times before the Spaniards destroyed the harmony in this land. This isn’t the proper place to discuss it though so let’s go back writing a travel blog. From Cotabato City, the junction to Lebak brought us to lovely views of rolling hills covered by verdant grass and different kinds of crops. The sight was very relaxing since greens are everywhere. After 5hrs, we reached the town center of Lebak, I hired a habal to E & R Hotel (₱10) then checked in at their ordinary room (₱550). The room was comfortable and not humid so AC is not really that important. I rested a bit and headed to the municipal hall to inquire on how to go to Tenubak Falls, the falls I read about in an online article yesterday. I was surprised when they brought me directly to the mayor! Oh ok, so I had a chat with mayor and in the end he seemed worried about my security so he gave me the contact number of the barangay captain in Brgy. Keytodac where the falls is located. I thanked mayor and walked towards the public market where the ‘skylab’ terminal en route to Keytodac is located. Fare is ₱150. There were three of us: the driver, a girl passenger and myself. We maneuvered onto this rocky rough road along the mountains of Lebak and after butt-aching 1.5hrs, I reached this secluded barangay. How secluded? It doesn’t have a supply of electricity. I asked the habal driver to kindly pick me up by 4:30pm since I really need to get down to Lebak poblacion before it gets dark. I talked with the barangay captain and he endorsed me to Kuya Alfredo.

By 2:00pm, Kuya Alfredo and I rode a motorcycle to the hike’s starting point (30mins) then we parked and began the hike which lasted for another 40mins. Everything wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Trust me. Haha. We passed by Manobo people settlements and finally we reached this waterfall in the middle of the rainforest. National Geographic scene at its best! This place was first discovered by the Manobo people and early this year, the news reached the barangay council. It wasn’t that high but it has this particular jungle look which makes it remarkable. Kuya Alfredo showed me the cave located above the waterfall where the water comes from. The waterfall is fed by a subterranean river which according to him hosts beautiful limestone formations. The hike back was really tiresome but despite this, I’m still happy that once again, I pushed myself to the limits. \m/ We got back to the barangay hall by 5:00pm and luckily, the habal driver waited for me. Plan B though is to sleep at the barangay hall if ever there’s no one to drive me down to Lebak poblacion. Brgy. Keytodac by the way is perched on the mountainous part of Lebak so it’s pretty cold up here. I thanked Kuya Alfredo and gave him some tip for guiding me. The motorcycle ride down took 1.5hrs in this cold, foggy, creepy, dark, isolated, ghostly, you name it road. I just had to convince myself that the habal driver won’t kidnap me or something. The view of the mountains during dusk was priceless though. We reached Lebak poblacion by 6:30pm and I gave the habal driver ₱300 for the ride back and forth. I didn’t have lunch so I stuffed myself that night back at the hotel. What an action packed day indeed! :)

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Where to stay in Lebak? Hiking Tenubak Falls in Lebak is pretty tiring so it’s best to spend a night in Lebak poblacion before leaving the next day. Cotabato City which is the closest escape from Lebak is still a 3.5-hour bus ride away.

Good thing a decent hotel called E & R Hotel can be found in Lebak poblacion. They have non-ac rooms for Php550 and air-conditioned ones at a slightly higher price.

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Sultan Kudarat’s Secret Island

Sultan Kudarat has a secret island that has the ingredients for a perfect getaway. Pristine white sand, blue and calm sea, fresh sea breeze -- Balot Island! Kalamansig is a coastal municipality in the Province of Sultan Kudarat. The town’s name was derived from the Manobo term “Kulaman-sa-ig,” which literally means “Manobo of the Water.”

Kalamansig is bounded on the north by Lebak, on the west by the Celebes Sea, on the east by Sen. Ninoy Aquino, and on the south by Palimbang. Aside from its very fertile land where variety a of tropical fruits grow like durian, lanzones, marang, mangosteen and banana, Kalamansig is also rich in seafood products, good diving spots, waterfalls, and pristine white sand beaches. It was my friend’s idea to spend the first day of 2013 on the beach, so we decided to go to Balot Island. Balot Island is one of the six islets in Kalamansig. It’s located in Barangay Paril, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat. From their fish port, you can hire or rent a “bangka” (motorized seaboat) to go to Balot Island. It’s more than an hour’s ride from the fish port. But when you see the white sand on the shore, rock formations, and coral reefs under the clear blue water along your way, you know that the time, the distance, and everything spent has paid off. It was my first time to be there and the island didn’t fail to amaze me. The place is simply a perfect getaway for a person like me who really loves the beach. The weather was just so cooperative that the clear water, white sand, and the peaceful surrounding of the island made for an awesome day of relaxation. On bright, sunny days, Balot Island can be a recommended as one of the best destinations for a family vacation. Balot Island is just one of the reasons why I’m so proud that I’m from Sultan Kudarat. So come visit us!

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What to Bring:

How to Get There:

• Basic needs such as water, food, swim wear, and first aid kit. • Aqua shoes or strap-on rubber sandals would be ideal for exploring the seashore. • Bring sunblock or sunscreen. The sun can be pretty harsh. • If you want to stay overnight, bring your own tent.

By Bus/Van • Gen. Santos City (South Cotabato): 214 kms. • Islamic City of Marawi (Lanao del Sur): 259 kms. • Isulan: 45 kms. • Palimbang: 64 kms. • Lebak: 10 kms. • The only airport near Kalamansig is Cotabato City (they have daily flights from Manila) • From Cotabato City you can ride a van going to Lebak or Kalamansig, it cost Php 350.00 (one way) per passenger. • From Kalamansig you can rent a small bangka for Php 600.00 (for roundtrip ride) going to Balot Island (maximum of 10 persons)

Where to Stay in Kalamansig:

For your accommodation in Kalamansig, you can stay in JV Lodge which is open 24/7. Room rate: Php 700.00 per night and Php 800.00 per night for an air-conditioned room.

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