There is so much to discover about Bukidnon, a landlocked province in the center of Mindanao.
Though it does not boast of sparkling blue beaches or powder-white sands, my fond memories of idyllic afternoons spent lounging in my grandmother’s home, breathing in the crisp Bukidnon air, remind me that my province still has more than enough to offer. Away from the fast cars and skyscrapers, Bukidnon is a natural wonder that prods its visitors to go at a gentler pace; to look up and see the stars, shining and unhindered by any bright city lights. It’s a hidden gem that deserves so much more recognition, so here are eight reasons why Bukidnon should be the next local destination on your travel bucket list:
1. Horseback riding with the Impasugong cowboys
Known as the “Home of the Country’s Finest Cowboys,” Impasugong has a 642-hectare communal ranch you can explore on horseback. Their cowboys will teach you the basics and guide you through the expansive ranch. Its never-ending fields, deep ravines, and unbeatable view of the mountain range also make it a favorite spot for photo shoots and film locations (the Filipino movie Love Me Again starring Piolo Pascual and Angel Locsin was shot here!).
This is the only government-owned ranch in the Philippines, and a visit requires sending a letter addressed to the Municipal Tourism Office. The price is ₱2,000/head for a no-frills, completely off-the-grid night at one of the “cowboy quarters” or ₱250 for a day trip that includes horseback riding and comes with your own cowboy guide.
Capitan Bayong, Impasugong
To visit, write a letter addressed to Hon. Anthony A. Uyand, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
(0956) 673 5658
Look for Mr. Orland Bongcales
2. An adrenaline rush in Quezon
Warning: this is not for the faint of heart. Bivouacking is an extreme form of cliff camping made especially for the adrenaline junkies. To get to your campsite, you must slowly inch your way up the Kiokong White Rock Wall in Quezon, Bukidnon until you reach a narrow ledge 440 feet above the ground. The vertical climb is grueling, but the view from up there is stunning and worth every step.
While the price is steep at ₱7,500 per person, Adventure Technology Outfitters provides everything from competent guides to top-of-the-line climbing and protective equipment. Slots are extremely limited and very sought-after, so make sure to book well in advance.
Purok 4, Barangay Dologan, Busco Road, Maramag
Fee: ₱7,500/person for local tourists; $200/person for foreign tourists
3. A chance to reconnect with nature at CEDAR
Nestled in Impalutao, Impasugong is the Center for Ecological Development and Recreation (CEDAR): a reforestation area preserved by the local and national government. For only ₱10 per person, you’re granted access to 1,703 hectares of lush greenery. CEDAR offers everything from trekking to horseback riding under a canopy of mahogany trees, but perhaps the most notable sight of all is the Gantungan waterfall. The majestic Gantungan is best appreciated when you trek the streams and wade through the waters to look up at its thundering beauty from the foot of the falls.
Center for Ecological Development and Recreation
Barangay Impalutao, Impasugong
Entrance fee: ₱10
4. Indak at the Kaamulan Festival
From the Binukid word ‘amul’ which means ‘to gather’, Kaamulan is an annual festival held in Malaybalay City to celebrate the cultural identities of Bukidnon’s seven indigenous tribes. Kaamulan is a feast for all the senses as the tribes showcase their most intricately-woven costumes at the street dances, and their extravagant floats at the parade.
This festival is a time-honored tradition—a beautiful marriage of old and new. You can watch the solemn, authentic rituals performed by the indigenous tribes in the morning, join a rodeo in the afternoon, and end the night with a beer in hand as you listen to the concerts at the capitol.
The Kaamulan Festival happens every second half of February until the first half of March.
5. Meditate at the Monastery of the Transfiguration
Designed by the National Artist for Architecture, Leandro Locsin, the Monastery of the Transfiguration is home to the Benedictine monks in Malaybalay City. Sitting atop a hill in the village of San Jose, the monastery evokes feelings of peace and serenity, making it a favorite for weddings and Holy Week pilgrims. The monastery is open to anyone looking for quiet reflection, and a quick visit can provide a wonderful reprieve from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Monastery of the Transfiguration
San Jose Hill, Malaybalay City
6. Mountaineering in Impasugong
Whether you’re a newbie or an expert, Impasugong’s collection of mountain ranges is a hiker’s dream come true. Beginners can take it easy and start with Paminahawa Ridge managed by The Ant Farm. At ₱300/head, The Ant Farm provides a guide and a stick to double as a trekking pole. The trek is doable, and from the ridge, you get a top view of the tumbling clouds enveloping the smaller hills.
More seasoned mountaineers can try to take on the Kitanglad Mountain Range—specifically Mt. Dulang-Dulang—the second highest peak in the Philippines. Those who’ve successfully climbed the mountain say its thick, mysterious forests look like a scene straight out of The Lord of the Rings series. Mt. Dulang-Dulang is considered sacred among the locals and is a protected area, so a pre-climb ritual performed by the natives is a must.
The Ant Farm
Barangay Impalutao, Impasugong
(0977) 801 3135
Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park
7. Picnic on a floating cottage in Valencia
Hidden in the hills of Valencia City is Lake Apo, a crater lake formed from an old volcanic cone. The uphill drive on unpaved roads flanked by sugarcane fields will lead you to the 24-hectare body of water with bamboo cottages idly floating on top. Its elevation allows visitors to get a stunning view of the golden sunset that bathes Lake Apo with a warm glow and transforms it before your very eyes.
For ₱330, you can rent your own floating cottage attached to a pulley system; this allows you to cross the lake for a quick dip and dock for a picnic. There aren’t many stores nearby, so make sure to pack enough food and drinks for everyone!
Sitio Lawa, Barangay Guinoroyan, Valencia City
8. Family-friendly adventures at Dahilayan
Dahilayan Adventure Park in Manolo Fortich is most known for having Asia’s longest dual zipline. Since it opened in 2009, Dahilayan has expanded to include a greater variety of rides, like my personal favorite: The Drop Zone—a 120-foot freefall into a manmade lake. There are different packages you can avail of at the Adventure Park that range from ₱250-₱750.
Despite these thrilling rides being Dahilayan’s claims to fame, there are several options for those who prefer a more relaxing experience. Next to the Adventure Park is Dahilayan’s Gardens and Resort where the less adventurous crowd can seek refuge in their Western cottages, outdoor fireplaces, and picturesque gazebos. For ₱2,500-₱3,800, you can also go glamping—a more comfortable and glamorous take on camping for the tita and tito in you.
Dahilayan Adventure Park
Brgy. Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich
(0922) 880 1319
Dahilayan Gardens and Resort
Sitio Balilid, Lupiagan Rd, Manolo Fortich
(0917) 714 7229
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