Art/Style/Travel Diaries

I relished a forest lift—
but I passed on the zipline

A surprise adventure in Davao del Sur that’s
part nature trail, part Universal Studios

The thrill of seeing Mount Apo—the author first scaled it 20 years ago. This time she enjoys its environment in Kapatagan, Davao del Sur. (Photo from Margie Floirendo)

Margie Moran-Floirendo with granddaughter Adriana in Kapatagan: ‘The times may limit our ability to travel overseas, but there are extraordinary destinations nearby.’ (Photo from Margie Floirendo)

Margie Moran-Floirendo takes the forest lift in Kapatagan, Davao del Sur, with Mount Apo looming ahead. (Video from Margie Floirendo)

How does one express the thrill of having conquered the earth with its lushest, greenest, and most daunting natural surroundings, and then descend precariously from your forest lift onto an unexpected funland as whimsically foreign as Universal Studios?

I had this most delightful day recently in Kapatagan, Municipality of Sta Cruz in Davao del Sur.

I first scaled Mount Apo 20 years ago, starting from Magpet in Cotabato Province. Though still an active volcano, Apo does not have a history of eruption, and therefore, remains innocuous and inviting for all to climb. Mine was the traditional four-day ascent.  Two weeks before that, my children made the climb from Kapatagan, on new concrete roads that reduced climbing time to one-and-a-half days.

This time, in the expanse of Kapatagan—nestled 4,000 feet above sea level, within the Mount Apo National Park—I was in for a more leisurely nature adventure filled with exquisite surprises.

The park is a woodland in an idyllic setting, and is situated close to one of the jump-off points for the ascent to the peak of Mount Apo. Within the park is a four-cabin private property called Moss and Grove Cabins.

Moss and Grove Cabins in the woodland—a landscape of anthuriums, heliconia (Photo from Margie Floirendo)

Overlooking Mount Apo from where we stood, we deplored the infamous fate of a huge area logged by concessionaires years ago, and then further cleared recently for banana plantations.  All these, while the slashing and burning of fields continue unabated, by farmers who plant their crops. Mercifully, however, there are now patches of virgin forest and areas where private landowners have reforested over the past 30 years, giving tourists the exhilaration of enjoying a truly natural environment.

At Moss and Grove, we walked through the landscape of anthuriums and various species of heliconia, an exquisite hobby of the lady of the fields, and an enchanting bait for visitors.

As we took our time breathing in the unique charm of the place, the younger ones had meanwhile trekked through the forest and climbed the hill to reach the lift and the zipline take-off point to visit the neighboring Camp Sabros.

Between the two properties is a deep ravine accessible by land, or by a customized version of the classic lift in ski resorts, built by its owner to transport visitors to its closest neighbor and back.

I have to say that, as I got older, my fear of heights was exacerbated. So I silently sat in contained horror in that chair, 400 meters to our destination

I have to say that, as I got older, my fear of heights was exacerbated. So I silently sat in contained horror in that chair, 400 meters to our destination. But as we approached, loud rock’n’ roll music began to play and was in full blast as we disembarked.  All upbeat now,  I relished the ambiance that made me feel I had been transported to somewhere between the Appalachian Trail and Universal Studios, complete with what seemed to be a Harley Davidson hill station.

Sabros is short for the brothers Sacdalan, a family who hails from Midsayap, North Cotabato. I met Edwin, stylishly dressed as a biker. From this camp, he has built several ziplines in the country. But this 400-meter zipline is the longest. I have paid my dues on ziplines, so this time I demurred getting on it and let the young ones fully enjoy that inimitable rush of adrenaline on a rope across nature’s elements.

Sure, the times may limit our ability to travel overseas, but there are extraordinary destinations to discover nearby. And for as long as you recognize the fire that still burns within you, there will always be a whole new world to conquer within your reach!

The author and friends on the forest lift (Photo from Margie Floirendo)

About author


She is the chairperson of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, a foremost advocate of Philippine arts and culture and empowerment of women, a gutsy traveler who’s written about far-flung destinations. And the world still remembers her as the 1973 Miss Universe.

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