“Cagayan de Oro’s favorite destination.” This tagline appears in Dahilayan’s website, which we accessed when this article was posted. We’ve visited Dahilayan’s physical location before we’ve dropped by its website, and the experience (physical location before the website) is akin to watching a movie after reading the book (from which the movie is based). As the usual case, the movie hardly does justice to the book’s rich details and story. The website does not even come close to the beauty of Dahilayan Eco Adventure Park, which is a good thing. Allow us to tell you why.
Something doesn’t sound right (in a good way, we must hasten to add) when going to Dahilayan. It’s the mere fact of going to this destination. By all standards of integrated community planning, and by that attempt of being vague we mean the onslaught of subdivision developments focusing on everything being conveniently accessible to everyone, Dahilayan is secluded.
Dahilayan is located in a distant mountain somewhere, with rough roads that look more like a mud challenge course during the rainy season. No amazing monuments or man-made structures along the entire stretch, just green foliage and mountains. The only structure that could be of any interest to those who prefer the creations of man is the huge pineapple made of concrete, smack in a roundabout of an intersection, within the compound of Del Monte Philippines.
But for us, and those of similar persuasion, there are four reasons why we wanted to take the trip to Dahilayan in the flesh (or in, uhm, its equivalent expression referring to trees). For years we’ve thought of visiting this mountain haven. Only recently did the travel stars aligned to bring us where we wanted to be. Fate indeed favors the prepared. Anyway, back to the four reasons:
First reason: pine trees. And pineapples, mountains, nature. The trip to Dahilayan brings visitors through the plantations of Del Monte Philippines, cutting through the idyllic managerial staff housing. Imagine the single-floor detach housing units made of wood, with ample lawn space on all sides to allow the kids to run around. It’s beautiful. Absolutely, nesting-mode beautiful.
Around the entire housing complex, complete with its pine tree-ringed athletic oval, are pineapples planted on miles and miles of undulating countryside. If you’re courting someone who loves nature, bring her here. She’ll fall in love, we can guarantee you, but we’re betting she’ll fall in love with the scenery first. It’s gorgeous. You’d want to be a dragonfly here, swooping low on the pineapple crowns and tracing the entire contour, from the inhabited edge on the flat lands, all the way up to the tree-lined edges heading to the mountain slopes.
Passing cars, and there are only a few cars passing the road to Dahilayan, kick up a storm of brown dust. The dust doesn’t stay long, though, for the strong wind quickly sweeps the dust away and tucks it under an imaginary rug. Quite neat, really. Efficient. The steady wind runs freely on the sloping hills, unobstructed by monstrous structures built by man, keeping the peace, er, fresh.
This brings us to the question brought up by our eight-year old, “Why are there more natural disasters?” They’re apparently up-to-date with current events in school. “There have always been, and there will always be, a lot of natural disasters,” we said. It’s just that mankind, either by choice or necessity, has to move away from comfort zones, to the edges of what is considered safe. People will be there whenever there are landslides or flood somewhere. On the foothills of Dahilayan, there’s enough space for the wind, and nature, to run wild.
Then there are the pine trees. We had to blink again to make sure that we’re not dreaming, that we’re not in Baguio. Dahilayan’s pine trees, hugging the contours of the hills, frame the zip lines. Look down and you see pine trees. Look to the side and there are pine trees. Look up and you’ll see, not Ryzza of the “look up” craze, but, what else, pine trees.
It’s like mini-Baguio. And based on the rate of population growth in Baguio, where pine trees and remaining open spaces are slowly run over by people (and malls), in contrast with the planned developments in Dahilayan, we won’t be surprised if Dahilayan will overtake Baguio. Right now, Dahilayan looks like the old Baguio than the Baguio itself.
Second reason: the steak of Del Monte clubhouse. Really, who doesn’t like steak? And who doesn’t like steak while sitting in a middle of a golf course, a clubhouse high up in Del Monte’s pineapple plantation, which is merely a few minutes of detour from the road leading to Dahilayan? We would have dropped by the Del Monte Clubhouse to grab a steak, but we’ve been here before and with time running out on the itinerary, we decided to prioritize white water rafting over steak.
Third reason: the white water rafting and the surrounding areas. Because Bukidnon, and it’s component Dahilayan, is easily accessible through Cagayan de Oro, it makes perfect sense to drop by CDO’s most recognizable adventure — the white water rafting [see CDO-Bukidnon-Camiguin itinerary].
Fourth reason: the long and bearable trips. People travel for different reasons. It could be because of work. It could be for leisure and relaxation, to recharge and get ready for another round of, well, more work. It could even be because of necessity and survival. Whatever one’s reason for travel, what’s common is the set of hours (or days) spend on the road (the sea or the air).
Now, some might prefer the solitude that travel brings, choosing to reflect without talking to total strangers on the road. Others might prefer watching movies and TV shows, or listed to music, on ubiquitous gadgets. Still, in an increasingly gadget-driven “me-world”, it’s a breath of fresh air to spend the entire time catching up and bonding with people that matters to you. It’s quite difficult to have a meaningful conversation upon reaching the destination, like the ziplines of Dahilayan for instance, where you’d rather spend time laughing and shouting to let off excitement (or, fear, to many).
Fifth reason: the ziplines. Ahh, the ziplines. The 840 meters on top of Dahilayan Pak used to the the longest zipline in Asia. New ziplines sprout everywhere, but not every zipline goes through healthy pines trees, scenic mountains and creeks running round the slopes. Not every zipline infuses the rider with pine-scented mountain fresh air. Dahilayan is probably one of the few places where “breath of fresh air” can be taken both literally and figuratively.
The 840 meters is the main ride; it is not the only ride. There’s a “smaller” two-part 320+150 meters zipline, which is like dividing the thrill — or terror to some — into two, manageable bites.
For the less adventurous, there’s horseback riding under the shade of tree canopies. There’s an ATV trail. There’s a Power Rope Challenge Course, which looks perfect for team-building events. This is perhaps less terrifying because guests would merely be up against the fear of heights, which is also present, plus the speed, in the ziplines. Or, depending on how look at it (no pun intended), the ziplines could be less stressful because riders in can simply close their eyes and let gravity do the rest of the work. Not so in the Power Ropes where guests would have to go conquer their fear (for those afraid of heights, at least) one step at a time.
Then there’s our favorite, the Drop Zone. It’s pretty much straightforward. The crew will strap the rider in a full-body contraption, just like the one used is the ziplines, with the rider’s body parallel to the ground. Then the crew will strap a number of cables on the full-body contraption, just like the ziplines. Thin steel lines, shiny little hooks that attaches the rider’s body to the main line.
Then the ride operator will start slowly pulling the rider back towards the top of the dizzying tower. We don’t know if it’s dizzying from up there, but it sure looks terribly dizzying for us spectators on the ground. Then, just like all the movies about how the Supreme Being endows mankind with freewill, the ride crew starts counting down to zero — the idea is that the rider is the one responsible for pulling the plug. And the plunge follows in just milliseconds. The countdown must be a device to “encourage” riders to pull the plug because, if we’re the ones up there, we’ll need all day to prepare ourselves before pulling the plug.
How to Get There
Make no mistake about it — Dahilayan Park is not found in Cagayan de Oro. Dahilayan is a barangay located high above the cold mountains of a town called Manolo Fortich, in Bukidnon province.
For those outside Mindanao, principally those coming from Luzon and Visayas, the most convenient access to Dahilayan is through Cagayan de Oro (CDO) City. There used to be an airport in CDO, until a new international airport was opened in June 2013 in the nearby town of Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental — the Laguindingan International Airport. [See the Itinerary for Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon and Camiguin]
So, you see, Dahilayan Eco Adventure Park is not simply Cagayan de Oro’s favorite destination. While it’s conveniently accessible through CDO (and it makes sense to tag it together with CDO, just like BenCab and Baguio), it has become a favorite destination of thrill seekers from other parts of the Philippines and the world. No website or blog, not even a video, can capture the experience of Dahilayan Park. The only way is to visit it.