CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The town of Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon is renowned for the vast Del Monte plantation, but there’s more to this upland town than its pineapples.
Named in honor of Don Manolo Fortich, who served as the first governor of Bukidnon from 1902-1914, the town was originally known as Maluko.
Manolo Fortich, the first Bukidnon town from eastern Cagayan de Oro, is famous in World War II history for the Del Monte airfield where United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) commander General Douglas MacArthur and Philippine Commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon escaped in March 1942 to Australia aboard B-17 bombers.
Aside from the Del Monte Airfield, the town has other places and artifacts that witnessed World War II, said tour guide Gina Cuerdo-Amador, who runs La Montana Tours and Vans.
The historic places include a 1930s vintage artesian well where US soldiers drew water during the war, the Mangima Heroes Shrine overlooking an old bridge where Filipino guerrillas led by Captain Ramon Onahon ambushed a Japanese Army column, and a May 8, 1942 Japanese gravestone dedicated to the Kaji Battalion.
In the village of Tankulan stands the 1926 municipal building which served as Manolo Fortich’s center of activities until 2006.
In this same area is the Manolo Fortich town plaza where the vintage artesian well and Japanese gravestone marker.
There, the local government built its new municipal building and gymnasium.
People who stop to gas up in the area often end up trying out the mouth-watering homemade durian ice cream at Riley’s.
Manolo Fortich is better known with younger tourists, especially the adrenaline junkies.
One of the Bukidnon town’s popular destinations is the village of Dahilayan where the Paras siblings established their successful tourism-oriented enterprises.
The Dahilayan Adventure Park, for one, boasts of having the longest dual zipline in all of Asia, and the certified adrenaline-inducing Dropzone (not for the faint-hearted, folks!), Python Zip, Sky Jump, Flying Lizard, Ropes Course, and Mountain Racer, among many others.
The Swiss Chalet-themed Pinegrove Mountain Lodge; the Dahilayan Forest Park Resort, which offers Instagrammable corners and unique rides like the Luge, River Bump, Hanging Bridge, Rainbow Slide, Treetop Adventure, ATV and Horseback Rides; the western-themed Saddle Ridge Camp; and Dahilayan Gardens and Resort all add to the ultimate eco-tourism adventure.
Besides its historical, cultural, and adventure attractions, Manolo Fortich is also blessed with an abundance of natural attractions like the Kahulugan Falls and the nearby Pines Tavern in Barangay Lindaban.
It also has The Stone House and Tuminugan Farm in Kalugmanan village which was a grazing land 50 years ago but is now a flourishing homestead where one can learn about nature and climate change, and how to overcome its adverse effects – one tree at a time.
Nearby is Saint Joseph View Deck, also in Tankulan, the Sumalsag Cave (which is great for spelunking!), and the Tagoloan Canyon in Barangay Santo Niño where travelers can have a breathtaking view of the Tagoloan River weaving its way around the ends of the Bukidnon plateaus toward the sea. Getting there is definitely worth the long and rough drive.
Another scenic spot in Manolo Fortich is Lawis Canyon in Barangay Lunocan where a sturdy view deck offers an equally awesome view of the same river delta and two waterfalls.
But perhaps the most popular is the Mangima Canyon where Bukidnon’s Sayre Highway cuts right through the middle. Now dubbed Mangima Resort and Bike Park, it hosts a series of annual sporting events.
Mindanao-based Canadian Kyle Jennerman, who is behind the popular vlog Becoming Filipino, christened Mangima as the “The Grand Canyon of the Philippines” given its gorges and cliffs that are as deep and high as 420 meters.
Brands and homestays
Those who prefer to have a windshield tour can try the Manolo Fortich Main Loop Day Tour being championed by La Montaña Tours and Vans.
The tour starts at SLERS Country Café in Barangay Alae which showcases one of Manolo Fortich and Cagayan de Oro’s iconic brands – the pasalubong item SLERS Christmas ham.
Another establishment, the Lamplighter Café, serves as a show window for coffee-making machines while offering a full restaurant menu.
Barangay Damilag’s 14-15 Café, named after the birthdates of the owners’ children, is the go-to coffee shop cum tea house, or waiting area for those waiting for parents or guardians of students coming from a school next door.
Damilag’s first convenience store and full-service hotel, BCC Mart and Hotel, has rooms that cater to couples and small families.
For those who prefer a more personal touch, Cherry Blossoms Café and Homestay is just a few meters from the main road. It is run by a lady who decided to take the plunge and turn her and her sister’s houses into rooms for rent.
Like an American suburb
The next stop is Camp Phillips in Barangay Agusan Canyon. Known as “Packing” or “Campo Dose” to long-time residents, it’s the main employees’ quarters of Del Monte Philippines Incorporated (DMPI). The community doesn’t look like it’s in the Philippines – it is characterized by quaint bungalows reminiscent of a typical American suburb.
All around Camp Phillips is the Del Monte pineapple plantation, one of the largest in the world and the biggest in the Far East. It is where the giant food processing company sources its canned pineapple fruit and juice, and other products distributed worldwide.
Further on in Santo Niño is the Kampo Juan Eco-Adventure Park, and The Heritage House, transferred from Luzon and packed with a lifetime of collectibles and memorabilia of the Acostas, one of Bukidnon’s political families. It’s not exactly a museum, but it sure feels like one.
Old golf course
In Barangay San Miguel, one of the town’s most famous attractions is, of course, the Del Monte Golf Club.
The third-oldest golf course in the Philippines, it was built as a recreational club for the first American managers of the Philippine Packing Corporation, now Del Monte.
The first nine holes, now designated the back nine, were designed and built by Peter Crawford, a famous basketball player, in 1928.
The other nine holes, now designated the front nine, were designed post-war by Celestino Tugot, the first Filipino pro-golfer, who honed his swings and earned his handicap in Manolo Fortich.
Nearby is the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine which was also built by Tugot near his home as his way of celebrating his rise to fame.
For fiesta revelers, the best time to visit Manolo Fortich is May 1, because of the Banog-Banog Festival to highlight its being “The Philippine Eagle Sanctuary of Northern Mindanao.” – Rappler.com
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