To many visitors, Bukidnon is just a side trip to Cagayan de Oro.
This should not be the case, as this third largest province in land size in the Philippines offers the sweetest pineapple in the country, the second highest mountain (Mount Dulang-Dulang), several beautiful lakes and waterfalls, and is home to four major tribes of Central Mindanao.
A visit to the its northernmost town of Manolo Fortich will give visitors to sample what the province can offer.
Monolo Fortich is the northern gateway to the province. It is about an hour and a half from the Lagindingao Airport and 45 minutes from Cagayan de Oro. The entrance to the town is marked by a winding road that climbs up to the province. Bukidnon lives up to its name. It means “highlander” or “mountain dweller.”
A young migrant born in San Nicolas, Cebu, in 1879 came to Mindanao at the start of the 1900s as a young Philippine Constabulary officer. He distinguished himself in suppressing brigandage in Misamis. His name was Manuel “Manolo” Fortich. He moved to Bukidnon and he rose to become a vice governor, and finally a governor in 1914.
The American company Del Monte opened its first pineapple plantation in Asia in 1926 in Bukidnon. This was the 5,000 hectare plantation called Camp Phillips located in Barangay Agusan Canyon, in Maluko town.
In 1957, the municipality of Maluko was renamed Manolo Fortich in honor of the pioneering governor of Bukidnon.
How to get there
The gateway to Manolo Fortich is the Laguindingan Airport, which most people refer to as Cagayan de Oro airport, but it is not. It is actually located in Barangay Moog, Municipality of Laguindingan, Province of Misamis Oriental. The airport is 46 kilometers from Cagayan de Oro.
There are several daily flights from Manila to Laguindingan. From Laguindingan, take a Magnum Van (Fare: P199) going to Agora Market Terminal.
From Agora, there are many ways going to Manolo Fortich. Buses going to Malaybalay make a brief stop. Those going to Camp Phillips can take a direct van going there. From there, “habal-habal” can be rented to explore other destinations. But for those going to Dahilayan directly, there’s a Magnum Express Van (Fare: P249) that leaves Cagayan de Oro daily at 8:30 a.m.
What to see, what to do
Dominating the Manolo Fortich landscape is the Philippines’ fourth highest mountain, the Mount Kitanglad. At 2,899 feet, it offers visitors a magnificent view of the Manolo Fortich and the rest of Northern Mindanao area. Jump-off point is located in the town of Impasug-ong, though, and climbers are required to attend ritual sacrifice by the Talaandig tribesfolk.
Another way to enjoy adventure in Manolo Fortich is to visit the forest park at the foot of Mount Kitanglad. The Dahilayan Forest Park offers attractions and activities like zip lines, monkey tree challenge, zorb balls, bungee bounce, barrel train and mini-golf.
But for serious golfer, there’s the Del Monte Golf Course. This Golf Course and Country Club was built in 1928 inside the enormous Del Monte Plantation. It’s beautiful setting with man-made lakes, pine trees and greens are the best features of the course. There’s also the club house restaurant where the best-seller is the tender steak coming from pineapple-fed cows.
It is also worth exploring the pineapple plantation of Del Monte. It is so big that several hectares of pineapples are harvested every day to meet the global demand for the sweet and juicy Philippine variety. Visitors usually have their photos taken at the plantation or at the giant pineapple at the entrance of Camp Phillips. Visit also the Camp Phillips souvenir shop for fresh pineapples, bananas and coffee. The camp has rows of American houses and buildings dating back from the 1930s.
The Mangima Canyon located along the Sayre Highway has winding roads that the locals dubbed as the Kennon Road of the South. It offers not only a breath-taking view of the mountain ranges of Bukidnon but also of the cityscape of Cagayan de Oro.
Lastly, a visit to Manolo Fortich is not complete without visiting the farms, and there’s plenty of them there. All Farms in San Gabriel is an 18-hectare flower farm devoted to local and imported ornamental plants. The RPA Ventures in Diclum has cut-flower production of anthuriums. Magic Farms in Mabatangan produces fruits like bananas and grapes. Acosta Farms in San Miguel has several varieties of fruits like durian, marang and rambutan.
Where to stay, what to eat
Because of its proximity to Cagayan de Oro, most visitors usually prefer to stay there to enjoy the night life. But for those who wish to relax in a cool mountain air, Dahilayan Forest Park and Resort has several family rooms for rent. Rooms cost between P3,000 and P6,000. There are also alternative lodgings outside the resort being offered for almost half of the resort rates.
In Camp Phillips, Tompong Residence offers basic homestay for those who wish to explore the attractions inside the camp.
For dining, the Club House at Del Monte Golf Course and Country Club serves the famous highlander steak. A complete course of soup, salad, steak with rice and unlimited glasses of fresh pineapple costs around P1,000. But the taste of tender, juicy beef from pineapple-fed cows is enough to forget about diet.
In Dahilayan Forest Park, guests can order freshly-baked cinnamon bread and “ensaymada” at surprisingly very affordable prices, and wash them with local mountain coffee. The shop inside the resort also sells fresh fruits and vegetables. Outside the resort, there are vendors who sell freshly-steamed white corn for P50 per bag.
The visit to Manolo Fortich is not complete without trying the Del Monte pineapple fresh out of the farms. Nothing taste as good as their freshly-picked pineapples. It makes one ask for more, and see more of this awesome province of Bukidnon.