Have you done a hop-on, hop-off tour in other countries where major cities and tourist haunts provide a “one-day” city tour? Have you ever done this in the country? We wanted to explore Mount Kanlaon, and our friend Nicky took us on a day trip like no other. The common denominator: COFFEE, of course.
We started our drive from Bacolod to the next town called Murcia. Here we met a Barangay Captain named Lordy Espinosa and her husband, Abraham or “Bobot.” The Espinosas are coffee millers in Brgy. Mailum, a town near the foothills of Mt. Canla-on or Kanlaon. Lordy is a phenomenon having survived a major aneurysm, stayed in ICU for 16 days and soon after, ran in the local elections and won. She will soon join our International Women’s Coffee Alliance as a member.
After having coffee with the Espinosas we drive towards Lunao, where we are met on the roadside by our hosts, Jim and Jorge Milabo, friends of the Philippine Coffee Board who documented our Bohol, Tupi and Iloilo trips last year. I get a surprise bouquet of roses and asters, grown on the mountainside of Kanlaon. What a surprise!
Next stop was the PNOC/EDC viewpoint at 800 meters above sea level where you see what Nature has provided us—lots of forest, lots of potential areas for coffee planting.
We take in the fresh mountain air and get a bird’s eye view of places we will soon explore on this road trip around the western side of the majestic mountain.
For our most-awaited brunch we head to the coffee demo farm of Jim Milabo, where we are served a feast of Bacolod chorizo, scrambled eggs from free range eggs, Manapla puto (rice cake), boiled freshly-harvested sweet corn, fried rice and local favorites piaya, pinasugbo and sweet peanut candy called bandi. More than the meal, however, what excited us is the actual tree pruning session we participated in. Jim has become the local expert in propagating coffee trees that have higher yields or have the potential to yield much more than our usual trees.
On the beautiful road network around Kanlaon, save for a few meters here and there of dirt road, we visit the Milabos’ other farm called Hagdan (stairs), this time where we can plant coffee under forest cover.
We soak in the natural flora and enjoy the cool breeze even at almost 700 meters above sea level.
Were we ready for more coffee farms? We sure were.
The next stop is Hacienda Salamanca, a property with of 300 hectares of sugar lands and a hundred hectares of coffee trees growing under the shade of Acacia. We were met by Benson who showed us their wet coffee mill and took us on a tour of the forest. Here, they line up a rope where fruit bats (with wingspans of two meters!) are caught at night and these mammals end up being caught for stealing lanzones (up to two kilos per tree), coffee and other sweet berries. That’s Nature.
We have been in our SUV for almost eight hours now except getting off at these important coffee stops in between. But you realize there is just so much to see around the foothills of Kanlaon. There are upland rice terraces, so green and lush. There are rose gardens with extra artificial lights put on at sunset to “extend” the reach of the flowers into the heavens, simulating longer sunlight just like in Ecuador.
This is why we are able get long-stemmed roses, I was told by Jim, our flower expert. This despite shorter days during the winter solstice.
Jeannie Javelosa, another Bacolod native but who was raised in Manila, felt so connected to her roots as we drove along the western side of the majestic mountain. We pass Bago River and finally we end our day winding down at a lodge in Bago City, Nicky’s and Jeannie’s hometown.
The feeling is exhilarating—to be able to commune with Nature while attending to our coffee advocacies and projects. And the trip had just started. I realize that “there is just so much country to see” I tell Jeannie as we now sip a glass of wine served with homemade Fabada, Tomato Rice and yes, some Tenderloin steaks, freshly marinated to be Steak ala Pobre.
The next day, we head to Salvador Benedicto to continue our quest for the best of Kanlaon.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org