Tuesday, February 1, 2011

More than just bananas in Tagum

Bananas for export
Bananas for export
If you happen to visit Tagum City in Davao del Norte and you ask what Hijo Plantation is all about, the people would readily answer: “Bananas.”
But that was when the 2,200 hectares were still intact.Today, after the land was divided due to the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), only 760 hectares remain.Although there are still bananas planted all over the area, the management has ventured into something more creative and in vogue with the time – leisure and travel.
Kim Atienza, in search of the mythical snake called “banakon,” was captured by its beauty. “(It’s) a place where you can meditate and relax,” the television host said.
Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who had stayed in one of the rooms of Lanikai house, was equally captivated by its charm Television hunk Marc Nelson did kayaking at its beautiful Nabintad River.
A 15-minute ride from the heart of Tagum City, the place is nestled along the coastline of barangay Madaum. Here, you can talk with nature, breathe fresh air to your heart’s desire, and leave footprints on the sand.
“We want people to experience the past and the present,” says Roberto C. Solitaria, the director for special projects. “We have retained those from the past that can still be enjoyed today. We have added amenities that would make the visit more memorable.”
The first stopover should be Lanikai, an airy two-storey house designed in plantation-style elegance.It sits near the beach and is surrounded by tall spreading trees. The place is so quiet that you can only hear the breeze and the sound of the waves. If you’re wondering what Lanikai is, it is a Hawaiian word for “heaven by the sea.”
Jojie Alcantara, Sun Star Davao columnist who has visited the place several times, rhapsodized: “(It) has a setting that I can only describe as old worldly and homey in atmosphere. It’s like I went home to the house of my grandparents for a vacation.”
“It is the world’s only beach inside a banana plantation,” says John Irene P. del Campo, who toured us during our recent visit.  Aside from its 4.5-kilometer coastline, it also has a playground for children and a beautiful place called The Spot, where visitors and guests can go fishing.
There are also water activities like kayaking, banana boat riding, beach volleyball, and water trampoline. On land, you can walk under the coconut trees, read thought-provoking books or listen to your favorite songs. You can also do biking and horseback riding. “We have everything for everyone: adults, teenagers, and children,” Del Campo points out.
For those who want to stay for the night, Banana Beach has several casitas. One or two mattresses are provided along with a mosquito net for protection. If you want privacy, there are wooden blinds that can be unrolled.
Not far from the beach is the 60-hectare second-growth forest. “This is one of the remaining forests in Tagum City or even the entire province of Davao del Norte,” Del Campo says.The forest is home to herons, egrets and other birds.Monkeys and wild pigs abound.One way of enjoying the forest is through its Twilight Safari, which starts at 6:00 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.Guests stay at the edge of the forest and wait for the animals to come out and forage.
Its newest forest attraction is the elevated walk or e-walk.Actually, it is a series of several hanging bridges. Each hanging bridge is about 22-25 meters From the ground, the elevation is about 15 feet.While walking on top of the e-walk, you can see various forms of organisms and plants.If you’re lucky, you can see various species of birds
Another unique tour the management offers is the mangrove forest tour at Nabintad River, about 3.5 kilometers long “Our mangroves, which are about 40 hectares, are just but few of the remaining patches in the country.In Palawan, you will see mangroves in their full glory In Mati, Davao Oriental, you will see several hectares of wetlands planted to mangroves.But ours is unique.Some people call it as virgin mangrove forest,” Del Campo says.
There is also an orchard tour, which is seasonal as it is dependent on the fruiting season.During the tour, guests can harvest their own fruits or enjoy a quiet picnic at Hijo’s private orchardFruit trees at the orchard include durian, mangosteen, pomelo, bananas, and other popular fruits.
Not to be missed is the banana plantation tour, where you can see how Cavendish bananas are prepared for export to various parts of the world. Actually, the tour is an overview of the field, research and port operations of the Hijo plantation.At the packing house, you can see how Cavendish bananas are prepared for export.
The different stages of the banana plant’s growth can be seen at the Research Center where you can view the tissue culture laboratory.The tour ends at the Hijo Port where visitors can see the final leg of the banana production and export process.At a drop of 13 meters, Hijo is the deepest port in Davao Gulf.
Hijo Plantation has a very colorful history.When Americans came, they bought the land and planted it to abaca for export. This was in the 1920s.Forty years later, the land was sold to Jose “Boy” Tuason, who planted it with bananas.In 1969, Tuason made the first banana shipment to Japan.

January 31, 2011, 1:40pm ( Manila Bulletin)

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