While you won't find any beach here, Bukidnon exudes an irresistible raw appeal that you'll quickly forget about its lack of sand and sea. This bountiful province in Mindanao is teeming with spectacular peaks adorned by pine trees-strewn jungles plummeting into dense pineapple plantations and cornfields.
Bukidnon’s main settlement, Malaybalay, is pretty easy to navigate. Its commercial center also houses most of the city’s attractions. The golden monument called Ereccion del Pueblo (creation of the town) at Rizal Park depicts the 1877 agreement between the Spanish colonizers and the local leaders. Also check out the Roxas Monument in Casisang south of Malaybalay honoring the late Manuel Roxas, the Philippine’s first president of the independent Third Republic. Other historic monuments found in the city are World War II Prisoners of War Memorial Shrine and the Dalwangan Centennial Marker.
While in Bukidnon, start the day by climbing the Two Trees Mountain of Bukidnon Provincial Tree Park. This is a popular trekking destination for students and locals. The trail via Gawad Kalinga Village is quite easy, even non-climbers won’t have a hard time reaching the top. The summit offers a majestic view of the farmlands of Sitio Tigbawan of Barangay Can-ayan at the eastern side while on the west hikers will get a panoramic view of Malaybalay city. The 4th highest peak in the country – Mount Kitanglad is also clearly visible here. Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park is an ASEAN Heritage Park.
Stroll at the evergreen Kaamulan Nature Park, a place dotted with pine trees and native-inspired cottages that provides a leisurely highland ambience. The Bukidnon Provincial Capitol fronting the nature park is also worth checking.
A few minutes ride from the city is the Monastery of the Transfiguration in San Jose, home of the Benedictine monks. It has a pyramid-shaped church designed by the National Artist for Architecture, Leandro Locsin. This is the last project of the artist before he passed away. Staying at the monastery is also popular among visitors on retreat. An overnight stay here costs around Php 750, inclusive of food. If you’re pressed for time, you can just drop by and buy their famous products like Monk’s Blend Premium Coffee, Monk’s Peanut Butter, roasted peanut, peanut brittle and tablea. A Malaybalay also houses two other spiritual destinations: the Monastery of Carmelite Nuns and Jesuit Retreat House.
If you are looking for a place to dine with a scenic view, head to D’Stable Eco Resort (Quadra). This ranch offers affordable rooms for tourists. They also offer short or day-long horse rides. The place is dappled with charming nipa huts where visitors can dine. D’Stable Eco Resort also serve delicious and reasonably-priced dishes. But if you’re looking for a great picnic spot or if you’re itching to swim, local favorite Nasuli Spring in Bangcud, is ideal.
Bukidnon also boasts of having the sweetest pineapples, exported all over the world. The Lapanday Food Corporation has a pineapple farm near Malaybalay’s city center. They grow and pack pineapples under the brands –“Estrella” and “Aloha” including the super-sweet line of Honey Pines. Bukidnon also houses the Del Monte Golf Course at Manolo Fortich. To commute here, take a bus bound to Cagayan de Oro, and drop off at the intersection going to this pineapple plantation. Must try is the famous steak at the Clubhouse.
Aside from its scenic view and relaxing atmosphere, Malaybalay is a perfect destination for budget travelers. Rooms are priced as low as Php 300 (twin sharing) and getting around the city will only cost P8 per ride on a motorcycle and P10 on a multi-cab to the Monastery of Transfiguration.
For souvenirs, take home the Malaybalay native product called hinabol. This woven fabric is made of abaca fibers and used for making house decors, fashion accessories, purses, blinds, flowers, placemats and bags. You can find hinabol fabrics at Nida’s Handicrafts, Malaybalay Choice Handicrafts, Zeta Trading and Valdez Handicrafts.
How to commute to Malaybalay:
Nearest airport and port to Malaybalay is located at Cagayan de Oro (CDO) city. From CDO, Malaybalay is roughly 2 1/2-3 hour ride. Take a bus bound to Valencia (Bukidnon) or Davao from Agora Terminal in CDO. Get off at Malaybalay Bus Terminal. Ride a motorela to take you to the city center.
Gael Hilotin is the author of The Pinay Solo Backpacker.