TAKING  BOHOL  TO  THE  EXTREME

MANILA, AUGUST 1, 2009
(PHILIPPINE STAR) By Nathalie M. Tomada - It’s a thrill seeker’s dream getaway. Danao used to be one of the lesser-known and least-visited areas in Bohol. Now, with its eco-adventure tourism park, Danao should be on its way to becoming one of the best-selling attractions of the island-province and, perhaps, in the whole of Central Visayas.

Branded as E.A.T. Danao (Eco-Extreme-Educational Adventure Tour Danao), the Danao Adventure Park – located 72 kilometers away from the provincial capital of Tagbilaran – features a wide selection of activities for guests either looking for a smooth initiation into adventure tourism or a wild adrenalin rush.

During a recent familiarization tour courtesy of the Department of Tourism, I would have preferred to take things slow, going for activities classified under “leisure travel” – bird-watching, caving, organic farm visit, kayaking, rice field walk, village tour, among others. But if you have the DOT secretary Ace Durano as the leader of the pack, playing eager tourist to the hilt and seizing each extreme adventure opportunity presented, the invitation for some high-energy action is just too hard to ignore.

Being a newcomer to this whole extreme adventure thing, I was reassured by the staff – who trained for months on how to ensure the safety and security of guests – that there’s a matching activity for every level of risk tolerance.

So first off, I joined a group of six who sampled the sky ride. It had us comfortably ensconced in a cable car that took us – leisurely – across two verdant hills and the flowing waters of the Wahig-Inabanga River.

Then, the challenge to traverse the same direction – this time, gliding through the 1.5 kilometer-long cable wire in acceleration (think Superman!) – beckoned. If it’s any consolation, you’re given the choice of going solo or in tandem. As for me, I decided on sharing my first time with a more anxious friend.

After some vacillation, we finally mustered up the guts to pull off this “stunt,” thanks to some elderly locals who egged us on – perhaps shamed us might be more accurate – in the vernacular, “Kaya na ninyo! Nakaya gani namo! (You can do it! Even we did it!).”

So off we went, committing “suislide”… and survived to tell the tale. There’s no other adjective to describe it but “breathtaking,” and I’m referring to both the high-speed ride and the stunning sights below (make that way, way below.)

Apart from the suislide or zip line, other heart-pumping activities include river trekking, river tubing, root climbing, rappelling, bouldering, and the plunge. The latter is a canyon swing facility that will drop a harness-strapped “you” 30 meters down before getting swayed like a pendulum this way and that. For those hankering for an advanced state of exhilaration, fret not: the park will soon introduce bungee-jumping. Thank goodness it was not yet ready when we were there.

There are also cottages and tents for rent because as it is, a day is not enough to enjoy all of the activities.

More than just experiential, E.A.T Danao also incorporates the educational, as guides will teach you about the surroundings and the communities that inhabit them – from watersheds, forest preservation, to history. Danao, after all, is the hometown of the Bol-anon hero Francisco Dagohoy, who launched the country’s longest revolt against the Spaniards.

Danao townsfolk used to depend on agriculture as the main source of livelihood. Now, the municipality is getting a boost from the tourism revenues.

According to Danao Mayor Tom Gonzaga, after investing P25 million in the 60-hectare property situated in the mountainous area of Magtangtang, Danao, the adventure park – co-managed by the LGU and different people’s organizations – has been earning P1 million a month since January. The bulk of that income stems from domestic tourism. “We have not earned and seen this much money before,” Mayor Gonzaga happily noted.

It has also generated employment for more than 50 locals, and probably more, as the eco-lodges and campsite are completed.

Sec. Durano said that if there’s one good lesson to glean from the example set by Danao, it is that a successful tourism project can emerge from local stimuli. “There’s high exponential success rate if a project is initiated by an LGU.”

DOT, according to Durano, only gave P200,000 to Danao and trained the local guides. “We know a project is successful when we are no longer needed,” Durano said.

Danao, on the other hand, tapped the World Bank for funding, at the same time received assistance from the provincial government, among others. Durano said, “With the right leadership, development planning, and implementation, a local government unit will be able to attract funding and create new sources of income for its people.”

The presence of the adventure tourism park also goes to show that Bohol isn’t running out of ideas on how to pep up conventional travel itineraries to this destination. Bohol is not just about the Chocolate Hills, the Loboc River, or the Panglao beaches.

But who would have thought such a remote municipality would make it to the must-see list?

According to Bohol Rep. Edgar Chatto, “The Danao I remember was a sleepy town. Nobody really visited this place. But the adventure park will radically change the identity of Danao. This will not only promote Danao but also Bohol.”

The tourism chief, who particularly noted that Danao was not even within the radar of DOT before, added, “Danao is a 4th class municipality with first-class leadership and a first-class tourism experience.”

Danao Adventure Park is a fitting venture because adventure tourism is an increasingly patronized global offering. Durano said that nature-based and environment-sensitive activities are more in demand now among foreign travelers.

He encouraged LGUs to cater to this concept, just like what Danao did. “Eco-adventure tourism is our niche, given the natural and cultural assets of our country. Let’s not try to be what we are not.”

For tour packages and other information, visit eatdanao.com.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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