The town of Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon is renowned for the Del Monte plantation, but there’s more to this upland town than its pineapples.
Named in honor of Don Manolo Fortich, a resident of Barrio Damilag and the first Governor (1902-1914) of the District of Bukidnon, the town was originally known as Maluko. Manolo Fortich is famous in World War II history for the Del Monte airfield where United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) commander General Douglas MacArthur and Philippine Commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon escaped in March 1942 to Australia aboard B-17 bombers.
Somewhere in time
“Besides Del Monte Airfield, the town has other places and artifacts that witnessed World War II such as the 1930s vintage artesian well where US soldiers drew water, the Mangima Heroes shrine overlooking the Mangima Old Bridge where the local guerrillas led by Capt. Ramon M. Onahon ambushed a Japanese Army column, and the Japanese gravestone dedicated to the Kaji Battalion dated May 8, 1942,” says Gina Cuerdo-Amador, a resident tour guide who runs LA Montana Tours and Vans.
In the town’s poblacion at Barangay Tankulan is the old municipal building built in 1926 which served as the center of the town’s activities until 2006.
In this same area is the MF Town Plaza with its many attractions like the aforementioned vintage artesian well and Japanese gravestone marker, and the new Municipal Building and Gymnasium.
By the way, when you stop at the Colex Center, try Riley’s home-made Durian Ice Cream which tastes exactly like its famous moniker!
However, Manolo Fortich is better with younger tourists for the Paras siblings’s tourist oriented enterprises at Barangay Dahilayan.
Dahilayan Adventure Park with the longest dual zipline in Asia, adrenalin-inducing rides (Dropzone, Python Zip, Sky Jump, Flying Lizard, Ropes Course, Mountain Racer), and Swiss-Chalet themed Pinegrove Mountain Lodge;
Dahilayan Forest Park Resort (with instagrammable corners and unique rides like the Luge, River Bump, Hanging Bridge, Rainbow Slide, Treetop Adventure, ATV and Horseback Rides),
the western-themed Saddle Ridge Camp, and Dahilayan Gardens and Resort.
The Land Before Time
Besides its historical, cultural and adventure attractions, Manolo Fortich is also blessed with an abundance of natural attractions.
Kahulugan Falls and nearby Pines Tavern in Barangay Lindaban; The Stone House and Tuminugan Farm in Barangays Kalugmanan , that was grazing land fifty years ago but is now a flourishing homestead where one can learn about nature and climate change, and how to overcome its adverse effects – one tree at a time.
Nearby is St. Joseph View Deck, Bgy. Tankulan; Sumalsag Cave (great for spelunking!) and Tagoloan Canyon in Bgy. Sto. Nino, which offers a breathtaking view of the Tagoloan River weaving its way around the ends of the Bukidnon plateaus towards the sea and definitely worth the long, rough drive to get there.
Another scenic spot is Lawis Canyon in Barangay Lunocan where a sturdy view deck offers an equally awesome view of Tagoloan River’s river delta and two waterfalls.
But perhaps most popular is the Mangima Canyon where the Sayre Highway cuts right through its middle, which Becoming Filipino vlogger Kyle Jennerman calls “The Grand Canyon of the Philippines” with gorges and cliffs as deep and high as 420 meters.
Now dubbed Mangima Resort & Bike Park, it hosts a series of annual sporting events.
One A Clear Day You Can See Forever
However, for those who prefer to have a windshield tour, try the Manolo Fortich Main Loop Day Tour championed by La Montaña Tours & Vans.
It starts in Barangay Alae with one of the town’s iconic brands, at SLERS Country Store (pasalubong shop) Zone 4 Batingtingan, along the Manolo Fortich – Libona – Indahag Road, featuring the SLERS Christmas ham, a famous pasalubong item from Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro.
Nearby is Lamplighter Café which started as a showcase for coffee making machines being marketed by the owner, but now offers a full restaurant menu.
Barangay Damilag’s 14-15 Café, named after the birthdates of the owners’ children, is the go-to coffee shop/tea house/waiting area for parents and guardians of students from Lighthouse Academy Montessori next door.
Damilag’s first convenience store and full-service hotel, BCC Mart and Hotel has eight (8) rooms that cater to couples and small family groups.
Guests who prefer a more personal touch, Cherry Blossoms Café and Homestay is just a few meters from the main road, and run by a beautiful lady who doesn’t look a day over 50, who decided to take the plunge and turn her and her sister’s houses into rooms for rent.
Next stop is Camp Phillips in Barangay Agusan Canyon. Known as Packing or Campo Dose to long-time residents, it’s the main employees’ quarters of Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI), (formerly Philippine Packing Corporation) with quaint bungalows reminiscent of a typical American suburb.
All around Camp Phillips is the Del Monte pineapple plantation, one of the largest in the world and the biggest in the Far East marketing canned pineapple fruit, juice, and other products worldwide.
Further on in Bgy. Sto. Niño is Kampo Juan Eco-Adventure Park, and The Heritage House, transferred from Luzon and packed with a lifetime of collectibles and memorabilia of the Acosta family. Not a museum, but sure feels like one.
Barangay San Miguel’s most famous attraction is of course the Del Monte Golf Club. The third-oldest golf course in the Philippines, it was built as a recreational club for the first American managers of Philippine Packing Corporation, now DMPI.
The first nine holes, now designated the back nine, were designed and built by Peter Crawford (a famous basketball player) in 1928. The other nine holes, now designated the front nine, were designed post war by Celestino Tugot, the first Filipino pro-golfer, who honed his swings and earned his handicap here.
Nearby is the Tugot Church, also known as the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine, also built by Mr. Tugot, in celebration of his rise to fame, a mere driver and iron away from his house.
The best time to visit is May 1st, now dubbed the Banog-Banog Aerial and Music Festival, Manolo Fortich’s premier festival that pays homage to the Philippine Eagle. Town officials have declared the municipality as the “The Philippine Eagle Sanctuary of Northern Mindanao.”