CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — When visiting Misamis Oriental, take time to check out a new eco-tourism site in the town of Initao, about an hour’s travel west of this city.
Dubbed by the provincial government as Lasang or forest, this new attraction opened only last week provides travelers to Northern Mindanao another option from the usual tourism spots of the region or at the island province of Camiguin.
Among Lasang’s current attractions is a treetop boardwalk as well as zip-line popular among adventure seeking travelers.
Misamis Oriental governor Oscar S. Moreno said that Lasang is hard to miss.
“As visitors pass through the national highway in Initao and Libertad towns, they will recognize the site since the area is thickly forested,” he said.
Lasang is part of the Initao National Park, which has old trees and caves that are preserved and protected by the local government and environmentalists alike. The place is accessible via public transport but using rented vehicles, especially for a group or a family, might be more convenient.
The site covers portions of the towns of Initao and Libertad and can be reached through Initao’s Tubigan and Libertad’s Gimaylayan districts. It is situated opposite the Initao-Libertad Protected Landscape and Seascape, which is often visited by conservationists as well as adventure seekers.
“The Lasang project started last year in coordination with the provincial government and with the assistance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” said Dorothy Jean B. Pabayo, former Department of Tourism (DoT) director for Northern Mindanao.
The structures for tourists and visitors was the first stage in the development plan jointly drafted by a multi-sectoral group led by the provincial government.
The Lasang project initially spent P3 million from the provincial government, a lesson for other local government units that a huge amount of money may not be necessary to develop an idle area into a revenue earner.
“The zip-line is already in place. There are now five hanging bridges, aside from the 100-meter board and 80-foot spiral staircase,” Ms. Pabayo said.
Aside from the old trees, the boardwalk and adventure facilities, there is more to see, said wildlife enforcement officer Eddie V. Macasusi.
“There have been sightings of tarsiers in the forest since 1987 and there could be about 20 of them in our area,” he said.
The tarsier, considered the world’s smallest monkey, is mainly found in the province of Bohol and in the provinces of southern Mindanao although sightings have been reported in many parts of the island over the years.
Since the tarsiers are nocturnal creatures, other species are more visible, said Mr. Macasusi.
“What we usually see are the long-tail macaques (monkeys) and there are hundreds of them here,” he added.
There is even a monkey named Rosalinda — named after the character in the popular telenovela — that greets visitors at the entrance.
Mr. Macasusi said the forests in Initao National Park are also home to rarely seen animals or endangered animal species like monitor lizards, seal-fin lizards, flying lemurs, and dark-brown fowl known as megapodes.
Located beside Lasang is the Initao-Libertad Protected Landscape and Seascape, with its 57 hectares of limestone forests and 1,368 hectares of marine waters. Some limestone cliffs within the protected area are favorites of adventurous divers although this could be risky without guidance from professionals and local familiar with the area.
The area also has about 30 caves, with four currently accessible to visitors. Spelunkers can reach most of the caves’ inner chambers where they can marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites.