After more than two years of closure, Department of Tourism (DOT) finally decided to open the famous Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park (MVNP) to the public.
The reopening of the park-- famous for its calm, mirror-like lake and hundreds of wild ducks and other birds taking refuge in the area-- coincides with the 5th year of the legislation of the 341-hectare MVNP as a protected area.
“We have not rushed the reopening since the primary purpose is not to do business, but to preserve the natural wonders of Mahagnao. We have to make a lot of preparations,” MVNP protected area superintendent Crisostomo Badeo Jr. said in an interview.
Being the last of the seven protected areas in Eastern Visayas, authorities are taking extra measures to control the number of visits in the area in a specific period.
For now, only 150 visitors will be allowed daily after accomplishing a form downloadable through the MVNP Facebook page prior to their visit.
Department of Tourism Eastern Visayas Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes said the reopening is very timely since people want outdoor activities after years of movement restrictions.
“We always advocate for safe and fun tourism. It should be our way of life since this is the new normal,” Tiopes said.
Myrna Agustin, president of the MVNP ecotourism association, said they are currently offering two tour packages -- the Tanguile and Bulkan trails. The price per package, though pricey at P1,035 per person including the buffet meal, is worth every cent for the total experience.
The Tanguile Trail is named after the dipterocarp Tanguile trees dominant in the area which gives visitors the experience of what it is to “commune with nature and immerse in a forest atmosphere.”
The trail brings a sense of relaxation through the individual's five senses by seeing the forest surrounding, hearing the chirping birds and forest winds, touching the cold ground by walking barefoot, inhaling the wonder of blooms, and tasting the sweetness of young melastoma plant pods.
The trail ends at Malagsum Lake, one of three lakes of Mahagnao known for its green acidic water, a sanctuary to about 2,000 wild ducks of several species.
Near the lake also thrives a type of Bermuda grass that only grows in soil that is soaked in acidic lake water.
Bulkan, a local term for volcano, trail gives visitors a chance to see Philippine Macaque monkeys leaping from tree to tree while hiking through a dry stream bed.
Through this trail, one can reach the top of the inactive volcano overlooking two lakes of Mahagnao.
Along the way, tourists will find some sulfuric gems, but picking them up is strictly prohibited.
The biggest lake in Mahagnao village has a length of 15,590 meters and a surface area of about 16 hectares, ideal for boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddling.
Tourists will also discover the local cuisine through a buffet lunch of rice, native chicken cooked in coconut milk, local fish simmered in vinegar, fried local fish, mixed local vegetables, fried dried fish, camote (sweet potato roll), fruits, and coconut juice.
Mahagnao was proclaimed as a national park in 1937 with its different natural attractions -- a lake, falls, multi-colored mud, virgin forests, and a lagoon.
In 2018, the park has been proclaimed a protected area through legislation.
If the government and the locals would join hands in protecting what is left of our natural resources instead of putting personal interests, there could be a chance for our country to gradually recover what was destroyed in the past years.
It is about time that both local and national leaders remember that the environment is not a business they could just abandon once it's no longer useful.