Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Taste of Nature at Initao-Libertad Protected Landscape and Seascape in Misamis Oriental, Philippines

The Initao-Libertad Protected Landscape and Seascape in Misamis Oriental, Philippines is a national park covering 1,300.78 hectares of land and sea areas which is administered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The land area is composed of 50.58 preserved forests and the adjacent sea area is 1,250.28 hectares of pristine water. The land area is also known as Initao National Park or simply “lasang” which means forest in English.                                                                                                      

Molave (tugas) trunk
Lasang is traversed by a two-lane national highway that connects the two capital cities of Iligan to the west and Cagayan de Oro to the east. The road also divides the small-area protected forest into northern and southern parts. Lasang is an ideal retreat for people who want a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city to commune with nature. It is also a venue for the study of flora and fauna in a forested environment. The northern part of the forest has concreted pathways within it which make it easier for visitors to stroll around the area to see big, old trees as well as the birds and other wild animals. The southern part of the forest is denser with trees and plants and has no pathways. Visitors can have a trek in that part of the forest with a company of a guide who will lead them to the trees, plants and other things that are worth seeing.                                                                            

The forest or the protected landscape is a home for several species of hard-wood trees. Many of them have become endangered so that cutting them down for lumber is strictly prohibited by the government. Molave which is called “tugas” by the locals is one of the species of hard wood trees that abound in the forest. There are also balete trees which are believed by the superstitious locals to be abodes of fairies and other spirits. Other species of trees include talisay gubat, bugo, kamagong and other trees. There are also vines and wild plants.          

Wild animals have made the forest their habitat. There are macaque monkeys, tarsier, flying lemurs (kagwang), seal fin lizard (ibid), monitor lizard (palaos), and other wild animals.   The tarsiers were introduced to the forest from Bohol. Tarsiers however are difficult to see during the day because they are nocturnal. In some days the monkey will show up near the highway to look for food. They are not seen in other days when they wander in other parts of the forest in search of foods.  Different species of birds such as native pigeons, native doves, serpent eagles, megapodes and others are found in the forest. Because of it the place is ideal for watching birds.

In the northern part of the forest, rocks below the land surface are carbonate and limestone that have been dissolved by rain and ground water that over the years created underground voids that become caves and sinkholes.  A short cave has an exit to the sea or an entrance from it. Of the many limestone caves only four are accessible. It would be a great experience for visitors to go caving or spelunking with a help of a guide to see the inside of the caves.  And it would be better for them to bring along a flashlight because it is very dark inside.      

The northern edge of the forest is bounded by the sea. Most of it is limestone cliff that is overlooking a beautiful sea.  Although the water is clear, the place is not suitable for picnic because right below the cliffs is already the sea where there are submerged corals and coral reefs, and there is no shore to rest on. But some spots along the cliff where the water below is deep are diving points. Good swimmers can dive in the water and do other activity such as snorkeling.  The sea by the forest is teemed with fish such as sardines, sea catfish, flying fish, Indian mackerel and others.

An added attraction at Initao National Park is the Misamis Oriental administered Lasang Secret Adventure Park. Its treats include the board walk, the 80-foot Spiral Staircase, the five hanging bridges for the canopy walk, and the 120-meter zip line. The descent to the ground with the zip line ride is the final part of the adventure. Along the road at the adventure park is the Lasang Restaurant and coffee Shop where visitors can dine with sumptuous foods or drink coffee after their activities in the forest or the adventure park.  The provincial government is planning to construct an eco-lodge near the restaurant to cater to the billeting needs of tourists and visitors in the future especially when the Laguindingan International Airport will be opened.

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