|A refreshing dip at Agko Mahomanoy Mountain Resort on the slopes of Mt. Apo in Kidapawan City|
After spending the night in the Islamic City of Marawi, I headed south – via Cotabato City – to Kidapawan City in North Cotabato, traveling overland for around seven hours. The city gets its name from the Manobo words tida which means “spring”, and pawan meaning “highland”. Located between the cities of Davao and Cotabato, it sits on the fertile shoulders of Mt. Apo – the tallest peak in the Philippines – where hot and cold springs emerge.
From the main highway in the city center, I hired a habal-habal (motorbike) to the shoulder of Mt. Apo – the tallest peak in the Philippines – to the hot spring resorts of Lake Agco. As we steadily ascend the mountain the tropical foliage turns to pine and tree ferns. Halfway to the resort, my driver showed me an hot spring, just off the access road. Steam rose out a ravine with boiling pits of mud. The earth was stained yellow and orange with the crystallized sulphur. Here, we came across two mountaineers who just descended the summit after a three day climb. The area is a popular jump-off point to various trails around the mountain. They were forming trail markers with stones to guide the rest of the team that got left behind.
|The boiling mud of Lake Agco feeds nearby resorts with hot spring water|
A small cluster of mountain resorts source hot spring water from Lake Agco, which is part of the Mt. Apo Natural Park. The entrance to the resorts are surrounded by souvenir stalls and fruit stands. From here, the large steaming, muddy lake can be visited through a small dirt path. The most popular resort is Agko Mahomanoy Mountain Resort with its large swimming pool surrounded by cottages. The water was chilly, but fed by warm water sourced from the nearby hot springs. The hikers we met earlier arrived, culminating their climb with a refreshing swim in the pool. This highland retreat definitely makes for relaxing reward after exploring Mt. Apo.
|A mountaineer descending Mt. Apo|
HOW TO GET THERE: Kidapawan can be reached by bus or van from Davao or Cotabato. From the Kaosa Terminal along the highway, take a motorbike to Lake Agco (45 minutes, PHP 85 per person). A motorbike can accommodate four people, including the driver, so if you’re traveling solo, you’ll have to wait for other passengers. I didn’t want to waste any time, so I negotiated a return trip for PHP 300.
WHERE TO STAY: There are budget options in town; but, since there was nothing else to do in the city center, I decided to splurge a little by checking in at a midrange accommodation with a nice swimming pool with water slides. Conveniently located near the Grand Ficus Plaza Hotel has great cottage-style duplex rooms starting at PHP 1,280. Address: Ninoy Aquino Avenue, Barangay Lanao – Kidapawan City. Tel no: +63 64 2783192 or +63 64 2783308.
For cheap sleeps closer to nature, one can spend the night at Lake Agco. Agko Mahomanoy Mountain Resort (Contact no: +63 9063530583) has double rooms at PHP 300. Prepare for really cold weather, especially in the morning.