A Look-over from Gawahon
// January 7th, 2009 // Travels
One’s destination is never a place
but rather a new way of looking at things.
US author (1891 – 1980)
Gawahon Eco-Park is a relatively new area for rest and recreation and preserved as a public property in Victorias City, Negros Occidental. Gawahon is a component of Barangay XI in the city that is notable for being the site of Victorias Milling Company (VMC). VMC is the Philippine’s largest sugar refinery sitting on a 7,000 hectare compound, making it the world’s largest integrated sugar mill. When Gawahon Eco-Park opened some three years ago, a friend (whose brother headed the development of the area) had invited me to visit the site. It was only last Dec. 29, 2008 that I was finally able to give in to her request.
It takes an hour to travel by bus from Bacolod City to Victorias City and another hour from the latter’s city proper to Gawahon by motorcycle (locally called “habal-habal“).
Gawahon is actually a Hiligaynon term which means “to look-over from a high area”. In the olden days when houses were raised from the ground and were made of bamboo and nipa, “gawahon” would mean “to look-over from the window or door”. Indeed the name aptly suits this park since it is situated in a strategic spot in the high hills of Barangay XI offering an overview of the lower plains and the city. The site also features 7 waterfalls which I was not able to visit. The first waterfall is about an hour hike from the main area of the park. My short stay there did not warrant such walk.
This is the entrance to the park.
The accommodation facilities are concentrated around a large pond. There are many duplex houses surrounding the pond and there are huts made of bamboo and cogon under the eucalyptus trees.
The most prominent among the facilities surrounding the pond is the viewing deck wherein one could see the plains with the small artificial lake in the foreground.
There are limes and some fern trees in the area.
This was what really attracted my curiosity. This inedible banana specie with red and “hairy” peels is cultivated for ornamental purposes. Unfortunately, I don’t know its classification aside from knowing that it is from the genus Musa.
On top of the slope where the viewing deck is situated are two small adjacent swimming pools separated by a structure with rafters. There are some signs of ongoing construction in this area.
In this view facing southeast, one can see the mountains.
Moving to the opposite side and facing northwest, one can see the plains. This is my favorite shot.
Opportunities for Improvement
If Victorias City really wants to move the bar for its ecotourism program, then it should start with essential improvements for Gawahon. The concrete roads leading to its mountainous barangays are far from completion. The fee collection in the park is ambiguous: no receipts are being automatically issued. For visitors, I suggest that fees be made in the finance office in their city hall to ensure that the money goes to the rightful hands, otherwise insist for an official receipt.
The maintenance of the place is quite poor. Three years after it opened, some huts are already unusable. In spite of the brownish water of the pond, trashes are visible in its bottom. Some remnants of destroyed properties are just being left to rot.
These used to be swans, now they are ugly ducklings.
It would also be good if the activity areas would be immediately cleaned. It was December 29 when I went there yet I could still see the rubbish of the visitors who held their party in the viewing deck on December 20.
The pools were also verging on dark green due to “chlorophyllic” abundance. The views there were great but taking a bath is a different story.
Not Just the Destination
Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. For my trip to Gawahon, I opted to take the motorcycle ride. I find it convenient because I can always ask the driver to stop by the roadside for me to take pictures. And I did take pictures along the way despite of the impending storm that threatened our way in the return trip to the city proper.
I was fortunate that the driver (named Junjun) was very accommodating and he was as enthusiastic as I was with the sceneries. So for those who would like to have a road trip to Gawahon via habal-habal, you may contact him through his mobile phone: 09292214665.
With the not-so-good things I have seen, I still think that Gawahon and the road trip were well worth my time and resources. The verdures were very refreshing. And Gawahon is indeed true to its name: it provides a beautiful look-over.