Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bonsai Forest

Bonsai Forest in Mount Hamiguitan

Bonsai is a widely popular and quite expensive pursuit of art form where specific species of trees suitable for bonsai development are meticulously cut and shaped to restrict its growth; with its crown defoliated, and root pruned, and grafted periodically to make them small and compact purposely to mimic the shape and style of mature, full-grown trees. It is an ancient art form that has become a tradition in Japan and other Asian countries. But, in the Philippines, particularly in Davao Oriental, Mindanao, Bonsai trees are naturally grown and shaped over time, untouched by human hands.

This unique wonder of nature can only be found in the lush forest of Mount Hamiguitan located within the boundaries of Mati, Governor Generoso, and San Isidro, Davao Oriental. Popularly known as "Bonsai Forest", it is the Philippines' largest and only protected forest noted for its unique bonsai field or 'pygmy' forest of outstanding universal value. It sits in an elevation of 5,345 feet above sea level, covering a sprawling area of almost a thousand hectares of 16 species of century-old bonsai trees of twisted trunks and branches that grow naturally to an average height of about 1.4 meters. The bonsai trees are very sturdy that one can literally stand over it without falling. Because of the rampant timber poaching, illegal logging, and over harvesting of forest products and resources, Mt. Hamiguitan and its vicinities was declared a protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary and its peripheral areas as buffer zone by virtue of Republic Act 9303 on July 30, 2004.

Mount Hamiguitan is a declared protected area

The entire Mount Hamiguitan covers a land area of about 31,000 hectares and is home to many endemic, rare, endangered and economically important flora and fauna, and is part of the reason why the Philippines ranks seventh among the 17 biologically rich countries of the world that represent fast disappearing habitats of globally important species of plants and animals. 

Mount Hamiguitan is considered ultramafic. It has a kind of soil that contains high level of heavy metallic compounds that makes it suitable for bonsai trees to grow naturally. Unlike other ultramafic forests in the Philippines, Mount Hamiguitan has several special and unique species of century old miniature trees. 

Bonsai Tree at the peak of Mount Hamiguitan 

Philippines' largest and only protected forest
noted for its unique bonsai forest of outstanding universal value

A typical form of a natural bonsai tree
about 1.4 meters tall, century old, twisted trunks and branches

Mossy-Pygmy forest

Hidden inside the thick bonsai forest are living trees that seem lifeless at a first glance due to its unusual branch structure and color. This plant community exists at the Mossy-Pygmy forest of Mount Hamiguitan.

This is one of the 10 amphibian species identified in Mount Hamiguitan
wherein seven of which are endemic to the Philippines

Nepenthes Peltata

Nepenthes Peltata is one of the three tropical pitcher plant species that can be found only in the upper slopes of Mount Hamiguitan. It is a plant species endemic only in the Philippines and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Full grown pitcher plant

Full grown orchid

Almaciga Bonsai Tree

Shown in above photograph is a full grown but waist-high Almaciga (Agathis philippinensis) bonsai tree which is already bearing fruit. Normally, Almaciga grows at a height of 15 meters or so at its natural habitat with a diameter cannot be embraced by two persons joining hands together. 

Tinagong Dagat atop Mount Hamiguitan

Tinagong Dagat (Hidden Sea) is situated a thousand feet above sea level, atop Mount Hamiguitan. The site is uninhabited and considered as one of the most puzzling phenomena of nature; a mysterious lake having high and low tide cycles as if a sea rises in the mountain - only in Mount Hamiguitan.

Unusual rock formation in Mount Hamiguitan

 Twin Falls

Twin Falls is an identical cascade of waters situated in Barangay La Union, near the Bonsai Forest. It is a popular stop-over to mountaineers and trekkers where they refresh after a stressful journey in and out of Mount Hamiguitan.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Central 911

This special post is dedicated to the men and women of Davao City Central 911 whose valor in the midst of disaster and life-threatening situations unselfishly risk their very own lives so that others may live, and to the Man behind it all, the Honorable Rodrigo R. Duterte.

"This is my commandment:
Love one another as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends"

John 15: 12-14

Davao City Central 911

The Davao City Central Communication and Emergency Response Center, or the Davao City Central 911 is the first of its kind emergency response system in the Philippines and in Asia, and the third in the world after the United States and Canada. It is the brainchild of no less than the then City Mayor of Davao City, now Vice Mayor, Honorable Rodrigo R. Duterte as part of his peace and order program for the people of Davao City.

Davao City Central 911 is a highly computerized, fully integrated emergency and rescue dispatch system that links the residents of Davao to the entire emergency resources of Davao City. It provides residents of Davao City immediate response to emergencies by simply dialing 911 on any land line or mobile phone. 

Patterned after the 911 system of the United States and Canada, Davao City Central 911 uses a modified version of its Geographic and Information System (GIS), called, the Emergency Computer Aided Dispatch (ECAD), a computerized mapping system that allows authorities locate the origin of a distress call and even tracks police response time to emergency calls. It utilizes GIS maps plotted with grid lines to triangulate location of the caller. It also captures stores and recalls data in an electronic database. The system uses color-coded icons which monitor movement and location of police mobile units: Blue for mobile units at rest; Red for on the move response, and Green for onsite.

Established in September 27, 2002, and in partnership with the Davao Light and Power Company, the Davao City Central 911 presently consists of fire auxiliaries, K-9 units, urban search and rescue teams, police and emergency medical services. The center operates 24/7 and is interconnected with telecommunications companies such as the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Bayantel, Globe, Smart, and Sun Cellular, to enable easy access via mobile phone.

911 Call Center

911 Call Center

The 911 Call Center answers emergency calls and logs the appropriate information on the ECAD system, and pinpoints the precise location of the emergency on the GIS maps projected on their computer screens. The information gathered is automatically sent to the dispatcher who  immediately deploys the appropriate responder nearest to the scene of emergency.

Urban Search and Rescue Unit

Urban Search and Rescue Unit

Trained by the Philippine Army's Special Forces and the Philippine Airforce, the Urban Search and Rescue Unit is equipped with high-tech and cutting edge rescue tools and equipments for various emergencies such as, road accident extrications, high-angle operations, swift-water rescues, open sea and deep water rescues, confined space operations, and even animal control cases. 

Always ready in any action

Search and Rescue Vehicle

Rescue Unit

Cutting edge tools 

Cutting edge rescue tools and equipment 

Emergency Medical Services

Emergency Medical Services

Central 911 is manned by highly trained emergency medical technicians ready to respond to any medical emergencies. 911 ambulance is equipped with state-of-the-art basic life support and life saving equipment and has communication gadgets linked to the Call Center and the Davao Medical Center. 911 EMS unit caters to pre-arrival and pre-hospital emergency medical care. They also conduct on-line or telephone triage and transport patients to medical facilities. 

Emergency Medical Response Team 

911 ambulance is equipped with state-of-the-art basic life support 
and life saving equipment

911 ambulance has communication gadgets 
linked to the Call Center and the Davao Medical Center

911 EMS unit caters to pre-arrival and pre-hospital emergency medical care

911 EMS unit also conduct on-line or telephone triage and 
transport patients to medical facilities

Philippine Army Medic

The men and women of the  Emergency Medical Response Team

Fire Auxiliary Services Unit

Fire Auxiliary Services Unit

To complement the fire fighting ability of the Bureau of Fire Protection, Central 911 has established its own Fire Auxiliary Services Unit. These highly technical and well trained fire fighters operate and follow the incident command system during fire cases for the efficient operation and collaboration with the BFP and other Volunteer Fire Fighters. The 911 Fire Auxiliary Services Unit is trained and equipped to respond to high-rise fires and even the dreaded inner-skirt fires in highly populated areas.

Brave men of the  Fire Auxiliary Services Unit

Various fire equipment

K-9 Units

K-9 Units

Another feature of Davao City Central 911 is its very own K-9 unit. Its bomb and drug sniffing dogs were specially trained in Camp Crame. The 911 K-9 unit operates daily at the Davao City International Airport and other strategic places to help curb the threats of terrorism. 

Police Assistance

Police Assistance

Davao City Central 911 provides police emergency assistance by dispatching mobile patrol units nearest to the crime scene. The Davao City Police Office's mobile patrol cars are equipped with radio communication equipment linked to the 911 Call Center. 

Mobile patrol cars are equipped with radio communication equipment
linked to the 911 Call Center

Emergency and Rescue Units

Contact Information

Office of the City Mayor
Central Communications and Emergency Response Center
Central 911
911 Bldg., Daang Patnubay Street, SIR New Matina
Davao City 8000 Philippines

Telephone Numbers:

911 - For emergency calls
(082) 296-9626 - Office Trunkline
(082) 296-0443 - Telefax 

Click to go to the Official Website of Davao City Central 911

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Isla Reta

Isla Reta

Isla Reta is definitely one of my favorite island getaways in Davao. While this small island does not have the usual resort facilities and amenities you will find in other resorts nearby, it however offers a quiet retreat from the hustle and the bustle of daily life in the city. It is a modest  beach resort with only a few small huts and cottages, but the island's white powder sandy beaches and clear waters are enough to lure any beach lover like me to stay a few hours or even spend overnight in this very secluded and private island.

The only time I got to experience Isla Reta was when a Chinese businessman-client brought me to the island in 1999. After lunching at the Waterfront Hotel in Lanang, we engaged a private motorboat at the hotel and toured around Samal the rest of the afternoon. My client brought me first to the now defunct Samal Casino Hotel, where we had a few rounds of beer. Thereafter, while en route to Davao City, we made a short stop at Isla Reta. 

I came to like the place the moment I set foot on the island. The waters were very pristine and the beach was white sand and powdery. There were a few huts and a small store. We took a few more beers while lounging quietly, enjoying the magnificent view of the lush Talisay trees which surround the island, before we headed back to the mainland Davao City.

That trip in 1999 may be a short one, but the fond memory of Isla Reta remained vividly in my mind to this day which I am very sure will last a lifetime.

Map of Talikud Island where Isla Reta is located

An old sign board that welcomed us in the island

Lush Talisay Trees surround the island

The island is surrounded by white and powdery sand
along its coastline

The white sandy beach and pristine waters of Isla Reta island present a potent lure for sun bathers. Pitching a tent, or lazily do away the day in a hammock hanging between the Talisay trees with a beer on hand, snack or what have you, is surely a perfect setting for a relaxing afternoon siesta.

It only takes a 10-minute boat ride from Samal Island to reach Isla Reta

The Talisay trees give the beach a relaxed setting, where you can lay on the sand without being burnt by the sun. There are actually two beaches: Isla Reta 1 and 2, owned by the Reta Family of Davao City, thus, from where the island derived its name. There are also rocky formations in some portions of the island with soft and hard corals which can easily be seen because of the island's crystal clear waters. Marine life abounds in the area which makes the island an ideal site for snorkeling or diving, for beginners and advanced divers alike.

Children making sand castles is a usual sight in the island

Pristine waters of the island

The white powdery sand of the beach brilliantly contrasts
the lush greenery of the surrounding Talisay Trees and the aquamarine
color of the sea against a backdrop of a clear blue sky

Talisay Trees provide a perfect cover against the blistering
heat of the Sun

Rocky portion of the island sits on the white powdery
sand of the beach

Isla Reta is one of the few remaining islands that is left
untouched by commercialism

Isla Reta is near a pier where ferries from Davao dock,
but a wall divides it and transforms the island into a beach paradise

View from the other portion of the island

The island is a perfect getaway that offers a quiet retreat
from the hustle and bustle of city life

How can one go wrong with this magnificent sight

This island is very popular among the locals and is frequented
by domestic and foreign tourists

It may look shallow at first glance but this is actually deep.
The crystal clear waters of the island makes it possible to see
a clear view of the corals and the seabed

The manicured grass of the island makes it ideal for camping

View of the beach from one of the cottages

Isla Reta, serene and quiet at nightfall

Motorized boat ride to the island

How to get to Isla Reta

The Isla Reta is behind a small village. There are regular motorized ferry trips for tourists and guests that leave Sta. Ana Wharf in Davao City every 9 AM and 3 PM daily going to Talikud Island. The trip is about 30 to 45 minutes to Talikud Island, and less than a 10-minute boat ride to Isla Reta.

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