Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park: What Is Absolutely Up?

Introduction

Bucas Grande Island, Socorro, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, dubbed as “Mindanao’s all-in-one destination” located adjacent to Siargao, has become a byword for island vacation enthusiasts gearing for island life experiences. Basically, what makes the island popular is its capacity to offer a respite from the hustles and bustles of urban life through a wide array of sightseeing, swimming, snorkeling, island hopping, scuba diving, boating, fishing, birding, trekking, caving, adventure diving, photo safari and jellyfish playing activities in the world-renowned Sohoton Cove. But unknown to many, there is an attraction in the island considered by pundits in the tourism industry as having a greater tourism potential than the famous Tagaytay in Cavite, Philippines. And I am referring to the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park (KNAP) located at the highest peak northeast of the island possessing excellent perceptual quality with the North and East facing slopes of the site essentially serving as viewsheds that provide vistas of the surrounding islands.

Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park View MapThe View Map of the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park. Image culled from the Situational Analysis Report, Master Planning of the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park in Surigao del Norte as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, Page 3-9 dated September, 2015 prepared by the UP Planning and Development Research Foundation, Inc. (UP PLANADES) for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

What’s in the Name?

Being a local historian, tourists keep asking me: What’s the reason behind the naming of the place as Kapihan? Are there lots of coffee that the place can offer? Tales from the older islanders have it that long time ago, when Bucas Grande Island was still heavily forested, native climbing species of the palm family called “rattan” or “uway” in the vernacular abound in this part of the island. Its plump-shaped fruit locally named as “kayapi,” which has a funky snake-like covering as hard as an egg shell, was a delicacy among the locals despite being the tartest fruit around. It is not only nutritious as it contains vitamin C, calcium, and iron but it is also used as treatment for diarrhea and cure against coughing. When the locals were craving something sour, their destination was the place teeming with “kayapi,” hence, the name “Kapihan.”

Kapihan Nature and Adventure ParkThe rattan climbing palm tree named locally as “uway” with its “kayapi” fruits. Photo Courtesy of http://shells-tales-sails.blogspot.com/

The Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone Declaration

Considering that Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park (KNAP) has all the characteristics of: a) Being capable of being defined into one contiguous category; b) Having historical and cultural significance, environmental beauty, or existing or potential integrated leisure facilities within its bounds or within reasonable distances from it; c) Having strategic access through transportation infrastructure, and reasonable connection with utilities infrastructure systems; d) Being sufficient in size, such that it may be further utilized for bringing in new investments in tourism establishments and services; and e) Strategically located such as to catalyze the socioeconomic development of neighboring communities, it was declared by the Board of Directors of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which is an attached agency of the Department of Tourism (DOT), as one among the ten Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zones (TEZ) in the Philippines in accordance with Republic Act Number 2009, otherwise known as the Tourism Act of 2009. Subsequently, TIEZA, through its Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), issued Bid Bulletins intending to apply the sum of Twelve Million Pesos (Php12,000,000.00) being the Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) to payments under the contract for the CONSULTANCY SERVICES FOR THE MASTER PLANNING OF THE KAPIHAN NATURE AND ADVENTURE PARK IN SURIGAO DEL NORTE AS A FLAGSHIP TOURISM ENTERPRISE ZONE. Two prestigious planning firms, the BERKMAN INTERNATIONAL INC. and UP Planning and Development Research Foundation, Inc. (UP PLANADES) had expressed interest to join in the bidding that was eventually won by the latter.

Master Planning Updates

Being a member of the Master Planning Technical Working Group representing the Municipal Government of Socorro, I was tasked, together with Mr. Aga Ver Galanida, Socorro’s Municipal Tourism Officer-Designate as well as Engr. Omar O. Quirido and Mr. Ferdinand C. Gambing, who are the representatives of the Socorro Bayanihan Service, Inc. (SBSI, to attend the Situational Analysis Report Presentation conducted by the UP PLANADES at the Mulligan Room, Club Intramuros, Manila last September 17, 2015.

Bucas Grande Island participants The participants coming from the municipality of Socorro listening intently to the Situational Analysis Report presentation. Shown from left is Mr. Edelito C. Sangco (this writer), Engr. Omar O. Quirido, Mr. Ferdinand C. Gambing and Mr. Aga Ver D. Galanida.

One of the highlights of the said activity was the proposal to change the name of the Tourism Enterprise Zone from Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park (KNAP) to Bucas Grande Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone for ease in recognition and name recall while retaining the 167.7 hectares within the KNAP as study area and tourism development focus. Another agreement reached was for UP PLANADES to prepare not only the KNAP Tourism Master Plan but to make ready three (3) specific infrastructure projects within the study area that would be readily available to be bid out by TIEZA upon the conclusion of the master planning activities. But most importantly, the tourism development options for Bucas Grande Island were thoroughly discussed.

Bucas Grande Tourism Development Options

Three Tourism Development Options for Bucas Grande Island, Socorro, Surigao del Norte were presented by the consultants which would have different spatial dimensions, development priorities and corresponding development costs, wherein, the chosen approach or direction to take for the island municipality will depend on the consensus of the identified stakeholders (i.e. TIEZA, SBSI, Socorro LGU, Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte.

Up for consideration by the various stakeholders are the Three (3) Bucas Grande Tourism Development Options, as follows:

1. Option 1: North-South Linear Tourism Circuit

Option 1 focuses on the Doña Helene-Sering Road that will continue up to Buenavista in Middle Bucas Grande Island. This road traversing the island from Barangay Doña Helene in the south to Barangay Sering in the north is part of the Nautical Highway that connects Claver Municipality and other seaports in Surigao del Norte (mainland) with the proposed “Roll-on-Roll-off” (RoRo) seaport in Doña Helene. This section of road will further connect with barangays of Dapa Municipality in Siargao Island through the proposed seaport in Barangay Sering. Furthermore, the road segment which connects to Siargao (Sayak) Airport and Dapa seaport, will facilitate swift travel between Siargao Island and Bucas Grande.

This option creates a “North-South Linear Tourism Circuit” that capitalizes on the connectivity of the nautical highway with mainland Surigao del Norte and with Siargao Island. The Doña Helene-Sering Road will become the main spine that feeds tourists into Bucas Grande Island and also distributes them to the various Tourism Development Areas (e.g. Sohoton Cove, KNAP-TEZ, etc.) in Socorro Municipality. For more details, see the infographic on Tourism Development Option 1 below:

Kapihan Nature and Adventure ParkAn infographic showing the Bucas Grande Island Tourism Development Option 1. Image and texts culled from Situational Analysis Report, Master Planning of the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park in Surigao del Norte as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, Page 10-8 dated September, 2015 prepared by the UP Planning and Development Research Foundation, Inc. (UP PLANADES) for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

2. Option 2: Poblacion as Tourist Service Center

Option 2 underscores the value of the Poblacion (Town Center) Area as the Tourist Service Center. This Option Positions the Poblacion as the hub of tourism activity in the island. The Poblacion as “tourist hub” entails the passing of a stricter zoning ordinance and accompanying guidelines for urban development. It will also need institutional mechanisms for enticing new private sector investments that will raise the standards of hotel accomodations, commercial establishments, and services.

As part of the face lift of the town center, urban renewal has to be undertaken which includes the removal of buildings that are on the easement of creeks, rivers and coastlines. This option will still utilize the Doña Helene-Sering Road and the Pamosaingan-Socorro Road for connectivity to other Tourism Development Areas. The sea port in the Poblacion, however, will still be used to connect to the mainland Surigao del Norte, Siargao Island, Sohoton Cove, and other beaches and islands. The Poblacion Port (Municipal Feeder Port) will need improvements and expansion in anticipation of increased tourism activity. A coastal road that moves along the eastern coastline to Sering Port in the north is also proposed. For more details, see the infographic below:

Kapihan Nature and Adventure ParkThe infographic presenting the Bucas Grande Island Tourism Development Option 2. Image and texts culled from Situational Analysis Report, Master Planning of the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park in Surigao del Norte as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, Page 10-9 dated September, 2015 prepared by the UP Planning and Development Research Foundation, Inc. (UP PLANADES) for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

3. Option 3: The KNAP FLagship TEZ as the Premier Ecotourism Destination

The third option for tourism development in Socorro is the transformation of the Kapihan Nature Park Tourism Enterprize Zone (KNAP-TEZ) into a premier Ecotourism Park which would showcase the watershed areas to be reforested, sustainable agricultural farms, nature trails, extreme sports, and eco-lodges. As a major ecotourism destination, it is crucial that the access to KNAP-TEZ is improved. The addition of standard and deluxe accommodations will make the Flagship TEZ a viable base for tourism activities with connectivity to the tourism products in Bucas Grande Island and Siargao Island.

Option 3 will require a lot of investments in KNAP-TEZ for facilities (recreational spaces, eco-lodges, access roads) and equipment (e.g. vehicles, bicycles, sports equipment). The proposed TEZ may be divided further into development zones to attract more than one investor and diversify tourism products and experiences. For details, see Tourism Development Option 3 infographic below:

Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park 3Infographic detailing the Bucas Grande Island Tourism Development Option 3. Image and texts culled from Situational Analysis Report, Master Planning of the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park in Surigao del Norte as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, Page 10-10 dated September, 2015 prepared by the UP Planning and Development Research Foundation, Inc. (UP PLANADES) for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

Tourism Development Options for KNAP Flagship TEZ

Correspondingly, three Development Options are presented for the Study Area (KNAP-TEZ) to explore the various opportunities for its tourism development. The options presented here more or less corresponds with the three Tourism Development Options presented earlier. Thus, if Bucas Grande Island Tourism Development Option 1 shall be adopted by the main stakeholders of the Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, Tourism Development Option 1 for the Kapihan Nature Park Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone (KNAP-TEZ) shall also be implemented and so on and so forth.

The Three Development Options for KNAP Flagship TEZ are outlined below:

1. Option 1: KNAP-TEZ as Mountain Resort

The first option of tourism development for the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park creates a mountain-themed resort to compliment its existing nature and adventure products. With improved access via the Siargao Nautical Highway, the KNAP-TEZ can be ideal lodging facility that tourists can use as overnight accommodation while exploring the tourism destinations of Socorro Municipality.

Expansion of agricultural areas and reforestation of areas within the Watershed will be undertaken as agreed to by the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc, the people’s organization granted a 25-lease to the area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) No. 24007. As the agriculture area and the forest area (watershed) mature, they will be developed as a nature-related tourism products (e.g. forest ecotourism, agri-tourism) and offered to Mountain Resort guests and walk-in Tourists. For more details, see the infographic below:

Kapihan Nature Park Mountain ResortThe Kapihan Mountain Resort Option 1 Infographic. Image and texts culled from the Situational Analysis Report, Master Planning of the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park in Surigao del Norte as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, Page 10-14 dated September, 2015 prepared by the UP Planning and Development Research Foundation, Inc. (UP PLANADES) for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

2. Option 2: KNAP-TEZ Nature View and Adventure Destination

Option 2 presents a development which is least capital intensive, relying mainly on its current offerings of high elevation views of surrounding seascapes and landscapes and its adventure products (i.e. zip line, nature treks). Development will be confined to where the existing development is with an area to be allocated for expansion.

The hotel building already under construction will provide accommodations and function rooms for seminars and conferences.Similar to Option 1, the reforested watershed and agricultural areas will be utilized for tours and activities. For details, see infographic below:

Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park Option 2The Kapihan Nature View and Adventure Option 2 Infographic. Image and texts culled from the Situational Analysis Report, Master Planning of the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park in Surigao del Norte as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, Page 10-15 dated September, 2015 prepared by the UP Planning and Development Research Foundation, Inc. (UP PLANADES) for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

3. Option 3: KNAP-TEZ as Premier Ecotourism Park

The third option of tourism development for KNAP-TEZ creates a multi-themed Nature and Adventure Park with Eco-lodges situated in different settings (e.g. Forest, Agricultural area, Mountain). The premise for this development option is that the KNAP-TEZ will become the major nature and adventure resort in Bucas Grande Island from where other attractions can also be accessed.

Huge investments are necessary to build the Eco-lodges, resort facilities, internal roads for circulation, and a possible jetty at the eastern coastline (outside of the leased area) as jump-off point to Sohoton Cove, Siargao Island, other islands and beaches. Similar to option 1 and 2, the reforested wtareshed and agricultural areas will be utilized for tours and activities. For details, see the infographic below:

Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park option 3Infographic showing the Kapihan Premier Ecotourism Park Option 3. Image and texts culled from the Situational Analysis Report, Master Planning of the Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park in Surigao del Norte as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, Page 10-16 dated September, 2015 prepared by the UP Planning and Development Research Foundation, Inc. (UP PLANADES) for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

Final Thoughts

The impending implementation of the Bucas Grande Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone (TEZ) is expected to attract large-scale investments from various tourism industry players worldwide to act as backstop for the huge investments to be poured by the Philippine government into the area. Further, the reputation of Bucas Grande as insurgency and bandit-free island would surely entice widespread arrivals of tourists from around the world. More importantly, the declaration of the place as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone shall finally seal the fate of the unscrupulous persons who are salivating until nowadays to mine the area for precious metals.

Candidly, as clouds of certainty for tourism development hover above Bucas Grande horizons, it is only a matter of time that the island shall be enshrined in its rightful place in the world tourism map as the “all-in-one tourist destination” in this peaceful part of Mindanao, Philippines.

As stated earlier, the various tourism development options for Bucas Grande Island, in general, and Kapihan Nature and Adventure Park (KNAP), in particular, above-mentioned are up for consideration among the various stakeholders. Inputs coming from various sectors especially in the town of Socorro are extremely useful for the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. and the Municipal Government of Socorro, being the implementing partners, and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), as implementing/funding agency, to think carefully about. Wherefore Socorronhons, what’s your take on this? Which of the three (3) Bucas Grande Tourism Development Options earlier presented you prefer to be implemented and why? Your invaluable thoughts, which you can write in the comments section below, are extremely necessary so we can come up with the best decision that will guide the development destiny of our beloved island home.

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