It went as planned. After the Lake Sebu ride, the group agreed to do Lake Agco next. The plan to include New Israel materialized after their realization that there couldn’t be just one destination for that long ride.

Lake Agco was in Kidapawan. Being on the foot of Mt. Apo, it was renowned for its cold and hot springs with the hot springs outsourcing its resources primarily from the lake. New Israel, a barangay in Makilala, North Cotabato, slowly established its tourism footing throughout the years and continued to do so.

The group established, or at least a member of the group did, that having a one-day off at work sucked. Going to a ride provided a roundabout to make that suck-y notion into a day of tiring enjoyment.

Lake Agco + New Israel Group

From left: Yas, Deni, Ate Bim, Eric, Mariz, ‘Cess, Jeff, Merk, Marefe, Janz, Cheska, Solem, Joy, Aren, Kharina, and Dad Marlo

In the world of utter differences, traveling did not only bring out the best in people, it also brought out the worst. In as much as it tightened bonds, it had broken numerous connections. This disconnect, although repairable, should remain as they were – because it worked out better for everybody.

Disconnect from work in favor of traveling remained a generally favorable notion. It could be challenging, though, while working in IT. The group, being composed mainly of IT professionals, silently implored the intercession of the divine to not allow any support to escalate that it would need any member of the group’s assistance. That happened oftentimes for IT people who went on their deserved leaves or offs. Luckily for the group, nothing major came up to impede the momentum.

Lake Agco, Kidapawan, North Cotabato

Before the break of dawn, the 17 people who volunteered to join the ride gathered against the cold of General Santos City. The number of the group was huge compared to the last ride.

Everybody knew the way to Lake Agco, but not everyone in the group had been there. Those who had been led the route.

Traversing through Sarangani province, the group slowly drove through the misty roads illuminated by road lights. In some days, the sun would have risen by that moment. The clouds seemed heavy and bleak with the mists.

Tubac Overview became the first familiar stopover of the group. Some sipped coffee and everybody refused breakfast. It would be an hour or so later that the group would once again consider breakfast after surrendering to hunger. By then, the sun came up, so much to the relief of the enthused some.

With a determined zest to get to Lake Agco sooner, the group continued their uneventful ride.

The 10-peso environmental fee upon entering Brgy. Ilovamis, where Lake Agco was, seemed justified, a member of the group considered. However, the 5-peso collected when somebody decided to take a picture with the landmark I [heart] Agco was off. It was for the maintenance of the landmark, as printed in the visible tarpaulin. The same member of the group chuckled at the thought of having a daily maintenance of the I [heart] landmark.

Every single one might have thought the same, or some might have been timid to go against, so the group never entered the landmark.

Agco Mahomanay Mountain Resort remained the only viable option in the vicinity of Lake Agco. Hot springs – cold springs – you name it – they had it! No, they did not have the normal-temperature pool. Hahaha.

The group found themselves rather interested in the occurrences around the lake itself – which was in the opposite direction of the resort. With the billowing smoke from the lake, the smell of sulfur floating in the wind, the visible bubbles frothing from the water, and the free mud mask containing sulfur and what else, the place had been nothing but interesting and surreal. Add that with the sense of humor everybody had, the experience had been delightful.

Many members of the group spent rather longer time near the lake than in the resort. It was always smarter to secure a cottage on the resort; for convenience in a lot of things, especially in washing off.

Lake Agco + New Israel Lake

New Israel, Makilala, North Cotabato

The group decided to hit the road again after lunch, this time going to New Israel. The drive was longer than expected. Although the road posited unfamiliarity, they made sure that they only went to the destination plotted on Google Maps.

New Israel, in the neighboring municipality of Makilala, introduced the longest zip line in Asia when it opened one in New Israel Eco-Adventure Park. The place was also well-known for the monkeys roaming around the community after its being the mythical entry point to Mt. Apo. They co-existed with the citizens in the community and had been welcoming tourists for a very long time now.

According to the tale by the tour guide, the monkeys began living with the community when an individual, who had a pet monkey, instructed it to go to the forest and come back bringing in more friends. The monkey did! The pattern continued and the population of the monkeys in the barangay multiplied. According to the tour guide, the monkeys the group saw on the streets and the houses were the tamed monkeys. The aggressive ones inhabited the trees going to the zipline. When the two groups sometimes meet, chaos would ensue.

Lake Agco + New Israel Monkey

The narrative behind the establishment of New Israel was rather interesting. Having the literal meaning of ‘new paradise’, New Israel was the haven of the Moncadistas – members of the religious sect Moncado Alpha and Omega World Peace Crusaders Missionaries, Inc.

This was what made this trip turned its interest value a notch. The group went to a community completely different and exciting from where they were from without even realizing it. It was comparable to meeting a foreigner residing in the same region but neither quite realizing nor minding differences. It was overwhelming.

The exposure was the icing on the cake as the group entered the community as tourists who regarded it a tourist destination.

As the monkeys continued their usual routine – pestering each other and the horses neighing as if begging for attention, some members of the group decided to try the zip line. After more cajoling and assuring that it would be fun, others followed.

The notion that it had been the longest in Asia had been not only awesome but inviting. It added some sort of virtual value to the whole experience.

The zip lines had been stretches of 1-kilometer and 1.3-kilometer cables. There were 361 steps going to the first zip line. Then from the other end another 241 steps going to the next zip line. Once started, they need to finish the second zip line as it was the only way to get them back. They had to make up their minds because there was no turning back.

Lake Agco + New Israel Zip Line

Zip lining in New Israel had been first for some. The zip line zipped the group above the community and the mountainous terrains of the place. Some of the towering palms almost reached the cable they could high-five their fronds. Creeks, palms, trees, houses, and children appeared like miniatures below the setting sun and the cacophony of the cable friction.

It was the last activity the group did before finally calling the day quits. The drive back to General Santos City had been just how it started that morning – cold and dark. As the group convoyed back to the place they knew so well, they knew they all had a day full of firsts and a day full of fun!

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Click here for the itinerary.

Author: Mark Atong

If he is not taking advantage of his skills on full-time IT employment, he is going different places and hopefully making his mother proud. He believes writing is his passion; but it has yet to prove to pay his bills. He is a fun-loving individual who would rather stay at home reading books and catch-up on episodes of TV shows.

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