Unknown to many, Soccsksargen, or the Philippines' region 12, located in south central Mindanao, is home to some of the country's protected landscapes and seascapes. The region, composed of the provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City, boasts of amazing bays, caves, and lush forests. Here is a list of four of the region's spectacular under-the-radar eco destinations.
1. Sarangani Bay
Sarangani Bay, located at the southernmost tip of Mindanao, is a protected seascape and listed as one of the country’s key marine biodiversity areas. It is home to diverse flora and fauna, mangroves, sea grass beds, and coral reefs with some 98 species of corals. Some of the marine creatures sighted in the bay include dugongs, whale sharks, sea turtles, sunfish, dolphins, whales. The bay is also home to 401 commercially important species of fish, particularly tuna, and other aquatic resources.The 215,950 hectare Sarangani Bay is bounded by the municipalities of Maitum, Kiamba, Maasim, Alabel, Malapatan, and Glan in the province of Sarangani, and General Santos City.
2. Tenobac Cave
This newly discovered Tenobac Cave in Sitio Kipwas, Barangay Keytodac, in the coastal town of Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, has a subterranean or underground river similar to the one found in Puerto Prinsesa, Palawan. Inside the cave is a vast, complex labyrinth of rooms and tunnels over several levels, stalactites, stalagmites and other formations. The cave's underground river flows out into what is known as Tenobac Falls, a series of seven waterfalls.
3. Lagbasan Cave
Lagbasan Cave in Barangay Kuden, Senator Ninoy Aquino, Province of Sultan Kudarat, has two massive cathedral-like chambers filled with magnificent gleaming stalactites and stalagmites, supple draperies or flowstone embellishing the walls, and cave crystals. Lit up by torches, the elegant columns and irregular pendants sparkle. It's almost as if you're looking at a national art gallery of white glistening sculptures all around you, or perhaps some masterful carvings in some ancient European cathedral, with some formations taking on seemingly animal and human shapes. With Lagbasan Cave said to be one of the most intact cave systems in the country, DENR XII Regional Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria is calling on members of the local community and the government to work together to protect such cave system.
4. Mt. Matutum
Mt. Matutum has a lush forest cover, showing remnants of original forest species like the naturally grown Igem tree, and varied species of ferns, lichens and orchids. It is a nesting ground of ferns from the giant ones to the smallest, giving off such fragrance in the air. It is also home to the Philippine Eagle.
For more information, contact the Department of Tourism Region 12, tel +6383 520-1274 or visit Treasures of SOX Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TreasuresOfSox.
Published June 2019.