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NATURAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ARGAO

If you enjoy quiet activities, then Argao is one place that you definitely need to visit. From serene and pristine beaches to almost virgin forests and cave systems, romantics and adventure-seekers alike surely would find a visit to Argao both rewarding and worthwhile.

The beaches in Argao, prominent among which are the Lawis Beach, or South Beach, Central Beach, and North beach, are perfect for swimming, diving, snorkeling, and skim-boarding. One can also simply walk on the fine sand of the beaches and enjoy a beautiful sunset or sunrise, or preferably both.

Aside from the quiet pursuit of walking on the beach, one can also engage in fish-feeding in the ten fish sanctuaries of the different coastal barangays. Whatever one’s desire is, Argao’s clean and safe beaches and seas truly provide a calming and relaxing experience that should not be missed if one is in town for a visit.

If your adventure is what one has in mind, then a trip to the Argao/Lantoy National Park is definitely a must. Going to Mt. Lantoy, Argao’s second highest peak, involves many exciting and challenging activities, including the Usmad River-trekking, a visit to Bugasok Falls, and of course conquering one’s fears and getting inside the Balay sa Agta Caves. Mt. Lantoy is the domain of Maria Cacao and Mangao.

Their legend provides a rather quaint and romantic appeal to this particular mountain. Mt. Lantoy hs two known openings: the northern entrance popularly known as the “Balay sa Agta” or the house of the giant (agta) occupying that portion of Mangao’s kingdom. Here lie large quantities of guano, or bat droppings. This portion of the cave was used by guerillas fighters as a base camp for captured Japanese collaborators during World War II. The other side is the southern entrance.

Indeed, the cave system of Mt. Lantoy is one of the most famous sites for dedicated spelunkers. Many destinations companies list cave explorations in Mt. Lantoy as one of the top ten to do things in Cebu.

Mt Lantoy is located around 10 km inland from the town of Argao. Mt Lantoy is naturally bounded by the Argao River. It is part of the Southern Cebu Reforestation Project Area, which also covers some of the adjacent hills and the banks of the river. The upper slopes of Mt Lantoy still have some low secondary forest and dense scrub, typical of dry karst limestone conditions. There are some low old-growth trees remaining around the peak at c.500 m and some tall dipterocarp trees at c.300 m on the slopes above the Argao River. The total forest area there is estimated at c.300 ha.

Most of the surrounding low-lying areas are covered with farmland, agroforestry, secondary growth and reforested areas, planted with exotic trees such as mahogany, falcata, gmelina and acacia. The Argao River cuts a narrow gorge below Mt Lantoy, and many figs Ficus sp. and some sparse scrub grow precariously on the sheer cliffs c.200 m above the river. There are numerous large limestone caves in the cliffs.

Recently, Mt. Lantoy has become one of the protected areas in southern Cebu, because of the lush flora and fauna unique to the Area. Mt Lantoy indeed is critically important for conservation, because there are so few significant areas of forest remaining in the Cebu Endemic Bird Area (EBA).

Many of the endemic subspecies of Cebu have been recorded in the IBA, and there are recent records of Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala cebuensis, Elegant Tit Parus elegans visayanus, White-vented Whistler Pachycephala homeyeri major and Everett’s White-eye Zosterops everetti everetti from Mt Lantoy. Recent records of Colasisi Loriculus philippensis at Mt Lantoy may refer to the Cebu endemic L. p. chrysonotus or to escaped birds brought to Cebu from other islands. Possible records of a species of Bleeding-heart Gallicolumba sp. on Mt Lantoy are particularly intriguing.

Mt Lantoy supports many other interesting animals and plants which require further study. The caves on Mt Lantoy shelter a dozen or so species of bats, to include the very rare insect eating wrinkled lip bats. There is a great diversity of invertebrates at Mt Lantoy, such as Swallowtail Butterflies Papilio sp. and Birdwings Troides sp. Mid-montane forests have not been well studied on Cebu in the past.

The municipal government of Argao has recently become interested in developing a plan to help manage that remaining forests on Mt Lantoy. It has been proposed that Mt Lantoy should be designated as a national park. The Argao government also has plans for ecotourism development on Mt Lantoy, in order to provide an alternative and sustainable source of funds for its protection.

The Mystic mountains of Argao- Unexpectedly when you go to mountains or bundoks you will be surprised by both site and tales of the mountain. The Rice terraces of Barangay Linut-od and Butong, cultivated even in middle of summer. See the different stages of cultivation of rice. These terraces are feed by a big spring that irrigates the rice fields. After a hike up and down the terrace you can dip take a dip in the cold-water pool of the spring under the protection of the 200 year old balete tree.

Another mountain range, though not as explored as Mt. Lantoy’s, is that of Binalabag. Fisherfolks in the past are said to have depended on this landmark as a beacon when fishing late at night or early in the morning. It is a dry, stony mountain so very few people live here. But over the centuries certain stories have also been linked to this mountain. According to legends, Binalabag was the home of a golden horse (sometimes said to have included a golden cat) which went to church every early morning. As the story goes, the golden horse had an intricate passageway from Binalabag going directly out to the church altar. This story simply serves as a romantic tale that can be attributed to this still to be explored mountain.

Indeed, Argao is blessed with such great wealth. Aside from these, the plateau of Cansuje is fertile and perfect for vegetable production while Linot-od is similar to Dalaguete with prevailing cool climate. Such climate might remind one of almost being in Baguio. And, just like Baguio, Linot-od also boasts of having a mini-rice terrace system, similar to those in the Cordilleras. Linot-od, together with Calagasan and Bala-as, is a good source for coal, and small-scale mining operation exist here. Conalum is blessed with a climate and soil that grow wild lanzones. These lanzones bear fruit especially during the last quarter of the year, and the lanzones of Conalum surpasses the sweetness of those from Mambajao.

Mangrove forests, both natural and man-made, are also interesting places to explore. Get a chance to see birds like egret and terns feeding in the mudflat areas adjacent to these mangrove areas. Crabs, sea cucumber and fry of different kinds of fishes and marine organism abound in these mangrove forests.

Some residents also involve themselves in productive and helpful endeavors, such as Organic farming, which barangay Capitan Erning of Tabayag is known for; Colawin can boast of innovating farming systems and structures thanks mainly to the introduction of these by Dr. Romulo G. Davide. These irrigation facilities have also greatly helped neighboring barangays. Wood and stone crafting are also done in Suba and Calagasan.

While Argao still has many more challenges to meet, it still promises to be a very great tourist destination. With an abundance of heritage and natural splendors, coupled with innovative, progressive-minded, and hard-working residents and leaders, Argao is indeed going to be a major tourist haven in the years to come.