COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 14 May) — Along the coast in Barangay Kalanganan II fronting the majestic Sultan Haji Hassanal Masjid, stands enchanting Timako Hill.
The hill, one of only two elevated areas in Cotabato City where trees are preserved and protected, is home to several species of monkeys, birds, bats and other flora and fauna.
Rising at 197 meters above sea level, with a steep, jagged ridge suited for adventure seekers and trekkers, Timako Hill is no doubt a welcome getaway for one who seeks a place outside of the usual and most common destinations for the remaining days of summer.
Mystery and folklore
Even in this day and age, Timako Hill remains shrouded in mystery and steeped in folklore.
The entrancing hill continues to fascinate tourists and residents alike not only because of its lush forest vegetation, majestic wind crafted bakawan (mangroves), serene river, and deep and dark caves but also because of the many unexplained mysteries that surround it.
Tato Mokamad, whose property lies at the foot of the hill, believes that the landform is protected by deities and “engkanto,” environmental spirits that have the ability to appear in human form.
“Ang kwento ng mga ninuno namin, yung mga diwata at engkanto tumutulong at nagpapahiram ng mga gamit tulad ng agong, kulintang, malong at iba pang gamit tuwing may okasyon basta maibalik lang ng maayos,” (Stories from our ancestors say that deities and engkantos help and lend the people agong, kulintang, malong and other things during special occasions as long as they return them after use), Mokamad said.
But some of these things were not returned and people began stealing from the deities and engkanto. This, according to Mokamad, prompted them to cut ties with the people in the community,
“Alam namin na pinoprotektahan pa rin ng mga diwata at engkanto ang Timako Hill kaya pinapayuhan namin ang mga turista na magrespeto at tahimik lang kapag pumupunta” (We know that the deities and engkanto are still guarding Timako Hill. Thus, we encourage tourists to respect and keep the sacredness of the place by observing silence), he explained.
In this shroud of mystery, the island is home to springs, caves and a forest that are nothing short of amazing.
Future ecotourism destination
In September 2016, the city government of Cotabato led a team on a trek at the foot of Timako Hill, envisioned as a future ecotourism destination in the city.
City tourism officer Norianne Lou “Gurlie” Frondoza said Timako Hill is a perfect ecotourism spot for mountain climbers, trekkers and adventure seekers because of its natural trail that zigzags along springs, rock formations and towering trees.
“You might also encounter wild animals along the way. And if you’re lucky like the team, no other than the legendary wild monkey of Timako will welcome you,” she said.
City Vice Mayor Graham Nazer Dumama said the city council had moved to declare Timako Hill a protected area to preserve endangered and rare flora and fauna.
“The recommendation of the executive department is to declare it [Timako Hill] as a reserve in order to protect it from extractive activities like indiscriminate logging and conflicting land uses,” Dumama said.
Records from the Department of Tourism in Region 12 (DOT-12) showed that Cotabato City topped its tourism growth rate at 70 percent for the year 2016 with 346,063 both day and overnight tourist arrivals.
As the hill remains largely unexplored, one sees fewer crowds and enjoys more chances to having the entire place to oneself.
Although there are downsides to visiting destinations where tourism hasn’t been fully developed yet, one can bask in the glory of being one of very few people who saw the area while still untouched. That being said, Timako Hill is a destination to include in your next summer getaway. (Valerie Ann Lambo is a reporter of The Mindanao Cross)