New Israel, Makilala, North Cotabato.Before I came to this place, I had only 2-things in mind: the Moncadistas and the Monkeys. Little did I know that there were more to see and witness that truly opened my heart and soul to so many things! I first came to this place May [my birthday month] of 2011 and as always, before embarking on a trip to discover a new place, I do my quick research on the net so I know what to expect and see. I discovered that this is the home of the Moncadistas [a religious sect that believes in the power of the Alpha and Omega, founded by a certain Moncado in 1960 in this place] and because New Israel is gaining popularity for its tamed and domesticated monkeys headed by their chief MIKE. I became more excited because I have seen this on TV features several times prior. There might just be a crew on my visit and I was bent on claiming my fame!
New Israel is memorable. I will always go back here. It is in this place where I saw again, after 34-long years, FIREFLIEs, which I last saw when I was seven. Since then, I have listed it as one of the things I have to see before I die! So now it’s checked. There are more in my list and I should still be safe for now! Huwag naman muna please!:)
The Moncadistas, their practice, the Rainbow Shrine and other images and physical manifestations of their belief in the power Alpha and Omega, render the place mystical. After all, that’s how they regard their place. They have respect for nature and whatever or whoever is/are “unseen” as co-guardian/s of the place they have. My admiration is given, and please count me in. I realized that this is one of the reasons why every visit becomes more meaningful. I get reminded of my silent and personal saga to protect Mother Nature, being a Greenpeace volunteer by heart. Seryoso. Sana mapangatawanan ko.
There was MIKE [the one eating banana in the picture below], regarded as the chief of all the “good” monkeys that inhabit the place. There are more of them than dogs that make them the locals’ BFF. You see them on rooftops, on the road, on fences, everywhere especially in the main road near the Rainbow Shrine and the Barangay Hall. Bring some food for good interaction and you’ll surely enjoy. Banana is always the best. I was informed by Kapitana Lovely Paraiso, the barangay chief, that there is another group of monkeys known as “rebelde” but they maintain territory is the wild. Ok, let them be in the wild.
For [more] hiking, we went to the Sapa, visited a rubber tree plantation and went to the Peak which they locally refer to as Tourism. For the latter, it could have been more appealing if they call it some local term. Be prepared for some 30-minutes to an hour of walk, depending on how slow or fast you wish to go and bring something to eat. Water is a must. Be sure to put on your reliable footgear likewise.
They regard the Sapa as mystical[see picture below]. Don has to offer coins in odd number, throwing in into the river before we do anything. It’s a way of asking permission he said. I wasn’t even sure if I saw someone who should not really be seen and I told my company about it. As I write this moment, I still have goose bumps. So, I think I just have to believe. I was not scared at all. I was just awed with the feeling.
The rubber tree plantation hike was educational. I was able to understand how rubber, in its raw form is harvested[see picture above]. It’s an art and technique rolled into one. It’s not easy, it takes time before it can be harvested and converted to income.
The Tourism is awesome! I was lucky. Being at the peak when raining and above the clouds was heavenly! However, I could have gone either at sunrise or sunset to have a better spectacle of the horizon.
[Interaction with the monkeys to the left. Tourism [peak] to the right]
[Habal-habal to the left. With Kapitana Lovely Paraiso to the left[center], direct descendant of Moncadista founder with another member of the sect.]
All in all, New Israel is a potential eco-tourism destination. However, I noticed that as of now, it may not have enough infrastructure to accommodate tourists. Unless you know one who can accommodate you in their home, it may be difficult. They have some cottages but I don’t think they are maintained enough for a comfortable stay, to say the least. Aside from that, there may be a problem between maintaining the sanctity of the place by reason of their religious belief and welcoming tourists which along the way may cause debatable issues.
From Davao city, I together with 3-friends, Roxanne, Don and Ana took a van [P150/head, aircon] at the terminal beside G-Mall in Bajada. The 2-hour trip was a breeze and alighted even before I knew it. Thanks to things of interests along the way and occasional jokes and chats with my company.
From where we alighted, we took a “habal-habal” [this is popular in the south] and 5-of us, driver included, fit in one-single motorcycle. One seated in front, that means at the tank of the motorcycle, and three at the back of the driver. As a rule, those who has more weight must take the center for balance purposes. With 5 of us all squeezed and backpacks not knowing how to handle, we went up the rough foothills of Mt. Apo and reached our destination, Brgy. New Israel in about 10-minutes at Php 25 per head [P20/head going down. Reason: obvious, they go neutral most of the time! Tipid sa gas :)]
It was cold with occasional rainshower mostly in the afternoon. Seated within the periphery of Mt. Apo at an elevation of 1,600-feet above seal level seems like Baguio for me sans the pine trees and cemented road. Brgy. New Israel is rural which added charm to the place and I fell in love with it. This is what I wanted for so long. I may not have the convenience of a hotel, the taste and aroma of food prepared by a chef, hot shower, convenience store [there are sari-sari stores though that sells only the basics], no traspo so you go on foot at 99% rough road plus mud from light to heavy depending on the strength of the rainshower, BUT it’s what I wanted for this trip! The first thing I felt when I arrived – PEACE! If I felt it the day I arrived then I could have more of it until I say goodbye and got it. In fact, I returned after 5-months and it will always be an open option to go back.
I will go back soon. I want to see fireflies again. I don’t know, I just want to see one. Again!