To quickly escape the usual hustle and bustle of the city, Mapawa Nature Park is my family’s go-to bet because of its proximity. Located in Baranggay Cugman, it is only a 30 minute drive from downtown CDO.  This park is a veritable treasure trove of natural beauty with its endless hilly terrains, picturesque landscapes, meandering streams, and rich collections of flora and fauna. Its forest feel definitely makes it one of the best places to unwind.

In Mapawa, my husband enjoys the bike trails, while my kids enjoy the picnic area with its swimming pool and playground (the latter is currently under renovation to serve everyone better). It is the perfect place to be unplugged from the fast-paced techie world! We experience nature at its finest here, with its cool fresh mountain air and lush greenery.

My better-half traversing the biking trail.

Brief History

I was able to catch up with Louie Pelaez-Balbontin, whose family has leased the place from the government since 1959. Her grandfather, the late-Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez and his wife, Edith, spearheaded this project.

I asked her what is the significance of the place’s name and she replied: “Mapawa is named this way because “pawa” means bamboo to the locals, and “ma-pawa” means more bamboo. And as you can see, there are lots of those trees here.”

She narrated that her Uncle Ernie (second to the eldest of the nine siblings) convinced her grandparents and the eight siblings in 1995 to afforest (1,990 hectares of grazing land) and preserve the secondary forest. Furthermore, this strategy is a means to sustainably manage the area, by selective harvesting of planted timber requirements, as well as employment opportunities for the nearby community. Thus, from an original 67 hectares back in the day since its inception, they have expanded to almost 1,200 hectares. They’re still working on tree planting for the other 790 hectares, except for the few portions with corals and rocks.

Where you can almost touch the cotton candy clouds!


Noteworthy, they have the government’s full support for their very noble projects, especially now that Global Warming is a pervasive problem that affects all nations. Currently, they have close to 200 species of trees, 110 species of birds, 12 waterfalls, 8 ponds/creeks, and a centuries-old heritage tree.

The heritage tree dwarfs anyone standing next to it.

She explained: “We have several partnerships.  DENR regularly holds seminars here for the youth to encourage them to be more mindful and responsible of the environment. We’re also a thriving watershed, so we supply water to select baranggays in CDO. In our greening program, we provide seedlings to baranggays so they can also plant more trees in their localities.”

STEAG Power Plant has also been a partner since 2005. The Company has committed financial support in the planting and maintaining 500 hectares.

Outdoor Activities 

The park is open at 7am to 5pm daily. With only an environmental fee of 70 pesos, guests can come to Mapawa and enjoy several activities like the: obstacle course, swimming pool, ecological trek, bonfire, camping, canyoneering, horseback riding, ziplining, bird watching, picnic, hiking trails, and bike trails. Louie said: “We have a lot of activities that are fit for an individual or groups. There’s really so much outdoor activities to suit people of all ages.”

Park amenities include picnic tables, view deck, function hall, multipurpose hall, kiosk, trails, pool, and camping tents. Louie also noted that they have overnight accommodations for groups that want to sleepover. She said: “Aside from camping, we have the dorm at Php350/head with breakfast minimum of 10. Then at the family ranch house bed and breakfast, it’s at Php650 per head, minimum of 5 persons. These include a short guided trek and personalized lectures, around 30 minutes.”

Activities galore!

Mapawa Trail Run

This August 13, 2017 the Mapawa Trail Marathon, which is the 2nd leg of the Mapawa Trail Series, will commence.  They have two categories: the 42k and the 10k; which includes the race bib, post race meal, finishers medal, finishers truckers cap, event jersey, and timing chip. Registration is at R.O.X in Centrio Mall.

Trail run.

Louie narrated that the Mapawa Trail run was started in December 2011 by three enthusiasts: Riyadh Balbontin (her husband), Zigo Bacus, and Jay Chaves. On October 2014, they partnered with R.O.X and Salomon. They got Dax Ang and Pastour Emata (Mt. Everest Summiteers) as their consultants.

She humbly shared: “This year, my husband, Riyadh, is the race director. He is actually a dentist by profession but is a total trail lover. Our Mapawa Trail Run Series actually started last May 28. The first leg was called Trail Run Mapawa with 21k and 5k stages. The second leg is Mapawa Trail Marathon, which is soon on August 13. And finally, the third leg is called the Ultra Trail Mapawa on October 29, with 15k night run & 50k.”

Louie invites everyone to come and join the race this Sunday, August 13. On top of that, she enthusiastically welcomes everyone to recharge and relax at Mapawa. For inquiries on any of the activities or to ask about the rates please call: 0917-706-7206. They also have a Facebook page with the same name.

This article is out in my column at the SunStar newspaper and online: August 10, 2017. Like us on FB: orochronicles

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