The word “healing” is often used in Korean variety shows. They apply it to trips or places that heal the soul emotionally, physically or mentally. The right place for it doesn’t have to be expensive. The Mambukal Resort and Wildlife Sanctuary can be one such place. It is situated at the foot of Mt. Kanlaon and owned and managed by the provincial government of Negros Occidental in the town of Murcia. And as such, the rates are still affordable despite the recent price increase: entrance fees are P120 for adults and P60 for children. For that amount, it gives access to the pools, hot springs and dipping pools. Huts start at P500 and for an overnight stay, rooms can be had for P2,000.
Locals and visitors from nearby provinces are familiar with this. Negrenses have probably visited it at least once in their lives. Chances are, it’s also been taken for granted. But during the lockdown, the resort underwent rehabilitation and rebranding. It was declared as a wildlife sanctuary through an executive order last year.
Flora and fauna first
Provincial tourism officer Cheryl Decena said that those changes essentially prioritize the flora and fauna over everything else.
Tourists are now expected to be more conscious and respectful of Mambukal’s permanent residents. They started with limiting the number of tourists allowed into the mountain resort per day. Walk-ins are no longer allowed and visitors must prebook (tel. 034-04338516; email [email protected]). The sanctuary is open to the public again after the four-month closure because of typhoon “Odette.”
A “Clean As You Go” policy is now imposed. Guests are expected to bring their trash out.
“We have to adjust to nature because this is a rainforest first, and it has to be protected,” Decena said.
Decena brought in the Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation or PhilBio to identify the endangered, high-critical flora and fauna found in Mambukal. They discovered hundreds of species living in the area; some even surprised PhilBio.
To protect the inhabitants of Mambukal, a ban on videokes is now imposed. In the past, visitors were allowed to bring their own microphone and speakers to sing through the night.
PhilBio said that such noises drive away some species from the sanctuary. The noise pollution also stops people from hearing the sound of the animals present around them. The ban also means sleeping guests are not disturbed.
Another change that might surprise old-timers is that they can no longer grill their food here. Mambukal is a bat sanctuary. The scent of grilled meat and smoke deters bats from returning. Visitors are allowed to bring their own cooked food while concessionaires are being finalized. Smoking is also not allowed.
Before the PhilBio visit, Decena said that they were planning on creating villas to cater to the high-end market. This was scrapped when it was found that the location was critical to some animals in the sanctuary. They are now identifying the no-build zones in the area.
There will also be designated parking areas. Vehicles can no longer park wherever, clogging the roads.
The changes allow guests to enjoy nature and all that it offers. Guests could take a dip first thing in the morning in the Japanese ofuro (bath) for an additional P100. It is a relaxing experience for bathers, if they can withstand the heat. Thousands of bats hang from the tree branches over the ofuro.
A walk in the lagoon will reward you with the sounds of different birds singing and rustling leaves, and the smell of the freshly blooming flowers.
Mambukal is familiar to a lot of Negrenses, but the makeover made it better. INQ