We head up to the family retreat in Catigan, which is about 35km from Davao, and about 4,000ft above sea level. The house has been a labour of love for Ken and Boy for the past two years, and it is now about 90% complete. The remainder plus landscaping will be completed in 2008. No electricity or town water yet, but that may also happen over the next year or two.
The Tapias and Kitinn have other commitments but we still have lots of family
spread over four 4WDs: two Nissan Safaris and two Suzuki Vitaras. The first 30km are easy over sealed roads, taking about 30 minutes. The last five kilometres take about 30 minutes also, in low range 4WD. It’s been raining, and there is little traction available up the steep, muddy roads, particularly as the 4WDs do not have off-road tyres. Ken is hopeful that we will have an all-weather road soon.
We finally make it and find a beautiful home of traditional design perched high on a steep slope, rainforest jungle and ravine to the left, Davao Gulf in the distance to the front and Mount Talomo (the second highest peak in the country) to the right. The highest peak, Mount Apo (a 10,000ft volcano) is hidden behind Mt Talomo. Boy and
Ken have done a marvellous job in very difficult conditions. All the timber has been milled on site using only hardwood trees that were either diseased or abandoned by logging bandits. The only tools used were chain saws and hand planes. Other material was carried to the site using a little Suzuki multi-cab, a 4WD with locking centre diff and LSDs front and rear; apparently unstoppable with chunky off-road tyres. Occasionally it slips into one of the deep culverts by the road, but a few men can lift it out. Fifteen or so workers were still there completing the painting, cement rendering, rainwater tank and cleaning up the site. There is a natural spring above the house, and that will supply the water tank for the time being.
After the steamy heat of Davao, the weather in Catigan is invigorating. Misty clouds often swirl around the house, reducing visibility to a hundred metres or so. Rain squalls are frequent at this time of the year and during the day it can be cold enough to warrant a sweater. The workers who sleep over say it gets very cold at night. In the past we have only ever taken light clothing to Davao. From now on I think we will need to take jackets and sleeping bags. I am already dreaming of sitting out on the balcony in the cool of the afternoon alternating between a good book and gazing out over the sloping panorama as the mist swirls around the trees.
We take lunch, lechon and other food from Ken’s restaurant, explore the slope in front of the house and then it’s time to head off. It gets dark early and we want to be well past the difficult section of track while there is still light. There has not been any more rain, so the road is a little easier. However there is one tricky uphill corner not far from the house where we get stuck in mud. The workers come to our aid and push us out. If worse comes to worst, there is always a carabao, the local water buffalo, to pull us out.
Back in Davao we have the first of many massages in our bedroom.
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