June 1, 2023

Domestic and fo-reign tourists have something to look forward to with the ‘green tour’ in Benguet, featuring the various agri eco- farms and homegrown restaurants that offer genuine Cordillera flavors.

The Department of Tourism-Cordillera has partnered with local tour operators in the region to develop the ‘green tour’ circuit, that offers a farm-to-table experiential tour, starting within the Baguio-La Trinidad- Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) area.

The recently launched green farm tour focuses in Sablan and Tuba tourism sites, which was tested by local and national tour operators and the media on June 15 and 16.

On day one, Jen Palacsa-Baltazar of Agetyeng Tours greeted participants with her infectious enthusiasm as her staff hands out sanitation kits and wide-brimmed hats, while describing the temperate highland tropical climate of Sablan.

Participants rode the Agetyeng Tour’s famed 20-seater creative jeepney named Soligmay, which is also being used for the Baguio Creative Tours. The jeepney was modified so that the well-upholstered seats are facing forward, with six doors, giving tourists a comfortable ride.

After departing from Baguio City, participants traversed the Sablan Road, entering the Monglo-Bayabas Road that leads to sitio Bulala where the Benguet Agri-Ecotourism Farm is located.

Participants arrived at the eco-farm for an orientation of the history of the 9.3-hectare farm, which started its development in 2011 under the provincial government.

Lunch was traditionally served ‘watwat’ style – steamed pork in banana trunks as a plate, freshly picked highland kangkong, and accompanied with sili in soy sauce.   

After check-in at the eight-room accommodation of the farm, participants were divided into two: to experience, one group at a time, hook fishing of tilapia for their dinner and to pick seasonal fruits, which they paid as an added income for the locals who tended the farm.

The participants found fulfillment in having to fish and forage for their own food at dinner.

The demonstration on how to make kini-ing or preserved meat followed, with the tourists watching the smoke from guyabano leaves be absorbed by the meat earlier rubbed with salt.  

The participants retired early for the night for the 6:30 a.m. orchidarium and bamboo setum tour. Nothing but the sound of night insects and geckos filled the night.

The next day, participants walked for an hour to experience the plant nursery where the fruit-trees, flowers, and various plants are cared for.

The bamboo setum tour followed, with its uphill and downhill trekking, where 50 species of bamboo were showcased, while participants walked through the pineapple plantation and the orchard featuring marang, duhat, tamarind, jack fruit, cacao, avocado and various trees planted with their respective placards for information. 

Breakfast was easily gulfed down by participants; then at 9 a.m. it was time for the check-out. Tourists, of course, didn’t forget to buy ornamental plants, fruits, and vegetables that were all freshly harvested before they left the eco-farm.

It was time to head to Tuba, where the first stop is at Pinderella’s Kitchen along Asin Road to have their passion fruit cheesecake and coffee while enjoying the quaint cafe’s Instagram-worthy design. One may visit the cafe, but reservations must be first made.

For lunch, the tour proceeded to Manduto Restaurant located within the Pinewoods Subdivision, for a scrumptious meal of local foods with their distinct flavor.

After lunch, participants headed to nearby Dapafejo’s Farm, which is a newly opened landscape and plantita-friendly farm, where the familiarization tour ended.

Felise Cruz of the national tour agency, T.r.i.p.s Travel, said the green tour has a lot of potential to be marketed especially to foreign tourists, which is most of their clients.

Cruz said the access road going to the Benguet Agri Eco Farm also needs further improvement since the road could be a major conside-ration for tourists to visit a place.

DOT-Cordillera Director Jovy Gano-ngan said they have developed the Farm Tourism Circuit Development, which is divided into two – the ‘fun farm’ tour and the ‘green tour’.

The other package launched was the ‘fun farm’ tour set in La Trinidad and Tublay, with a successful dry run conducted last year.

She said the itine-rary of the tours could still be improved and would also depend on the availability of farm sites and restaurants. 

Ganongan said they would further develop more tour packages featuring the bounty of Benguet, in partnership with local tour operators who have the heart and passion to boost tourism in the province.  – Ofelia C. Empian