Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hidden Valley (Pinamungahan Cebu)

‘Hidden paradise’ in Cebu lures visitors

CEBU CITY -- A mountain resort in southwestern Cebu is fast becoming a destination of tourists looking for a place far from the hassles of city life.

The P30-million Hidden Valley Resort lies on a 12-hectare hillside property in a secluded valley in Barangay Lamac, Pinamungajan town. The “hidden paradise” is a favorite venue for retreats, meetings, conferences, reunions, outings and even honeymoons.

While most resorts are owned by the rich, Hidden Valley is owned and managed by the Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LMPC).

The resort and the amenities that the villagers now enjoy were nonexistent 40 years ago.

“In the 1970s, Lamac had no road, no electricity, no potable water supply, but it was already a community [of] farmers,” recalled Ma. Elena Limocon, LMPC general manager.

Change came slowly to the remote village. In 1970, some 70 tenants and small farm owners led by then barangay chair Narcisa P. De Gracia formed a Samahang Nayon (a Marcos-era village group) with an initial capital of P3,700. They immediately established a consumers’ cooperative, the forerunner of the LMPC.

Lamac transformed itself through the hard work, sacrifice, commitment and faith in God of members of the LMPC, Limocon said during a “Leaders of Change Forum” of the First Rafi Triennial Awards Summit held on March 4 at the Sacred Heart Center in Cebu City.

The cooperative was one of the award presenters during the summit. In 2000, it received the first Eduardo Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution.

Limocon said the farmers first worked on rotation basis in helping build a road that would link their village to the outside world where they could sell their products and avail themselves of medicines and other basic needs.

Lamac, a two-hour ride from Cebu City, has a population of 5,000. It has a church, health center, elementary and secondary schools, post office, bakery, water system and drugstore.

Now, it is also easily reached through a concrete road from the town center and a gravel road from Barangay Lutopan in Toledo City.

The LMPC grew, acquiring office equipment, a truck, a rice mill and other assets. It later bought land, including a P7.5-million lot in Cebu City, and erected a building and a training center for cooperative members, Limocon said.

Limocon disclosed that the cash prizes that the LMPC won with its awards were used to buy office and farm equipment, and land, as well as construct buildings.

The cooperative also bagged awards in Gawad Pitak, Tulong sa Tao, Gawad Sikap, Mithi Award, Kabuhayan Award, Ulirang Kooperatiba Award, and Outstanding Cooperative-Municipality Partnership Award. Its prizes ranged from P55,000 to P1 million.

Its Hidden Valley Resort can accommodate up to 400 guests at a time. Past visitors included businessmen, school officials and students, balikbayans and their families, and foreigners.

Last year, more than 100 Koreans stayed for 45 days.

The resort offers air-conditioned single and double rooms, 25 big rooms for six persons each, and dormitory-type rooms. Guests can also stay in native huts or in semi-concrete buildings.

Aside from the beautiful landscape, it has a lagoon where guests can go rafting and fishing, two adult pools and two kiddie pools, function halls, restaurant and an amphitheater.

The more adventurous visitors can explore the resort’s seven caves.

The LMPC is also engaged in agricultural modernization, microfinance, youth development, environment protection, product marketing and promotion, and housing and outreach services.

Lomicon said some members were engaged in swine and goat raising, vermiculture, biogas production, dairy farm and organic farming, as well as recycling and managing of a 48-hectare timberland.

The LMPC now has nearly 44,000 regular, associate and youth members, and total assets of P427.8 million. It has 14 offices operating in different places in Cebu.