It started raining in the night. When I woke and headed out for my run around 5:30 AM on the second day of the Philippines Durian Tour, it was still raining. I examined the sky, hoping that I spied an area of lighter grey toward the east, which would signal an end to the rain.
I didn’t want the rain to spoil the incredible panoramic view from the Sitio Karilongan Bollad ta’ Manama, or God’s Hand, which sits at 3,200 feet above Davao City.
“Don’t worry,” Rodelyn, our guide, texted me. “It will stop by the time you arrive.”
She was right. By the time our group of durian munchers packed into the car and drove to the Macatabo Village to meet up with Rodelyn, the sun was just beginning to slip out from behind the clouds.
Visiting the Obu Manuvu at Macatabo Village in Barangay Carmen
The village chief, Datu Landim, and his wife Bae Nilda were waiting for us in beaded necklaces when we arrived to their house in Macatabo. There were were introduced to our guide for the morning, Rodelyn, who explained to us the rules for visiting the village.
We were glad to have brought our local durian guide, Ivy, along too, for cultural explanations, because talking with the very shy Rodelyn I’m not sure we would have learned much about the village, the Ovu Manuvus, or the God’s Hand.
A brief cultural summary:
The Obus are a subgroup of the Manuvus who have been living in the mountainous areas between Cotabato and Davao del Sur since before anyone remembers, before there were Americans or Spanish invaders or Muslim missionaries, since the legendary Apo Sandawa moved his family to the base of Mt. Apo from somewhere in north Mindanao, who knows how long ago.
They typically work as day laborers on pineapple, coffee, or banana plantations, earning an average wage around 2,000 php ($37 USD) per month. That’s way below the World Bank’s thresh hold of “extreme poverty.”
Just think about it in terms of durian, if you want to feel like a rich spoiled person. That’s about 40 kilos worth of durian at Magsaysay Park, an easy durian munching feat if you’re in Davao City for awhile with some friends.
Koontayan ‘To Obu-Manuvu Eco-Cultural Adventure Tour
So in 2018 the Datus and the other tribal leaders partnered with a Filipino pharma-company (led by a Dutch guy who now lives in the Philippines, Hubertus van Dierendonck), to invite tourists to come experience their village, their mountains, their wildlife, and their culture.
Dierendonck is the guy who paid for the cement stairs that lead up to the God Hand on the peak of Mt. Karilongan, and is the reason there is a bald white guy on the wall of Datu Landim’s house.
In the advertorial pamphlet I was given it says:
The plan is to establish some simple but attractive eco-friendly Obu-Manuvu structures
called “Obu Manuvu Village” at the top end of the community farms in Karilongan,
where besides the earlier mentioned nature attractions, cultural activities will be
performed that will attract eco-tourist/visitors who want a new experience and adventure
in a helpful way both to the Obu Manuvu indigenous community and to the environment.
That’s the kind of thing I can totally support.
Supporting community and the natural environment by going for a hike, having good conversations, and eating durian? It’s the whole point of my Durian Tours.
So of course we decided to head out straight away to hike up the mountain behind the village, Sitio Karilongan.
Climbing the 1,083 steps of Sitio Karilongan
After orientation in the Datu’s house, Rodelyn led us on foot through the village into the foothills behind, weaving past a muddy field of cows and a basketball court where a family was drying cocoa beans in the emerging sunlight.
It had rained all morning, and we had to sidestep big pits of churned mud from the villager’s motorbikes and what looked like the tracks of a jeep.
Just behind the village, we dipped down into a verdant ravine ripped from the scenes of Jurassic Park, stepping over a springy bridge over a tumbling river to a small cottage surrounded by tidy rows of tomatoes, basil and cocoa.
The herbal smell of the basil was overwhelming and delicious. One of the villagers saw us examining the cocoa and plucked one of the fruits off the bush to give us. Vladi opened it by banging the egg-shaped pod against a tree trunk until it cracked neatly in half.
The white flesh spilled out, each cocoa bean covered in a juicy sweet pulp with a beautifully perfumed and sweet flavor, almost like a cherimoya or other anona.
We sucked on the cocoa beans as we wandered along. I even crunched up a few raw beans, savoring the bitter, dark chocolate flavor and chewy texture.
After a little over a mile, we reached the foot of the staircase for our climb up the 1,083 steps to the top of Sitio Karilongan. The stairs were filled just 5 months ago, and while the cement was new the path was uneven, each stair a unique ratio that was definitely not the Golden Mean.
As we climbed, the air was still. The sky was still overcast, but the struggling tropical sun was making itself known behind the clouds. Mist rose from the wet ground, the moisture clinging to our skin and clothes. We passed gardens of flowers, fallen marangs rotting on the ground, and even a durian tree in flower.
At last, dripping in sweat, we reached a small ridge where the wind could reach us. The moving air was a relief after the humidity of the climb, and then we spotted the God’s Hand on the top of Sitio Karilongan and celebrated our arrival by drinking in the view.
Reaching the Bollad ‘ta Manama God’s Hand On Top of Sitio Karilongan
On the flat peak of Sitio Karilongan, all of Davao del Sur stretched below us in a green hazy sea. A fresh wind whipped at our faces, and here, at 3,190 feet, it was the perfect temperature.
We were so delighted with reaching the God’s Hand that we didn’t notice the snacks waiting for us in one of the bamboo huts. Instead, we paid our donation in the basket at the base of the God’s Hand and stepped into it’s palm, cradled by the bamboo fingers like the perfect lazy chair.
Rodelyn brought black native coffee, boiled in an extremely fire-charred teapot, and cute bamboo mugs. We were completely content with our coffee-party in the palm of God’s Hand, until the fresh breeze brought a smell to our hungry noses.
It was numb-smelling durian.
Eating Durian on Top of Sitio Karilongan
Suddenly, our morning hike up to see a pretty view and learn about the Obu Manuvu culture turned into a durian coffee party in the palm of God’s Hand.
We turned around, sniffing, as we noticed not just one but four beautiful, high-elevation Arancillos waiting for us in the hut, their thorny skins greyed by the high altitude.
Rodelyn had mentioned at the start of the hike that they would have a few snacks for us at the top, but we had low expectations. Maybe some crackers or a sweet and salty rice treat with a cup of watered down Milo. Probably involving dried fish. Probably not vegan.
While we had seen durian trees on the climb up the hill, we didn’t expect that the tribe would have included any fresh durian in our snack pack!
The durians belonged to Datu Landim, who has a small orchard on the hill with Arancillo and Puyat varieties.
Arancillo has one of the most balanced flavor profile of durians, a lovely butterscotch-wrapped-in-dark-chocolate-truffle flavor. I always love mixing durian with coffee, but this Arancillo was really a match made for heaven.
Those of you who love the Malaysian D24 would have adored this slightly bitter and sticky Arancillo. The two durians are so similar I’ve actually wondered if Arancillo is a D24 seedling brought to the Philippines, and like D24, Arancillo seems to appreciate a little touch of chill from the high elevation.
We could have stayed all day on the top of Sitio Karilongan, eating durian and drinking coffee in the comfort of God’s Hand, but we had other durians waiting on us in the valley below. So with some last looks and selfies, we headed back down the 1,083 steps to continue on with the Philippines Durian Tour.
How To Climb Sitio Karilongan
Make sure to get a booking with one of the tour leaders at the Obu Manuvu Village. You cannot make this climb without a guide. The cost is 400 php per person ($7.50 USD) and includes a light meal and snacks as well as the hike.
It’s only 3 miles round trip, but you will climb almost 700 feet on the stairs. Give yourself at least 2.5 hours to complete the climb as you will want to enjoy the view on the top and stop to along the way.
You can find more details about the climb on my Strava.
How to get to Sitio Karilongan
Sitio Karilongan is the small mountain behind the Obu Manuvu Macutabo Village, a 1.5 hour drive from Davao City on the same road as the Philippine Eagle Sanctuary and Malagos Chocolate Museum and Resort. Just keep going. You’ll pass through the small town of Baguio and into the village of Carmen. Just up the hill on the right-hand side you’ll find a convenience store with a red sign reading “Managsama Co-op.” This is the Obu Manuvu Village.
Make sure to book an appointment before arriving.
Call or text to Rodelyn: +63 (0)938-914-1089
Or call or email Kristina: +63 (0)917-107-5273 / [email protected]
You can follow the map pin below or use this map to navigate to other delicious durian hotspots and blog posts in the Philippines: