At 4:55AM the sky was already grey-blue. Far below clouds rolled over each other, mirroring the sky as it turned to pink and then to gold and then to orange. By 6AM we could see peeks of wrinkled green mountains marching into the distance.
By 8:00AM, we were eating bitter, numbing, ivory Arancillo on a mountain road with too many durians to choose from and a sky as blue as Richard’s favorite t-shirt.
It really is a Marilog Mountain Durian Paradise.
About Sonnen Berg Mountain Farmstay
We’d stayed the night at Sonnen Berg’s brand new attap dwelling, a 2-bedroom house with attached toilet and a small patio. The house was completed just one year ago, in August 2018, and used to be a storage shed before Joman Torres decided to renovate it for guests.
The Sonnen Berg Resort — like most good things — developed by accident.
The Torres family built the larger house and small pool at the very top of the hill in 2010 as their own private vacation house.
The house sits at 2,670 feet (813 meters) above the river valley below, and offers epic views whether you’re cozily sipping a tsikwate at sunrise or relaxing in the pool at noon.
To complete their Personal Paradise, they planted 10 durian trees around the house, now 10 years old and fruiting.
But like most Filipinos, Joman and his wife are too hospitable. They had so many friends asking to stay overnight to catch the sunrise, but with nowhere to stay, that Joman renovated the shed just for friends.
But soon the Torres needed to hire full-time staff to deal with friends of friends parking, snapping Instagram photos by the pool, sipping bottomless hot chocolate, and munching durian.
They decided to actually open a resort. But a resort needed a name for people to tag on Instagram.
Joman’s first three name submissions to the local Business Registration office were all already taken. So on the 4th try, he submitted “Sonnen Berg” — figuring it was unlikely other Filipinos were choosing German words.
Sonnen Berg translates to “sun mountain.”
The Rooms at Sonnen Berg Mountain Resort
This personal Mountain Paradise is now a simple overnight for nature lovers and sunrise seekers.
The main 2-bedroom house has been finished for just over a year, and 6 brand new rooms are ready to welcome guests as of September, 2019.
The rooms are simple but clean.
There is no hot water shower, no WiFi, and no air conditioners (but at 2,670 feet you don’t really need AC!).
Only four of the rooms have attached bathroom, while two of them have a shared toilet outside.
But they all have a pretty remarkable view.
As of writing (September 2019), these are the prices:
1) 2-Bedroom House: PHP 2,500/night ($48 USD)
2) Double Room: PHP 1,700/night ($33 USD)
Durian at Crossing S
Sonnen Berg Mountain is beautiful and remote because the area is just that — remote.
It’s the kind of remote where, in those sunrise mountains marching into the distance women still die of childbirth because it’s too far from the hospital and children don’t attend school because it’s too far to walk.
…(so don’t get in any accidents while you’re out durian hunting).
After sunrise, we headed down the driveway to Crossing S, where a small dirt road heading down, down, down to the Opian River over 1,000 feet below meets the Davao-Bukidnon Highway.
If you are taking public transit from Davao City, tell the driver to drop you at Crossing S and you will be here, with Sonnen Berg Mountain on one side and the little dirt road on the other.
The views were breathtaking, the air was sparkly clean.
We were supposed to be jogging, but I was hungry. We’d skipped dinner the night before and secretly we were all hoping to find a durian feed in the villages below. Something fresh. Something special.
When we caught a whiff of the durian hanging in front of a small Sari-Sari shop, we ditched the jogging and starting eating instead 😁
Arancillo at Mario Lamban’s Durian Farm
It was only 8AM, but already Mario Lamban had collected his durians from the farm behind the small attap house and sari-sari shop and set them out for sale.
Mr. Lamban is the Village Head of Purok Opian, a teeny tiny petite little bitty village down along the Opian River.
He moved to the village with his parents in the 1980’s, back when a logging company was still active in the area, and stayed after the company left and the dirt road was rapidly swallowed by grass.
When he bought his durian trees in 1990, the road had narrowed to a dirt walking path, so he carried his trees on his back 3.8 miles from the nearest paved road.
If you came here before March 26, 2010, Kuya Mario didn’t bother to sell his durians from his Sari-Sari shop, because there was no road and no one passing by to buy the durians.
Roads change everything.
Mario was selling 7 different varieties of durian — including D24, Puyat, and Duyaya — but I had eyes and nose only for Arancillo.
I hadn’t had any good Arancillo yet in 2019. It had all been stringy and pasty, and too sweet.
Good Arancillo should be like this:
Mario’s Arancillo was alcoholic and smooth, like an ivory-fleshed Red Prawn. The flesh was almost fiberless, falling apart in piles of whipped cream that we scooped eagerly with our fingers.
After a breakfast of 3 equally glorious Arancillos, we said good-bye to Mario and started the long trek back up the hill to Crossing S and a swim with a view Sonnen Berg Mountain.
Getting to Sonnen Berg Mountain and Crossing S in Marilog
Sonnen Berg Mountain is at “Crossing S” on the main Davao-Bukidnon Road in Marilog, about 30 minutes before you would arrive to the most famous part of Marilog District –> the highlands of Buda.
The road is paved all the way to Crossing S, so you should have no problem accessing Sonnen Berg Mountain with any kind of vehicle.
Google Maps would have you believe that Crossing S and Sonnen Berg Mountain is just 1.5 hours from Davao City; however with construction, traffic, hilly roads, and distracting durian on the roadsides, give yourself at least 2.5 hours to arrive.
Use the map below to find Sonnen Berg Mountain and nearby durian stalls, or navigate to other durian hotspots in the Philippines. If you have an iOs, try out our new Durian Traveler’s App!