Forest Camp is nestled up the highlands of Valencia, one of three interior towns of Negros Oriental. A few minutes' drive from the bustling city of Dumaguete, Forest Camp is literally a camp in the forest, with brooks, trees and lush topography in the background. Getting there is relatively easy (finding this place is not at all difficult because of its popularity among the Dumagueteños). You can simply take a jeepney in Dumaguete bound for Valencia and get off at the town market where tricycles for hire and habal-habal (local motorcycles) can be found. They normally charge a minimum fee of Php40.00-Php100.00. Alternatively, you can rent a habal-habal and drive to the camp by yourself.
It would have been fun to drive a habal-habal but I can only maneuver a bicycle. Besides, tricycle – I surmised after seeing a foreign guy back at the guest house sporting bruises and big open wounds on his legs (habal-habal accident) – was a safer option. Although the road to Forest Camp is cemented, the terrain is a bit steep and there are parts that were severely damaged by typhoon Sendong.
My original plan was to go to Twin Lakes in Sibulan but the local men at the jeepney terminal were against the idea. “It’s far from here and it’ll cost you a lot,” the jeepney driver blatantly told me. “Where are you from anyway?” he asked in a tone that’s devoid of compassion.
“I’m from Manila,” I replied with a smile.
“Where in Manila?” he barked.
“Are you alone?” It’s amazing how he was able to keep his voice in an angry tone.
“Yes,” I said, still keeping the smile on my face. He didn’t exactly say that I shouldn’t go to Twin Lakes but during the course of his interrogation, it’s clear that he wanted me to go to Valencia instead.
“Did you take photo of my jeepney?”
Oh no, I thought, is taking photographs not allowed here?
“Yes, sir, I already did.”
“With the name visible on the frame?”
“Yes,” I showed him the photo. “Can you take a photo of me too?” He wasn’t asking. It sounded more like a command. Ah, he must just be intense.
“Why, yes, of course,” I aimed my camera at him.
“My buddies, too.” He pointed at the two men near us. “He’s a balikbayan from Saudi,” he proudly told me of one of his comrades. “Ay naku, kaguwapo kaayo!” He boomed when he saw the photo. “Can I have a copy of this?”
“You can but it has to be printed,” I explained. He nodded, although he didn’t look convinced.
“Listen, you get on my jeep and I’ll drop you off in Valencia. I’ll talk to the habal-habal guys to take you to Forest Camp,” he said. Great. But he never talked to the guys when we reached Valencia. He simply pointed out the guys, who turned out to be tricycle - and not habal-habal - drivers. One of them was Manong Enie who, unlike the jeepney driver, didn’t much have to say. After a short negotiation regarding the rate, we headed to the mountain.
The road to Forest Camp is winding and uphill, with sections that badly need reconstruction. I read in some travel journal online that Forest Camp is famous among the locals for getaways and picnics. That day, however, no guests were around - except for a group of young excursionists who left early.
Inside Forest Camp, I was literally alone. Ah, this is great, I told myself jubilantly. It's fun because I got to enjoy the pools all by myself. (There are two river-fed swimming pools) Heck, I could swim and dive and frolic in the water in any manner I liked and nobody's going to mind. If I were adventurous, I would have swam there in my birthday suit! There were a few men scattered around the camp doing some construction work but they were all focused on their job.
The water was very refreshing and cold. I was told that it flows directly from the mountain. Not surprising because Valencia, after all, is the major provider of water and geothermal energy to the town itself and the neighboring towns. It's an ideal place to hang out if you want some peace and quiet and be one with nature. Apart from the occasional sound of revving engine (from tricycles that pass the road nearby), the only sound that can be heard comes from the flowing water in the nearby river.
In the middle of the camp is a hanging bridge where you can have a semi-bird's eye view of the camp and the Banica River below. It also connects the reception area to the picnic ground where a few kiosks are located. Cottages are also available for an overnight stay. Food shouldn't be a problem - there's a small restaurant inside the camp that serves breakfast and meals. Their native chicken tinola is to die for. Entrance fee to the camp is P80.00.
For the complete 4-day itinerary of my Solo Backpacking Adventure in Dumaguete, go here.
See the wonderful people I met in Dumaguete by clicking here.