Visiting Tabak was a wonderful part of my childhood. My mother and grandmother used to bring me there a lot. As a child, I remember playing in the soft grass and under tall trees in the Fatima Shrine, happily chasing after grasshoppers and dragonflies. I remember the bright morning sun and the cool evening breeze. I remember the buzz of activity as soldiers went about, doing their activities with impressive drive and discipline.
It has been over a decade since those days, and with the emergence of new attractions in and out of Pagadian City, Tabak’s former glory was dampened. To many, it was just a military encampment that people pass along the highway.
Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit Tabak for the first time in years during the 2017 Araw ng Kagitingan celebration and relive those great memories from my childhood. This is part of the initiative to revive tourism in Tabak by showcasing the qualities that made it so popular in the first place (with a couple of improvements).
People don’t actually realize just how great Tabak is until they have experienced it for themselves. Upon entry through the gates, and through the road shaded by tall trees, various military and non-military facilities start to reveal themselves. There is a challenging obstacle course, designed to test your strength and stamina (though you should avoid trying it for your own safety), a rappelling wall, a zip line, a basketball court, a soccer field, and a function hall, just to name a few.
In addition to these facilities, visitors get a chance to see and take pictures with soldiers of an infantry squadron. These soldiers are more than willing to demonstrate the various tactics that they apply in the field, as well as the important functions of each member of the team. The demonstration is both an attraction and a great learning experience.
For those who want to be in tune with nature, Tabak also has something to offer. It has long hiking and biking trails that run through the forest. You can ask military personnel to guide you towards their “Jungle Base”, which is about a 10-20 minute hike through the forest. Along the way, you get to cross a river and a hanging bridge. It is here that soldiers learn jungle survival and combat. The place has a very native feel to it, as there are various makeshift nipa tents and buildings in the vicinity.
If you’re feeling tired or hungry after all of that, then the “Our Lady of Fatima Shrine” is a great place to relax and have a picnic. As it is situated at a higher altitude, it boasts a beautiful view of the landscape and sea below, and the refreshing wind is an added bonus.
A fun fact about Tabak is that it was once a barren mountain face, yet through the efforts of the local officials and military personnel, what was once bare land is now covered in tall trees that provide good shade.
Overall, I would say that Tabak is one of the best places to just take a break and enjoy life. The hospitality of the soldiers, the different activities to try, and the ambiance of the place make it a great destination to take your family and friends!
(Jacob Benjamin Parulan is a Grade 12 STEM student of Pagadian Science High School.)
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