BIRD WATCHING. The town of Alfonso Lista in Ifugao province has been included in the annual Asian water bird census. The municipal government has opened bird watching as an eco-tourism destination and activity to provide relaxation to locals and residents of neighboring provinces while still complying with the health and safety requirement to prevent the coronavirus disease 2019 from spreading. The activity coincides with Ifugao’s thrust in preserving the environment. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot

ALFONSO LISTA, Ifugao – This town has opened its outdoor tourism destinations to Ifugaos and neighboring provinces to provide a respite for people who have been locked in their homes for several months due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Lorena Dulnuan, municipal tourism officer, in a text message on Wednesday, said their outdoor destinations include the 1.5-kilometer 1,000 Steps, bird watching, and the Domingo Ranch agri-tourism destination. These are available to residents from the different towns of Ifugao and the neighboring provinces such as Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, and Cagayan in Region 2, and Mountain Province in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

“Both destinations are open spaces, large spaces where people can have free movement and breath freely aside from observing physical distancing. We still provide an opportunity for people to have a refreshing environment, to unwind after staying in their homes for several months due to the pandemic,” Dulnuan said.

The 1,000 Steps and the bird watching attractions are located in Barangay Sto. Domingo, on the side of the Magat reservoir managed by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), both on the side of Ifugao.

The 1,000 Steps lies on a 497-meter concrete pathway that stretches 1.56 kilometers towards a hill that is lined with a canopy of trees. The trail has a number of panoramic viewpoints where people can take photos, sit, rest or just enjoy nature.

The bird watching features the white egrets flying in and out of their sanctuary and the Philippine ducks enjoying the warmth of the sun. The site is also ideal for picnics and relaxation, sunset and sunrise viewing, and photography.

On the other hand, the Domingo Ranch is an agri-tourism destination that has a variety of edible plant species, chicken species that include the easter chicken which lays colored eggs, and the PHP1,500-per kilo silk chicken that the Chinese believe to be medicinal.

The ranch is a self-sustaining place where visitors are fed with food mostly obtained from the farm.

“We all know that when we are in a place like this, nakaka-relax sa ating mind at (relaxing to the mind and) soul,” she said.

Dulnuan said their town was included in the Asian waterbird census in 2013 which prompted the local government to start developing the area where people can stay while watching the birds. From then on, the place became part of the annual count of waterbirds, an international activity of environmental advocates.

“These birds are important to the environment, the eco-system because if we do not take care of them, it's like removing a part of the ecology. Here, we can watch nature with the bird, we can commune with the beauty of the birds,” she said.

Dulnuan said that Ifugao’s thrust in preserving the environment is still focused on heritage sites, biodiversity preservation, and the town’s promotion of its destination is not veering away from the concept of Ifugao culture and environment.

Sylvia Chinayog of the Department of Tourism-Cordillera Administrative Region (DOT-CAR), in a separate interview, said the department is helping in the promotion of eco-tourism and agri-tourism destinations, especially with their big potential.

She said that aside from being compliant to the “outdoor” requirement of the Inter-Agency Task Force for emerging diseases, it also maximizes the potential of the areas for preservation and economic activity and farmers getting more value from producing food.

“We are doubling the benefit from the destination and providing an opportunity for locals to have an employment,” Chinayog said.

She said that people have learned to enjoy experiential tourism where they get to be part of protecting the place and harvesting the food they will eat while enjoying the activity. (PNA