Sunday, December 30, 2012

monkey forest at Santa Catalina, Oriental Negros

Discovering this monkey forest hidden deep in the rolling hills of Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental was by chance, if not a beautiful accident for me.

Endemic monkeys, about a hundred of them, roam wild and free in this protected pocket of a forest.

I was not aware that such a place ever existed in Negros until one local guy offered me sketchy information about a wild monkey sanctuary while I pulled over to take a photo of an absolutely beautiful landscape (photo below). A scenery so picturesque it looked like a Windows screensaver came to life right before me!

Wild monkeys, forests and Santa Catalina won't sit well in one sentence for me. Whenever Santa Catalina town hogs the headline, it's always about a gunfight between the army and the communist rebels (CPP-NPA). The thick forests of Santa Catalina which is tucked in the slopes of Mt. Talinis has been known as home of said rebels. I'm happy to tell that the last couple of years have been generally peaceful.

Knowing the reputation of the town, I did not take the recommendation seriously. I just smiled, showed courtesy and kept on driving. A few minutes on the road, the mistake of not visiting a monkey sanctuary finally caught on me. I made a U-turn and asked for directions to the wild monkey sanctuary.

I had to drive a few meters of rough road that cuts a sugarcane plantation and had to cross a river to reach the place. A retired schoolteacher with a good sense of humor and a heart the size of the planet is the man behind the monkey sanctuary. His name is Mr.Dionisio Valor and he was there to show me the place.

Mr. Valor told me that the monkeys have been there even before he was born. The monkeys have started to come down and lingered across his yard. He has been feeding them with bananas. In a comic show of skill, he asked someone to put a coconut near the monkeys. Sure enough, one monkey took the challenge to skin it. Coconut milk for biko, kinilaw or halang-halang, anyone?

Mr. Valor shared to me that former Secretary of the Department of Finance Gary Teves and party visited the day before. Meanwhile, the local government gives financial assistance and a skills training program--perfect for locally made souvenir items; an NGO intends to share its expertise in conservation; somebody from Silliman University will tag the monkeys and plot the baseline data. Looks like everything is in place.

But it hasn't been a smooth ride. Last year, Mr. Valor sought assistance for the survival of the sanctuary. Due to inadequate supply of food for the monkeys, the monkeys got their bananas and young corns from the plantations outside the sanctuary. Wildlife hunting also posed a problem. Some people hunted the monkeys using an improvised shotgun as reported by The Visayan Daily Star in August of last year.

In his jovial self, Mr. Valor bade me goodbye and sent me off on his bamboo raft as he had a meeting waiting for him on that early morning. As I set off my 21 kilometer drive on the winding road (and a very rough one for the most part) of Santa Catalina to Pamplona, I couldn't help but wish the old man that all odds will be in his favor.

How to get there:
Santa Catalina is 92 kilometers west of Dumaguete City. From the town proper of Santa Catalina, take the road to Pamplona town (note: the junction to Barangay Kabulacan where the monkey sanctuary is located is just beside the town police station). The monkey sanctuary is a quick and scenic drive from the town center. The road is well-paved except the back road leading to the monkey forest. 

contact information:
Mr. Dionisio Valor

Monkey Sanctuary location/address:
Mansanagan, Kabulacan, Santa Catalina
Oriental Negros

*there is no entrance fee so I voluntarily handed out P50.00 as donation.


  1. do you have any other phone number? di na kasi makontak si mr. valor.


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