Medellin town banks on adventure tours to spur recovery
SKY’S THE LIMIT
Typhoon Yolanda devastated many parts of Medellin town in north Cebu but the municipality is determined to recover.
One way of moving forward is by offering a different kind of high for thrill-seekers and tourists looking for adventure on a budget.
“We’ve always been known as a sleepy town,” said Gyles Anthony Villamor, the town’s tourism officer about Medellin’s agricultural profile with 60 percent of the land planted to sugarcane.
“We can’t compete with the economy of our neighbor, Bogo City, so we decided to focus on adventure tourism.”
People now throng to a small hill in barangay Caputatan Norte for excitement 135 feet above the ground.
For P50, visitors can get on a 130 meter-long zipline ride from one hill to another.
More daring ones line up for the Tarzan jump, a 15-foot free-fall from a platform set up on the edge of a cliff.
The jumper is strapped to a safety harness and is made to swing like a pendulum three to four times before he finally lands back onto the platform.
Their eco-adventure offerings have landed Medellin town in the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) list of the 2014 Most Visited Local Government Units in Central Visayas for the municipal level.
Villamor said they attract about a thousand people daily to their “Zipaway” during summer and semestral breaks and at least 50 during lean months.
Last year, the town earned P1.3 million from eco-adventure operations alone.
“It’s not really much but our earnings are enough to sustain operations. We are more focused on bringing people to come to Medellin and see what other things we have to offer,” he said.
A big hit
Mayor Ricardo Ramirez said the municipal government leased the hilly lot in barangay Caputatan Norte located about 2 kilometers from the town hall even before he took office in 2007. The site was initially eyed for a shrine but he decided to instead use the property as an adventure tourism site.
The facility is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays during the school season. They operate the whole week-long during the summer months and semestral breaks.
For those who only come for a breath of fresh air, the municipal government built three cottages which could be used free of charge.
Ramirez said he got the idea of adopting eco-adventure tourism for his town when he visited Dahilayan Adventure Park in Bukidnon province.
Villamor said they started to operate the Medellin zipline in 2009 and it became an instant hit.
In 2011, Medellin expanded the tour offerings and included a Tarzan jump.
Another set of cables was installed just above the zipline cable to hold a cable car in 2013. The cable car cruises above the town’s vast sugarcane plantations and is popular among children and families. The ride is just P50 a pop.
The facility stopped operating after the town was ravaged by supertyphoon Yolanda in November 2013.
The zipline and the Tarzan jump facilities as well as the cottages put up in the area were among those wiped out by the super storm.
“With the help of donors we are slowly recovering. You only see very few houses that continue to use tarpaulins for roofs,” Ramirez said.
As they rebuilt typhoon-damaged houses and government facilities, Villamor said, they also rebuilt the zipline and Tarzan jump.
The Tarzan jump resumed operations in April last year while the zipline is scheduled to reopen on Feb. 14 or Valentine’s Day.
Medellin will likewise unveil its new tour facility– the skybike ride which will go for P100 per person.
The skybike – the first in Cebu – was tested early last month. Villamor said they went to Campuestohan Highland Resort in Bacolod City to learn the ropes of operating a skybike facility.
On Medellin’s drawing board is an innovation of the skybike – the sky-trisikad.
“We do not stop from learning and innovating kay adventure tourism na ang in karon. Adventurous na kaayo ang atong kabantan-onan and gusto sila ug outlet,” said Villamor.
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