WANDERLUST| An oasis in New Corella

LAST HOLY Thursday’s temperature reached a blistering 37 degrees Celsius, or roughly around 99 degrees Fahrenheit.  With this intensity of heat prolonged over the past few days, some countries would have declared a heatwave. But since we are in a tropical country, it’s just one really hot and vicious El Niño summer.

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With the excessively hot weather, I decided to speed to Panas, an idyllic spring resort hidden within the rolling terrains of the agricultural town of New Corella in Davao del Norte, and find refuge away from the city’s heat. Five years have passed since my last visit. I reckoned that it is about time for a return.Heeding the advice of our Tagum-based photographer friend Bobcat Gregorio (since this will be my first time to take public transport to Panas), I took a MetroShuttle bus from their Abreeza Mall terminal en route to Tagum City.  It was a smooth hour-long ride to the famous Palm City. Conveniently right beside the Metro Shuttle terminal in Tagum is another station for vehicles bound for New Corella. I hopped on jeepney and whizzed to my next stop. After a 20 minute ride, I finally reached New Corella.

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New Corella is a second class municipality at the heart Davao del Norte, surrounded by the municipalities of Montevista, Mawab, Nabunturan, Asuncion and the city of Tagum.

Accompanied by mucipal tourism officer Joel Quinanahan and his team, we sped off to Panas, another 10 minute ride on board a “habal-habal” (motorcycle).  Surprisingly, the drive was even smoother along the concrete road that lead to the spring, thanks to the funding partnership of the Department of Tourism and the provincial government.  During my last visit, we had to maneuver cautiously along the narrow, unpaved and muddy gravel road.

The barangay of New Carcor, where Panas is located, has opened a new entrance, a concreted stairway, leading to the spring. The local government, with the support of the community, manages the spring complex. 

In less than 10 minutes of descent, we were greeted with the sound of gushing water and the sight of a mini waterfall and its pool of cool, emerald colored spring.  I was finally back in Panas.

The 30-hectare Panas is a complex of natural pools, fresh water lagoons and waterfalls fed by Del Monte and Patrocino rivers. Sir Joel gave me for a quick tour around the complex while I reminisced my last visit to the place.

Panas, which means rubbed out, blurred or smudged in English, refers to the mineralized foliage that falls on the running spring water.  After a certain period of time, the fallen leaves, clasped to the stones and boulders on the fringes of the spring, lose its natural color and appear to have merged with the rocks. From afar, it would appear like the spring pool was set in cement when in reality, nature found a way of securing the crystal clear waters from overflowing. 

Panas spring complex is surrounded by cottages and open-huts that by locals and guests use for their day tour and picnic. Rates range from Ph100 to PhP200. A conference hall can also be rented out for PhP1,000 for 8 hours. Entrance fee is only PhP20 per person. They also charge parking fees, depending on the type of vehicle.

Aside from Panas, visitors can also do spelunking in New Corella. Accroding to Sir Joel, there are aroud a hundred caves explored (some still unexplored) in the municipality. These caves are the sources of water for the communities that is why New Corella is also known as Davao del Norte’s water basin.

Well, no caves for me that day. I was already delighted with my lengthy dip in its tub-like pool. On that scorching Holy Thursday, that was all I need from this natural oasis.

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