From way up here, Sorsogon Bay looks like a huge sheet of glass. Everything seems to be on freeze frame, hypnotized into a momentary stillness. There is no hint of the madding crowd below, the hum of industrial activity up ahead, or the sweltering Sorsogon sun.
We are about 300 meters above sea level, at the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) Complex. Here, high up on the mountains, is where clouds of steam rise from the earth; where geothermal energy is harnessed to produce electricity that will, in turn, light up the Luzon Grid. Despite the mechanical maze and the signs that this is essentially a hard-hat area, there is a pervading sense of calm.
It could be because of the vastness. The EDC Complex, commissioned in the 1990s, stands on 25,000 hectares spanning the cities of Legaspi and Sorsogon and the town of Manito in Albay. The 13-kilometer ascent from the highway opens into alternating views of the bay, valleys, foliage and the mountainsides into which the uphill road was carved. Along with the signages reminding the motorist to exercise caution, to slow down or to wear protective gear are those that tell of the EDC’s eco-tourism thrust.
It is actually hard to think of any other color but green when you are up here. The road up is lined with pine trees and gigantic ferns of the most refreshing green. As we shuttle from one point to another, we are frequently reminded of green efforts: reforestation, regreening, (social) responsibility. The high-tech, heavy industrial activity takes a backseat as we take a look-see at some of the facility’s more natural attractions.
First up is the Butterfly Garden. A burst of colors greets us as we enter the netted area for a close encounter with the winged beauties. There’s a hatchery in one area, the better to propagate the species upon species of butterflies that are endemic to the area. The garden also serves as show window for rare flora and foliage.
Next up is the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, where deer, wild boar and monkeys roam. The animals are mostly those rescued from poachers’ traps, with some showing signs of narrow escape. Here, they are rehabilitated and, if found fit, are prepared for reintegration to their natural habitat. In 2007, in fact, the PNOC-EDC released a Philippine Eagle back to the wild. The complex is so located that it is an ideal place for conducting field researches. While we were there, a group of students from the University of the Philippines were at work on their thesis.
A few steps from the wildlife sanctuary is the Veranda, which opens into a sweeping view of the mountains of Manito. From here, you can see lush fields and blue mountains framed by even more green.
The Complex also hosts the Botong Twin Falls and Blue and Green Lagoons and the Inang Maharang Mud Pools. It is also home to nine species of bats, including the golden crowned flying fox, Philippine pygmy fruit bat and large flying fox. Unfortunately, our itinerary can only get us to specific areas, making us wish we had more time to explore.
As we negotiate the paved roads back to the city, we are treated to a heady view of Mayon Volcano, its perfect cone rising proudly in the midst of the lush landscape. We couldn’t get off for a quick snap. Just the same, it is the perfect cap to a day spent up and away.