If you’re planning to take a trip to Negros Occidental and would like to immerse yourself not only in batchoy broth and inasal oil but also in nature, consider a visit to Mambukal Resort and Wildlife Sanctuary. Located in the town of Murcia, it offers the works: the sound of chirping birds, clean and fresh air, a forest trek, natural hot springs to soak yourself in, a lagoon, trees and trees and trees everywhere you look.
The sanctuary is situated at the foot of Mt. Kanlaon and covers an area of 23.6 hectares, which includes part of the Mount Kanlaon Natural Park. It’s less than an hour’s drive from the Bacolod-Silay airport.
Owned and managed by the provincial government of Negros Occidental, the popular tourist attraction had to close down for a couple of years due to the pandemic, as it served as quarantine and isolation facility for returning Negrenses and Capitol employees found positive for Covid.
In December, when local cases had gone down, lessening the need for a healing facility, the resort was reopened to the public—only to close again ten days later when typhoon Odette devastated the province. After four months of rehabilitation, the pride of Murcia is now open to visitors.
But Mambukal is no longer the Mambukal of yore. It’s more peaceful and serene. If you’ve been here before, you might note the difference. It is no longer considered an ordinary mountain resort. As it’s name suggests, it’s been declared a wildlife sanctuary via Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson’s Executive Order (EO) 21-45, series of 2021.
The area is home to several endemic and wildlife species and is therefore protected by Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. The EO prohibits the “hunting, wounding, taking or killing within the said territory of any endemic or wildlife animals/and or the destruction of any vegetation or any act causing the disturbance to the habitat of the wildlife.”
Provincial Tourism Officer Cheryl Decena tells us that the EO comes with more stringent guidelines for building structures inside the sanctuary as well as guest regulations. For instance, they now opt to allot “no-build zones” for areas found to be the breeding ground or home of certain animal species.
Videoke sessions are no longer allowed in the resort as well as the noise drives away the birds and the bats. Guests are allowed to bring in food but the old barbecuing and grilling days are over. Decena says the Philippine Diversity Conservation Foundation (PhilBio) advised that bats are very sensitive to smoke and they could smell it from kilometers away. Mambukal is one of the few bat sanctuaries in the Philippines.
Smoking cigarettes is not allowed in the premises and guests are only allowed to park their cars at designated spots. Visitors should bring out their own trash once they leave the premises. “Flora and fauna protection comes first,” stresses Decena.
To control the carrying capacity of the sanctuary, the government of Negros Occidental has increased the entrance free from a measly P50 to P120 for adults and from P20 to P60 for children. The entrance fee includes access to the small and big pools as well as the hot springs or dipping pools. Huts are available from P500 to P800. For overnight stays, villas and cottages can be rented out. Rates range from P2000 to to P5,500.
A separate fee of P100 is required to use the Ishiwata Bath House. This ofuro—the first permanent structure in the resort—was actually built in 1927 by Japanese architect Kokichi Paul Ishiwata, who originally developed the place as a bath house and picnic garden. If you’re familiar with the Negrense director Peque Gallaga’s classic “Oro, Plata, Mata,” one of the pivotal scenes was shot here, while some parts of the forest were used as setting for the characters’ wartime refuge.
Walk-ins are no longer allowed at Mambukal. Guests are required to pre-book at the Mambukal Booking Office. For inquiries and reservation, call 034-4338516.