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Travel stories: Davao, Mindanao, Philippines

Davao, Philippines

Davao, the window to Mindanao, Philippines

By Ronald de Jong

Davao is often dubbed as the window to the island of Mindanao, an inviting city that will surprise its visitors and raise one's curiosity. The city's name is derived from the word "baba-daba", which originates from rituals that were carried out before a tribal war was started and from the images of fire-breathing mythical figures that were used in these rituals.

The cultural diversity is more present in Davao than anywhere else in the Philippines; this city is a blend of many different cultures. Davao is blessed with the diversity of the people which have embraced this beautiful province as their hometown. Despite its differences in tradition, background and culture, the Dabawenyos have always lived together in harmony. Mosques stands alongside Chinese and Buddhist temples and Christian Churches. The various religions in this region mix freely within a peaceful and friendly community. Davao city is well known as one of the most peaceful, safe and liveable cities in South East Asia and is one of the main tourist destination in the Philippines. It has fine beaches, numerous dive spots and mountain resorts. Because of the city's proximity to Mount Apo (the Philippines highest peak) mountaineering and walking the nature trails are very popular pastime. the views of this mountainous region are breathtaking.

The province of Davao is bursting with life and colour and is home to a fantastic array of flora and fauna; it is famous for its unique orchids, like the Waling-Waling and notorious for its Durian fruit. Malagos is the sanctuary of the Philippine Eagle, an endangered and one of the largest of its species. But there are more popular tourist destinations in the city, the white sand beaches are close to the centre of the city, with just a short boat ride from the mainland, one can enjoy the splendid accommodations of luxury resorts on Samal Island. The Eden Nature Park offers several attractions. It has an Amphitheatre, which is designed in Roman style and architecture. There are areas reserved for swimming and hiking and a guided shuttle tour will take you to the most interesting places. Davao is among the top ten exquisite dive destinations in the country. The tranquil waters in Davao shelters the most beautiful underwater sceneries along the coastline. The coral reefs are swarming with rich and multicoloured tropical marine life, really perfect for scuba diving. The beaches and the various resorts are a haven for other water activities like wind surfing, snorkelling and island hopping.

The many historic sights will give visitors a glance of the city's history. The four main attractions are the San Pedro Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Mindanao, the original structure of the church was built in 1847 in honour of St. Peter, the city's patron saint and the St. Mary of Perpetual Rosary, a shrine built in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary which features series of steps that leads to the main chapel. The Davao Museum holds chapters of Davao's rich history and displays a wide collection of Southern Mindanao antiques, tribal art, local handicrafts, costumes, ceramics, sculptures, jewellery and paintings in this museum one can take a close look at and understand the culture of the people of Davao. There is also the shrine of the holy infant Jesus of Prague; this site has an open air chapel with replicas of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague and that of Our Lady of Fatima.. The people of Davao celebrate their festivals trough out the year, but the most globally known is the Kadayawan sa Dabaw festival. This festival, celebrated every 3rd Week of August, is a weeklong celebration of the plentiful harvests of fruits and orchids during the season and a thanksgiving for Mother Nature's bountiful harvest. Araw ng Davao, a celebration of the founding of Davao is another vibrant fiesta, which is held every March 16, together with the Kadayawan festival, it is Davao city's biggest annual event.

The diversity of the population in Davao does translate into an extraordinary and exciting culinary adventure. Davao has a real seafood culture, many choices of exotic and captivating seafood flavours and fascinating dishes can be found in the numerous restaurants and cantina's that are located along the coast and in the centre of the city. Most restaurants caters to every gastronomic desire and delight, including a wide range of Halal food of various ethnic groups.

Davao is considered as one of the must see places to visit in the Philippines, the climate, its fascinating history and local culture combined with the spectacular sceneries makes this city a holiday destination like no other.

Right across the coastline of Davao City lies the Island of Samal, named as the Island Garden City, a place of harmony and serenity, it is located at the heart of Davao Gulf. This idyllic place has pristine, white beaches, which are true treasures and a part of the island's infinite beauty. There are some private beaches and about 25 commercial resorts along the striking coastline. The beautiful and serene seashore is endowed with mangroves, swamps and coconut trees. This earthly paradise has been praised for its beauty like no other island in the region. It is blessed with many unspoiled natural attractions such as crystal waters, caves, magnificent rock formations and a well protected, flourishing fauna and flora. The endless waters surrounding Samal Island are ideal for various water activities, like jet skiing and wind surfing. There are several unique diving spots with an abundant tropical marine life and colourful coral reefs.

Samal, an island full of diversities, provides a wide range of outdoor activities. Extreme challenges can be found in the exploration of the dark nooks and crannies of the many caves with varying sizes and features. Each cave is a natural treasure with an exciting trail of mystery and magic. For trekkers and nature enthusiasts seeking higher grounds, climbing mount Putting Bato, the highest peak in the Island, towering 1.362 feet above sea level, promises to be a great adventure. The stunning mountain slopes lend themselves for fascinating escapades and the changes in the landscape are astonishing. Samal is ideal for walking, one can go almost everywhere around the island to discover the unbeaten paths. The Island has two waterfalls that will capture the heart of it's visitors. One of the most famous and scenic is the Hagimit Falls with its rustling, spectacular displays of falling water. These amazing falls have natural swimming pools, unique rock formations with a rich variety of vegetation that grows along the river banks. Hagimit falls is a spot where visitors are mesmerized by its natural beauty; it is a treat to the eyes and the best way to get close to nature.

The astounding caves on Samal Island are famous for being the habitat of thousands of fruit bats, known locally as Kwaknits. This sanctuary of nocturnal creatures is considered as one of the worlds largest and is home to five major bat colonies. The small caves allow bats to cluster together in groups for warmth and security. These bats play a key role in maintaining the important balance in the island's ecosystem. Bat droppings, also named guano, are the best natural, organic fertilizer known to mankind.

A man-made attraction of Samal is a dwelling named as �the White House�, a historic landmark that once was the headquarters of a great man named General Hilario Moncado, born in 1898 and the founder of the religious sect known as the �Mongkadistas� . People that belonged to this sect ate raw and uncooked food, no fish, no meat, the use of tobacco, drugs or alcohol was not allowed. Many of the adult male members had long hair and flowing beards, originally thought to "shadow" the face of God. For his followers, General Moncado was a teacher, a prophet believed to have the power to heal and the source of the group's spiritual strength.

The combination of unparallel natural beauty and exotic attractions, its breathtaking panoramas, the warmth and the hospitality of its friendly people make the tropical island of Samal a real paradise on earth.

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