Davao City: The perfect tourist destination-A A +A
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
"MURDER City" - that was how the defunct Asiaweek described Davao City in the early 1980s. Some two to three people were killed each day and thrown in the ditch. Foreigners and even those from nearby provinces shunned what became the country's "killing fields."
In 1988, a few years after the historic people power in Manila, the son of the last governor of the then undivided Davao Province became the mayor of the city. Rodrigo R. Duterte did the most impossible task of restoring peace and order that was divided by religion and ideological belief.
By the time his first term ended, Duterte had regained much of the city's positive image as an ideal investment haven and tourism destination. During the 67th Araw ng Dabaw celebration, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commented: "The Philippines is just catching up with Davao City which seems to be always leading the way for the rest of the country."
For such accolade, Duterte had this to say: "I hold it as an article of faith in government that there can never be development and progress in any city or province in the country, unless there is stability, unless there is peace and order."
Indeed, Davao City has gone a long, long way. "Over the last two decades, we have seen tremendous progress in infrastructures and linkages, trade and communications, and human resource development," said Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio, the 32-year-old first lady mayor of the city, during the recent anniversary celebration. "We continue to attract not only investors but people who have seen paradise in Davao."
"A resort city" was how Catalina Dakudao, former regional director of the Department of Tourism described Davao. After all, it has "all the ingredients of a successful destination. You have the mountains, the seas, the fruit baskets, the orchids."
Today, Davao is the trade and commerce center of Mindanao. It is just one hour and thirty minutes by plane from Manila (45 minutes if from Cebu City). Davao is also the gateway to East Asian countries, particularly Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
In 2006, Davao hosted the tourism forum of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "Davao is slow compared to Hongkong, Bangkok, Manila, and Cebu," wrote Ernie Abella, editor of Madayaw, a magazine that was released in conjunction with the event. "But you can get from sea to mountain by the time you finish the juice of a fresh coconut."
For those who want to know more about Davao City, log on this website: www.discoverdavao.com. Or, visit the Department of Tourism office at fifth floor of Landco Building located at J.P. Laurel Avenue.
Davao is home to three Philippine icons: the exquisite waling-waling orchid (which you can see at Puentespina Orchid Center in Agdao), the controversial durian fruit (have a taste of it at the Madrazo Fruit Stand in Bangoy Street), and the endangered Philippine eagle (travel about one hour from the city to Malagos, Calinan where the Philippine Eagle Center is located).
If you are a first timer to the city, your first stopover should be the Davao City Hall in San Pedro Street. The place is spacious and you'll see some activities being done at the nearby Jose Rizal Park. Along San Pedro Street is the Camp Domingo Leonor, which happened to be the quarters of the Spanish and later American soldiers in the 1920s.
Just a walking distance away from the city hall is the Sangguniang Panglungsod building. In front of it is a freedom statue designed by Kublai Milan. At the back of the building is the Museo Dabawenyo, where you get a glimpse of what city looks like in the past.
Adjacent to the Sangguniang Panglungsod is the San Pedro Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Mindanao. The original structure of the church was built in 1847 in honor of St. Peter, the city's patron saint. The old altar is preserved at the right wing of the cathedral.
If you have already done the walking tour, call a taxi and tell the driver to bring you People's Park in Camus Street. The expansive and beautiful 70-million park features many delightful treats for its beholders to discover. Grand landscaped waterfall, strategically scenic benches, a small but fun playground, amazingly breathtaking gardens, arranged multipurpose trees, lovely traditional cottages and sophisticated sculptures.
Before the day is over, go to the Davao Crocodile Park, Inc. in the diversion road in Maa. It is home to some 700 crocodiles, including Pangil, the country's second largest reptile at 18 feet long and is more than 60 years old. Witness breath-taking stunts done by tight-rope walker on top of a crocodile pond.
Having your fill of crocs, you might want to check other animals in small cages or glass-encased enclosures. There are raucous parrots, eagles and mynahs. Snakes are coiled inside their cages, their heads tucked under their shiny skins. There's a bearcat hanging precariously on a branch and in front is a swinging orangutan. Smaller animals such as macaques, porcupine, civet, leopard cat, monitor, and deer have their own cages too.
Davao also has a number of beaches to offer. Times Beach, two kilometers from the city center, bustles with picnickers during Sundays and holidays. Historic Talomo Beach is best remembered as a landing site for Japanese and American forces during World War II.
But the best beaches are located in nearby Samal Island. Highly recommended are Pearl Farm Beach Resort and Bluejaz Beach Resort and Waterpark (www.bluejaz.net). Pearl Farm (the only triple A beach resort in Mindanao) is a 45-minute boat ride from Davao City while Bluejaz (whose biggest attractions are the two giant slides) is only five minutes away.
One of the things that make Davao unique is its durian. If you can't stand the smell, you can always drink it. At Bluegr‚ Caf‚, you can try the durian cappuccino - a unique brew of durian and coffee. Other noted caf‚ bars are Basti's Brew, Bo's Coffee Club, Caf‚ Marco, and Claude's Le Caf‚ de Ville.
Don't worry about food; restaurants and bars are aplenty. The city is known for its inihaw (grilled tuna) and kinilaw (local version of sashimi using tuna or blue marlin strips). For international cuisine, you can choose from any of the following: Ranchero (don't miss the delicious baby back ribs or the sizzling bulalo) Krua Thai, Farfalla Pasta Bar, Tsuru, Hanoi, and Jack Ridge.
There is no shortage of accommodations in Davao. Among the famous ones are Marco Polo Davao on Claveria Street, Royal Mandaya Hotel on Ponciano Street, Apo View Hotel in Bonifacio Street, Grand Men Seng Hotel in Magallanes Street, and Grand Regal Hotel and Waterfront Insular Hotel, both in Lanang.
Other recommended hotels are Bagobo House, Hotel Galleria, Casa Letecia, Regency Inn, Davao Tower Inn, Villa Margarita, Orange Grove Hotel, Hotel Elena, and Sampaguita Tourist Inn.
Before you leave the city, you must bring with you something from Davao. Since you can't bring durian, buy durian bars and preserves. Sweet pomelos, particularly the seedless varieties, also make a good pasalubong since these have a longer shelf life compared to other fruits. Women can also flock to Aldevinco Shopping Center at C.M. Recto Street; here they can buy various sizes and forms of malong, tinalak and other souvenirs.
The best time to visit Davao is the months of March and August. On March 6, the city celebrates its anniversary. One of the most anticipated events is the Parada Dabawenyo (a parade where government agencies and private sectors joined together to show their solidarity) and search for Mutya ng Dabaw.
On every third week of August, Davao celebrates the festival of all festivals in Mindanao. It's called Kadayawan sa Dabaw (coined from the Dabawenyo word dayaw, which means "good"). Actually, the week-long event celebrates the blessings of God upon the people of the land, the wealth of culture and the serenity of life.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 24, 2011.