DAVAO

Exploring, preserving home (1st of 5 parts)

MATI CITY -- This is where I was born and raised.

I remember exactly how summers look like in Mati when I was still younger (early 2000s). The beaches are unsurprisingly our destinations whenever summer starts. Before, you can only find locals and maybe few tourists enjoying the Dahican Beach which are interestingly (but normal for us) with no entrance fees.

But it is a totally different picture now.

Gone are the days of the quiet, unspoiled Dahican Beach. Today, people from around the country and even foreigners flocked here especially summer season to experience this long stretch of white sand beach as it is, undeniably, a perfect summer spot for all the beach bums.

I personally think this is a welcome development as it boosts tourism receipts and makes Mati in the radar of tourism investors.

But beyond these surface-level developments, we should always look deeper and ensure that real progress is made.

In this series, the Manlalakbay will journey you to the rich landscape and seascape of Mati City and bring stories of developments and challenges that come with the rising popularity of the lone city in Davao Oriental.

Dahican: Surfing the waves of changes

Dahican Beach is gaining popularity it deserves. It was perfectly reflected in the Cebu Pacific-led crowdsourcing campaign wherein Mati was picked as one of the 10 preferred destinations the netizens think the airline should fly next.

The now-popular beach, aside from its clear blue waters, huge waves and white sand beach is famed because of surfing and skimboarding.

“Surfing and skimboarding really started tourism here,” Gabby Sibala, owner of Dahican Surf Resort (DSR), who is a surfer himself for 13 years, shared.

Being one of the few first people to see Dahican’s potentials, Sibala was first hesitant to open a resort in the area to keep it out from the eyes of the public and sustain its peaceful state.

But the thought of outsiders (who may eventually discover the area) developing Dahican rather than them, the locals, pushed him to open a resort and a surfing school – DSR and the Dahican Surf School.

“We surfers, we do not want too many surfers in one beach, we hate crowded area. But I thought that it would be better if we start the development here so we can set the regulation and push for sustainable tourism ourselves because we really want Dahican to maintain its rural vibe, we don’t want it to be commercialized,” he said.

The surf school, at present, has 13 accredited surf instructors who cater to both tourists and those who really intend to make it as their sports.

Jasper Jave Consigna, 18, who started surfing since he was seven has been earning because of teaching surfing.

Surfing lessons cost P400 per hour.

“Surfing is really a big part of my life. I enjoy helping those who are eager to learn it. Also, it is my way of living now,” the young surfer said adding that the water sports taught him much discipline and environmental awareness.

The surf boys, like Jasper, are mostly out of school youth when they started.

“But now, we really encouraged them to go to real school or even Alternative Learning School (ALS). I am happy that right now some of them are in college, others finished ALS while the rest are still finishing it. Seeing them transformed to a responsible adult is enough to make me happy,” Sibala said.

The resort owner shared that he dreamed for his boys to finish school and make their own surf school someday.

Responsible tourism

With the influx of tourists in Dahican, problems on solid waste management are inevitable.

Controlling this problem from becoming worse, the City Government of Mati launched last year the Solid Waste Integrated Management (Swim) program, an initiative implemented to call for a comprehensive waste prevention, recycling, composting, and disposal program to protect human health and the environment.

Mati City Mayor Carlo Rabat also plans to put up common water sewage system and water treatment facility to clean water wastes before going to the sea.

Also, investors are advised to follow height requirements for all its structures to keep the beach area’s landscape.

“We put measures in place, while we want to go for urbanization, we also want to preserve our rural setting, to balance things out,” the mayor said.

In keeping the beach clean even after parties like the annual Summerfrolic party, organizers shared that they are conducting clean up drive activities along the beach line after the party.

However, environmentalists still urged locals living in coastal areas and tourists to be responsible.

They underscored that though picking garbage is a good gesture, still, there is no better way to solve the problem but to discipline the source – humans.

“If we don’t discipline ourselves, we may find ourselves picking our own garbage for 20 years and it is not good. Tourists and locals, we should be responsible, remember that it is our home. Keeping this clean by not throwing our trash away anywhere especially to the seas, is the least we can do,” Dolores Valdesco, Davao Oriental provincial environmental planner, said.

On security and emergency response

Security is a paramount concern in tourism. The local government has taken this seriously to keep the confidence of the tourists.

“Aside from our security agencies, our people in the barangays are very active and vigilant, and whenever they see something suspicious they report it immediately. We also put in place five tourist police in the area,” Rabat said.

To strengthen these measures, Rabat shared that they intend to establish a security and emergency center in Dahican, a one-stop hub for police patrols, ambulance, fire trucks and others to better cater to these areas where tourists commonly visit. This, Rabat said, is eyed to be realized within this year.

Mati is home to world-class tourism sites that could catapult the city to the global tourism map thus generating jobs to the community and development to the whole city. But as a local here, I dream that amid the developments and booming tourism activity, may its natural beauty be preserved and balanced and may it continue to be a home to its locals.

***

For the second part of this series, Manlalakbay will take you to a flight and see how Mati looks from above as we journey with the Mindanao Saga Flying Club and discuss in the air how are its operations since it opened and what are the plans that are about to land.

For suggestions, comments and questions, email me at aceperez.manlalakbay@gmail.com


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