A YEAR ago, when I was doing a shoot for the Province of Davao Occidental with its consultant and good friend Derf Maiz, I traveled around the new province from Malita, Don Marcelino down to Jose Abad Santos. During an activity, I reunited with an old friend, Jean Seekins Bautista, lovely wife of Mayor Bradly Bautista. She invited me to their private beach house in Tubalan Cove but we had to reschedule.

Fast forward this year before the election, the trip finally pushed through and I was able to invite a few friends along. Road trip from Davao to Malita by private van took two and a half hours of good coastal road and scenic views of the bay and mountains. The boat ride was a mere five minutes away.

Malita Dives, the simple beach house beautifully structured on stilts beside a huge rock formation, did not disappoint. Although initially coined the famous Maldives in mind, the owners intended for it to become known for the sanctuary it is nestled within. Tubalan Cove is blessed with pristine and clean waters where one can clearly see healthy marine life and coral formations underwater, with an added bonus of a vintage prewar Japanese plane wreck one can dive and explore.

Mayor Bradly found a paradise within its sheltered cove and declared it a sanctuary to keep it protected with fishes thriving. He established ten “Bantay Dagat” patrol boats carried on by fishermen. A water system was also set up which the fishing villages benefited from.

The beach house is shaped liked a huge boat with a lounge deck that’s instagram-worthy. Beneath the stilts at low tide, a group of starfish are scattered around like floor decors, gently nudged by the slightest waves coming in. Activities like snorkeling, diving, a jetski, speedboat, and banana boat are readily available upon request. While there is only one air-conditioned room with a bed and balcony, the rest of the group can pull up folding beds anywhere and sleep underneath the stars if they wish to. Fifteen bunk beds are available with clean pillows and bed sheets. The toilet is well-kept and tidy. The dining area has a videoke set and TV for you to scream your lungs out over the microphone. Malita’s tourism officer Jeremiah “Jing” Danolko also visited us and together with Jean, entertained us with stories.

The best part of our overnight stay was being warmly accompanied and pampered by the city’s First Lady, as Jean and her staff cooked lunch, dinner and a healthy breakfast next day. Delicious local dishes like panggang (barbecued chicken), kinilaw, fish, crabs and tiger prawns were served. Most favorite was Jean’s unforgettable calamares in salted eggs. Dessert included fresh fruits and Malita’s very own WEBB Ice Cream from the Women Enterpreneurs of Barangay Buhangin. The five flavors are kalabasa, malunggay, durian and the spicy ones labeled one sili and two silis. Another standout in the buffet scene was Malita’s Adlai rice – these ancient grains made by the farmers are local superfood and healthy substitute for rice to supply your daily carb needs. The gluten-free rice contains protein, dietary fiber, and minerals such as phosphorus, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine, perfect for keeping your weight down.

There were more surprises before we went home the next day. Our down to earth hostess gave us a quick tour around Malita, namely the huge Divine Mercy Shrine and chapel her father-in-law Vice Governor Atty. Franklin Bautista built over a hill overlooking the bay, with a huge cross that lights up at night serving as guide for the fishermen; and Lais beach where locals learn to surf. She sent us off each with a pack of Adlai Rice, bangus from her fish pen, and native Malita coffee.

Malita Dives was a short restful break from the busy city life as we went back to Davao more relaxed from a needed break. If you ask me what more is there to do there, you get an honest happy answer from me – nothing. All I wanted to do was just relax on the hammock, feel the sea breeze and not think much, just living in the moment and appreciating the company of friends, who were frolicking at sea. I was happy to just be there without any sense of rush.

Thank you for the company, fellow social media buddies: my dear sister Karen Alcantara, Jean Lorraine Pal, Leebai Sinsuat Ambolodto, Tammy Francisco, Penn Villamora, Christian Joy Salas, Chiqui Aportadera, and Khyrby Goc-ong. We wish to thank Mayor Bradly and wife Jean for accommodating us despite hectic pre-election schedules (he ran uncontested and won again, of course). We thank Bioskin for sending tubes of Coco’s Himalayan Pink Salt Sunblock as sun protection, and to Gatchi Gatchalian for his newly launched Gatchips in different yummy flavors.

Those interested to visit the place may contact Georgette “JetJet” Sagang or 0975-561-9694 or 0918-582-5049 for bookings. For inquiries about Malita please contact its tourism officer Jing Danolko at 0975-595-0517. Day tours are available and overnight packages with or without food catering, but reservations are a must because they limit rental schedules in order to preserve the environment and keep the place clean.