Davao is a bustling metropolitan city still perfectly in touch with nature and tradition, keeping a careful balance of the new, the old, the strong, the wild, and the free. I was truly surprised to find the wide avenues, the heavy traffic, and the numerous malls. Yet more surprising was the fact that within access were the nature parks (Gap Farm Resort, People’s Park), the beach (Island Garden City of Samal, Passig Islet), and the wildlife centers (Philippine Eagle Center, Crocodile Park). Davao is a city of equilibrium. A sweet harmony of nature, tradition and progress is also exemplified by the Kadayawan Festival, this year having the theme “10 tribes, 1 vibe”.
P.S. I was lucky to have witnessed this colorful affair and I have Olan Emboscado to thank for the media pass.
Ponce Suites is an unconventional hotel in Doňa Vicenta Village, Davao City which doubles as an art gallery as works of the celebrated Filipino artist Kublai populates the hallways, the hotel facade, the walls and the ceilings. Sculptures surround the establishment from a man taking a dump, to a kid in the quintessential oblation pose, to individuals coming to life out of a giant durian fruit. Kublai Ponce Millan is a UP Fine Arts graduate whose works are very much visible in the whole of Davao, from the Davao International Airport to the center’s People’s Park. And recently, Kublai embraced the world’s spotlight when his works were displayed at St. Peter’s Square, Rome, Italy for the Vatican Nativity scene.
I hailed the first tricycle that came to sight when I happily came out of Kangaroo Coffee Company (at the corner of V.Mapa and Tionko Streets). Fare was 30pesos and I was still in disbelief as I could not make out how close Ponce Suites was from the coffee shop with my google map as reference. Good thing I asked the cafe employee for directions. One of the many things I appreciate about the Davaoeňos is that they always are helpful in giving directions, answering questions, giving advice, and providing options.
Jumpstarting the long day ahead, I left the hotel at 6:30am. I knew that I needed time to spare for the instances that I would get lost. I was pretty certain of this.
The hotel receptionist informed me that in order for me to get to the Annil Bus Terminal, I have to ride a jeepney to Gaisano Mall and then ride another one passing through Quirino. My stop was at San Pedro Extension Corner Quirino Avenue where one can find the Calinan-bound buses. My destination: the Philippine Eagle Center.
For some strange reason, I missed my stop yet again and found myself already at Buhangin Road going towards the Davao International Airport. Oh silly me, I saw the nearest Jollibee and alighted from the jeepney. Aside from the growling stomach I was nursing, I was also drawn to the food store because of the free Wifi. No, I didn’t ask for directions from the guard which was the instinctive thing to do. The first thing I did was tweet about getting lost in Davao. Talk about priorities! Haha
Eventually I asked directions from the guard after having breakfast. I rode the Buhangin jeepney which passes through Qurino, and asked the driver to drop me off at Annil Bus Terminal. Seeing that the bus was still empty, I asked the conductor the departure time. I didn’t really hear what he said and simply assumed that we all have to wait till the bus is filled to the brim. I was surprised that we left after 15mins, with me being the only passenger. (Bus Fare to Calinan: P36)
From the town center, I rode a motorcycle (habal) to the Philippine Eagle Center for P20. I paid the entrance fee of P50 and went to see croc, the monkeys, and of course the eagles. There was a group of kids who were guided by Ateneo de Davao University students. Perfect opportunity for a free tour-guide through eavesdropping! Haha. Portions of what I heard: artificial insemination (which I don’t know how they explained to the kids), Junior, and Pag-asa.
I grabbed some refreshments at the souvenir shop and took photos of the cute keychains. Weeee! Now I had to catch another bus to the city because it was nearing noon and I still have a list of places to go to.
I met up with my high school friend Em at an internet café across Victoria Plaza that afternoon. It was convenient for me since I came from Ponce Suites in Dona Vicenta Village and Victoria Plaza (along J.P. Laurel) is only a couple of meters from the gallery. I never really thought about how to get to Outland Adventure in Ma-a Road which is our destination that afternoon. After asking directions how to commute to the place, I was quite adamant on taking the jeepney- 1st ride to bangkerohan market and the 2nd to Ma-a. So you could only imagine my disappointment when my friend told me he wanted to take the cab instead.
I detest taking cabs when traveling if not for my last resort, you know those times when I go about riding 3 jeepney routes only to realize that I am getting farther and farther away from my original destination. I always take the jeepneys because I want to break free from my geographic idiocy and of course, I want to stay within my means. After a little convincing, and a reassurance that the fare will be split in half, I agreed. I read that Outland Adventure is beside Gap Farming Resort, and since Gap is the more popular of the two sites we told the driver to drop us there.
Greeting us was the giant statue of a man on his carabao with a plow in hand. So huge in fact was it that I shrank to just the size of its hoof.
There were various parades going on during our visit. There was the parade of Philippine presidents.
The parade of Filipino heroes.
The parade of tamed and wild animals.
And the parade of indigenous peoples. (not photographed)
What caught our attention was the Japanese tunnel dating back to 1941. For a fee of 10pesos you could enter the tunnel and traverse your way out.
It was fun being kids again, with the wacky poses and the fright stories. Oh elusive childhood, let us eat Sunshine peas and inflate plastic balloons that we shaped through our tongues and our lips. Till we meet again!
It was past noon when our bus from Calinan finally reached the city center. I was the only passenger left and the driver asked me my stop. I saw the Central Bank at Quirino Avenue and I alighted from the bus because I wanted to treat my eagle overload with a sumptuous lunch. I walked about two blocks towards the corner of V.mapa and Tionko St. Yes, I had a map with me actually, Google maps printed prior to the trip. Haha, prepared.
Kangaroo Coffee Company. The interior gives off a cozy ambience probably due to the sofa benches arranged in separate cubicles with a large rectangular table in the center complete with separate lighting fixtures and with a touch of intimacy provided by the separate heavy cream curtains. Hats off to the idea of setting up a mini-library within the cafe for free leisurely reading for the customers. I, for one, love reading in coffee shops and in the event that I fail to bring along a book of my own, I could easily browse through the diverse collection provided by the cafe.
I had such a whale of a time in the bathroom. haha. I fancy the sign for ladies-gents represented as jacks-jills, staying true to the Kangaroo analogy. I love how it poses as a private sanctuary where you could let out everything (more than youknowwhat). The perfect dim lighting, the artworks mounted on the walls, the books and magazines just laying out there waiting to be browsed through. I could spend a whole afternoon there but of course out of shame and self-worth (haha), I limited my stay (?nagcheck-in) to a standard 10 minutes.
I ordered the Durian Mocha Heaven Ice-Blended drink and boy did it kick my taste buds! When I raised the cup to my mouth, the strong durian aroma hit me, truly a blow to the nostrils. The fruit bits married the mocha beautifully, imparting a sweet and juicy textured lot to the otherwise usual caffeine fix. I ordered the Salsa Amaya, as recommended by the lady manning the counter, composed of spaghetti tossed in olive oil and topped with fish flakes, mushrooms, olives, and parmesan. It was absolutely divine! Brilliant combination of flavors with the meatiness of the mushrooms enhanced by the saltiness of the fish and balanced by the bitter-sour taste of the olives, and finished off and flavors rounded off by fine parmesan.
I left the cafe satisfied, happily hopping about with the pouch on my tummy filled with great food and delectable coffee with a kick.
Upon touchdown, around 2:30 pm, I hailed a jeepney that would take me to the downtown area (thanks to habagatcentral’s directions on how to get in and out of Davao Int’l Airport) for just P14. I had a prior reservation at the Royal House Inn and Suites in C.M. Recto, formerly known as Claveria and still called by that name by the locals. I must have missed my stop because the jeepney was already dropping off the last remaining passengers at Illustre St., which was perhaps the last stop before the driver begins the next route cycle. Oh well, I thought, might as well have lunch first before figuring out how to get to the hotel (which I realized hours after was just within walking distance from Mang Inasal in Illustre as the taxi meter read P55 pesos only).
Yes, disappointed with myself for breaking my public commute vow on my first day of travel, I paid 55pesos to the taxi driver who took me to my hotel. He very willingly provided the change. This is what distinguishes Davao (and Baguio too!) taxi drivers from the rest of the country: they charge exactly as what the meter tells. Not like in Metro Manila where you give P100 for a P75-meter reading and where the driver demands an additional P50 “dahil traffic sa EDSA”.
The Royal House Inn has a very welcoming lobby with walls adorned with paintings and a high ceiling decked out with chandeliers. When morning comes, I wake up to the sounds of birds merrily chirping by the hotel mini-aviary smacked in the center of the building where the ceiling opens up to the sky and rain pours down at night ensuring the guests of a good night’s sleep.
I originally booked the room with company in mind but my friend backed out because of work commitments so I had the double economy room all to myself. With 850pesos per night, this is pretty affordable by all standards. Air-conditioned, equipped with cable TV and a shower heater, the large room is well worth the pay. There’s also Wifi connection by the lobby which I very much abused with FB and twitter on my nightly itinerary. Haha