Business is now perking up here, but things are still much slower in Davao, the Philippines’ third largest city after Manila and Cebu.
Photo by James Torres

It’s one big, bustling city today (population: 1.4 million) where you can stop chasing the clock, turn your back from the rat race and just take it easy.

Germans, Swiss, Koreans, Japanese, and other foreign visitors who just discovered Davao, do exactly that -- taking it easy. But would you blame them if, somewhere along the way while sipping coffee or sunbathing at one of Davao’s pristine white beaches, a business deal too tempting to pass up, comes along?

They all come probably for a thousand reasons and over time, this sunny southern city which has become famous for its exotic, tropical fruits, has piled up enough wonderful reasons for people to visit.

Fact is, many businessmen and executives who come over with lots of time to spare, never miss the chance to see the world’s second largest bird of prey, the Philippine Eagle -- an opportunity enjoyed by tourists and travelers on packaged tours.

Others can hardly wait to see some of those large orchid and cutflower farms Davao is known for, in the south. Luckily for them, they can see both without traveling too far at Malagos, some 32 kilometers southwest of the city.

Visitors who see all the captive Philippine eagles at the Philippine Eagle Conservation Center (locally known as eagle camp) normally make it a point to drop by the nearby Malagos Garden Resort to see the waling-waling forest, exotic birds, butterfly sanctuary, Napoleon Abueva’s sculptures in the garden, and take their lunch there at the resort’s café and restaurant.

For many visitors who go to Malagos forest watershed to see the eagles for the first time, it’s the closest thing to being inside a real forest on a mountain slope that’s part of the 8,000-foot Mt. Talomo, a heavily-forested mountain adjacent to the 10,300-foot Mt. Apo, the Philippines’s highest mountain.

One high mountain resort sitting next to Mt. Talomo’s forest line where one can step into a living rainforest is the Eden Mountain Resort sitting on a sprawling nature park, where travelers and tourists escaping hot polluted cities, can enjoy cool, fresh mountain air.

It could get too chilly at times especially in the morning, but the spectacular mountain view from that vantage point is enough to warm one’s heart and turn this experience into something to remember about.

Visitors, who’d rather stick around in the city to explore its nooks and corners instead of trekking up a mountain slope, also find the same excitement in tasting Davao’s exotic fruits. Fruit lovers, for one, could explore a whole city flooded with almost all kinds of fruits especially when they time their visits during the peak seasons -- September, October, November, etc.

Piles and piles of durian, marang, rambutan, lanzones, mangosteen, pomelo, mangoes, papaya, etc. can be found in fruit stands all over the city. You’ll also find them flooding the sidewalks in almost every street corner with fruit hawkers tempting you with cheap prices you simply can’t refuse.

Durian prices at its peak season in Davao could plummet to as low as P15 a kilo compared to Manila prices at more than P100 a kilo. It’s natural here to find people squatting on the sidewalk, attacking the smelly luscious durian flesh with their bare hands and washing it down with ice cold coke -- never mind the strong smell. People drop by durian eating centers like Durian Paradise along F. Torres Street, or the Magsaysay Fruit Vendors’s stalls in front of Magsaysay Park to start their yearly “ritual” along with hundreds of other durian lovers and addicts.

While durian to some people is a good aphrodisiac, to others who can’t stand the stench, say it smells like a toilet bowl and won’t even touch it with a ten-foot pole. As such, most airlines and hotels ban the fruit from getting into air-conditioned cabins and hotel rooms.

Another fruit displayed and sold next to durian along sidewalks is the marang. Unlike durian, it doesn’t have a thick hard shell with big forbidding thorns. Marang’s shell is soft and easily breaks open to hand pressure and its much smaller seeds covered with soft, sweet, white flesh, are more pleasant to eat compared to durian.

While durian has to be opened with a bolo by the vendor, you simply peel off the marang’s soft greenish-brown skin, exposing a cluster of seeds covered with soft white flesh. To eat marang, you either pick off each seed with your hands or attack it with your teeth. You’ve got to be a little crazy to really enjoy eating durian and marang like the locals.

One thing you can’t escape after taking too much durian is the smell that goes with you, the rising body heat, and the strong urge to take a cool shower or a dip into the sea.

A cool dip is fine and Davao’s white beaches are too tempting to pass up as visitors discover to their delight how easy it is cross the Davao Gulf to get to Samal Island, now officially known as Island Garden City of Samal.

After crossing the gulf by commuter bus or a private car on a 10-minute ferry, one finds an entire coast dotted withbeach resorts. Many travelers who come here are even surprised to discover these beautiful, little-known white beaches since they’re familiar only with the better-known world-famous beaches of Boracay, Bohol, and Cebu.

Popular beach resorts here include Paradise Island, Samal Island Beach, Buenavista Island, Blue Waters, Punta de Sol, Coral Reef, and the world-famous Pearl Farm Beach Resort. The more adventurous tourists even dare to go as far as Talikud Island south of Samal for snorkeling, deep sea diving and watching for big sperm whales make some rare appearances.

Visitors who decide to stay overnight at one of Samal’s beach cottages are often rewarded with spectacular sunsets over Mt. Apo mountain ranges -- a crimson sky slowly turning to reddish-violet swallowing up a sinking red sun slowly disappearing over a darkening horizon.

Against this dying sunset, one occasionally sees the dark hull of a moving outrigger boat with the dark figure of a lonely fisherman, cutting across the shimmering, choppy sea.

By Aurelio A. Pena
from Davao: Taking it easy in the South
Davao: RELAXING SOUTH Davao: RELAXING SOUTH Reviewed by Amaya Chika on Friday, May 18, 2012 Rating: 5

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