Kaputian Beach, Samal Island
My first trip to Davao City was in October 2006 just when killer-typhoon Melenio had left Metro Manila battered and powerless. I was spared from low-bat anxiety attacks and other inconveniences that the storm left behind---my timing couldn't be more perfect! Flew to Davao City with 2 friends, I was happy to leave behind the devastating sights on the way to the airport. My first impression of the city was the absence of garbage on the streets. Living in Metro Manila for the past 20 years where garbage on the streets is a common sight, the cleanliness of Davao City was a welcome sight. We checked in a small hotel in CM Recto, walked around and found an al fresco restaurant called Madayaw Ihaw-Ihaw along Rizal Street. I introduced grilled bihod (fish roe-our version of caviar) to my 2 city slicker friends, and until now, they are still craving for more bihod! Bihod! Bihod! Bihod! A few meters from Madayaw is Chico's Jazz Bar...where we grooved with the band's salsa and jazz music. The bar looked like the hangout of the city's gentlemen---a city councilor at the bar, a few were still in their office barong, a number of foreign-looking guys behind us, and later, an Eddie Mercado voice-alike, who claimed he's indeed an announcer--- for SuperFerry! Or more of a barker! Then a pretty lady snuck up at me---it was Cecille, a chat-friend who lives in Davao. Cecille welcomed me and my friends with the warmth of an old friend. She even took us to a fiesta the next day where we ate & ran to catch our boat to Samal!
Talicud Island our cottage in Paradise Island Resort Samal Island
A serene escape from crowds, a quiet retreat to soothe my soul---that's my idea of a perfect vacation place. I found it in Paradise Island Park & Resort in Samal Island, a 15-minute boat ride from Davao's wharf. The resort is tucked away in 50 hectares of lush tropical gardens, clear blue water, powdery white sand beaches and nipa-thatched cabanas. Giant talisay trees surround the resort, the orange leaves reminded me of fall! Our cabana has a private veranda and a fenced garden overlooking the beach, surrounded by stunning colors and lyrical sounds of nature. An aviary of rare birds and a mini zoo with a number of deer, sea turtles and a python are added attractions. The service was excellent and the food's great...serenades at dinner-time echo romance and serenity. It adds to the ambiance for enjoying grilled fresh seafood in a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere.a gumamela in our front yard
sunset at Paraside Island
I watched the sunset on our first afternoon in Paradise...it was my first sunset in a long time! Night-owls like me seldom see the sunset [much less a sunrise]. Reclined by the beach, I enjoyed the horizon of water and tranquility of Paradise Island.
My friends woke up early for our inland tour, and I was practically coerced to leave the bed! I don't count getting out of bed at 6am part of my vacation. I only get up at dawn when I have a plane to catch, or somebody's dying! But in this case, I was out-voted and out-numbered. So at 7am, we were at the mouth of a cave which is said to be the world's largest bat colony. The first fingers of the sun were warm on my face as I gazed at the sleeping vampire bats, envious of their slumber party. They looked like bunches of danggit hanging from the cave's ceiling and walls.
Still sleepwalking when we reached our next stop---Hagimit cold spring. We splashed in the refreshingly cold spring water, unfortunately, we didn't bring our bathing suits. The trek back up the main road made us catch our breath. It was a good morning exercise...good thing I had rice for breakfast.:D
Hagimit cold spring
We drove for about an hour until we reached Kaputian town to get a boat for Talicud Island. On the way to Kaputian, we bought water, watermelon and pomelo, and breathed in the fresh morning air. I admired the scenic Pearl Farm and the tiny islands along Davao Gulf. After a 45-minute boat ride, we docked along the white beaches of Isla Reta in Talicud Island. There, we bought our lunch of fresh fish they call mulmul, squid and rice. I also bought a sleeveless shirt for my swimwear. We sailed again around Talicud Island...the island is small compared to Samal, perhaps, the size of Boracay. It has rugged cliffs, kaleidoscopic dive sites and pristine white beaches. From the boat, I could see the coral reefs underneath the clear water...how I wish I could dive! Looked out for dolphins but they were shy that day.
Finally found our own private beach...Dayang. It was like a scene from the TV series, Lost. The beach was deserted, the pebbled beach and crystal clear water welcomed us. Oh, I forgot to mention our guide, Dondon and driver Manong Rudy told us to take a swim and chill...we will be called when lunch is ready! Yeheyyyyy! I guess, they read our minds... Oh, it was pure bliss! To feel the warm water on my skin, the sun on my face, blue skies, coconut trees, and the sounds of nature...I thought, I'm so glad I came here! I was singing Seals & Crofts' "Summer Breeze" in my head.
On our way back to Paradise, we took a side-trip to see the Moncado settlement and the old white house overlooking Davao Gulf. The white house was built in the 1940's and owned by General Hilario Moncado, a self-proclaimed 5-star general and founder of a religious sect. I would love to visit the old house during a full moon. An ancient Balite tree shaded the front steps, and the general's monument guarded the side of the house. I explored the old house up to the attic...took pictures of old framed photographs of its members. The view from the general's bedroom was remarkable. On a clear day, one could see the city across the gulf from the attic window.
Samal Island is truly an interesting destination. The whole island is relatively small, but without a doubt, it's a grand source of amazement. Back in Davao City, we met Cecille for lunch in Probinsya Restaurant near Victoria Mall. Then she took us to Magsaysay Market for our pasalubong of pomelo, mangosten and durian candies. And the finale---the durian market in San Pedro for our first taste of the infamous fruit. A friend once told me that eating durian is an acquired taste, like uni sashimi...I love uni sashimi so I should be able to eat durian! The fruit was sliced and opened---I braced myself and inhaled...it's not so bad, not as disgusting as I imagined it would be! I tentatively took my first bite and hmmmmnnn...it tastes good, the texture was smooth (like tiesa, an orange-colored fruit I hated when I was a kid) and the flavor was very rich (nakakaumay). Cecille recommended Sprite to go with durian. After we demolished the whole fruit, I was happy that I tasted durian before I'm older. The fruits and sweets from Davao and the distinct smell of durian remind me of all the unforgettable experiences I had in Davao and Samal Island.