Showing posts with label Davao Region. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Davao Region. Show all posts

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Davao Occidental: Beach adventure in Jose Abad Santos

Before I flew down south to Davao Occidental, a new province carved out of Davao del Sur, the area had been experiencing torrential rains. People were actually discouraging me from pushing through, suggesting to move the trip a week later. But gut feel told me to go. And I was blessed with several days of sun. For my third day, we explored Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental, the southernmost municipality of Mindanao Island.

I had arrived the day before after a three-hour drive from Malita, through rough mountain and coastal roads in Don Marcelino, before reaching Jose Abad Santos or JAS. After breakfast that morning, we visited the old municipal hall of JAS, over fifty years old, which the locals preserved and hope to get declared. Note that they built a new municipal hall a few meters away and kept their old one.

We drove to the next barangay and spent the whole morning in Culaman Beach where the Joyce Ancestral House is located, exploring the nearby beaches, a picturesque mix of sand and rock. It was a pleasant trek through the rocky shoreline. But you need to be careful though since you can easily lose your balance.

Further down the coastline, there was one relatively white sand beach in a small cove. Near it, we sat under a tree, enjoying the warm sea breeze and the sound of waves hitting the shore.

Some locals brought us coconuts, a refreshing treat after that short walk under the hot sun.

Before going back to the Joyce House, we passed by the parola, the recently-built Culaman Lighthouse, which offers a spectacular view of Culaman's shoreline. Lunch was at a kubo beside the house. I could have stayed there the whole day and just stared at the view!

After lunch, I was brought back to Malita for me to catch a bus to Davao City. But I took more photos along the way, especially in Barangay Mangile and the Lawayon Plantation. Of course, I enjoyed the views of the vast coconut plantations and rice fields from high up the National Highway. But every now and then, you'd get reminded of the old forest cover of the area that was cleared for these plantations, when you see a large centuries-old tree.

I made it back in time for the 3:30 p.m. bus (no more aircon buses) to Davao. I decided to get a ticket to Digos and wait for a more comfortable and faster ride from there which was a good move since it only took me an hour to get back. All in all, it took over five hours from JAS to Davao City. By the time the bus arrived at Ecoland, it was raining again.

That was a good trip! I'm definitely coming back to Davao Occidental to see Balut Island and Sarangani Island, and the southern barangays of JAS which I was told has better beaches!

Part 1 - Davao Occidental: Road adventure to Santa Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino & Jose Abad Santos

How to get to Davao Occidental
There are regular buses to Santa Maria and Malita from the Ecoland Bus Terminal in Davao City. I paid Php213 for the air-conditioned ride from Davao to Malita. From Malita, there are buses to Don Marcelino. To get to Jose Abad Santos, you can take a van from Malita (although the service is not regular) or from Davao City which costs Php500. But you will need to know the number of the van drivers since they are private vans which will pick you up from your hotel in Davao. Contact Junjun at (0928) 2645527.

Where to stay in Jose Abad Santos
There is only one place to stay in JAS. You may contact Traveller's Inn at (0908) 8855687.

Thank you to the family of Rep. Franklin P. Bautista, JAS Mayor Jimmy Joyce and Atty. Jason Joyce for their warm hospitality!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Davao Occidental: Road adventure to Santa Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino & Jose Abad Santos

It's been quite a while since I've gone on an adventure to a remote area of the Philippines. I looked at Jose Abad Santos on the map, at the southernmost end of Mindanao Island, as I planned this spur of the moment trip to what could be the country's newest province. How on earth do I get there?

Davao Occidental had just been created a week before, five towns separated from Davao del Sur. Only a plebiscite separates the province from formal existence. But despite the uncertainty, I still decided on a whim to fly to Davao and explore these rarely-visited municipalities at the southwestern end of the Davao Gulf.

Getting to Malita, Davao Occidental's future capital was no problem since there are regular buses from Davao City's Ecoland Bus Terminal. Unfortunately, the bus I was on seemed to stop at every town. So it took me over two hours to get to Digos, and another two hours to Malita. While there is accommodation and small beach resorts available in the area, I was graciously hosted by the local congressman's family.

The next morning, I was taken around Malita and Santa Maria by motorcycle. The communities along the coastline of Malita, particularly Musa Compound and Fishing Village, must be predominantly Muslim since I noticed several mosques can be seen in the area. I particularly liked the bright blue and gold Jamiri Musa Mosque.

We visited Little Boracay Beach in Santa Maria, about 40 minutes from Malita. Off the National Highway, it's several kilometers of rough road to get to the beach. The beach is secluded with rough cream sand. There are several huts, including air-conditioned ones for those who want to stay overnight. It's a decent beach resort, but they need to pick-up the plastic wrappers more often. Plastic seems to be a plague even in rural areas of the Philippines where many locals just throw their wrappers anywhere.

By lunch, we motored back to Malita where the former municipal administrator of Jose Abad Santos was waiting for me. I was introduced to him by a common friend. And lucky me, he was on his way to JAS from Davao City which made my trip more comfortable. My other choice was to hire a habal-habal from Malita to JAS, a trip that would take almost three hours! Good thing I had a ride since the roads were really rough. And I would have gotten really wet at the river crossings!

We stopped by Captain's Lake in Don Marcelino. It's a resort with a stream and freshwater pond that drains into the beach. Looks fun to swim in. And the beach is just outside the fence.

From there to JAS, we were incommunicado. The ride took another two hours (or more because of the picture stops) through rough mountain and coastal roads. It was mostly coconut plantations. And I would think the original forest cover was wiped out during the colonial period when Mindanao became the land of agricultural promise.

There were several river crossings. And unfortunately, when it rains hard, the southern end of Don Marcelino and the whole of JAS are cut off from the rest of civilization. Some people have earned a living from these river crossings. I've only read of stevedoring in old books and the term is still actively used in these crossings. Roads are being constructed as we speak, and hopefully bridges. So this rugged adventure drive won't last for long.

As we were driving, we saw a group Manobo kids selling lansones. We asked how much and they told us they were selling them for Php3 a bag. We bought the whole lot and gave them a bonus. The smiles said it all. Don't you just love the simple pleasures of traveling through rural Mindanao.

All throughout, views of the coastline were picturesque. We finally made the border between Don Marcelino and JAS which was another river crossing.

We passed through the Lawayon Plantation and noticed the plantation carabaos converged at the mouth of the river. A flock of egrets were there as well, most probably feasting on mites feasting on the carabaos.

In the next barangay, we saw a basketball court right on the unpaved National Highway by the beach. In this area, there is no electricity. So this must be a very important pastime. The players have to clear the court every time a vehicle passes. But it doesn't happen very often. There should have been electricity in this area late last year. But I was told the extension of power lines all the way to JAS was delayed due to opposition from a local politician because the northern barangays of JAS were not his supporters.

It was getting dark, so we rushed straight to the town center of JAS. We charged our phones as soon as we got to my host's home. Since power in the poblacion is served by generator, it's only available from 2 p.m. to midnight. They also have solar power units available in some houses. Satellite cable TV is the only choice since they are too far away to receive signals from the free channels. But what surprised me was that there were Internet shops and WiFi, also served by satellite signal since mobile phones hardly have any signal (only Smart functions there).

We had a sumptuous dinner at the mayor's house before calling it a night. I spent the rest of the time uploading photos on Instagram before going to bed. More on Jose Abad Santos and Davao Occidental in my next post.

Part 2 - Davao Occidental: Adventure in Jose Abad Santos

How to get to Davao Occidental
There are regular buses to Santa Maria and Malita from the Ecoland Bus Terminal in Davao City. I paid Php213 for the air-conditioned ride from Davao to Malita. From Malita, there are buses to Don Marcelino. To get to Jose Abad Santos, you can take a van from Malita (although the service is not regular) or from Davao City which costs Php500. But you will need to know the number of the van drivers since they are private vans which will pick you up from your hotel in Davao. Contact Junjun at (0928) 2645527.

Where to stay in Jose Abad Santos
There is only one place to stay in JAS. You may contact Traveller's Inn at (0908) 8855687.

Thank you to the family of Rep. Franklin P. Bautista, JAS Mayor Jimmy Joyce and Atty. Jason Joyce for their warm hospitality!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Davao Occidental could be 81st Philippine province

I was reading the papers last Monday and saw that they had published Republic Act No. 10360 - An Act Creating the Province of Davao Occidental. Signed into law by President Noynoy Aquino on January 14, 2013, the creation of this new province now depends on the people of Davao del Sur. And thus, Davao Occidental could become the country's 81st province.

So I decided to visit over the weekend, going as far south as Jose Abad Santos, the southernmost municipality of Mindanao Island. And what an adventure it was! Talking to people in the south, you could sense their longing for a new province. They have been left behind by the rest of Davao del Sur because they are not allied with the current leadership of the province. Talk about vindictive and feudal!

I wish them well and hope that their aspirations for a separate province become a reality. Their future province is pristine, rugged but beautiful. I'll be writing about the trip in detail. But in the meantime, check out the @ivanhenares photos in Instagram.

Part 1 - Davao Occidental: Road adventure to Santa Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino & Jose Abad Santos
Part 2 - Davao Occidental: Adventure in Jose Abad Santos

Monday, May 14, 2012

Aldevinco Shopping Center, Mindanao handicrafts in Davao City

Cultural markets are an important element of any tourist friendly city. I was glad to find one in Davao City, the Aldevinco Shopping Center. Right across Marco Polo Hotel and the Ateneo de Davao University, Aldevinco is host to over 100 handicraft and antique shops, many of which have been there since it opened in 1965.

In the shops, one can find local Mindanao products, local indigenous costumes and textiles, various batik products, textiles imported from Indonesia and Malaysia, antique and brass items, and even indigenous musical instruments.

Right outside Aldevinco are fruit stands where you can get some really good local fruits such as pomelo and mangosteen. It's definitely a place you have to explore when you visit Davao City.

Aldevinco Shopping Center
Claro M. Recto cor. Manuel Roxas Avenues, Davao City

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ivanhenares for the latest on my travels!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Compostela Valley: Rafflesia flowers, Marangig Falls & Tagbibinta Falls in Maragusan

Gold had attracted me to Compostela Valley. Gold mining is actually a major industry of Compostela Valley. And Mt. Diwalwal is its most popular gold-rush site, especially after the film I Come with the Rain starring Josh Hartnett was shot there. But the gold I'm talking about is the natural beauty of the province.

Traveling by bus around Mindanao is quite orderly and easy because there are centralized bus terminals in each town, not like Metro Manila's chaotic system where each company has its own bus terminal.

From Mati, I took a bus to the Tagum Terminal. Then from there, I boarded a Butuan-bound bus which had several stops in Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur. I got off at Nabunturan, the provincial capital, since I had an appointment at the tourism office. After making arrangements for Maragusan, I went back to the Nabunturan Terminal to catch a bus to Maragusan. Mati to Tagum was 3 hours, Tagum to Nabunturan was 1 hour, and Nabunturan to Maragusan was another 2 hours.

Later I would find out that there is actually a jeepney route directly-linking Mati to Maragusan. It was dark already when I arrived in Maragusan. So after dinner, I called it a night.

The next day, I went around Maragusan's attractions with the help of a guide arranged through the local tourism office. We also hired a habal-habal to take us to the different destinations since they were very far from each other.

My first stop for the day required some trekking. In the forests of Maragusan are pockets of Rafflesia clusters. We visited the one in Purok Malinawon, Barangay Mapawa. It was a moderate 15-minute trek up to where the Rafflesia mira buds could be found. Unfortunately, none of the flowers were in bloom.

The only time I got to see a Rafflesia in full bloom was during a visit to the Bogor Botanical Garden in Indonesia. They rarely flower so seeing one in bloom is reason enough to consider yourself lucky. The hike also afforded me some nice views of the banana plantations that dominate the Maragusan landscape.

From the Rafflesias, we proceeded to Barangay New Albay to check out Marangig Falls. Again, this one required some trekking too. Not bad since I like waterfalls. But I've seen more majestic ones.

The next waterfall seemed like it was on the opposite end of town. We motored to Barangay Coronobe to check out Tagbibinta Falls. This was the larger falls and thank God the trekking was minimal. It's actually very popular to locals and facilities have been built in the area for rest and recreation.

Although Maragusan is all about bananas, none of the bananas actually reach the local market since they all go to Dole. After having visited Kalsangi several years ago, I wanted to check out the processing facility to see how things are done.  But unfortunately, visitors need prior permission to gain access. What I didn't like about the whole thing though was their security (the ones on motorcycles) were very rude.

After lunch, I took a bus back to Nabunturan where I was to stay for the night.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Davao Oriental: Surfing & skim boarding at Dahican Beach in Mati

As I write this, surfing season has started in Dahican Beach in Mati, Davao Oriental where waves could reach as high as 10 feet. This beach facing the Pacific Ocean is also very popular among skim boarders and is often referred to as Skim Paradise.

I took the 2 a.m. bus from Davao City and found myself in Mati at about 6 a.m. The bus actually goes further northeast to Cateel. At the bus station, I hired a tricycle that would take me to the beaches of Mati since they are quite far from the town proper and the main roads.

We actually saw the sign to Dahican Beach but decided to go further down the road first. My first stop was Masao Beach which is about 45 minutes away. I was a bit disappointed though since I did not see the fine sand one would expect in a beach. But it's quite popular because of the pavilions and huts which stretch into the sea.

From Masao, we headed back to Dahican Beach which turns out to be the home base of a very vibrant local surfing and skim boarding community known as the Amihan Surf and Skim Team. In fact, you could get surfing lessons there for Php400/hour inclusive of board rental. Surfing season in Mati is from November to April. But since I arrived in mid-October, the waters were relatively calm. I was told that once the Amihan winds come in, the swells do too!

Note also that Dahican Beach is a sea turtle or pawikan sanctuary. And you just might be lucky to see one when you go snorkeling in the area. They even have an awareness campaign called Pawikan sa Dahican.

There are some comfortable rooms around the Dahican Beach area. But if you are on a budget, you can pitch a tent too. Anyway, I didn't have much time to stay since I wanted to be in Compostela Valley by afternoon.

Botona Beach Resort
(0918) 5255227 / (0916) 7968054

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental: Bus trip to Nothern Mindanao

The bus left Davao City at 2:30 a.m. I tried to get as much sleep as I could but it was quite difficult since the seats were too stiff. Good thing I had the whole row to myself since there weren't a lot of passengers. So I was able to sleep on my backpack. The next thing I knew was the bus was already in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. The sun was already out but the temperature was quite cool. The climate in Malaybalay is very pleasing since it is located in a high altitude.

It was back to sleep when we left the bus station and I woke up again when the bus stopped over for breakfast at a canteen in Impasug-Ong. The views of the nearby mountains were just spectacular. It reminded me that outside Metro Manila and its suburbs, so much of the Philippines is still pristine and untouched. I hope we keep these areas the way they are. From there, the road zigzagged up and down green mountains offering breathtaking views of the hilly agricultural province.

I arrived at the Agora Bus Station in Cagayan de Oro at about 9 a.m. and could distinctly remember the hot and humid weather which greeted me when I got off the bus. I was told CDO has exceptionally hot weather. I waited there since my SSEAYP batchmates MJ and Simone Moneva were picking me up for breakfast.

We went straight to Rosario Arcade in Limketkai for a buffet breakfast at East Wok, a Chinese restaurant. The food was filling especially after the long trip from Davao. After breakfast, we passed by the Misamis Oriental Capitol for a while since MJ had to meet a client. So I was able to go around the capitol grounds with Sim. There was a provincial tourism and trade fair on the grounds so we went around to check it out.

After that, we drove north towards Jasaan since I wanted to visit the church which was declared a national cultural treasure in 2001. On the way, we dropped Simone off at the Polymedic Hospital in Tagoloan since she had to meet her patients.

I was not quite impressed with the Jasaan Church. If it were compared to other churches in the country, it would look quite ordinary. It reminded me of my impressions of the churches in Tabaco, Albay and Bacong, Negros Oriental. I guess they declared it since it was the best-preserved church in Misamis Oriental and rare since it was in Mindanao. Built by the Jesuits in the late 19th to early 20th century, I think a more significant element of the church is its convent, an old wooden structure with huge wooden posts.

In Jasaan, I waited for a bus to the ferry terminal in Balingoan which was still an hour away. I spent PHP50 for the bus ride. There used to be fastcrafts from Cagayan de Oro to Camiguin but since some politicians in Camiguin wanted to earn from it as well, the operator had no choice but to increase his fare to accommodate this unnecessary expense. As a result, people still used the ferry service in Balingoan and the one from CDO was forced to close. So one has no choice but to use this slow ferry service to the island.

More photos of Misamis Oriental in Multiply.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Davao del Sur: Whitewater tubing in Davao

Today, it was time to get wet and wild in Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur which is known for its whitewater tubing in the Sibulan River in Darong, a barangay quite close to the boundary of Davao City.

If you don’t have a car, you could simply take any public transportation going towards the direction of Santa Cruz. Although you will have to keep your eye open since there isn’t any signage along the highway pointing towards the attraction. Look out for the sign pointing to Barangay Sibulan and the Ayala Agricultural Development Corporation and make a right there.

It’s about 100 meters from the national highway and the road is quite bumpy. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you see a copra processing area. The base camp of the whitewater tubing is in front of the Ayala Canteen. Just ask around if you’re not sure but you make a left there into an open space used for parking. Don’t be surprised when you see an extra PHP40 in your bill since they charge for parking.

The whitewater tubing at Darong is quite affordable since you won’t spend more than PHP400 per head. You basically pay for a guide which is one is to one, rental fees for the tube and the gear and the habal-habal (motorcycle) ride up to the starting point.

It’s a muddy and rocky road up to the starting point. And from the road, you will have to walk about 100 more meters down to the river along a slippery and muddy trail. So better make sure you bring a trusty pair of sandals since I was wearing slippers and ended up having to take them off.

Anyway, I was relieved when we finally got to the river since it was simply fun, fun, fun all the way down to the base camp. Better be ready for some scratches and small bruises here and there but there’s nothing to worry about since the guides are very experienced.

You’ll definitely fall off the tube at one or two of the rapids so don’t panic since the water is quite shallow. Just hold on to the tube and try to keep your legs up so you do not hit the rocks. Anyway, your guide will be there to hold on to you if you aren’t able to grip the tube.

It would take about 2 hours to complete the basic route. I fell once during this run. But I escaped with just a few scratches and a sore toe which hit one of the rocks while I was on the tube. Hehe! But if I had more time, I would have done a second round or started from a higher point. Also try to avoid going here on a weekend if you want the river and the base camp all to yourself. It seemed we were the only clients for the day. Hehe!

On the way back to Davao City, we were able to spot a durian stand selling the fruit for as low as PHP25 a kilo. The arancillo variety we got was PHP40 a kilo and it was much better than the one I had the night before. Indeed it tastes like heaven but I think the part which says it smells like hell is quite exaggerated since it wasn’t that bad.

There were vendors also selling marang so how could I resist. I got one piece for PHP20. So we had fruits for our late breakfast. One thing I wasn’t able to try out though was mangosteen. Maybe I will during my next visit to Davao.

I was planning to visit the Philippine Eagle Research and Nature Center but since I had been there already, we decided instead to rush back to the city proper for a late lunch since we wanted to catch the buy one, take one pizzas at Picobello, a classy Italian restaurant in the Gaisano South Ilustre mall which is frequented by Davao expats in the evenings. This promo is available only from 2 to 5 p.m. I spent about PHP260 for the two pizzas we ordered.

For dinner, I met up with my SSEAYP batchmate Steve who took me to Jack’s Ridge, a popular dining area which offers a commanding view of the city’s skyline (right) and the Davao Gulf. The ridge was actually the headquarters of the retreating Japanese forces towards the end of the Second World War and is replete with caves dug up by the Japanese as well as bullets and other war materials in the rocky soil. There is also rumor that somewhere in the caves is hidden part of the Yamashita loot.

Anyway, after that great dinner, I rushed to the Matina Town Square since I was going to meet more of my Davao brods at Kanto Bar. We had an interesting discussion and ended quite late. To make the long story short, we got to the bus terminal quite late and the next bus leaving for Cagayan de Oro was still at 2:30 a.m. The last aircon bus leaves at 10 p.m. so I had to make do with the de luxe buses. I wonder why they call the non-aircon buses de luxe. Hehe! I paid PHP365 for the seven hour trip from Davao City to Cagayan de Oro.

More photos of Davao del Sur and Davao City in Multiply.
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