From islands to highlands: 7 reasons to visit Davao City
Text: Naomi Liao, STC Masscom Intern
Photo: Kelvin Bulanhagui
THEY say that “the magical thing about home is that it feels good to leave and it feels better to come back.” I will always feel that way about the city where my heart will always be home — Davao.
Emerging as the new capital city in the south, the once laidback Davao has become a bustling metropolis. Tourism has more than doubled in the past year and establishments have mushroomed everywhere. Despite all these, the heart that is Davao remains. After living in the equally beautiful and bustling city of Cebu for the past two years, I come home to Davao and find that with all the growth it is experiencing, Davao is essentially the same.
On the drive home from the airport, there is the speed limit being enforced and police visibility is still a reality. At night, the curfew on alcoholic drinks remains at midnight and an strong no smoking policy still exists. But aside from the strict implementation of rules and regulations to keep the city’s peace and order, Davao is known for its easy access from islands to highlands in less than an hour. Your day in the city is surely productive because everything is a couple of minutes to an hour away from where you are, whether it’d be a restaurant, another island or up on the mountains.
Don’t be scared to ask the locals when finding your way to any of the must-see places in the city. The people in Davao are one of the reasons that makes the city even more beautiful. Aside from the heartwarming welcome you’ll be receiving from the Dabawenyos, one thing that you can get to enjoy is the cleanliness and the safety of the city, which is evident as you wander around. Indeed for us Dabawenyo’s, the city’s slogan “Davao: Life is Here” is true. So, what are the places a constant visitor or a first-timer should revisit or should not miss when planning a trip to the city? Here’s a list of places and activities that have the locals’ stamp of approval:
Matina Town Square Compound, Matina, Davao City
Residents from the southern part of the city flock to Matina Town Square to grab a bite to eat or down a couple of beers at night with live band entertainment. However, one of the more popular hangouts at MTS is Aling Foping’s. This halo-halo place that serves iced delights grew from a small stand serving only halo-halo to the open spaced cafe that it is now, with a wider range of menu. This place serves halo-halo that is sure to cool you down. Make sure to try their chili con carne and mais con hielo as well. This place is the perfect hangout spot with the family and the barkada. Aling Foping’s goodness is starting to sprout like mushrooms all over the city. It already has three branches and counting.
Ruby St., Marfori Subdivision, Davao City
Lachi’s is a local favorite that serves home cooked dishes that remind you of your mom’s kitchen. Nothing fancy, just plain good food. After enjoying a meal, make sure you have enough room for dessert because this place serves pastries that Davao can be proud of. To ensure the quality of the meals that they serve, Lachi’s dishes are personally supervised by the owners daily, so don’t be surprised why despite its popularity, Lachi’s has maintained its only branch in Marfori Heights. When dining in Lachi’s, be prepared for the long wait because this cafe is always full and waiting time for a table will take 30 minutes to an hour. However they accept reservations if you call them early. If you are only looking for pastries and desserts, their satellite store in Tulip Drive, Matina serves pastries only.
Roxas’ Night Market
Roxas Ave., Poblacion District, Davao City
Because of the bombing incident that rocked this tourist spot, Roxas Night Market ironically has become more famous than ever. A must-see and experience destination when in Davao, the night market only comes alive when the clock strikes five. The roads then will be closed to give way for the vendors and foodies. Located just outside the Ateneo de Davao University campus along Roxas Ave., the night market is divided into two sections: merchandise and food. On the western side near Millennium Park is where you can find clothes, bags, footwear, accessories and DVDs. If you are tired from all the walking, you can enjoy a good massage located on the same side where the merchandise are. Everyone’s favorite, the food section, is located after the Padre Gomez intersection. Dine with your hands and enjoy different grilled food, fish balls, and other street food. Balut vendors can also be found everywhere. While in Roxas, do not miss the ice cream that the locals line up for. It can get a bit crowded and overwhelming, but you will find police officers everywhere to assist anyone. The best thing about this place? Good food and experiences are all affordable.
Eden Nature Park
Barangay Eden, Toril, Davao City
To any family from Davao, Eden is a go-to place for rest, relaxation, and recreation during the weekends or holidays. Quick family get togethers and mini reunions usually happen in this 80-hectare mountain resort that is a 40 minute drive from the city proper. Owned by the Ayala’s of Davao, Eden is an experience that will complete your Davao visit. Cool breeze and breathtaking views of Davao and the mountains, beautiful flower gardens, butterfly and firefly sanctuaries are some of the things you can experience in their mini-tour of the resort. An overnight stay in one of the log cabins or pine cottages is the best way to unwind and to enjoy all the activities the resort has to offer, including horseback riding, the zip line, sky cycling, sky swing, and hiking. Surrounded by thousands of pine trees planted by the Ayalas in the early 70s, Eden is a breathtaking haven that also serves good food. Day tour packages are also available and reservation is required as they are always fully booked because the locals themselves patronize this resort.
Buda, Marilog District, Davao City
The boundary between Davao City and Bukidnon Province, BuDa is the perfect destination for people who love to go on a road trip. If you are looking for a place to unwind and relax then BuDa is the place to be. BuDa is approximately 4,000 feet above sea level. This place is known for its breathtaking views, whether you are checked in a villa in a resort or eating in a restaurant. If you really want to fully experience BuDa, then you should definitely go for a hike. You can easily search travel agencies online and register in group tours. It’s safer and more fun since you are going with a group. Enjoy the cool mountain breeze, chase the clouds and immerse yourself in them as you walk your way up to the ridge. The trail may leave you out of breath, but once you reach the the peak of the mountain where you can also camp out, you’ll be glad you’ve reached this beautiful place when you see the view. You will definitely be in awe. Every breath you inhale as you take in the view of the mountains and the sun rising will make you glad you’re alive.
Hayahay Resort, Samal
Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte
Hayahay is a private resort in Samal Island. Check them out on Airbnb and get to rent the whole place with the barkada or the family. The minute you step out of the vehicle you can hear the waves crashing against the cliffs. Feel the wind blow and inhale the fresh air. Soak in the wondrous blue waters. Free dive and get up close with a stunning whole new world waiting for you underwater. You can also go kayaking and enjoy the fish and coral reefs from above. With the sunset and the waves crashing, Hayahay may be a bit luxurious for you, but it is worth every penny. Going to Hayahay Resort is pretty much simple. From Davao City go to Sasa Wharf and ride a barge, which would dock at Babak Wharf in Samal. From there, the Airbnb host will lead you to the private resort, or you can easily find it yourself. It is just a little after Cannibad, another famous spot for adrenaline junkies who want to cliff jump. For day trips, there are also plenty of resorts in Samal that you can choose from, such as Paradise Island and Costa Marina. These resorts have their own boat service that will take you from Davao City directly to the resort in less than 15 minutes.The boats and ferries dock at Kilometer 9, Sasa Bridge.
If Cebu City has the Sinulog Festival, then Davao City has the Kadayawan. An annual celebration of good harvest the Kadayawan Festival is celebrated every third week of August. This is a week-long celebration for all the abundant harvest of fruits and orchids. Kadayawan Festival is the perfect time to feast on a wide variety of fruits especially Durian, the fruit you must try when in Davao. Aside from the fruits and orchids that will welcome you, there are also flower float parades and street dancing in colorful costumes, or what is commonly known as indak-indak sa kadalanan. Get to know the rich culture of Davao as different tribes parade the streets with their tribal costumes and jewelry. Experiencing the Kadayawan Festival will definitely complete your visit.