The Philippines consists of more than 7000 islands, they said it takes about 3 decades to visit and experience every Island. As I don’t have that much time, I at least wanted to visit each major region and part of that is Mindanao, the world’s 19th largest island. It’s known for dazzling scenery, primitive hill tribes and an almost complete lack of tourists because of political unrest and occasional fighting between the government and Muslim separatists.
Government has warned tourist not to go to Mindanao because of this situation. Even local Pinoys don’t venture out there. However, the north coast and South-East side seems pretty safe to travel around. There’s actually quite a lot of offer for the intrepid traveler.
I don’t really remember exactly why I picked Davao as the place to visit. I think it was mainly because of the diving possibilities in the area. I remember vaguely I looked for the best dive sites in the Philippines and came up with Davao. Also the fact that I found a Couchsurfing host in Davao. I’ve always been telling myself to couchsurf at least once in every country I visit and Eiki and her amazing family welcomed me into their home in Davao so off I went!
To be honest, I didn’t do much tourist stuff in Davao itself, there was tons of stuff to do though. Like going to the Philippine Eagle center to see the Philippine Eagle, one of the largest eagles in the world and sadly also one of the most endangered. But I didn’t go because I wasn’t THAT into seeing the eagles and it was way out from where I was staying. I had more fun hanging out with the locals instead, but more on that later.
So for one day, I met up with Mimi, a Pinay from Manila who was in town visiting as well. Good thing, she contacted me since, I was planning to walk to most if not all of the attraction, while she could simply ask the people where to take the bus to places. THANKS MIMI! We visited the Lonwa buddhist temple, People’s Park, San Pedro Cathedral and the nearby town square. All in all, nothing too spectacular though, but at least we could say we went sightseeing. It was fun to check out the town square though since there was some event going on and people were dancing to Oppa Gangnam style and seemed really into it.
At night we went to Jack’s Ridge on the Shrine Hills Road to get a scenic view of Davao city. To get there, we had to take a tricycle/pedicab at the foot of the hill. I haven’t explained what a pedicab is before, but it’s pretty much a motorbike with a sidecart attached to it to transport people. How many people it can transport, mainly depends on how many people you can (forcefully) fit in there. I think we were with 6 passengers on a shabby looking cart and old motorcycle going uphill. We barely made to the top, but could say it was an exciting ride, as the slogan of Philippines says “It’s more fun in The Philippines!”. The view itself was rather disappointing though…
Diving was pretty nice, we sailed out on sunday along with another group who signed up for island hopping while I went diving. Pretty nice to hang out with a group of people and other travelers as well. Most of them were couchsurfers as well and sort of know eachother already via via.
The reason why I liked Davao so much was mainly because of it’s people. Before arriving in Davao, I haven’t really felt the warmth and kindness of the people yet nor have I experienced the Filipino lifestyle and that was all about to change.
As I mentioned before, I stayed with Eiki and her family. The first day we met up with another couchsurfer Elle whom I talked to on forums before. We got dinner and ended up in a karaoke and let me tell you, karaoke is really the favorite pastime in the Philippines. I was kinda caught off guard, but just went along with it. I think it’s been more than 6 months since I set foot in a karaoke and for 2 hours, my hosts were singing their lunges out and doing a wonderful job at that. Afterwards we got some skewered chicken intestines and called it a night.
Apparently they really have a super active CS group here. Almost every week they get together, share a few beers and many laughs after work. Not to mention that they often organise events and trips to nearby places.
At night after the cultural tour with Mimi, there was another gathering where there were tons of newbies around as well. It was a nice occassion to meet other travelers and mainly get to know some of the locals. I also met several people who were volunteering there and it was really cool to hear some of their experiences as well. I really liked how everyone is so knowledgeable about their own country. All of them loved to travel and when I mentioned a place, they would give me tons of tips and advice.
Eventhough they often organise things, I mainly just hung out with my host Eiki, I asked her tons of stuff concerning culture in Philippines and also some “dating” traditions in the Philippines along with certain terms like such as EB (eyeball) and FC (feeling close). Eyeball simply means first meeting between both parties since first contact is usually established in non-physical ways such as texting or internet. Feeling close means, you get too close, too familiar, getting into peoples comfort zone too much. Actually the whole idea of courtship is quite interesting and in some areas still traditional and old fashioned. Check out the wikipedia explanation, I like the part where the guy actually has to court the parents as well when he comes over to their house to introduce himself. Poor guys…
As I was saying, I just hung out with Eiki and her family, it was really interesting to get to know the whole family. They do so much for their local community as well and are so involved in helping others. I know it might be bad of me to say that Philippines is a rather poor country, but it’s really heartwarming to hear people helping out others eventhough they aren’t “rich”. Especially even after the typhoon that passed by Davao a few weeks ago. Some people that I’ve met actually went out of their way to help some of the victims in the area.
Anyways, Davao was definately one of the coolest places I’ve been when it comes to meeting locals. Eventhough I only saw a few of the sights, I still had a blast meeting people and diving. Afterwards I took a short trip to Mati before heading to Palawan for some more diving!
PS: I took some pictures from the CS Davao group, that’s why some pictures may look a bit odd.