My daughter, Bianca, had her birthday recently. To celebrate it, my wife and I brought her to Davao Oriental, a province not yet well-known for its tourist attractions. It was a 4-hour leisurely drive from Davao City to Mati, the capital of Davao Oriental, but lo and behold, we were treated to 2 dazzling days of amazing sights.
First, we went to the beach in Dahican. We stayed in a quiet, cozy place called Tropical Kanakbai. I loved the privacy the place afforded us. The area had lots of trees that provided shade and there were long stretches of pristine white sand. Shades of Waikiki Beach minus the loads of bronzed bathers!
That night, we took our time gazing at the waxing moon. Come the sunrise, we lazed in the serene surroundings and took a dip in the calm soothing waters.
As usual, my wife created a fantastic mandala from among the odds and ends she found on the beach. Yup, she’s like a miracle worker, able to create something out of nothing.
Next, we ventured into the huge Menzi Farmers Cooperative (Mefco) estate. The operation may have been taken over by the local cooperative after the old patriarch, Hans Menzi, passed; but they still produce the world’s best pomelos. Their pomelos are the sweetest and juiciest variety I have ever tried, I KID YOU NOT!!!
And they were selling what they said were ‘rejects’ for only P30 per kilo!!! Imagine that! (in Manila, that’s P130 per kilo.) These ‘rejects’ were the same sweet and juicy kind except for the imperfect shape or color. Needless to say, I ended up buying a sackful of pomelos for distribution to the folks in Manila.
We then dropped by the Subangan Museum, Davao Oriental’s world class Provincial Museum. From the huge skeleton of a sperm whale fondly called Davor (named after the province, of course), to the native artifacts depicting the proud history of its indigenous people, to the illustrations, pictures and stories of the rich biodiversity available in the province, plus the wonders of the province, Subangan gave us quite an eyeful. So much to see and so much to learn!!!
Among others, we learned that, unknown to many, the province has a World Heritage site in Mt Hamiguitan which is now being further developed. The pictures were enough to whet our appetites for a quickie ride to the Mt Hamiguitan Museum which was midway up the Mt Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary.
And it turned out to be well worth it! The Hamiguitan Museum was another mind-boggling adventure. A collaboration between former Governor Cora Malanyaun and Mrs Charie Puentespina of Malagos Gardens, it is a legacy project that will benefit not just the plants and animal species in the region, but the people themselves.
The Mt Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is a mountain ridge running north-south along the Pujada Peninsula in the southeastern part of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor. It has an elevation range of 75–1,637 m above sea level and provides critical habitat for a range of plant and animal species. The area showcases terrestrial and aquatic habitats at different elevations, and includes threatened and endemic flora and fauna species, eight of which are only available at Mount Hamiguitan. These include critically endangered trees, plants and the iconic Philippine eagle and Philippine cockatoo.
They say that if you’re able to spend a night at the top of Mt Hamiguitan, it’s like a scene in the movie ‘Avatar’, with the luminous plants and all. And as you go higher and higher the mountains, the trees are getting shorter, until you find yourself in bonsai country. Where you suddenly feel like a giant. And then there’s a forested area where you never see any fallen leaves underneath. It’s like someone has been cleaning up the place everyday. And there’s no one there. So enchantingly eerie!
Well, words cannot fully express what I have seen. Perhaps some of these pictures will give you a bit of an impression. So if you have a chance to travel down south, better come and see Davao Oriental. You won’t regret it.
(Photo credits also go to Rappler, Choose Philippines and Trip Advisor.)