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Malagos Garden Resort, Davao City

I often get asked by friends where to go and what to do when visiting Davao City. There are plenty of choices actually, depending on your kind of high. Here’s one of the go-to places for those wanting to bask in the beauty of nature when in Davao: Malagos Garden Resort.

Malagos Garden is a 12-hectare nature theme park located in Calinan, Davao City — about an hour away from the city’s downtown area. One may choose to stay overnight as there are cottages available. The nature park is a sprawling beauty of greenery, such a welcoming and relaxing respite from the noise, smog, and heavy traffic of urban living.

I brought my family there to unwind and dine last August in time for the Kadayawan Festival, and it didn’t disappoint.

What we enjoyed the most:

1.  The Interactive Bird Show – Imagine different species of eagles, owls, and other birds suddenly flying over you from nowhere to converge at the center to join the veterinarian-host; or a bird swooping over you to take the P100 bill you’re flashing and then returning it to you towards the end of the show (yes, it will remember you); or birds segregating trash and putting them in the right trash bins; best of all, ducklings, ducks, geese, and lastly a beautiful ostrich going out in throngs from the little ones to the biggest to manifest an animal evacuation when there’s a looming vulcanic eruption (which should serve as a warning to us humans). Very impressive! We never expected it to be as entertaining and informative as it was.

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2. The Lunch Buffet – A sumptuous lunch buffet for only P275 per person. Yes dear, P275 and you get awesome food choices from appetizers to desserts (drinks not included) while a talented pianist plays on the background. Worth trying are their fresh vegetable salads!

3. The Attractions – It was a vast area to cover on foot but the attractions where we stayed the longest were the View Deck Cafe and Grill, Koi Cafe (it was so windy and cool out there), Gardens of Malagos, the Butterfly Sanctuary, and the Bird Park. We also saw the Abueva Sculptures and visited the poolside. I would’ve wanted my parents to ride the Kalesa but we couldn’t find its station.

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Malagos Garden Resort is definitely one of Davao City’s tourist destinations. More than anything, it’s an awesome place to bond with your family where you can dine, play, talk, laugh, swim, learn, take pictures, and enjoy nature at the same time. To me, that’s priceless.

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Kadayawan Sa Dabaw 2015

The biggest festival in Davao City — Kadayawan sa Dabaw — culminates today with the highly-anticipated Floral Float Competition! Ironically I left yesterday after witnessing one entry at the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan, which is one of the highlights of the festival.

Kadayawan sa Dabaw 2015 is the 30th Kadayawan celebration and as usual, it attracted thousands of local and foreign tourists to Davao City.

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Prices of fruits drop at this season of bountiful harvest. I only spent a total of P200 for 3 kilos of mangosteen and 2 big pieces of marang.

Kadayawan is an annual festival in Davao City celebrating its bountiful harvests. You will find fruits that are fresh from the farms being sold on the streets and in public markets (the most popular and probably the biggest fruit market you could find is the Bankerohan Public Market) at very low prices: Mangosteen from P40-P50 per kilo, Marang and Rambutan at P20-P30 per kilo, Durian from P35-P65 per kilo, etc. If you buy directly from farmers themselves, you will get even cheaper deals. But as for myself, I don’t normally bargain with farmers because I can only imagine their tiny mark up. They need to earn too, you know.

Next time you plan your trip to Davao, be sure to be there during the Kadayawan week.  With fruits this cheap, you have no excuse not to eat fruits when in Davao.

Madayaw, Dabaw!

 

 

Villa Amparo Garden Beach Resort, Samal Island

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When you’re in Davao City and have enough time to bask in the sun, sea, and sand, make a quick trip to Samal Island and ask locals about Villa Amparo.  It’s arguably one of the most scenic and tranquil beach resorts on the island.

It’s about 20 minutes away from Babak Wharf, which means a quiet refuge from the more-populated beaches in Samal.  If you don’t have a private vehicle, you get there by a motorcycle or a tricycle once you reach Babak Wharf.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride so brace yourself.  The road going there is not yet fully developed.

The first time I went there with friends some two years ago, we thought we were being kidnapped because the road was getting narrower and farther from civilization, lol! We could see more trees and hills than the coastline.  And when the driver finally said we have reached our destination, we were welcomed by the resort’s security guard with a gun visibly hoisted to his side.

But seriously, there was nothing to fear there.  In fact, Samal Island as a whole boasts of a low crime rate and is arguably one of the safest places to visit and live in the Philippines.

All of Villa Amparo’s staff from the guard to the kitchen and office personnel were very accommodating.  Since it was a lean season, we had the place to ourselves!  Serenity.

We rented a nipa hut that could accommodate 3-4 people for only P750.  In the morning, we had our breakfast served at the Islet Gazebo without additional charges. Guests would have to pay P600 for a day at the Islet Gazebo but then again, we had the resort to ourselves and were given excellent perks fit for queens.

Their food was delicious yet inexpensive.

Their common shower rooms and restrooms were clean and well-maintained, and that was of primary importance to me.

Overall, Villa Amparo is worth checking out when you’re in Samal.

Tip: Don’t go there after a night of heavy rain because the sea’s current would wash loads of trash from Davao to this side of Samal. Go there on sunny days and enjoy the clear waters of Villa Amparo throughout your stay!

How to get to Villa Amparo, Samal Island from Davao City:

By bus:

1. Ride the Island City Express bus from the Magsaysay Park in Uyanguren. This will get you to Sasa Wharf and ferry you to Babak. Get off at Babak Wharf, not in Caliclic. (Around 15 minutes sea travel from Sasa Wharf)

Fare: P30

2. Ride a tricycle or a motorcycle just a few steps away from Babak Wharf. About 20-30 minutes ride from there to Villa Amparo.

Fare: P75-P100 per head on motorcycle or P375-P500 for a tricycle depending on your bargaining skills;

Some habal-habal (motorcycle) drivers may offer P200 per ride, but able to accommodate three passengers at a time. Jaw drop 😉

By private vehicle or taxi:

1. Pay P270 at Sasa Wharf (not sure if rate has changed).

From the Babak Wharf, turn left and be on the lookout for small billboards and road signs along the way that will help you get to Villa Amparo. If all else fails, stop and ask locals.

Address: Sitio Dasag, Barangay Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal.

The resort is pretty secluded from the other beaches in Babak Samal but when you get there, the breath-taking views, good food and customer service will let you know it’s all worth it.

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A comfortable overnight stay in a Villa Amparo nipa hut only costs P750.

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Boardwalk gazebo (P800 day tour). Take the spot upstairs for a fantastic view of the beach.

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Our stay in Samal Island, particularly in this secluded Villa Amparo Garden Beach Resort, was so relaxing and fun, and yet we didn’t break the bank. That’s the reason I went back last year and looking forward to going there again with more friends to tag along.

Debunking Myths about Mindanao

If you haven’t been to any parts of Mindanao, you’re probably one of the people who cringe at the thought of going there. I don’t blame you. Mindanao is generally and unfairly portrayed in the media as a war-torn island where gunshots are as common as firecrackers on Christmas and New Year’s eve.

I’ll tell you a story:

Many years ago, I was walking along a dimly-lit street in Pasay City when a stranger started taking my pace and tried to spark a conversation. I had this gut feeling that his intentions weren’t wholesome and I certainly wished he’d leave me alone. He asked me where I came from: I said curtly: “Mindanao.” “Ha? Muslim ka?” (You’re a Muslim?) His startled reaction was overrated. And he scampered away. Though I was glad to have whisked him off (albeit not intentionally by saying I was from Mindanao), I was surprised that he ran away at the mention of Mindanao.

What is it about Mindanao and Muslims that scare people? Myths. Unfair generalizations based on hearsay instead of facts.

Once and for all, let’s settle this.

1. Mindanao, which is the second largest island in the country composed of 26 provinces, is generally peaceful.  Only a small fraction of Mindanao is actually conflict-prone. Not even all of Cotabato (North or South) is risky, so to be scared of Cotabato as a whole is not quite fair. However, you might want to avoid Mamasapano in Maguindanao at this point. This agricultural area was unfortunately put in a bad light after a bloody encounter between armed groups and our law enforcers last January. Monitor the news first before you decide to visit that area.

But then again, it is but a small area in Mindanao. According to Wikipedia, the island of Mindanao is larger than 125 countries worldwide, including the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ireland.

2. Whenever Mindanao is mentioned, one top-of-mind association is “Muslims.” First off, Mindanao is not limited to the ARMM or the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) which are predominantly Muslim areas.

There are many other cities and provinces in Mindanao that are dominated by non-Muslims.  And even if there are many Muslims in some parts of Mindanao, so what? They are like everyone else, regardless of religion. Sadly, many of us have ingrained a certain degree of prejudice against our Muslim brothers and sisters as if they’re synonymous to terrorists and rebels. They’re not. I have Muslim friends and they are some of the nicest and most peace-loving people I know on earth. It’s not fair to brand people.

3. Modern Muslims and Christians are not the only dwellers in Mindanao. Mindanao is also home to lumads (indigenous people) who have distinctively rich cultures but are usually not under the media radar (except maybe during the Kadayawan Festival in Davao City where a lot of these lumads converge and participate in government-initiated activities). Filipinas Heritage Library lists these lumads as follows:

  • South Central Mindanao (esp. Davao, Bukidnon, Cotabato): Bagobo, Tagakaolo, Teduray, Manobo, Kulaman, Blaan, T’boli
  • Eastern Mindanao (esp. Agusan, Bukidnon, Davao, Surigao): Mandaya, Ata, Mansaka, Dibabawon
  • North Central Mindanao (esp. Bukidnon): Bukidnon/Higaonon
  • Western Mindanao and the Sulu Islands (esp. Zamboanga, Cotabato, Lanao): Maguindanao, Iranun, Maranao, Tausug, Samal, Yakan, Kalibugan, and Subanen

I am a child of Mindanao and for more than three decades, I have never felt that my safety has been compromised. Was I just lucky? Not sure about that.  I’ve been to parts of Cotabato and Comval Province, places they tag as rebel-infested and war-torn, but I never heard gun shots nor have I been robbed nor assaulted.  There was a single instance though when our group was approached by a member of the New People’s Army somewhere in Compostela Valley but he didn’t bother us, maybe because our guide was a local farmer whom the group respected for creating livelihood in their area.

Still scared of Mindanao? Start with Southern Mindanao particularly Davao City, the 4th Safest City in the World led by our widely-respected Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, with a crime index of 13.27 and safety index of 86.73.

Experience not strife but the serenity of its nature parks and mountain resorts, the beauty of nearby beaches, the modern facilities around the city, the abundance of seafood, meat and other fresh produce, the diversity and unity of cultures, the hospitality of its people, the honesty of its taxi drivers. Before you know it, you’ll be wanting to visit nearby provinces and telling your friends that their perception of Mindanao being scary is not at all true. around pilipinas