This August, the streets of Davao City will once again be filled with revelry of floral float parade, street dancing, exhibits and pageants for the Kadayawan sa Dabaw, the city’s grandest festival. Witness as the ten indigenous tribes of Davao – the Matigsalug, Tausog, Kagan, Maranao, Maguindanao, Sama, Ata, Klata-Djangan, Tagabawa and Oyu-Manuyo rendezvous in celebration and thanksgiving for good harvest, nature bounties, and rich cultural heritage of their homeland.
( the Matigsalug people)
On top of witnessing the lively festivity, here is a list of things to do in this sprawling city to help you make the most out of your trip:
1. Stroll at People’s Park
At the heart of metropolis is the People’s Park, one of the cleanest and greenest public parks in the country. This sprawling recreational area is well-known for its life-size sculptures of indigenous people by Mindanaoan artist Kublai Millan. Take a leisurely walk at a maze of paved walkways hemmed in by lush vegetation. It is believed to house over one thousand species of plants and trees from Africa, Australia, Madagascar, South America, and Southeast Asia. Enter the durian-inspired visitor’s center and be amazed by a vast collection of bamboo species. At night, locals flock to People’s Park to watch the dazzling dancing fountain.
( the People's Park.)
2. Try white water rafting at the Davao River
For adrenaline junkies, rush to the Davao River and experience rafting trips by the premier white water rafting outfitter Davao Wild Water Adventure. This exhilarating activity begins at Tamugan and takes you to over twenty rapids that are perfect for beginners. White water rafting rate is Php 2,000 per person inclusive of gears and raft guide, transportation (to and fro rafting area from Crocodile Park), packed lunch and bottled water, documentation ( 2 disc per group of 6) and ticket to Zip City, Tribu K’mindanawan and Butterfly House.
3. Feast on tropical fruits
Davao is a fruit paradise, for first timers in this lively city, a visit here will not be complete without grabbing a bite of durian. Drop by at the fruit stands along Magsaysay Park, Agdao Public Market, Bankerohan Market and Madrazo Fruit Stand where a redolent riot of tropical fruits such as mangosteen, bananas, rambutan, pomelo and durian can be found.
4. Meet a Philippine Eagle
Watch your history book come alive when you visit the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC), about one hour away from the city proper. The sanctuary is home to endangered Philippine Eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi), monkeys, bats, reptiles, wild boar and other species of wild birds. There’s a Php 100 admission fee for adults and tour guide is free but you have to book in advance to make sure there is an available guide at the center. A Keeper Talk is also available where the bird’s caretaker imparts interesting facts about the bird to the spectators; just contact the Philippine Eagle Center for details.
(A Philippine Eagle at the PEC)
5. See a waling-waling up close
The waling-waling (euanthe sanderiana/ vanda sanderiana) is an orchid believed to be discovered sometime in 1880 by a German plant explorer. Back in the 80’s, Charita Puentespina – an orchidist and founder of Puentespina Orchids and Tropical Plants Inc., initiated the mass production of waling-waling through embryo culture to save them from extinction. It is believed to thrive in the forest of Davao, Zamboanga del Sur some mountains of Cotabato province only but today, you may also find them in orchid farms scattered around Davao City. n This year, the waling-waling was declared as a Philippine National Flower (alongside Sampaguita) by House Bill 5655.
6. Try wakeboarding
Adventure seekers need not fret because aside from rafting tours, Davao City is also home to one of the largest wakeboarding park in Asia and the first one in Mindanao – Deca Wake Cable Park situated in Brgy. Mintal. Rates start at Php 300 (2 hours) on weekdays inclusive of helmet, life vest and beginner’s board and instructions plus 50-80% of riding ticket rate for board and bindings rental. On a cloudless day, you can catch a glimpse of the picturesque Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. Deca Wake Park is open everyday from 10 AM to 6 PM.
( Deca Homes Wake Park)
7. Go museum hopping
Learn some history of Davao City and its people by paying a visit to the some museums. The Davao Museum of History and Ethnography has a vast collection of artifacts and cultural materials which aims to preserve and promote the culture and arts of Davao. It is located in Insular Village I in Lanang and is open from Monday-Saturday (closed on holidays) from 9:00 Am to 5:00 PM, admission fee is from Php 20-Php 100. Other museums worth visiting are The Mindanao Folk Arts Museum located in Matina, the Philippine-Japan Museum in Calinan and the Museo Dabawenyo dubbed as the people’s museum.
8. Visit Eden Nature Park
Escape the intensity of the metropolis for a day and soak in the laid-back atmosphere in Eden Nature Park. This beautifully manicured mountain resort is blanketed by soaring pine trees, flowering plants and vegetables. Eden Nature Park is packed with thrilling activities like skyrider/zipline, Indiana Jones, trekking, horseback riding and fishing. Attractions include the Amphitheater, Lola’s Garden and the replica of traditional houses of some ethnic groups.
(Indigenous music and dance performance at Matina Town Square)
9. Listen to live music
Experience night life in Davao, visit Matina Town Square (MTS) and listen to homegrown live bands play their music while you and your friends indulge on luscious food and affordable beer. On Tuesdays and Thursday night, catch the free show of indigenous music and dance and join the performers on stage near the end of the show.
10. Rummage the Aldevinco Shopping Center
Over the years, massive malls have crept up Davao City making it one of the best shopping havens in the country but if you want to take home some great Mindanaon souvenirs such as Batik, shawls, trinkets, jewelries, accessories, musical instruments and Asian apparels and fabrics, browse the goods sold at Aldevinco Shopping Center. This age-old flea market opened way back in 1965 at the intersection of Claro M. Recto Avenue and Manuel Roxas Boulevard attracting hordes of buyers because of its fabulous commodities.
Gael is the author of The Pinay Solo Backpacker.