Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Davao City

We booked a city tour on our last day in Davao. Ches has been all over in the various times he visited, but it was my first time so I wanted to go around. We rented a car driven by this nice guy named Jojo who also doubled as our tour guide. He wasn’t much in the way of a tour guide – he was mostly quiet and imparted only annoying trivia like the house of Dawn Zulueta and Manny Pacquiao. (One word: whodahellcares?!) I liked him, tho, bcoz (1) he took us to so many places in the short time we allotted for the tour, and (2) he took good pictures. Hahaha.

We went to the museum first since it was nearest the wharf. We didn’t go around tho bcoz we didn’t think we had the time.

We went to the San Pedro Cathedral next. This was No. 1 in my list that included only two items, with the other one being The Shrine of Jesus. (Yes, that is the kind of nut that I am. In a big, modern city like Davao, the only two sites on my must-visit list are both churches.) It was nice and all of that, but I was kind of disappointed bcoz it wasn’t this old, massive church in a sprawling ground I have in mind when I think of cathedrals. It was more like a chapel, actually.

The cathedral was right across the city hall, a new building with a huge monument in front. It had this strange shape that Ches and I tried to figure out without much success. I thought it was shaped like a mollusk. Of course, Ches knew I was only pretending to know what a mollusk looks like, or what it even is. Hahaha.

From there we went to Aldevinco, which is a row of shops selling non-food stuff. We just got shirts for Justin and Ann and we were out of there. We also went to Lola Abon’s for durian and mangosteen candies. This is the same brand that Ches, Mommy, and Tito Aaron buy for the boys when they go to Davao. My boys love them. (This is how I know I’ve grown up if only a little bit: I’ve stopped shopping so much when I travel to the provinces. I used to buy all these souvenir shirts and bags and stuff, but now mostly I just buy a few local delicacies, just to have a taste.)

Our next stop was the No. 2 in my list, the Shrine of Jesus in Matina Hill. Now this was more like it. I loved the quiet and whiteness and trees. There were three small chapels in the vast grounds. I read in the inscriptions that the statues were made from materials from the Holy Land. Jojo said the place is packed during Holy Week.

Since we still had a few hours before our flight, we also went to Jack’s Ridge. It offered a nice view of the city and is littered with restos and coffee shops. It’s supposedly a popular gimmick place for young peeps at night. It overlooks the city, but the amazing thing is, the whole area used to be underwater.

Jojo took us to the Davao Butterfly House, but it was closing time and to get in, you also had to get a ticket to the Davao Crocodile Park, which I didn’t want to visit anymore bcoz I’ve been in the Pasay branch only two times for the boys’ field trips (groan). We proceeded to the latter, anyway, just to see how it looked like.

We ended up spending some time there for snacks. I had never eaten durian (except in the form of candies) and Ches was daring me to finally do it in this trip since this was the home of durian, after all. I wasn’t competitive enough to rise to the dare, but also not chicken enough to not do anything at all. Hence, I tried something called durian dynamite ice cream, the dynamite referring to crocodile egg. Double eeooww, right? The vendor explained that the egg works as an aphrodisiac. Ches was like, yeah, like you’re the kind of girl who needs that. HAHAHA.

I had durian shake in the airport, too. I was paranoid and thought I smelled all durian-like already in the plane. Grossness.

Who would've thought there were so many things you could make out of durian? You almost expect to see durian-flavored cigarette somewhere. Haha.

For his part, Ches had a crocodile sausage. They called it dundee meat. Ugh. Ches loves his sausages, to begin with, and so he was happy to find a Hero Sausage outlet there. Ever the adventurous one, he tried the local bestseller, and I didn’t even have to dare him. Craziness.

(When we told the boys, Yoshi was concerned that crocodiles might be endangered species and hence should not be slaughtered and eaten. He’s so annoyingly conscientious like that. I know I should be proud and all, and I am, but I’m also annoyed bcoz I just feel so … immature compared to him. Hahaha.)

A trip to Davao wouldn’t be complete without pomelo and mangosteen, of course. A fruit stand was our last stop before we headed to the airport to catch our flight.

I loved the orchids in the airport. It was like Changi. Ok, not quite Changi, but still the only airport in the Philippines I’ve seen with real flowers.

I also loved the signs I saw around the city:

It was such a treat to find that Davao had so much more to offer than the two churches in my list.

Malipano Island

Malipano is this small island which is about 10 minutes by ferry from Pearl Farm. Guests are allowed to go and visit but just some parts bcoz Malipano also has its own resort and most of the areas are exclusive for those who are checked in there.

It was late afternoon when we went there, and so we had the island mostly to ourselves. There was nothing much to see, except for the resort that was off-limits, a small store selling aquatic sports stuff, and a golf course.

The beach looked perfect for swimming, all clear and shallow, but we were all swam out by this point. We mostly just sat back and dug our feet in the sand. Chillax stuff like that. It was The Life.

I loved it there. Serene is the perfect word to describe it.

Pearl Farm

Ches and I wanted to go somewhere special for our 10th wedding anniversary. We decided on Pearl Farm bcoz those houses on stilts in the water just looked so romantic. This is also where my sis-in-law had her honeymoon. Plus, I have never been to Davao (Ches has gone several times).

Pearl Farm is LOVE. You know when you look at pictures in a resort’s website and it all looks so grand and fabulous but when you get there you see that even your own house is nicer and cleaner and realize you’ve been conned big time? Pearl Farm is so not like that. If anything, the pictures do not quite capture its beauty and charm. It’s one of those things where you have to be there and see for yourself.

We stayed in one of the Samal houses. Yes, no less than the famous houses on stilts in the water. It’s a whole separate hut with its own wrap-around porch and everything. The hut and king-sized bed were too big for just the two of us.

We loved staying on the bench in our porch and just gazing at all that sky and water and Malipano Island in the distance.

One other thing that Ches and I love doing together is walk while chatting. We walked all around the resort 60 million times. I think it’s stupid when you’re travelling yet spend most of your time cooped up in your hotel room. Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of travel?

There was so much to see in the resort. Farther out than the Samal rooms are the Mandaya and Hilltop rooms. The Mandaya rooms are full-fledged houses for entire families, while the Hilltop rooms are for those who are willing to climb all those steps leading up to the hill where the rooms are. (Yes, you could’ve figured that out, I know.)

There was the waterfalls to greet everyone passing by the little bridge.

Hidden behind it is the Ylang Ylang Spa housed in a big native hut. How lovely it must be to get a massage while listening to the waterfalls. Ches and I didn’t try it tho bcoz the rates were way too obscene.

There was a pond with fishes in all sizes and colors in it. I love our crazy picture here. Haha.

There was also the boutique which still followed the over-all Pinoy feel of the resort, even if it sold mostly Havaianas and Speedo. Haha. It took me a while to figure out what ‘Butik’ meant. I initially thought it was some kind of exotic animal. Groan. Brilliant old me.

There was a hut housing two old women from the ethnic Mandaya tribe. They weave and sell their homemade wares, like this lovely pink bracelet that I bought for Ate.

There were hammocks everywhere. It was so tempting to just lay there with a good book until the sun set. We would’ve done just that if we had more than three days in the island.

There was also the parola bar, the three-storey hut that greets you when you first set foot on the island. It offers the best view of the whole place. This is also where they show movies on a big screen every night, with several bean bags to lounge in on the floor. Nice touch, that one.

And the flowers! There were the lovely local ones like gumamela and bird of paradise, but there were also exotic ones I’ve never seen elsewhere, and little blue flowers that are always my favorite.

There were definitely no plastic flowers in Pearl Farm. Randy would not have fainted from the sheer tackiness of it. Hahaha.

There was the beach, of course. The sand was white and fine, and the water clean and shallow. Ches liked it better than Boracay. (Boracay is severely overrated, if you ask me.)

There were also 60 million kinds of swimming pools. There was the infinity pool, the saltwater pool, the pool with the Jacuzzi, the pool with this waterfall feature dripping from huge rocks. We both terribly missed our two boys when we saw the kiddie pools. They LOVE their kiddie pools.

The service was also excellent. Anywhere Ches and I went, when we came across any staff, they always smiled and greeted us warmly. They definitely give the Philippines a good name with foreigners.

It was not all heaven and happiness in Pearl Farm, tho. The food was hit-and-miss, and steeply priced, too. And the sad thing is, you don’t really have a choice bcoz it’s, uh, an island and if you don't want to eat there - you die of hunger. Hahaha. We tried the fried and hainanese chicken, and the pork steak – and they were BAD. How could you screw up something basic like fried chicken? I can clearly imagine I could, but at least I’m not in the hotel and resto business, am I?

We had better luck with the Pearl Farm burger and onion consomm√© soup. Oh, and the fruit juices and shakes were good and cheap. The breakfast buffet was also not bad. It (1) was extensive so if you didn’t want one dish you could easily move on to many others; it included (2) local produce like guava bread and tamarind and mangosteen jams; (3) pomelo in the dessert station; and (3) bacon. Hahaha.

I loved the dining area, tho. It was called the Maranao Restaurant, a huge, high-ceilinged affair decorated with colourful fabric like those in vintas, wooden lamps, and massive bouquets of fresh, exotic flowers. At dinner, they also have live musicians up on a small stage. On our first night, there was a guy on sax and a pianist who brought the house down with classics like What A Wonderful World. On our second night, it was a father and his two kids who did more contemporary songs like Runaway and Fallin’.

Bad food notwithstanding, Pearl Farm is too perfect. We loved the place, and tho we missed our boys, we also had a grand time just being together, mostly just walking around, chatting nonstop, and making up hilarious stories about all the other guests. We couldn’t have picked a better place to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary than Pearl Farm.