touristIn the 1970s, Davao City became known as the “killing fields” of the Philippines. As a result, the rest of the country avoided this once promising city. But it changed after the 1988 elections. The newly elected mayor, Rodrigo R. Duterte, restored peace and order in the city.
From what they call it as “Murder City,” Davao City is now one of the most livable cities in the Asia. Indeed, Davao City is one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
Most recent visitors who come here describe Davao as a land of exotic beauty and rich culture. “Davao is probably the least exposed of the country’s urban areas, and the most appealing,” contends Gregory C. Ira. Gregory is a Filipino-American friend who visited the city together with his family.
Now, let’s do the tour in the heart of the city. Start at the city hall in San Pedro Street. A few distant walk is the legislative building that has the famous freedom statue designed by Kublai Millan. Adjacent to the statue is the historic San Pedro Cathedral.
Not far from the Catholic cathedral is the D’Bone Collector Museum (shades of one of those Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.) in Barangay Bucana. You will surely pay attention to see a 41-foot, or 12.4- meter long sperm whale (which has the largest species of toothed whale). Bones and skeletons of snakes, tarsier, marine turtles, various fish species, different sizes of the mouths of sharks and birds abound.
From there, take a taxi and tell the driver to bring you to People’s Park (yes, its Davao’s counterpart of Manhattan’s Central Park) in Legazpi Street. It’s a place where people gather around, stroll and cross bridges, watch man-made waterfalls, or sit under the beautiful trees.
Davao comes alive with the celebration of “Kadayawan sa Dabaw” every third week of August, coinciding with the harvest of fruits, flowers and agricultural products. Major thoroughfares are set ablaze with dancing and cheers with the indak-indak sa kadalanan (street dancing). Street Dancing consists spectacular performers in ethnic-inspired garments dancing to the beat of tribal music. Furthermore, the Floral Float Parade that features floral and agricultural bounties.
Now, let’s talk about the food. There are plenty of them and visitors have several choices. First of all, try to eat the controversial durian. Durian smells like hell but tastes like heaven. If you hate the smell, then you better drink durian coffee at Java Jive in Quirino Street.
Chicken afficionados can go to Dusk ‘Til Dawn Restaurant and order its most flavorful chicken wing. Enjoy a Filipino dinner al fresco up a hill at Dencio’s Hilltop. Ranchero offers the best baby back ribs in the city. Yes, you can have fresh tuna kinilaw in most restaurants in the city.
If you want to see waling-waling up close, then go to the Malagos Garden Resort in Calinan. Other species of orchids abound, but the resort is more noted for its amazing bird show every Sunday. The show strikes a serious environment note to the audience: Save the birds before they’re gone forever.
The country’s bird icon is the Philippine Eagle. There are several of them at the Philippine Eagle Center, just 2 kilometers away from the Malagos Garden Resort. Don’t fail to marvel at “Pag-asa,” the very first tropical eagle bred in captivity and hatched scientifically.
If crocodile is your thing, visit Davao Crocodile Park in Maa. This 5.4-hectare mini zoo houses several of the two species of crocodiles found in the Philippines. It is here where you can find the country’s second largest known crocodile. It also houses wild cats, python, turtles, monitor lizard, monkeys and various kinds of birds.
Far from the center of the city is Eden Nature Park and Resort in Toril. It is a testament to how man’s ingenuity and concern for the environment can create a paradise on earth. At 2,650 feet above sea level, it offers breath taking views of Davao City and the Davao Gulf.
Before leaving Davao, don’t forget to visit the Aldevinco Shopping Center in C.M. Recto Street. There are pearl inlaid chests, brass cannons, gongs, batik shirts, wrap- around skirts, native cloth and bags. You can always find a little something to bring back home instead of the usual T-shirt.
“It is a city by appearance but a village by heart. It is a city by appearance, but a home by heart.” That is how one of the columnists describes Davao. In a way, it is!