Saturday, May 21, 2011

Relishing the Flirtatious Samal Island (Davao)

"Then the spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil."
Mt. 4:1

Im back on the road again. This time my itchy feet brought me to Davao City - The Home of Durians. In recent years, Davao has been named as the "Asian City of the Future" because of its continuous development.

However, I did not go to Davao to tour the city and partake of Davao's heriritage. I went here for a healthy dose of sand, sun, and sea.

As we arrived in Davao, we suddenly realized that we have no reservation in any resorts at our planned destination - SAMAL. So what we did was of course looked for a place to eat then I took out my laptop and started searching! After some surfing, calling and hair pulling, we were fetched by this private boat at Davao Boat Club Marina by 3PM sharp.

NO! I didn't go to Davao Pearl Farm. Been there. Done that. I went to the newest craze in Samal, Bali Bali Resort. What made me chose this resort was the three words written on their homepage: Tranquility, Serenity and Privacy.

When I got out of the boat, I just cannot stop pointing my lens at the beautiful Bali Bali Resort. Total relaxation could really be achieved in this resort. Just look at that open cabana which is facing the beach. Magnifico!

A glimpse of how beautiful the place is. This is just the pathway to the world of awesomeness!

Our group was greeted by the friendliest smile I have ever seen. Our lugagges was forcibly taken from us while we were escorted to their simple lobby slash reception area slash entertainment room slash dining area. They served buko shake or maybe it was a juice. I don't care. It was really soothing for the weather that day. Oh, the juice was paired by the most delicious Turon. I call it "Turon na Bitin."

We stayed for a while in the reception area. I didn't mind waiting this particular afternoon. Why? Because I was preoccupied by all things beautiful and delicious. How I wish I was able to take a picture of Turon na Bitin and the buko juice.

One of the main attractions of Bali Bali is their infinity pool facing the sea. The management acknowledged the fact that Samal beaches ain't that nice, so they made it a point to have a swimming pool and a jacuzzi that would stand out.

This ain't fun anymore. Good place. Great staff. Best food! Freshest seafood. Tastiest menu. Organically grown vegetables. I'm being pampered!

So you think you saw everything that is to love in Bali Bali? The best thing that this resort can offer their guests is the privacy and comfort of their villas. They only have less than 10 villas each with its own theme. I was assigned on the oriental theme villa which I really love. Especially my own private garden bathroom. Woot woot!

Great view from the infinity pool. Leaving the resort almost broke my heart. I cannot bear the thought of parting ways. Oh my! I think I just had my second summer fling. Oh Lord, I beg forgiveness. It was the beauty of Bali Bali Resort that made me forget that I am thy servant. Bali Bali Resort, I'm sorry. It's not you, it's me. So please understand.

Ok, since we are on the topic of summer flings, my first was really Davao Pearl Farm. During my first visit in Samal Island in 2006, Bali Bali wasn't fully operational then and I haven't even heard of it. Davao Pearl Farm was the first who gave comfort and warmth in Samal.

The well maintained cottages in Davao Pearl Farm is iressitible. By the veranda, you will just have to look down and you will see schools of fishes froming letters of H-E-L-L-O!

The other side of the island is called Malipano Island. If you really want an exclusive experience of the island opt to stay there. However, of course you have to pay the price. Me, I settled for the main resort of Davao Pearl Farm. But just like any other flings, me and Davao Pearl Farm ended just like that. Luckily, after a few years, there was Bali Bali when I came back in Samal.

I hurriedly got off of the Bali Bali Beach Resort boat and ran off the Marina. Hailed a cab and instructed the driver to bring me to the nearest church. The driver sensed the urgency, instead of bringing me to the nearest church, he opted to bring me to the nearest cathedral! The San Pedro Cathedral.

As my Davao tour comes to an end, I swore to my self that I will never set foot onto Samal Island ever again. I will just look them beauties from a far while I will be on my own boat just like these boys on the photo. I wonder if these boys were also fooled by the beauties of Samal.

I know there are still a lot that Davao can offer me. I do not know if I still can go back on its islands. I still haven't moved on. But don't worry, if in case i decide to go back in the future, I promise I will rekindle our love.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Drifting Camp Sabros (Digos City)

"In the Lord I have taken my refuge. How can you say to my soul: "Fly like a bird to its mountain."
Psalm 11:1

The Gate City of the South is how Digos City is known. It is considered as a first class city in Davao del Sur. For me though, Digos City is the Gateway to Camp Sabros.

From GenSan, we rode a bus for two hours to reach Digos City terminal. It was a busy afternoon when we got to the old Digos Terminal by trike. As per instruction from Camp Sabros, we have to take a van to Camp Sabros. So we went aound looking for a van going to Camp Sabros. It was already late in the afternoon and we were lucky to chance upon an FX going to Camp Sabros.

After an hour of some zigs and zags, a couple Hail Marys' (a requirement because of the kind of driver that we have) the driver dropped us off at Camp Sabros.

No! Wait. We were not in Camp Sabros yet. We were dropped off the foot of the hill where it is located. We still have to ride a habal-habal (a motorcycle) to reach the hill top. We have to pass onto a road that is slippery, muddy, full of potholes and cliff. The scenery was breathtaking, as well as the dangerous road.

I sighed out of relief when I saw the Camp Sabros signage. We got off the mess hall slash game room slash reception slash lobby of Camp Sabros.

Cow's skull. The only downside in my Camp Sabros experience was the limited food that they can offer their guests. So I suggest if you are kinda choosy when it comes to food, it would be best to bring your own instead.

After checking in, we were escorted to our cabin.  Each cabin is isolated from one another to ensure total relaxation. Do not expect luxury inside your room. You will just get what you paid for.

Our cabin has its own veranda slash patio at the back. I wasn't able to appreciate it when we first arrive because it was already dark. In the morning though, I almost said "I love you" to the girl who gave me that cabin. The bathroom stood out among all other amenity in my cabin. If only I have the the luxury of time that day, I would lay in that tub with hot water while staring out of the window.

The picture above is the zipline area that is just beside my cabin. Below is the roof design of my veranda.

This is the reason why I almost said "I love you" to the girl assigned to me my room. This view was not visible when I got into my room the night before. But when I woke up, this majestic mountain greeted me along with Mr. Sun, the sweet smell of pine trees and harmonious song of the birds. This is what I call simple perfection.

Camp Sabros at night. Photo above is the activity hall or funtion room at Camp Sabros which is located near my room. Below is my room.

This is the first photo I took of Camp Sabros while waiting for my room assignment. It was 6:33 PM and I still had a glorious sky!

It can become really chilly at night so make sure to bring a jacket. Of course I don't have a jacket! I just relied to prayers to keep me warm. Luckily, while I was going around and taking pictures, one group had a bonfire activity after dinner. Ting ting ting! Fire = warm! Prayers can really do wonders.

One of the cabins in front of the mess hall.

My main goal going to Camp Sabros was to try the ZipLine. Morning came. After taking pictures around the place and having breakfast, we informed the front desk that we are doing the rides. We paid Php 280 and off we Zipped. Whoah! it was really exhilirating especially for me since I am really not comfortable with heights.

The first ride was only 380 meters long going to the other side of the mountain. I was really shaking when it ended. On the other side, we have to ride a truck going up the mountain for our ZipLine back to the camp. This time, it would be 400 meters long, and higher! I did't wanna know how high was it. All i know is that it was really high but i was able to do it! Kudos to me!

Who would've thought that all the while the mountain visible from Camp Sabros was actually Mt. Apo - the tallest mountain in the Phippilines. I never knew it was Mt. Apo until our guide told me.

By the end of our ZipLine activity, I took some more photos, packed up and left Camp Sabros. The guy who drove us up to the camp picked us up again and brought us to the town. We were planning to ride the van or FX to go back to the old Digos Terminal. However, the locals told us it would take a while before they van will leave.

We decided to take the habal-habal all the way down to Digos Terminal. So before I hopped on the habal-habal, I took my holy water out, book of blessings and stole. Just in case.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Knocking Out General Santos City

"Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch."

General Santos City - known for as Tuna Capital of the Philippines. Well used to be. Now when somebaody hear GenSan first thing that will come to mind is our "Pambansang Kamao" Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao (say it in a Michael Buffer way).

This is the beginning of my down south journey. My first stop is GenSan. I know there is nothing much to look around in GenSan. But hey, I was able to know more about the place and Pareng Manny as well.

 What's a fish? What's a chicken? Wondering why a chicken is included on this post instead of a Tuna. To make a long story short. I was not able to go inside the fish port. So why what's up with the chicken? Go figure Jessica Simpsons.

When planning to go in the fish port, one must plan ahead. There are rules to follow and time to abide with. I'll give you a check list: 1. Wake up early to make it in the fish port before 6AM (x); 2. Do not wear shorts (x); 3. Do not wear slippers even if it is Havaianas (x) finally, 4. Secure a permit for your cameras even if it is just a small point and shoot camera (x). Notice the (x) in each reminder, those are the things I didn't do. Now you know the story of why ME = NO ENTRY.

Our Lady of Peace & Good Voyage. This church just turned 50 last 2009. According to the locals who thankfully talked to me, this is the same church that Aling Dionisia hear mass and pray during Pacman's bout.

Outside the OLPGV church stands a towering cross. The photos were taken on a separate day and time.

The Tabernacle at night

The stained glass of Conception and of a Cross. Another fixation.

Lights! Night! Shoot! Need I say more?

No camera tricks. No photo editing. Nothing at all. I just pointed my camera then...Voila! This photo by the way is taken on board a moving tricycle while cruising around GenSan.

Goats beside the main highway as well as sometimes ON the highway. Interesting.

Herbies. If in Manila we have Toyotas and Hondas running on Edsa, here in GenSan Herbie rules - My Way on the Highway!

Pacman's mansion. Locals told me that they this is not really the where Pacman grew up. They just bought this lot and had thier house built on this spot. If you stand looking in front of Pacman's haouse, on your left you will see a beautiful pink house. That's where Aling Dionisia lives. As I was standing on the sari-sari store in front of Pacman's house, the gate opened. I thought Alleluia! Luck is definitely on my side. Two cars pulled out the driveway. Nah. It was not Pacman. I don't know who that was but hey, I got a quick glimpse of the inside!

Ranchero. One of Pacman's favorites in GenSan.

Staff here at Ranchero told me that Pacman frequents this branch in National Highway.

Staff told me that Pacman would always request to have them every occassion on his mansion.

Why wouldn't he request this? Pochero. Mango shake. Tagalog Salad. Grilled Liempo. All Pacman's favorite. I passed on the Baby Back Ribs. A reason to come back.

This one used to be a super fresh grilled Tuna Head. It was gone the minute it was laid down in front of me.

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Grab A Crab it said. That's what I did. But boy oh boy. It made me swear never to Grab A Crab again. Not because of how it tasted (I tell you it was great), but because it was very expensive! So if you have some cash to burn then yes please, Grab A Crab. But I'd rather Grab A Glove!

By the end of my journey at GenSan. My idea of GenSan changed. It was really a small city with nothing much to see, but because of their IDOL Manny (that's how the local refers to him btw), GenSan became a very special city. The city itself is known not just as a Capital city of Tuna but as the Home Town of Manny Pacquiao. In my experience, it wasn't tuna that knocked me out but it was the crab. I was K.O.-ed by the crab.