Our post-PHITEX "Nature and Adventure" journey concluded with a captivating exploration of Davao City and the Island Garden City of Samal. Here, we immersed ourselves in the rich local culture, relished gastronomic delights, and found solace in the embrace of the great outdoors.
After four exhilarating days in Cagayan de Oro and the enchanting landscapes of Bukidnon, our group yearned for some well-deserved relaxation by the salty embrace of Davao Gulf—a haven frequented by a plethora of marine life, including toothed whales and playful dolphins.
But first, we had to traverse the expansive metropolis, the largest in the country in terms of land area—Davao City.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of Davao City, the imposing silhouette of Mount Apo gracefully reminds us of the city's dual identity—a harmonious blend of urban vivacity and rural serenity.
With just one day to spare before our Samal Island adventure, we embarked on a whirlwind tour, exploring iconic landmarks that encapsulate the city's essence—a tapestry woven from traditions, history, heritage, vibrant flora and fauna, and the artistry of its people.
Our hands got chocolaty as we delved into the art of chocolate making at the Malagos Chocolate Museum, nestled within the lush confines of Malagos Garden Resort. Although we couldn't witness the entire chocolate-making process—given that the first seven steps take days or even weeks—we had a hands-on encounter with the eighth step, molding.
Here, tempered chocolate is carefully poured into trays, sculpted into various shapes, and adorned with delightful fillings such as walnuts, almonds, dried mangoes, raisins, and more. The final touch—cooling for half an hour—yielded delectable creations that melted in our mouths.
A fascinating revelation awaited us: Malagos produces chocolates exclusively from single-origin cacao beans grown and harvested on their farm, nestled at the foothills of Mt. Talomo—a dormant volcano adjacent to Mt. Apo.
Before our visit to the Malagos Museum, we relished a Davao-themed buffet lunch within the resort, accompanied by a captivating cultural show. Young performers from the Malagos community wove together Bagobo dance and folk artistry, narrating the tales of various communities and their festive traditions—a vivid portrayal of the region's diverse cultural tapestry.
A brief ten-minute drive from Malagos led us to the Philippine Eagle Center—a place of wonderment. At first glance, the sight of these majestic winged monarchs held in captivity might raise questions. However, as we listened to our tour guides, a profound understanding unfolded.
The center's noble mission is to rehabilitate eagles of various species—especially those rescued from poaching—before releasing them back into the wild. Moreover, it serves as a vital breeding facility dedicated to safeguarding the critically endangered National Bird of the Philippines.
Spanning 8.4 hectares in the foothills of Mount Apo, this sanctuary shelters over 30 Philippine Eagles, half of which are captive-bred. Witnessing what aviator Charles Lindbergh once dubbed "the air's noblest flier" up close was an awe-inspiring experience.
Our Davao expedition reached its pinnacle with a visit to Magsaysay Park, where we sampled the iconic durian fruit and received an enlightening lecture on the region's diverse ethnolinguistic communities.
Named in tribute to former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, the park sprawls along the shores of Davao Gulf. Beyond its iconic 25-meter tri-pillar obelisk tower bearing the statue of President Magsaysay, the park boasts exquisite replicas of dwellings representing the 11 indigenous tribes of Mindanao. Additionally, it showcases diverse art installations by local artists.
Each of these house models adorned with arts and crafts symbolizes the rich tapestry of the 11 ethnolinguistic communities in Mindanao, including the Sama, Tausug, MWWWWWWaranao, Ata, Matigsalug, Bagobo-K'lata, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Obu-Manuvu, Iranun, Kagan, and Maguindanaon.
Our remarkable journey continued as we retreated to Samal Island for a two-night stay at the newly opened Discovery Samal Resort, welcoming guests since June 2023.
This remarkable property boasts more than 150 spacious rooms and suites, surrounded by three sprawling pools nestled at varying elevations along the pristine beachfront. Lush canopy trees, gardens, and trails lead to the resort's abundant amenities.
Though our preceding days were packed with exhilarating adventures, our group relished the opportunity to unwind by the pool and bask in the beauty of the beachfront upon our arrival.
However, true explorers don't rest for long. The following day, our "Nature and Adventure" escapades resumed with a snorkeling expedition to the Giant Clam Sanctuary, affectionately known as the "Taklobo Sanctuary."
This 14-hectare marine protected area is home to more than 3,700 giant clams, with over 3,000 of them considered adults. Thanks to a collaborative effort involving Davao del Norte State College (DNSC), AdeCor United Fisherfolks Organization (ACUFOR), and the local government unit (LGU) of Samal, these colossal clams are preserved for study and conservation.
Before our aquatic descent, the sanctuary's resident guide provided an enlightening briefing about the clams and other marine species inhabiting this underwater haven. We were reminded of their fragility, as the guide emphasized the importance of refraining from touching these delicate aquatic organisms, which could be harmed even by the slightest unguided curiosity.
As our group approached the shallow sea, the gigantic clams revealed their resplendent hues, resembling vibrant blooming flowers in shades ranging from blue to violet and an array of dazzling rainbow colors.
While giant clams ruled the aquatic realm of Samal, inland, a different spectacle awaited at the Monfort Bat Sanctuary—a 57-acre site hosting the world's largest single bat colony, comprised of nearly three million Rousette fruit bats.
The Iñigo-Monfort family acquired this land in the early 1900s, only to discover a network of caves that would evolve into the habitat for millions of bats over several decades. Despite the initial challenge posed by the aroma of bat droppings, the sight of bats hanging upside down, virtually covering every inch of the cave, conjured a surreal image that underscored the marvels of nature.
It was evident how the rich culture of Mindanao and the natural wonders of Samal Island had a profound impact on our foreign companions. Their astonishment resonated as they absorbed the incredible experiences we had shared, from our exploration of Cagayan de Oro to our journey into Bukidnon.
Our adventure culminated on our final night, gathering on the pristine white sands of Discovery Samal. We indulged in a sumptuous buffet dinner, serenaded by mesmerizing fire dance performers. The breathtaking starry canopy overhead added the perfect touch to conclude our "Nature and Adventure" expedition on a high note.
As we bid our farewells the following morning, all eight foreign sellers in our group pledged not only to promote the places we had visited but also to showcase the entire Philippines to their clients in their respective countries.
And with that, the curtain fell on this year's Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX). Until next year, fellow adventurers!
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