Of all the travels that I had, this I can say the most affordable so far. The reason behind was because I explored these beautiful cities in the southern Philippines with my former college classmates. After we graduated, I began exploring the Philippines and I always encourage them to do the same. Traveling lets you widen your horizons and reach new heights in your life. It also allows you to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation while learning new things and at the same time making new friends.
Kam had expressed her intention in joining me in one of my travels. She actually suggested Davao City. I have never been to Davao City and I wish to visit it someday. So when she suggested that, I immediately agree with her. When Cebu Pacific Air had their seat sale 9 months ago, I immediately posted an invitation to our private Facebook group to join us in our Davao City travel adventure. At least six (6) of my former college classmates and one (1) school mate had responded to my invitation. I booked a flight to each of them and have them paid it through accredited payment centers the next day. This way, I do not need to use my credit card to pay the ticket on their behalf.
As with any other groups who plan their adventure months ahead of time, there are things that will happen along the way. At least three (3) of my former college classmate cannot join the group as they had moved to another company. Taking vacation leaves with the new company is not the best time for them. We managed to get two (2) people who are colleagues of my former college classmates to join us.
I finished our itinerary at least three (3) weeks ahead of the “big” day. They had requested me to make it more budget-friendly. They allotted Php4,000.00 to Php5,000.00 for the adventure. I set a Php60.00 budget for each meal and pitch a tent in beach resorts to squeeze our budget to Php3,000.00 each. Well, this budget is really super tight and unless you are ok with having a simple meal, then you may need to allot a higher budget than this.
When we arrived in Davao International Airport, we took our breakfast in one of the eateries near the Durian Sculpture and then we headed to the Sasa Wharf by taxi. I did not notice any passenger jeeps or multicab outside the airport so I can’t suggest if taking a jeepney outside the airport is possible. I told the driver to bring us to the port where we can take a motor vanca and not a barge. I told him that there are (2) ports to reach Samal Island in the area. One is the Sasa Wharf and the other one is at the back of a public market. Apparently, he was not aware with the latter. When we are about to pay for our tickets, I told the attendant that we will go to Monfort Bat Cave first, then to Vanishing Island and finally to Mt. Puting Bato. We were told to take the lantsa instead of the barge because of the distance of the port in Samal Island and the Monfort Bat Cave. We took her advice and we walk our way toward the port at the back of the public market. It is about 700 meters away. In Google Map, it is known as the Onse Ferry Terminal.
When we reached the Babak port, we were approached by habal-habal (motorbike) drivers. Habal-habal is the primary transportation in the island. It can take a maximum of three (3) passengers but for convenience, I suggest to limit it to two (2) passengers. We took four (4) habal-habal on our way to Monfort Bat Cave. We pay for Php100.00 entrance fee for the Monfort Bat Cave.
After checking the fruit bats and the caves, the habal-habal drivers talked to us and offered us a package pricing. They said, it would be best for us to hire them as a package to all our destination for the day– Monfort Bat Cave, Vanishing Island jump-off point and Mt. Puting Bato jump-off point. They initially quote us Php1,000.00 per motorbike. I told them that it is too much because we it will only cost us about Php250.00 to reach all our destinations. Then, I asked them if they can give it to Php600.00 per motorbike. Then asked us to close it to Php700.00 per motorbike, which we agreed considering the convenience that comes with it. Otherwise, it will take us a long walk and long wait just to get another habal-habal in each destination that we go to.
One of the habal-habal driver talked to an owner of a motor boat to take us to Vanishing Island while we were enjoying checking out the fruit bats. I doubt that there is a single motor boat owner in the area who is accredited of the Department of Tourism. The reason why I said this because, when I asked one of the habal-habal drivers where we can take a motor boat for Vanishing Island, he said, we will look one near the area. Also, when I talked to the owner of the motor boat and asked if he provides life vests, he do not have. He assured me that we are safe. I checked the water and found it very calm so I decided to proceed for the Vanishing Island. I suggest that you do the same, make sure to check the sea first. The water must be calmed and no signs of waves even small ones. Or better yet, bring something to help you float in case something wrong happens.
One thing that I did not like with our habal-habal drivers is they took a commission from renting the motor boat. The reason why I said this is when I am giving our payment for the boat to the motor boat owner, he said to give it to one of the habal-habal drivers, then the habal-habal driver who received our payment approached the motor boat owner to give the payment. I understand that they need to earn for a living but I guest my disgust lies with my intent to recommend them to travelers that will visit the island.
After our Vanishing Island visit, we headed to Mt. Puting Bato jump-off point. One of our habal-habal drivers, took someone he know in the area to be our guide. I recommend getting a guide if no one in your group knows the trail to the summit. Honestly, I was a bit worried hiking the mountain but I felt a little secured after reaching the summit. There is a house situated at the summit and our guide said, the owner of the land lives there. Still, when I woke up past 12 midnight, I couldn’t help and think someone taking us from the mountain. There was a power interruption in the Davao City that night. The whole city was covered by darkness–laughs! Well, from the summit, you can see the entire city of Davao.
I encourage everyone to get up from bed and enjoy the scenery. Before we descend to the same trail, we took some group photos and selfies. We did not ask our guide to come the next morning. We just trusted our instinct of going down the trail. Funny thing is, we somehow got lost. The track that we took to reach the summit was a different track when we descend. One of the members of the group got the feeling that we are just doing fine. He thought that the track that we took to descend will connect to the track that we took to reach the summit. Well, his feeling was right. We found ourselves getting back to the original track that we supposed to take.
Since we were all dismayed with the habal-habal drivers that we hired in Babak port, the group decided to take the chance of getting habal-habal at the jump-off point. Well, it wasn’t easy. Though there were motorbikes that pass the road, they seem to be for private use. Good thing there is someone in our group who knows how to speak Bisaya. When we get a chance to meet an elderly man, I asked him to ask the man where we can get habal-habal. We were told to go down the road until we reach a store. From there we can ask the store owner to get us habal-habal.
Since we need four (4) habal-habal, it will take them to arrange for it. The group decided to take lunch at the store. They have a small area where one can enjoy videoke. We ask the lady store owner to cook a kilo of rice and open canned goods for us. While waiting for lunch to be served, we killed time by showcasing our talent in singing–laughs! After lunch, we headed to Hagimit Falls and asked our habal-habal drivers to bring us to Rainbow Breeze Resort to spend a night.
The next day, we headed to Sta. Ana Wharf in Davao City for Talicud Island. Majority of the members of the group wanted to spend a night in a nice accommodation and Isla Reta Beach Resort is fully booked that time, we decided to spend the night in Dayang Beach Resort. It’s about 20 minutes travel by habal-habal. The current rate for the habal-habal is Php70.00 per head but since I read online that you can lower it down to Php50.00, I asked the group of habal-habal drivers who is willing to bring us there for Php50.00 per head. Well, it turns out that all of them wanted to. I just picked those habal-habal drivers who did not price us Php70.00 per head initially.
The road going to Dayang Beach Resort is not very good– rough and steep roads at times. I then realized why they were asking for that amount. I felt guilty inside. So when they asked me if they can ask Php70.00 per head going back the Talicud port, I did not think twice and said sure to them. And to make it up to them, when they offered a land tour, I encourage the group to take it.
Our next day activity was land tour and swimming. After the land tour, we headed to Isla Reta Beach Resort. We spend the night there with the only available accommodation. There was no electric fan in our accommodation and it felt very warm and uncomfortable, so some members of the group decided to pitch a tent and spend the night near the beach.
The boarding time for the ferry is 08:30 AM, though there is still enough time to take a dip in the beach, we just decided to spend the time taking photos. When we reached Sta. Ana Wharf in Davao City, we took our lunch in one of the eateries there. Then we walked our way to Ramon Magsaysay Park. We also bought durian fruit. It was my first time eating durian fruit. Though I can buy it Manila and I got a chance to taste it when I went to Cagayan de Oro City, I told myself that I will only eat durian fruit from the place where it is famous–Davao City. The fruit tastes good and I think I will enjoy it more if it is chilled but I get tired of eating it (umay) because of the after taste and the fruit if very creamy. Well, I will give it another try and I’ll make sure it is chilled and with a bottle of ice-cold cola.
We took a multi cab going to the town proper. Some members of the group decided to check-in to take a good rest before heading back to Manila that night, I decided to proceed with my plan in visiting other places in Davao City. We visited Davao City Hall, People’s Park and of course, the residence of President Duterte.
Here is a quick look of Isla Reta Beach Resort in Talicud Island, Island Garden City of Samal.