I arrived this morning around 9:30. The flight was on time and my bag was the first one on the carousel! My bosses were still to waiting for their bags so they let me go ahead as we were staying in different hotels anyway. Enroute to Royal House Hotel where I made telephone reservations a few days before, I asked the driver if Sampaguita Inn (which seems quite popular in the internet) was any good and he said it was. The location was also nearer to Rizal Promenade than Royal House and much cheaper. A quick call confirmed it— 450 for single compared to Royal’s 650—however, rooms were booked so back to my original reservation. It wasn’t a bad choice either with its easy-access to location the Rizal Promenade, Rizal St., Aldevinco and Marco Polo Hotel where my bosses were staying. The hotel was large but the single room was smallish but clean and the aircon was cold. There was free wifi too though only in the lobby. The room came with free breakfast.
Marco Polo, where I was to meet my bosses, was just a 15 minute walk from the hotel so I took the chance to acquaint myself with the surrounding streets. Past trips have mostly been centered around specific activities so it would be my first time to really be able to explore the city even if it meant just a weekend. The searing sun didn’t deter from walking, I simply docked underneath the porches of the buildings lining CM Recto. Passing by a couple of local run-down cinemas, the Davao Theater and Odeon, I remembered the movie “Serbis.” Odeon was closed while Davao Theater was running soft-porn flicks. I was tempted to go inside just to see and feel the atmosphere.
I had lunch at Jai Tan Food Center at the corner of Bonifacio and Recto. It seemed quite popular with the locals. For Php 114, I had a cup of rice, pinakbet which was made more tasty with taro, and a crispy pancake of small dilis. Dessert was ube which wasn’t very good. At least, the Durian Cheesecake I had at Bo’s Coffeein the afternoon more than made up for it. This was top in my to-do list as an avowed durian lover, I just had to have this wonderful dessert ever since I first tried it a couple of years ago. It was sweetened and flavored just right with none of the overpowering aftertaste that durian has sometimes. I saved the dollop of durian preserve for last 🙂
With business over and done with, I had the rest of the weekend to do Davao.
When in Davao, I head straight to Aldevinco for shopping. This rabbit warren of stalls sells mostly souvenir shirts and stuff made from batik imported from Malaysia and Indonesia. But the real finds are in a couple of shops that sell old and antique items ranging from brassware to textiles to musical instruments and everything else in between. My favorite has always been Omar Souvenir Shop. It stands out from all the shops because it’s the only that sells really authentic items. Like a shop of curiosities, there are so many items to discover. Of course there are the newer more tourist-oriented items like bead necklaces and purses. But the real finds are in the textiles such as the different malong (tubular cloth worn by both men and women) with the older ones costing thousands of pesos. I like to run my hands on the smooth royal malong which only royalty could wear. I could spend hours just browsing the dusty items stacked in shelves and dusty corners. I remember one of my early trips in that shop years ago, rummaging in one corner, I pulled-out a dust-covered gabbang (xylophone) with an intricately carved stand that hadn’t seen the light of day from the dark recess in the shop where it had probably lain for years. I offered to buy it for Php 1,500 telling the shopkeeper that no one would buy it anyway and if they really were keen on selling it, why was it hidden and forgotten in some corner. That was a really good bargain. There seemed to be more musical instruments now as I saw saronays, gabbangs and a couple of large intricately carved lutes with rounded sounding boards from Lanao. They looked so graceful and so beautiful like Middle Eastern lutes. The tag price was hefty too—Php 18,000. Thank goodness, my credit card hadn’t cleared yet or I would have run amuck and gone home with one of those Lanao lutes, a saronay, a double-headed drum, and a kulintang set. Before evil thoughts could enter my mind and lead me to the ATM, I skeddadled out of the store and made my way to People’s Park.
Following CM Recto, I turned to the corner on the direction of the Royal Mandaya Hotel. I passed by an outdoor shop that was selling mostly Conquer products. The circular park seemed more concrete playground rather than green park; but at least the intention to provide a recreational space was laudable. Entrance was free and there was hardly anyone there being a weekday. There were pockets of greenery which were man-made efforts to recreate a rainforest. I followed a very short dusty path to the “forest” which led me to a cabana where two lovers seemed to be enjoying themselves, a little concrete pond where one of the park’s cleaners was cooking a pot of rice. Maybe she imagined she was camping in the rainforest. On my way out, I saw a sign that said Australian Rainforest. Other attractions was a mini library, a sunken garden which looked more like an empty swimming pool with pots of plants and some spooky life-size sculptures. If touring around the park makes you hungry, Tsuru and Hanoi Restaurant, which I heard are very good, are just a stone’s throw away.
An advantage of staying at downtown is the proximity to Rizal Street for its dining and drinking options. Walking the length of the street, I passed by Mandarin Tea House which was just across Merco’s, two restaurants that came highly recommended. Merco’s is also near Aljem’s Inn. Iron Horse seemed more like a drinking place so I passed it up. I also passed Claude’s, written about in LP and in some blogs as having very good French food. I peered inside and saw cloth-covered tables, water goblets, and aproned waiters. Maybe I should try it. It will be a blast. Very good French food (if it is) in downtown Davao. It will be just like this almost fine-dining Italian resto Annie and Jet brought me in Cebu that can put most Italian restos in Manila to shame. I tried a brownie at Brownies AA which claimed to be “the tastiest brownies.” It was good but nothing to really crave for. I reached Rizal Promenade but it was still too early in the evening for it to bustling. Re-tracking my route, I had dinner at Taps, a semi-open air eatery with counter-top tables and specializing in that Pinoy fast food invention of “silog” (“sinangag” and “itlog”). The hulongsilog (a local chorizo) and patikul, a salad of carrots, turnips, onions, and ampalaya in a sweetish vinaigrette dressing were delicious and satisfying. Before heading home, I dropped by an ice-cream parlor and had a durian tart. Delicious.