Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Was ambivalent about whether to go or not. But I did. The escapade last weekend had me tagging along with the crew of Sports Unlimited taking pictures, jotting notes and chatting up everyone. Dyan Castillejo Garcia and Marc Nelson were exactly how I expected them to be; rippling muscles and cool as a cucumber. She had brought along her husband and son and he had brought along his mom. Gene, the assistant producer, Jake, the head writer, and Joseph, Dong, and Bernard, the videographers, were already walking towards Maryknoll’s jetty and lugging along their video cameras, boom microphones, batteries, wires, and luggage.

I didn’t know the itinerary but was mighty glad to be cruising on a rib (i.e. a rigid inflatable boat) as our host, Sonny Dizon, showed the way on his jetski to the first stop: Maxima. It’s a beach house standing on heavy stilts smack in the sea beside one of the jetties along Samal City’s coastline. Perfect for beach bums who want some exclusivity. And perfect for scuba divers who can rent scuba tanks at Php 150 and explore San Jose Wall Cave further up.

Sonny Dizon explained Maxima’s named after the pearl oyster, Pinctada Maxima. Formerly a family vacation house, Maxima has been renovated to accommodate 10 guests at a time who can make use of its four bedrooms, three bathrooms, showers, toilets, and kitchen for an overnight stay at Php 10,500 during weekdays and Php 12,500 during weekends. Additional guests pay Php 300 each and can stay at the cozy dorm attic along the coast with a kitchen and toilet bath that are still being constructed. Definitely the most relaxing nooks in Maxima are the lounge chairs on the deck overlooking Davao Gulf and Mt. Apo. [Bookings can be made through contact numbers (082) 271-2626 / 0921-8520251 / 0922-8569792.] Passers by who can’t spend the night can enjoy Maxima’s aqua-fun things to do like kayaking, zipline-to-the-sea, and the ingenious slide-to-the-abyss. All will be fully functional on May 1. A canopy walk is also in the works.

The second stop: Kalinawan. As soon as the Sports Unlimited crew finished securing their bags in Maxima’s rooms, Sonny Dizon made us jump aboard the rib again and head towards Peneplata wharf where vehicles were lined up to take us over rough winding roads to the opposite end of Samal facing Compostella Valley (Maco and Pantucan) and Davao Oriental (Banaybanay and Lupon). After the umpteenth uphill stretch that dangerously swerved our vehicle, there lay Kalinawan, one of the most charmingly rustic beach resorts I’ve ever been to. The bamboo, wood, nipa, rocks, stones, shells that decorate the toilets, chairs and huts on the two-hectare property have been designed to blend with the contours of the land to keep the place as au naturelle as possible.

Kalinawan’s owners, Vip and Mylene, worked in America for 20 years when they decided to pack up and come home. Visiting Philippine beaches was the first thing they did. Kalinawan, the couple tells me, is their beach paradise dream where people can either relax by the beach or do extreme sports like snorkeling, kayaking, diving, zip lining, and the biggest hit: rock climbing. Kalinawan’s 80 ft high and 100 ft wide natural limestone rock formation by the seaside is a favorite of adrenaline junkies who want to have a go at the real thing.

According to Vip, the best way to get to Kalinawan is to moutainbike from Peneplata. Another option is to take the two-hour boat cruise from Sta. Ana wharf. Since renovation is still on going, Kalinawan is open only for day tours of up to a minimum of 20 persons at a time at the price of Php 1,950 per person. [Reservations can be made through contact numbers (082) 298-5298 or 0918-6420082 and through the website kalinawan.multiply.com.]

While Dyan and Marc hammed it up for the cameras, I had a quick chat with Rey Sumagaysay, the owner of EDGE outdoor shop along Bajada, Davao City. Rey and his team of extreme sports professionals set up Kalinawan’s zip lining and rock climbing and now assist the resort’s guests who want to conquer the rocks or speed down the ropes. I learned that over the years, individuals, schools and companies like Nestea, Coca Cola, and San Miguel, have tapped EDGE to organize outdoor events, guide them on climbs up Mt. Apo or rent EDGE’s mobile wall climbing contraption. [Avail of EDGE’s services through contact numbers (802) 300-0384 / 0919-8172298 or email edge.outdoors@yahoo.com.ph.]

The third stop: Blue Jaz beach resort. To get there, we drove back to the opposite end of Samal facing Davao City. Our vehicle entered a compound with a huge blue slide - the longest swimming pool slide for miles around and its conveniently located right beside the beach so visitors have a choice of sea or pool. Blue Jaz is beside Paradise Island Resort and can be reached through taking the boat from Maryknoll jetty.

As I’m not used to the limelight, our Blue Jaz trip was quite memorable. Never had I seen such a deluge of thrilled fans who showed their adoration for Dyan and Marc by unabashedly taking pictures with their camera phones. I couldn’t help asking Dyan’s husband how he felt. He joked: okay lang as long as the fans don’t start kissing Dyan! Somebody else from the Sports Unlimited crew informed me fame’s not that bad; its perks exceed its inconveniences. Before everything got too crazy, we quickly walked to the waiting ribs and sped to our fourth and last stop for the day: Kembali.

This Asian Balinese leisure residential resort spreads over 50 hectares and is being developed by Filinvest. Kembali’s smallest lot for sale is 750 sq. m., which I must say, is gigantic compared to the usual 140 sq. m.; big enough to not be bothered by noisy next door neighbors who play loud music the moment they wake up. How I’d love to snap up one of these lots and live in blissful s-i-l-e-n-c-e. Pinky, the sales team head, told me Kembali’s a favorite of balikbayans who want to retire in peace and quiet. (Right on.) Sure fits the resort’s name – Kembali – Indonesian for “I welcome you” or “I return my love to you.” Additional perks that homeowners can enjoy are Kembali’s aqua sports facilities and rent out one of the three overnight casitas at Php 3,000 for six persons. [Those interested in checking out the lots at Kembali may call (028) 227-0946.]

I befriended Sylvia le Bot, one of Kembali’s guests who lives in Europe but has dived all over the Philippines: Apo Reef in Mindoro, Anilao in Batangas, Donsol in Sorsogon, Apo Island in Negros Oriental, and so on. Sylvia gushed with typical French passion about her fascination with the Philippines, a country she visits every year. Case in point was several days ago, while working on her inventory of the biodiversity along Kembali’s coast, Sylvia chanced upon a butanding (whale shark)! “Every day,” she said, “there’s something new to see. Kembali’s location at the junction where Davao Gulf meets Talikud Strait is perfect for sighting migrating big fish.” At the same time, Sylvia continues to be amazed by the richness of Kembali’s resident underwater creatures that she has not found in other diving sites she’s been to. For several weeks now, her routine has been walking along the coast of Kembali to scrutinize the shells so that she knows what she’ll meet alive when she goes in the water.

Sylvia mused that it will be a real pity to have them disappear because of development and careless and irresponsible divers who do more than just take pictures. (Davao Coast Guard please take note and regulate diving already so that we won’t anymore be hearing horror stories of divers wreaking havoc on Davao City’s marine life with their blatant disrespect.) This is one of the reasons Sylvia, with the approval of Kembali’s management, has made it her personal mission to finish her photo documentation, and use these to have Kembali’s waters declared a protected natural park with guided tourism and controlled fishing to ensure the place remains a marine life sanctuary.

The next day’s escapade had us going off to Hagimit Falls where we were shooed in at the entrance without paying the obligatory five pesos entrance fee (which on second thought we should have done). On our way down the stairs we met a local, Alex Angcos, who was lugging two sacks of debris. Alex’s in charge of picking up trash and patrolling the area every Saturday and Sunday; a job for which he gets paid Php 200 each week. Filming began as soon as we reached the water where Marc, his mom, Dyan and her son, tried out most of the little and big waterfalls that make up the stretch that’s Hagimit Falls. “It’s like massage,” Marc’s mom kept telling me.

Later in the day after some more kayaking and slide-to-the-abyss runs – first, chest down, and then butt down – we packed up and cruised back to the mainland where we headed to the newly developed commercial area located inside Davao Riverfront Corporate City, along Ma-a Diversion Highway. Our first stop was Crocodile Park where 600 Philippine Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus mendorensis) are kept. According to the website http://www.davaocrocodilepark.com, this species of crocodiles are the smallest in the world and were once found in the entire archipelago but are now endangered because of commercial exploitation and its habitat being converted for agricultural purposes to satisfy a rapidly expanding human population. 

Crocodile Park, a privately owned rescue unit of wildlife animals, aims to protect and conserve the critically endangered Philippine Freshwater Crocodile through educating the public about them. Shows like Wildlife Encounter, Crocodile Dancing, Crocodile Frenzy, Crocodile Encounter, and Tightrope Walking let audiences see, among other things, how the crocodiles use their strong tails to propel themselves up to get at the meat. It’s clear that the message of these shows is for us to take these gentle giants’ imminent extinction as a sign that we need to act now to help save what’s left of Philippine biodiversity – including the raptors, monkeys, bearcats, snakes, birds, and other reptiles kept at Crocodile Park.

During our visit, Jimbo the caretaker, was feeding Karlo, the five-year-old orangutan, a bottle of Gatorade. Somebody warned that if I’d touch Jimbo, Karlo would freak out because he’s a very jealous orangutan who thinks Jimbo is his lover. I didn’t dare disturb them. Sheba, the five-month-old tiger, was let out of the cage and just wouldn’t sit still. Like a giant kitten, she was always jumping and rolling around and almost bit off Marc Nelson’s leg in her playfulness! Also awesome to watch were the Philippine Sailfin Dragons which are so called because of the high crest of skin on the base of the male's tail, which is supported by bony projections of the tail vertebrae. I was holding the umbrella for Dong as he tried to film them up close. But when one of the Dragons came running straight at me, I shrieked and bolted.

Davao Riverfront Corporate City features the Riverwalk Grill (tel. no. (082) 303-2387), the Butterfly House (tel. no. (082) 301-5465), and is the briefing area and start off point of the Davao Wildwater Adventure. Beside the river, hundreds of bamboo are spread around Tribu K’ Mindanawan, a cultural village featuring different houses of lumad tribes. A sign at the entrance announces cultural presentations and a fire show every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m. A package of Php 3,000 per head is available for a day tour of all the facilities in Davao Riverfront Corporate City. Pick-up / drop-off transfers are also available on separate bookings. A group can get a discount depending on the number of persons. (For more information visit http://www.parkinfo@davaocrocodilepark.com.)

Just before the sun set and we were ready to call it a day, Sonny Dizon took us to Zip City at Hilltop, Barangay Langub overlooking Davao Gulf and Mount Apo. There we got a taste of Zip City’s first zip line which is going to be open to the public on April 18. When the other phases follow suit, it’s going to be a whole new ball game for ziplining aficionados who can fly, so to speak, from one hill to the other in circles.

For sure, the two jampacked days left me dead tired. Yet we hadn't even made a dent. Jake mused that there are more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines so Sports Unlimited never runs out of fun things to do. Especially in Mindanao, the extreme sports paradise. I totally agree.

(The Sports Unlimited visits to Samal City and to Davao City will be shown on ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol from April 15 to April 17 and again on Sports Unlimited on April 18. Thanks to Vitto and Sylvia for sharing their pictures.)


Takimaru said...

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keirboy said...

hi there... i have a friend in davao with the name o maya flaminda gallego... both of you have same names... take care...

MayaFlaminda said...

hi keirboy. i remember when i was a little girl, there was a couple who just had a baby daughter and they liked my name so much that they named her maya flaminda. i wonder your friend might be the baby daughter named after me?! :-)