What do you know about Davao? For me, it’s synonymous with Durian, the smelly fruit-slash-aphrodisiac that many people go crazy about. I know of Mati, the popular pristine beach and surf spot in Davao Oriental, and of course Samal Island in Davao del Norte.
For this post we’ll focus on the largest city and 3rd most populated metropolis in the Philippines (next to Metro Manila and Cebu), Davao City. Home to President Duterte and deemed as the “safest” city in the Philippines, here are 6 facts you must know about Davao City:
1. Kadayawan is a unique festival in the Philippines
The Kadayawan Festival is celebrated every 3rd week of August and is a must-see if you’re headed to Davao for the first time. What makes Kadayawan different from Sinulog, Masskara, or Ati-Atihan? While these are all fabulous festivals (and I urge you to go to every one to experience our rich culture), Kadayawan is the only non-religious Thanksgiving celebration in the country.
Davao has long been considered as “garden of the Gods” for its fertile land and bountiful harvest, which is why during the 1800s Americans and the Spaniards tried to conquer this province. Food here is affordable, fresh, and delicious, so much so that there are weekly food fests in different malls and parks where a meal can go for Php 20-Php 150. I tell you, we never stopped eating in Davao City!
2. Davao City is home to 11 ethnoliguistic groups
Davao is a multi-cultural city comprised of 6 Moro tribes and 5 non-Moro (Lumads) tribes all living harmoniously. Part of the celebration of Kadayawan is to pay homage to these ethnoliguistic groups and honor their art, culture, and language.
The 6 Moro tribes are: Sama, Kagan, Maguindanao, Iranun, Maranao, Tausug tribes; the 5 Non-Moro (Lumads) tribes are: Bagobo-Kalata, Bagobo-tagabawa, Matigsalug, Ata Manobo, Ovu Manobo.
There is a temporary Tribal Village installation in Magsaysay Park where you can interact and learn more about their heritage first-hand. I encourage you to visit, they are friendly and are delightful to talk to. Bonus points if you can speak Bisaya so you can crack a joke or two.
3. The city is sprawling with cafes
Due to the strict city ordinance that prohibits the consumption of liquor past 1:00 AM, Davao establishments have transitioned from bars to cafes which can serve coffee until the wee hours of the morning. You’ll find cafes or coffee integrated in every possible business opportunity: massage/spa + coffee, bar + coffee, pastry shop + coffee, funeral home + unlimited coffee (I kid you not!). Being a coffee enthusiast, I was drinking it 3x a day, every day during my stay.
4. Wildlife is abundant in Davao
The only Philippine Eagle Foundation in the country can be found in the foothills of Mt. Apo, in Malagos, Davao City. Also called the Phil. Eagle Research and Conservation Center, our critically endangered Phil. Eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) are studied and protected here.
You’ll also see several endemic and rare species when you visit, such as the Warty Pig and Phil. Brown Deer, to name a few. You may also adopt one and pledge an amount annually to help maintain the center and help ensure the survival of the species.
5. Davao City has the cleanest water
Dabawenyos are proud that their water is deemed as the cleanest in the Philippines, and even claims to be 2nd cleanest in the world. This is because the land is actively protected by the government, aerial spraying on crops is prohibited, mining or abusing of the environment is highly discouraged. You can confidently drink cool water from the tap without any fear of impurities.
6. There is no local signature dish in Davao — but there is Durian!
Since the city is made up of 90% immigrants, they don’t have their own local food or signature dish. This was one of the things I requested for during my arrival because I would very much like to try an authentic Dabawenyo dish so I could differentiate it from the other provinces in the Philippines.
But don’t be discouraged because they have an abundance of Durian fruits, so expect Durian ice cream, pastillas, yema, and other sorts of sweets. They also have Durian coffee and pastries.
If you’re like me and have shunned Durian for many years mainly for its very pungent smell, then you might be surprised that it actually is delicious! My Dad (who is Mindanaoan) loves Durian so much but I never took a liking to it until that day in MarinaTuna Seafood Restaurant where they made us try the Arancillo variety.
There are at least 29 varieties (didn’t know there were so many!) that differ in taste and texture. It’s also crucial to eat it when it’s adequately ripe, as the bitterness makes a big difference on whether you’ll enjoy your first Durian or not.
I threw caution to the wind, scooped the flesh out, and took a bite. I was greatly taken aback — it was creamy, soft, and delicious, unlike any other fruit I have tasted before. I would liken it to eating a really thick creamy custard that just melts in your mouth. Sweet and satisfying. The smell was initially a turn off but you’ll soon forget it as you enjoy eating Durian with your hands. So this is why people go crazy over this fruit, it really is so good!
Have you had any unique experiences or discoveries in Davao City? Please share them with me in the comments.