Category Archives: Travel

Celebrate a meaningful Kadayawan

[Featured Photo: Anton de Arca/CrossTV/105.9 Balita FM]

It is Kadayawan season once again!

People from all walks of life will soon come together in streets of Davao City to celebrate the profusion of harvest and richness of culture. We can’t help but swoon over the colorful and vibrant events lined up this month, whether it is organized by the government or the malls. All are in-store to let you experience the essence of being a Davaoeno.

But is missing no single event the best way to celebrate Kadayawan?

The activities are odes to the five icons of Davao City – the Philippine Eagle, the Mount Apo, the Indigenous People, the Durian, and the Waling-Waling. There is the Indak-Indak (street dancing), the Pamulak (floral floats), tribal music performances and contests, Hiyas sa Kadayawan to name a few. There are baskets and stalls brimming with different fruits at a low price for you to enjoy.

Davao Logo 2017

However, the bliss and excitement during the whole month are ephemeral. The city returns to normal after the festival. The memories may linger for a quite a long time but not until the next Kadayawan.  And the significance, for some reason, will be left intangible and ideal.

There is something we can do to at least one of the city’s icons – the Philippine Eagle, the preserver of nature where the bounty springs from and the guardian of the forest where it resides, in unity with the indigenous people.

Staff from Marco Polo Davao struts the fancy eagle stuffed toys for bid.
Staff from Marco Polo Davao struts the fancy eagle stuffed toys for bid.

Philippine Eagle Marco Polo Davao

Philippine Eagle Mascot, "Pepe"
Philippine Eagle Mascot, “Pepe”

For the whole duration of the celebration, adorable and fluffy eagle stuffed toys in traditional and fashionable ethnic garbs are up for bid at the Marco Polo Davao. Buying a pair of the eagle toys mean adopting and supporting a real Philippine wildlife king at the Philippine Eagle Center. The auction starts with a price of 2,500 pesos for a pair. Proceeds will go to the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

The toy eagles were presented by the staff of the hotel as they open this year’s Kadayawan with the launching of Fashion and Fusion, both a gastronomic and visual festivity of everything Davao. There are also paintings that are for sale. And lastly, the cacao and chocolate products from various business members of the Cacao Industry and Development Association of Mindanao, Inc. (CIDAMi) are on the display. In case you don’t want to bid, you can still donate by buying a regular stuffed toy eagle for 600 pesos.

Painting Marco Sunstar
Photo credit: Ace Perez, Sunstar Davao Social Media Content Editor


chocolate malagos marco polo sunstar
Photo credit: Ace Perez, Sunstar Davao Social Media Content Editor


Feel the vibe of Kadayawan by visiting the hotel at the heart of Davao, Marco Polo Hotel for the month-long arts and business exhibition and celebrate with a lasting impact. Supporting the eagles, the symbol of a true blooded Davaoeno, will perfectly embody this year’s theme: “Stand Tall. United. Resilient.”


The Satiety of Satti (and more): A Taste of Tausug Delicacies in Zamboanga

The welcoming Zamboangeno vibe at the Zamboanga International Airport.
The welcoming Zamboangeno vibe at the Zamboanga International Airport.

Bienvenido a ciudad de Zamboanga!

I arrived in the city of Zamboanga as a side trip from my deployment in Jolo, Sulu. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to travel. In my first few months as a media relations officer in a government agency, I was able to reach the “Asia’s Latin City” in the Philippines – Zamboanga City. It is one of the cities that I have longed to visit, especially that some relatives of my father was in Zamboanga Peninsula, particularly Dipolog.

Our deployment really was in Jolo, Sulu. But because we failed to hitch transport that will bring us directly to the venue from Davao City, we flew to Zamboanga then took an 8-hour sea trip aboard a commercial ferry to Sulu. That was real quick because our schedule demands us to be at the venue ahead. But I and my co-officer promised to be back.

And so we did.

After the day’s work in a not-so-safe area, we hurriedly booked a commercial ferry ticket. Aside from the fear in staying longer in Jolo, it was the chance to go around Zamboanga that made me excited.

Our flight back to Davao is in the afternoon so we did not waste time as soon as we arrived in the city. Good thing we have the PIA in Zamboanga who served as our tour guides.  We went around the city and fed our eyes with the romantic view of breaking dawn at the port for a while and they introduced iconic spots in the city – the Fort Pilar, the markets, and the preserved Hispanic or European architecture of the City Hall among others They tell stories that made me realize how much I neglected listening to my history teachers. Some fast food establishments also willingly adapted its architectural designs, keeping the Spanish feel somehow consistent during the tour. That tour was also quick as we responded more to the growl of our tummies than to the hunger of our sense of sight.

And one way to make the most of your travel is to eat something original. So we ditched the fast food and turned to some of the famous Muslim delicacies. Zamboanga City can be considered a food haven as it offers its own iconic gut-fillers.

As soon as the morning breaks in Zamboanga, we headed to Jimmy’s Satti House in Pilar St., Zamboanga, Zamboanga Sibugay. Looked nothing modern in this seemingly carenderia but it is the home of the residents’ long-time favorite satti.

Jimmy's Satti Haus
Jimmy’s Satti Haus. Standing the test of time.

Satti, according to our friends from the PIA, is an ideal breakfast for Tausugs. It is beef, chicken meat or liver barbecue “swimming” in the pool of spicy, orange, viscous sauce with cubed rice. To someone who only thinks that sauce was just meant to be dipped on, the liberality of sauce in a plate was overwhelming. Now I understand why it is a favorite. But my co-worker find it too saucy, something she is not into. Oh well, you can’t please everybody.

The specialty, Satti.

For our lunch, we went to the rustic and cozy Dennis Coffee Garden seated in San Jose Road, Baliwasan, Zamboanga. It is a restaurant distinct in their focus on Tausug cuisine. Aside from that, they are promoting the Kahawa Sug, the authentic Sulu coffee.

Since there are a lot of us, we decided to order the resto’s food platter. If I am not mistaken, it is called Latal. The platter comprised of the mother of the Tausug dishes, the Tiula Itum.


Tiula Itum is a spicy beef soup cooked with turmeric and blackened by burnt coconut flesh. In his article, the Sulu-born and Halal and Peace advocate in Zamboanga Peninsula Rezai Mijar described Tiula Itum as the “head of all viand”. “Without it at the center of a food tray, to some, it is incomplete,” he said in his blog, All Tausug. “Tiyula’ itum is a food that symbolizes the Tausug pride most likely the ethnic Buranun,” Mijar added. It is probably the reason why it is placed at the center of the platter. That’s cool!

Tiyulah Itum at Sitti's Halal Foods
Tiyulah Itum at Sitti’s Halal Foods

Another delicacy beside it is the Pastil. It is a pastry that looked like empanada except that it has bean sprouts or rice noodles as its fillings. The thing about this that intrigued me is its condiment. They said it is “suka” or vinegar. It looked like one, yes. But it doesn’t taste as sour as vinegar. So you can be generous in putting it on your pastil. In fact, the more you drench the food with its warm ‘vinegar’, it becomes tastier, more exciting to eat.


Next up is the Kulma or the beef curry in a skewer and the Tyula Sug or the beef soup cooked almost similarly to Tiula Itum.

Beef Kulma. Food styling and photography by Aliyya Sawadjaan c.
Beef Kulma. Food styling and photography by Aliyya Sawadjaan c.
Tyula Sug. Food styling and photography by Aliyya Sawadjaan c.
Tyula Sug. Food styling and photography by Aliyya Sawadjaan c.

Lastly for the viand is the Chicken Piyanggang. It is a spicy chicken dish with burnt coconut meat and coconut milk.

Chicken Piyanggang Food styling and photography by Aliyya Sawadjaan c.
Chicken Piyanggang. Food styling and photography by Aliyya Sawadjaan c.

One distinct characteristic of the Tausug cuisine is the spicy taste and the use of burnt coconut, perhaps a manifestation of the Malaysian influence. Sulu in the Philippines is geographically a neighbor to Malaysia and Indonesia.

For the dessert that is not really light, we had the Juwalan (fried banana dipped in latik or caramelized coconut milk) and the Putli Mandi (sticky flour balls filled with bukayo, rolled in grated coconut). Burp!

Putli Mandi
Putli Mandi

I sealed my meal with a cup of hot chocolate which ultimately pleased my sweet tooth. We walked out the resto uber satisfied!

Hot Chocolate
Hot Chocolate

Aside from the food places that offered authentic cuisines, we also tried some of the food hubs which were as old as like the pastry house Tsokolate.

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There are still a lot to discover in Zamboanga. I failed to try their famous Knickerbocker and the Curacha (deep-sea crab) in Alavar sauce among others. Our food trip was swift because of our flight schedule. But it was already a well-cherished, satiating cultural gastronomic adventure one should not miss. I am definitely going back! Who’s with me?


Other sources:

Where to? Don Marcelino!

I recently returned to my hometown, the municipality of Don Marcelino in the province of Davao Occidental to spend my Holy Week. Far from the municipality I have known and grown up with for years, Don Marcelino has gradually exhibited signs of rural development since its separation from Davao del Sur on October 28, 2013 along with four other municipalities.

Transportation in Don Marcelino
A new addition to my hometown’s transportation system.

One evidence is the improvement of the transportation system. Residents of the municipality recently had this motorized vehicle as a new addition to the habal-habal (motor) and tricycle they use for transport. It has been used to brings passengers to and from the province’s capital-Municipality of Malita, a one-hour or less far from Don Marcelino. Malita also utilized this as a public transportation.

Aside from transportation, the municipality of Don Marcelino has taken the initiative of promoting tourist spots such as white sand beaches and waterfalls. Large tarpaulins of its photos welcome visitors as soon as you arrive in the place. Many people from neighboring communities have been visiting these hometown treasures but only now that it made some noise. I personally am familiar with some of them but I was not able to visit them.

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Selling vegetables and fish was my family’s primary source of income. These are the main livelihood of the people of Don Marcelino. 

I will not be surprised if there will be an increase of visitors to the place in the future. And it is not far that these spots will become one of the area’s economic drivers because, why not? As long as it is maintained and protected from abuse, we will continue to enjoy the beauty and the thrill it offers for a lifetime. I am definitely including this on my bucket list. It would be a pleasure to get to know deeper my own home. Most especially that coming here is becoming incredibly easy!

So, where to? Don Marcelino.

PS: I will update this post as soon as I will be able visit its potential tourist spots!PhotoGrid_1492171468592.png

Roundabout San Pedro: A Photowalk at Davao City’s Convergence District

San Pedro is an area in Davao City named after one of the notable and historic churches in the city, San Pedro Cathedral. Even the streets around this place were tagged with St. Peter’s name.

For more than six years of living here in the Crown Jewel of the South, I consider this as one of my favorite tourist destination around the city. I find it the most picturesque, probably because of the church settled here possessed a distinct and bold vinta-shaped architecture with a cross atop. It is also where the seats of local authority can be found, the City Hall of Davao and the Sangguniang Panlungsod, which are surrounded by parks too. It is the easiest to access since most of the jeepneys passes here. It is the first thing people think when they hear the word “downtown”. Thus, people of different social statusesand beliefs flock here for trade, personal appointments, leisure, family bonding, worship among others. In other words, a melting pot. No wonder, the district is always alive, teeming with life from sleepless people.

I have been going back and forth its streets, doing just as most people do, either to transact with government offices or kill time in its parks. I have witnessed how active and busy it is during the day and how tranquil yet mysterious it is come night. And it has stories waiting to be told. I don’t know but the place seems to have a natural charm that draws me to it. In one of my idle times, I took the chance to go around and take few photos of my favorite spot in the city – San Pedro. It is an actualization of Davao City’s catch phrase: “Life Is Here

In case you happen to include this in your travel itinerary, don’t forget to tag me. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Some of the photos were processed with a filter for added effect and mood. 

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Shots were taken using Oppo Neo 7. Additional information about San Pedro can be found here:

San Pedro Cathedral, a witness to the tales of a city, then and now, Davao Today (

SAN PEDRO CATHEDRAL: The Beacon of Davao’s Catholic Faith, The Travel Teller (

What is your favorite part of Davao City? Send me your photo and be featured here!

FROM WHERE WE DRINK: The Panigan-Tamugan Watershed Tour


Disclaimer: All the photos used in this post are owned by either Sir Lemuel Lloyd Manalo of IDIS or Ace Perez of Sunstar Davao. They are used with permission.

I am used to wake up at seven in the morning during ordinary days. If I feel like to pump up in a Zumba session at People’s Park during weekends, I get up at four or five. But my waking time last October 15 became earlier than the usual. I woke up at three in the morning to prepare for the fulfillment of the long been scheduled annual Panigan-Tamugan Watershed Tour organized by the environmental non-government organization Interface Development Intervention (IDIS).

The night before, I could hardly sleep, perhaps due to brimming excitement. It was previously scheduled last August, and then was moved to September and finally, this October. Imagine how it accumulated the desire to marvel at the green surroundings of the Panigan River in Barangay Tawan-Tawan, Baguio District in Davao City.

I packed the necessary things Lemuel Lloyd Manalo, the group’s media advocacy specialist, told us to bring. The lights were kept off so as not to awaken my one-year and ten-month old nephew. In the dark I groped for my gears, notebooks and pen, extra clothes to name a few, notwithstanding dressing up like a blind man. After keeping everything in check, I whispered goodbye to my mother. This trip, I told myself, would be a memorable visit to the source of the water I drink every day. An honor.

IDIS is one of the major environmental organizations that gave attention to the welfare of the environment and natural resources in Davao City, particularly the watersheds that provide potable water to the residents of the city. Currently, it is the Talomo-Lipadas Watershed which supplies us water but, according to the Davao City Water District (DCWD), the watershed is being threatened by shortage due to rapid population and industrial growth. That is why, the DCWD collaborated Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc. to explore the potential of another stream-the Tamugan River to where the bulk water project will be constructed. The project is set to be finished by 2019.

The Tamugan River’s surface water, as part of the entire Panigan-Tamugan Watershed, said IDIS, is very critical to heavy metal and bacterial contamination from nearby unsustainable industries. “These include rampant use of pesticides and herbicides for monocrop banana and pineapple plantations, forest land conversions, sewage from poultries and livestock farms and other pollutants,” said IDIS. And so, the group had painstakingly devised initiatives and efforts to rehabilitate the river, saving it for future use. And I am ready to see how everything fared.

It was five when I arrived at the rendezvous. As I got out of the jeepney, I immediately saw my former colleagues in print, Ace Perez of Sunstar Davao, and in broadcast media, Jandiane Esteban of RGMA Super Radyo. Four more people was also with us in the tour, Ibyang and Dan of Ecoteneo, an environmental organization in Ateneo De Davao University, Rai from the Philippine Eagle Center, and foreigner, an English man and an experienced birder Pete Simon who is a member of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP). Orange streaks began percolating the sky. Few more minutes, Sunstar Davao Editor-in-chief and birder Stella Estremera along with another member of the WBCP, Martin Pineda parked their car. As soon as Sir Lem came, we trailed the road towards Brgy. Tawan-Tawan.



Ace, Jandi, Ibyang and I are aboard Sir Martin’s vehicle with Ms. Stella and tailed Sir Pete’s car. The coldness inside his car seemingly simulated the bed-weather ambiance outside. We were quiet at the back, listening to Sir Martin’s lesson about being a birder and some ways to do it, bewildering us with his deep fascination with birds. He told us, in our approving silence, the nitty-gritties of birdwatching and its significance. “Birdwatching can be frustrating at first. You need patience because they are hard to see. They most of the time blend in the canopies. One tip: to be able to know where they are, find a tree which has fruits. They are like us. They go where the food is,” he discussed.

We were in our inexpressive aha-moments. “Don’t you know that birds are indications of a healthy environment? People before don’t choose to stay in a place where there are no longer birds. It could mean that the air in that area is polluted or the soil is not ideal for planting,” he continued, caring less if we were attentive or not. That was an information-packed roughly 45-minute ride.

We passed by the Philippine Eagle Foundation for a while. Sir Martin did not cease telling us everything he knew about birding, perhaps prodding the birder in us, as if pleading to release the illegally encaged avian interest, if there is any. Maybe not now for the birder, but the concern, the sympathy to the plight of the bird’s flight was sparked. In our short stay, we saw, through Pete’s arm-structured telescope, a resting egret, looking for food. The rest were busy capturing the egret’s perfect pose. Until, at a whim, we returned to the road heading to our real destination.


Sir Lem gave us a brief orientation and background of the activity, its purpose, and few reminders. It is prohibited, he said, to drink from the river. “Although it is tested to be safe but still double caution should be observed.” And another, “keep your voices low as you may drive birds away.”- a reminder to a magpie like me.

Pete handed each of us binocular and we tried it like assassins. And we were apprentices destined to fail at our mission to have a clear sight of our elusive targets. We finally trekked down the rocky yet relatively muddy trail going to the river. The trees along the way were all had their heads up and green. They are worth a grin.

Trying out the Kenko Binoculars like pro-assassins at Brgy Carmen. Photo by: Lemuel Lloyd Manalo/IDIS

Our tour guide, aside from Sir Lem, is a member, in fact, a leader of Bantayo Aweg, Jay Ronnie Gubat, a native in the area. The indigent youth volunteers comprising Bantayo Aweg are the ones who ensure the water quality of the current and future sources of safe drinking water for the city. Properly trained youth conduct water quality monitoring on the Panigan and Tamugan Rivers every end of the month. The monitoring enables us to assess the conditions of various bodies of water whether they are safe to drink, to swim in or to fish from.


It is from this method that the IDIS found out that 8 out of 10 sampling stations in Talomo-Lipadas (current water source) and Panigan-Tamugan (future water source) have pesticides residues at least once during the sampling period in 2006 to 2008. However, the waters in the Panigan-Tamugan river is considered to be Class AA based on the standards of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB). It means it can be a potential site for drinking but still needs further study. This explains the first reminder.

Part of the Panigan stream. Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao

I almost forgot the second reminder after someone exclaimed to have spotted a White-breasted Kingfisher perched in a tree not far from the riverside where we stand. We immediately peeked through our binoculars, hoping we did not startle it so we can still see it. Luckily, everyone saw it. We looked for more and we found Everett’s and Mountain White-Eyes, Brown tit Babblers, Gray Wagtail who caused traffic on our way back to our vehicles, to name a few.

Photo by: Lemuel Lloyd Manalo/IDIS
Photo by: Lemuel Lloyd Manalo/IDIS
Photo by: Lemuel Lloyd Manalo/IDIS

I thought finding birds was hard, as expected by an amateur in birdwatching who barely identifies every bird because he sees them all the same. But for Pete, it is even tougher more than the struggle of identification and selective vision the moment the birds camouflage. He said it is “difficult”, surprising for an experienced birder who had spent all his life birdwatching and traveled hundreds of islands around the globe pursuing this passion.

“Birdwatching in the Philippines is difficult because the birds are afraid of the people. They often see them with guns, the children with slingshots. People also made them captives and sell them,” he confessed.

It is a crestfallen reality to a region in the country, even the world, which has more endemic bird species next to Indonesia. Forty of the bird species can only be found in Mindanao. Added to that, most of them are critically endangered, and yes, that includes the country’s national bird-the Philippine Eagle.


Our next stop was the Panigan cave and the continuation of the Panigan River. The only way to get there is to descend through the sinuous and inclined track guarded by Cacao trees at the sides, standing at attention with its yields dressed in maroon or yellow or green, silently wishing us to trip off and roll down as the quickest way to reach the destination. The Cacao trees were also accompanied by its Goliath, the Durian trees. I noticed that among the rows and columns of Cacao trees, there always stood some Durian trees. Sir Lem explained that Cacao trees are shade-loving beings and the Durian trees provide them that. Good thing, they can co-exist.

The great descend. Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao

What welcomed us is just a tip of the whole reforestation efforts under the Up-scaling Community Action and Response (UCARE) Program, still a part of the initiative of IDIS. It is noticeable that in Baguio District, especially those populated areas, foliage of trees like Cacao, Durian, Lanzones, Marang, Guyabano, Mangosteen, Santol, Avocado and Banana forms canopies. The fruit trees are planted by the resident themselves as a reforestation and watershed rehabilitation efforts as well as the source of their livelihood. Sir Lem referred to it as Agroforestry. Native non-fruit-bearing trees on the other hand were planted nearest to the stream such as Apitong, Patikan (palm species), Almon, Almaciga, Anitap, Malibago, Barubo, Tiger and Vertiger grass along riverbanks, and Ulingon (Hypericacea). They were the ones who quietly watched us as we struggle on our way down.

Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao

I was catching breath after I reached the mouth of the Panigan Bridge. I perambulated the huge, white-painted steel bridge to the other end where the cave was.

Photo by: Lemuel Lloyd Manalo/IDIS
Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao


The cave was covered with leaves and trees, concealing its opening but it was made conspicuous by the busy flight of Glossy Swiflets. They flew fast and ‘swift’ (perhaps the origin of their name) back and forth the cave. As we patiently waited for our guide Kuya Ernie Baratas, a Bantay Bukid (forest guard) to lead us to the cave, I was overwhelmed at the sight of a white egret and a young Brahminy Kite majestically gliding above us.

After a few more hours, the approaching of Kuya Ernie, an average man clad in blue shirt with a wooden bolo sheath hanging by his side, signaled us to prepare for the climb. We stood up and headed to the tricky side of the cliff. Sir Lem told us to free our hands because we will be using all our limbs for the climb. And indeed we did. The way up was steep and was made slippery by the dried Cacao leaves, but terrible than others. We latched ourselves on the edge by digging some holes with our feet. Good thing there are sturdy Cacao tree everywhere to hold on.

Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao
Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao

After the struggles, we were able to get to the cave. Its mouth was dripping with water. The colossal roots that hugged the cavern’s figure were wet and cold. In an unfortunate chance that Kuya Ernie forgot his flashlight. And so we resorted to our phone’s light as we entered the dark, cold, and wet cave.

Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao
Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao

We were not able to go farther inside because the floor was muddy and soft. Meanwhile, the swiflets were passing by us, ignoring our presence. The ceiling was filled with their small nests that can only hold two eggs in every laying time. Bats were also their roommate but I could hardly see one that time, probably because they were still asleep.

Glossy Swiflet Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao
Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao
Photo op at the dripping mouth of Panigan Cave. Photo by Lemuel Lloyd Manalo/IDIS

Because we can’t enter few more doors, we decided to return. Going down is a lot more difficult than climbing up. I almost caught up in an accident. Luckily, I was able to control my weight and had a good grip at the nearby Cacao trees and went down safe. Praise God.

Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao

On our way up, Kuya Ernie shared how the Bantay Bukid restored the verdant forest in Barangay Tawan-Tawan that affected their communities and other forest inhabitants. He said the reforestation helped increased the yield of other fruit-bearing trees from where they get their income. There are also more birds than before and other wild animals have returned. Mt. Tipolog is now teeming with life.

Forest Guard Kuya Ernie shared how their lanzones doubled its yield after the reforestation. Photo by Lemuel Lloyd Manalo/IDIS

Bantay Bukid is a community-based forest guard group. It is composed of committed volunteers from the nearby sitios of Panigan, Sumpitan, Gading and Ubay-Nanap in Barangay Tawan-Tawan. The patrollers are deputized by the city government to assist in the enforcement of the rules and regulations of the Watershed Code. They regularly monitor the seedlings, clear foot trails of Mt. Tipolog where the Panigan River runs, and confiscate chainsaws from illegal loggers.

The tour was capped off in an indulgence of the magnificent and exhilarating lush view of the Mt. Tipolog while a riding one of the tramline system in Sitio Sumpitan.

Panigan River. Photo by: Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao
Mt. Tipolog. Photo by Ace Perez/Sunstar Davao

Read: Beyond the Tramline in Baguio District

Huge thanks and kudos to the people and organizations who opened our eyes to the real score of our environment, particularly in Davao City. To Sir Lemuel, Sir Pete, Sir Martin, Mam Stella, Mam Rai, Jay Ron, Kuya Ernie, the Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCD), and the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and Philippine Eagle Center (PEF). This acknowledgement is not limited to the provisions during the tour but extends beyond the conservation efforts they have done for the environment.

Thank you also to the company of my colleagues, Ace, Jandi, Dan, and Ibyang. There was never a dull moment with these guys.

I could have returned to sleep because the call time was too early for me. Or if I have won the fight of dozing off back, I could have instead danced my way to a fitter figure. Rather, I choose to see what and who cleans the air I breathe and purifies the water I drink and turned out, it exceeded my expectations. It was a Saturday best spent. Thank you for the time 🙂

Beyond the Tramline in Baguio District

tramline 3

I was quick to say ‘yes’ when my buddy Jay invited me to go with him in Baguio District here in Davao. He was on the hunt for the beneficiary school for their I Am Making A Difference (I Am M.A.D.) Camp. It was Thursday and I am in the middle of my day job. But I decided to sneak out from the office with him since I got bored scanning through my news feeds and our boss went out for a while.

It was a risk. But I also wanted to take a break. So I did not have a second thought.

Baguio District is a highland in Davao City. Bringing only a camera and not-so-enough money, we headed to the L300 Terminal in Bangkerohan. After about 30- to 45-minute ride, we reached Calinan. From there, we ride again in Habal-Habal (motorcycle) for another 30 minutes or so until we arrived at one of the tramline installed in Baguio District.

entrance tramline

The tramline system was a project of the Department of Agriculture intended to assist farmers in transporting their agricultural product. These tramlines ease their delivery of produce from one side of the mountain to another because they no longer have to traverse long and steep trails. It is also a time-saving transport system for them.

tramline 2

sched tramline

We hopped in one of the three tramlines in the area, the one in Sitio Sumpitan, Brgy Tawan-Tawan, not to bring goods to the other side but to assess Jay’s prospect school for the MAD Camp.

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bukid final

At the end of the tramline welcomed the Paaralang Elementarya ng Macatabo (Macatabo Elementary School). It was around 4:00 in the afternoon and the class is over. But the children were still playing outside.

entrance skul

bigjay 1

Humana ang inyong klase? Ngano wa pa man mo nanguli? (Is your class over? Why haven’t you gone home?),” I asked one child.

Wala pa man nagbagting si Sir (Sir hasn’t rung the bell yet.),” she jested.

class bell

The “Sir” she referred to was Sir Eugenio P. Lipumano, their School-in-charge who was at that time supervising his students. We told him our intents so he ushered us to his office to discuss Jay’s plans. He also introduced us to Mam Ruina C. Sumagaysay, a teacher, and the school’s guidance coordinator.

Jay explained that his group of youth volunteers is planning to have a 2-day camp out in their school along with the children. He said they will also be giving something to the pupils and their families.

The teachers’ countenance lit up. And they said ‘yes’ as quick as I did.

“It’s been a year since we were last visited here,” said Ms. Ruina. “There were those who send donations but they never came back. They usually do it once.”

She cited one politician, a Davao City councilor whose staff never returned after bringing goods for children.

Wala na sila nibalik kay nahago sila og saka. Karon nga naa nay tramline, wala gihapon mu-dare kay mahadlok (They never returned because they  don’t want to climb the mountain again. And even if there is tramline, they are afraid of the height.),” she said.

During Christmas, she shared that the teachers (there are only four of them) collect money from each other to be able to throw a party for the children. Aside from that, they go to downtown and diligently solicit for funds or goods for the party.

“If you ask these children to bring rice (for the Christmas party), they would give you corn or corn grits to cook. What will happen to some of us who are not used to eat corn?,” Ms. Ruina laughed.

Trying not to meddle with Jay’s purpose, I went out to take photos around.

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The pupils, the Obu Manuvo and Tagabawa children of Baguio District were messing around. The boys played basketball while the girls, volleyball. Some of them were playing Luksong Baka at the inclined area of the school’s vicinity.

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I was pointing the camera lens to them but they were shy. They just laugh and elude from me. I was convincing them it is harmless so I was able to capture some. I showed it to them so they would be happy too.

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Ms. Ruina said it is only in school that they have time to play. Their houses are too far from the school and on weekends, they are usually found carry and peddle their farm produce, weave mats, pull weeds in their little corn fields, harvest or plant.

I thought to myself, they were too young to work that heavy, but what else can they do? It is the only thing they have to sustain their school and survive for every day.

We stayed for a little while and interact with the kids before we left the place. On our way back to the city proper, I was contemplating on their situation. If it is hard for financial and educational support to reach a one-tramline-ride far school such as Macatabo Elementary School, how much more those schools situated farther from the end of that transportation system, those schools that require you to walk few steep kilometers more.

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I did not regret going with Jay. The trip was worth the breakaway. I hope there will be more people who will support the Lumad children in the hinterland. They too, have the right to succeed in life. They too, deserve to live comfortably.

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P.S. The subject in my photo is my buddy, Jay.

If you wish to help these children, you may course it through the I am M.A.D. (Making A Difference), Inc., a SEC registered youth-led organization that aims to spread the passion of creating value and impact to the school-community through giving hope and showing love to the children. They are also a 2015 Ten Accomplished Youth Organization (TAYO) awardee.

You can either sign up as a volunteer or send financial support so they can help more and more children.

Official accounts of I am M.A.D.:

Email Address:


Twitter: @iammad_ph

Instagram: @iammadph

Click the logo to know more about I am M.A.D!


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Foreshadowing Kadayawan 2016: My Kadayawan sa Dabaw Experiences

On August 15 to 21, colors and beats of the Mindanawon culture will dominate Metro Davao. Every third week of August, the city expresses its joviality and gratitude to nature for the bountiful harvest – the Kadayawan Festival.

When I thought of posting this year’s Kadayawan schedule, I really don’t know where to start. And so I scoured for inspiration from other blogs. The problem is, they have marketed the festival well enough. Most blogs zeroed in on the historical and cultural significance of the event, the eleven major tribes – Obu-Manuvu, Bagobo-K’lata, Matigsalug, Iranun, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Ata, Kagan, Sama, Tausug, Maranao and Maguindanao. Those were as far as I found.

And so instead of researching for more similar accounts, I decided to share my own experiences during Kadayawan, having stayed in the city for five years now. Nothing beats a first-hand chronicle.

To be honest, the definition of enjoyment of Kadayawan depends on the kind of person you are. If you are more of an outgoing person, it is best to be on the streets during the main events or on the malls for sales and discounts. But if you don’t like being in the middle of a horde, there are media coverages you can devour at the comfort of your home. I choose to be the outgoing fella that day.

The City Government of Davao usually lays out main events for the week (which I will be posting after this) while malls and other establishments also organizes their own. Here are some of the scenes that had the greatest chance of happening on major activities, so you will be prepared.

150,000 people. That is the number of local and foreign visitors to come to the city on the 31st Kadayawan sa Dabaw as forecasted by the organizers. That is just an estimate. It might balloon on the day of the event.

People are expected to flock the streets during the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan (Street Dance Competition) and Pamulak sa Kadayawan (Floral Float Parade). The streets will be barricaded and some streets will be closed. So if you are a kind of person who loves to listen to the heart-thumping ethnic beats and see the vibrancy of the traditional garbs and movements but ignores the heat of the sun, you should get to the streets as early as six in the morning or earlier than that.

Most people stay behind the barricades, especially if it is the spot they can clearly see the happenings. If you have secured the spot but decided to go along with the parade, you should not regret leaving the spot as you can not return to that place again. For me, I enjoy following along. I don’t know but it just feels so overwhelming. There is that brimming pride at every strike of drums or kulintang. Aside from that, the Indak-Indak perfomances usually reenact a story, be it a folklore, legend, belief or traditions of the ethnic groups.

Aside from the streets, portions of that 150,000 people can be found in parks where other events are held like Peoples Park and Rizal Park. So be ready to sneak in the middle of the crowd or perhaps wear high-heels so you can see the intriguing happenings.

Another interesting thing to look out for is the search for the Hiyas ng Kadayawan (Gem of Kadayawan). According to the City Government, “It is the search for the festival gem who epitomizes joy, bounty, simplicity, and beauty. She also carries the virtues of a people, who, through time and space have maintained its identity, dignity, and collective memory.” Watching them flaunt their advocacies not only for the members of the tribe they represent but for the people of Davao ignites a sense of pride even if I am don’t belong in any indigenous group.

Major malls such as Gaisano Mall of Davao, Abreeza Ayala Mall, NCCC Mall and SM City Davao and SM Lanang Premier  also take advantage on the inundation of local and foreign visitors. They invite celebrities to do shows.  Alongside the show are the left-and-right sales and discounts for you to take advantage too. But I don’t usually go there. I hate standing for long hours, and wait for the artistas from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM, sings only a couple of songs and the show ends there. Fanatics would considered it worth-it.

In the past celebrations, the night is always young. It is alive with raves, foam parties, color parties and concerts in different spots like Damosa Gateway in Lanang, Crocodile Park, and Rizal Park or San Pedro Square to name a few.

Unfortunately, the City Government recently discourages parties and concerts in the downtown area to be consistent with this year’s central theme, the 11 tribes. Don’t worry. Crocodile Park and Damosa Gateway are not located at the center of the city. If you are a party junkie, you might also check CARPE DIEM at Felcris Centrale.

And how dare I forget the food. Well, I don’t really eat that much in restaurants but one thing I am sure, there will also be discounts and promos!! Still, can’t afford. Haha. For a simple person like me, you should try eating at the city’s street food hub, Roxas Avenue. Fruits are also abundant in every corner, especially Durian. *drools*. This pricky-pungent smelling fruit can be found in Magsaysay Fruit StandBangkerohan Public Market, Anda Street and of course, Roxas Avenue. There’s also the mangosteen and pomelo among others.


Kadayawan 2016 would be lavish of nothing but culture. After all, this is the cause of the celebration. Unlike the past Kadayawan, the City Government said they steered their focus towards the Indigenous People, the Muslims, their cultures and their plight. Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte considered them as the “heart and soul of Kadayawan.” It would be a culture-rich week. And this is something I love about this celebration.

Truth is, feelings are not meant to be explained. They are meant to be…felt. For you to do that, join the Dabawenyos like me on this festivity of abundance!

And by the way, as promised, here is the official schedule of events of Kadayawan 2016:

Kadayawan 2016, Kadayawan Festival, Kadayawan sa Dabaw, 31st Kadayawan Festival, Davao City, festival

For updates, like Kadayawan 2016 on:


Twitter: @kadayawan2016