Travel destinations in the Philippines paint a common tropical picture of nature — cultures, mountains, seashores, food and festivities. Everything everywhere screams the Filipino experience. Yet, in the heart of Mindanao, only an almost 2-hour plane ride away, is a destination with an absolutely different feel. The rules and dynamics of the city can make one feel like being in another country. From landing to exploring the city, here are some of the key things to note when flying to Mindanao’s land of promise – Davao City.
1. Airport security is tight.
Upon arriving in the city, tourists are greeted by the warmth of the smiles of the locals and extremely tight security of Davao security forces. Tight is actually an understatement. One example to prove this point is the fact that upon leaving the airport compound, the guards at the exit gate asks for the passenger’s last name and checks it off a list. This is regardless of whether the passenger is a local or visitor. The place is also swarming with canines and police officers. Airport walls are also lined with CCTV cameras and alarms. True enough, the city government takes safety seriously.
2. Taxis are colorful.
Davao city roads look like rainbows due to the many vibrant colors of its taxi cabs. It is as if someone spilled giant M&M’s on the roads. The colorful road-sight is quite shocking to the eyes at first for a non-local; but it grows on everyone.
3. Sutukil order!
No, it is not one of the many security measures of the city. It is the local specialty food platter consisting of grilled (sugba), stewed (tula), and raw (kilaw) fish — su-tu-kil. Tuna is the usual fish of choice. However, Davao is so rich with seafood and other marine resources. Thus, it may be made with other local fish or exotic sea creatures. It is served almost everywhere in the city, but the most popular joints that sell it aside from the beach resorts and the restaurants are the small food places along San Pedro street. It comes cheap as well since all ingredients are bought locally.
4. Strictly no smoking everywhere.
True, ‘everywhere’ is an exaggeration; but to tourists who are used to casually lighting a stick up, everywhere seems to be the coverage of the city ordinance against smoking. The rule is this: no one can smoke in all public places, buildings, parks, or establishments in the city. This includes roads, restaurants, resorts, and even hotels. One can only smoke in the comfort of one’s house or car (provided your windows are up and closed). Violations entail pecuniary penalties ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 pesos depending on the area where the violator is caught. It’s safe to say it is indeed too much for torching a cigarette; but to the city government, no price is too big for fresh air. Many have attempted to challenge this rule. All attempts have failed so far. Locals have adapted, and it seems to be one of the first warnings of bloggers to people thinking of traveling to the city. Staying in Davao City can indeed be a well-deserved break from the stuffy and loud cities in the Metro, but it is one tough break for smoker-visitors.
5. Nightlife ends a little after midnight
In Davao City, everyone is his or her own version of Cinderella. Restobars call for final orders of drinks at around half past eleven in the evening. When the clock strikes twelve, serving of alcohol is prohibited. Violators are fined or, in extreme cases, closed down. It is quite the stretch of a difference from the normal nightlife in Manila (or everywhere else) where the drinking mantra ‘from dusk to dawn’ actually works. In Davao City, it is strictly ‘from dusk to 12.’
6. It is safe to walk in the dark
Coming home or to the hotel after a night of food and drinks can be done as soon as the daily midnight alcohol ban is activated. It is absolutely safe. One does not need to worry about muggers or robbers. They do not stand a chance against the rough local security. Decades of circulating stories of night thieves or robbers being shot on the spot have scared perpetrators away from the city. Streets are also bright with lights and frosty with the Mindanao night air. Walking to the hotel from the restobars nearby is actually a good way to end the night. That is the beautiful irony of Davao City security: walking along the city streets in the dead of the night can make one feel alive.
7. Speed limit and traffic rules are strictly enforced.
There can be no instances of Fast and Furious in Davao City as ordinances set the speed limit at 30 Kph within the city. It only increases to up to 60 Kph at diversion roads. Speedguns and meters are spread out everywhere to make sure every vehicle complies with this rule. While there is no congestion of vehicles in Davao roads, still the most one can enjoy the free flowing traffic is through a smooth but slow pace. While this bothers tourists as it is very different from the either standstill-or-swift-nothing-
These things and many more make Davao City one of the most distinct destinations in the country. The rules may be a little difficult to swallow, but the whole travel experience makes it all worth it.