Davao Photo Diary

We were astonished when we found out that Tita Cherry had cancer.

I remember that day clearly: my sister, my mom, and I had just landed in Manila from a long binge fest in Cebu, and upon arriving home, Tita Cherry spilled it: she had cancer of the breast. The lumps were so big already that she needed an immediate operation. We quickly arranged for a surgery.

The cyst removal was successful, but after that, the doctor said it would be advisable to get chemotherapy. Because of the surgery, there were chances that lingering traces of cancer cells are still there, so we pushed for it. It’s a good thing that medicine nowadays grants chemo patients the blessing of not having to undergo the dreadful vomiting sprees, thanks to anti-nausea drugs. But then again, the therapy doesn’t eliminate the fear, anxiety, pain, and sadness—the thought of not knowing what would happen in the course of it all.

We were supposed to go on a trip before all these things happened, so I promised Tita that I would take her to a nice vacation once she recovers from chemo. Twelve months after the last session, when she was lively and healthy again (and grew back her hair!), I booked us tickets to Davao.

Why Davao? Well, why not? It’s the perfect place: clean, safe, beautiful. People are disciplined, nobody smokes in the streets (to my slight horror and dismay), and the city is developed yet laid-back—a far cry from the bustle and noise in Manila. I’ve been to Davao last year for a dance competition but I haven’t explored it much, so this trip with Tita is also the perfect time for me.

Side story: I arranged an Aug. 14 to 17 trip because I was aiming for the Kadayawan festival weekend. However, this year, for some reason the organizers decided that the festival wasn't taking place on the 3rd weekend and moved it to the 4th. LOL. K bye!

Upon arriving, we explored a little bit of the city and mostly checked out the local food scene. We went to Bulcachong, a casual spot recommended by my blogger friends, which sells this bulalo-like dish made with carabao (water buffalo) meat. I found the bulcachong delicious, perfect both as ulam and as a cure for a hangover!

The next day, we got up early to have breakfast at Blugre Coffee, where we indulged in durian-infused drinks and cakes. After walking around the mall checking out pasalubong items (and also to give us time to digest everything we ate), we walked over to Penong's, a famous local restaurant chain serving humongous plates of chicken BBQ, to have lunch (LOL). Yes, we were diligently following our EAT-tinerary!

Then we headed North to Banana Beach Resort in Tagum, Davao del Norte. The only beach resort in the world inside a plantation, this 760-hectare property is one of the nicest places I’ve been to, with seemingly endless choices of activities, sumptuous food, and beautiful tropical-style lodgings. I loved our casita, which had a huge comfy bed, a clean spacious bathroom, and a private porch. The people in this resort were incredibly gracious and hospitable as well—especially the manager who even toured us around. It felt nice seeing my Tita enjoying the river cruise, the forest tour, and the resort amenities as she rarely gets to go out and travel.

Read more: There's Grandeur in Simplicity at Banana Beach Davao


It was heartbreaking to leave Banana Beach—and Tagum—but we had to the next day, as we had more sightseeing sessions to do in the city. We checked in at Red Planet Hotel (formerly Tune Hotels) and after resting a bit, went out and explored more.

Our last day in Davao was spent visiting the more popular spots like the Davao Museum; Eden Nature Park, a natural sanctuary featuring lush forests, manicured gardens, and extreme attractions such as the Sky Cycle; the Philippine Eagle Sanctuary; and the Malagos Garden Resort. It was immensely tiring but really enjoyable at the same time.

I used to find Davao City quite boring because of the strict rules with alcohol and cigarettes and the lack of nightlife, but this trip showed me a different side of it. Moreover, I got to see that there was more to Davao than durian, Duterte, and Pearl Farm Beach Resort. But I think the best thing about this trip is that I got to fulfill my promise to my Tita, and I saw her enjoying the beauty of traveling, seeing awesome places, and trying new things.

Have you been to Davao? How did you find it? Which is your favorite place? Can you recommend other things to do or spots to visit in Davao?

If you like my posts and would love regular updates on travel photos, food finds, restaurant reviews, dance articles, and drunken tales, follow Pepe Samson on Facebook!

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