Cheap street food, white-water rafting, museums and more make Philippines’ second largest city a diverse holiday destination.
Davao, the second largest city in the Philippine after Manila, is shaping up as a strong tourist destination thanks to a progressive mayor who's determined to attract tourists and clean up the city (including a campaign to stop smoking in public places). As a visitor here, you'll be able to stroll (safely!) through a park full of crocodiles, go white-water rafting and explore local history through museums staffed by friendly English speakers. There’s an indigenous culture park showing the stilt houses used by the ethnic minority tribes of Mindanao.
Street food is cheap and plentiful: look for pancakes, waffles, fried bananas and fried chicken on the streets of central Davao around dusk. Hotels range from tiny rooms for less than P1,000 per night to a high-rise companion to the city’s Pagcor casino complex. You can easily set off from Davao by boat to the resorts of Samal Island not far offshore.
The Philippines is a year-round destination, but rain is least likely from December through April.
Singaporean nationals can visit any part of the Philippines visa-free for 30 days.
The peso (P) is the monetary unit and there are 100 centavos to one peso. Currency exchange kiosks at the airport and at major banks accept Singapore currency. ATMs are open 24 hours and international credit cards are widely accepted.
Davao International Airport is located 15km (9 miles) from the city centre. Taxis can be found throughout central Davao and at the airport. Fares range from P70 to P250. To safeguard against fare scams, ask your driver to use the meter and negotiate a set price for out-of-town rides, such as to the Crocodile Park and Insular Village. Colourful jeepneys stop along major roads, serving as public buses. Tell the fare collector the name of the stop you require or a nearby landmark as you board.
Davao is considered largely safe. As in any destination, avoid the dark, ramshackle parts of town and be alert for pickpockets. Sanitation in Davao, as in much of the country, remains substandard so unless your stomach has a proven record for handling street food, eat in restaurants. The Davao Doctors Hospital (tel: (63) 82 221 2101) accepts foreign nationals regardless of health insurance. Be prepared to pay a minimal registration fee and wait for an unknown period in the main lobby before being assigned a specific ward. Pharmacies across the street can fill prescriptions.
|How are you?||Kumustá kayó?|
|Fine, thanks||Mabúti namán, salámat|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Mawaláng gálang nga pô!|
|What's your name?||Anó ang inyóng pangálan?|
|My name is…||…ang pangálan ko|
|Nice to meet you||Ikinagágalák kong makilála kayó|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Nasa Facebook/Twitter ka ba?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Saán may ínternet café?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Saán akó makákabilí ng tíket?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Saán ang estasyón ng bus/tren?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Isáng óne-way/round-trip tíket sa…|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||Méron ba kayóng kuwárto pára sa isá/dalawá?|
|When's check out?||Kailán ang check-out?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Pwéde ba kayóng magrékomendá ng magandáng réstorán/bar?|
|A table for two, please||Mésa pára sa isá/dalawá, please|
|A menu, please||Menú, please|
|The bill, please||Ang bill, please|
|Where's the toilet?||Saán ang CR?|
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Davao Crocodile Park
At the Davao Crocodile Park, several sizeable enclosures show this fearless reptile in different stages of growth, including Pangil, a 6-meter-long crocodile. This mini zoo is also home to other species, and there is the chance to hold a tame python.
Davao Museum of History
The Davao Museum of History, in the Insular Village complex north of downtown, features ethnological maps, dioramas, photographs and displays of tribal artefacts from the ethnic groups of Southern Mindanao.
This Museo Dabawenyo in central Davao displays replicas of indigenous people’s bamboo homes built on stilts to keep away ocean water or wild animals. Some of the colourful tribal artwork in the museum uses local media such as bamboo in place of canvas and rinds of the infamously smelly durian fruit. Look out for history exhibits and don’t be surprised if a guide offers free interpretive services.
Tribu K. Mindanaw
Located next to the Davao Crocodile Park, Tribu K. Mindanaw is a quiet, forested riverside showcase of bamboo stilt and tree houses similar to those used by some of the 25 indigenous tribes in Mindanao. Visitors can walk right up to many of them. An outdoor restaurant in the park serves traditional dishes and drinks, including coffee from beans grown around the Philippines' highest peak, Mount Apo.
Davao the city is quite different from the scenic and mountainous island of Mindanao where it’s located. But a series of in-town landmarks offers a quick snapshot of what might be found on the remote and sometimes embattled island known for its multiple tribes and religious tension.
Start off your tour of Davao's compact centre at the Museo Dabawenyo on Recto at Pinchon streets. Here you'll discover replicas of indigenous people’s bamboo homes built on stilts to keep away ocean water or wild animals. The vivid tribal artwork on display uses unusual local materials such as bamboo and even the rinds of durian fruit. The Museum's helpful staffers offer free, personal interpreter services.
While downtown, take a look at St Peter’s Cathedral on San Pedro Street. It’s the oldest church in the city and exhibits a blend of Muslim and Christian architecture, representing the island’s dominant religions. Modern Davao, including bookstores and internet cafés, extends into the grid around the church and museum. Just along the road on Camus Street is the People's Park with its artificial waterfalls and dancing fountains that come to life at night.
Grab a cab to north Davao and tour Insular Village. At the village’s T’boli Weaving Center, tribal women in native attire weave dagmay, a fabric made from abaca fibres. Insular Village Phase I also houses the Davao Museum, a great place to learn about the island's peoples, with its fascinating collection of ethnological maps, dioramas, photographs and tribal artefacts.
Museo Dabawenyo, St Peter's Cathedral, People's Park, Insular Village, Davao Museum.
In the forested hills just 15 minutes from town by taxi you can get a sense of Mindanao’s wildlife and native cultures in a garden-like setting. The top act in this enjoyable complex of parks and eateries is the Davao Crocodile Park. Dozens of 60cm-long juveniles sun themselves in the heavily fenced compound replete with a variety of palms offering cool shade. Pangil, a 6-meter-long crocodile, is the star of the mini zoo that also houses tigers, toucans, native deer, and a civet. An irresistible photo opportunity is an encounter with Buloy, a 3.3-meter-long albino Indian python, who is tame enough to drape around your shoulders – if you're brave enough!
Admission to the crocodile park also allows entry to a neighboring Butterfly Garden, so full of its celebrated winged insects that your camera lens can capture multiple species with minimal effort. At the Davao Walk ’N Waterball pond you can float in giant transparent plastic bubbles over a pool of water, while the Tribu K. Mindanaw is a collection of bamboo stilt homes similar to those used by some of the 25 indigenous tribes in Mindanao. A restaurant inside Tribu K serves traditional dishes and drinks, including coffee from beans grown around Mount Apo (the country's highest peak, some 40km southwest of Davao). Tribu K puts on a 'fire show' around dusk (Fri–Sun). The Riverwalk Exotic Resto-Grill next door to Tribu K serves crocodile meat (which tastes surprisingly good), as well as more familiar dishes.
Davao Crocodile Park, Butterfly Garden, Tribu K. Mindanaw.