I’ve never been to Mindanao and I know the food culture in this region is different from what I know. So you can only imagine my excitement when we headed back to the mainland to explore the city.
The Hotel: Marco Polo Davao
I booked a 3-day stay at Marco Polo Davao. I requested a room with a view and that’s exactly what we got. Our room sits smack in the middle of the hotel, giving us a gorgeous view of the Davaoan skyline!
Below is the hotel lobby, check out the amazing fabric artwork! The hotel itself is nice but it is showing its age. I chose this hotel thinking it’s as nice as the one in Ortigas. Unfortunately, the decor and amenities are quite dated. It’s like being transported back to the late early 2000s.
Our room was spacious but the sink was clogged. It takes a while for the water to drain down. The room is big, the bed was amazing, and there was a tub! The toiletries were great, well-stocked. Service was quite slow though. My husband requested soup bowls and it took them 15 to 20 minutes to deliver them to our room. Security was awesome though!
The Pearls: Exploring Aldevinco Shopping Center
Thankfully, our hotel was situated in the shopping district. Marco Polo was just a few steps away from Aldevinco, a massive souvenir tiangge (bazaar). The place was teeming with Mindanaoan goods, particularly batik cloths, brass products, and pearls!
It was fun hunting for the perfect pearls in Aldevinco! I went to many stores searching for pearls and it was so exciting. My husband gifted me with a pearl necklace for our anniversary. I picked the pearl necklace that I wanted and he got it for me 🙂 I also bought a couple of pearl earrings, a pair for myself and another for my mother. We also scored great deals on fridge magnets, brass goods, and wallets.
For those who are curious about the pearls, I got what they call the “baby South sea” pearls. These are basically cultured freshwater pearls, hence the uniform size and roundness.
Don’t believe what some sellers tell you. I had one telling me “baby south sea” meant the SSPs were harvested early. Not true. A different seller was honest enough to admit these are cultured freshwater pearls.
Genuine South sea pearls are quite pricey here. A pair of stud earrings (with a 9-10 mm SS pearl) will set you back PhP6,000. The larger and the more lustrous the pearl is, the higher the price. Initially, I wanted to get the pricey stud earrings.
But in the end, I didn’t because I thought better. I could just order the earrings direct from a seller and get a better deal. For PhP7K, you can buy a pair of high-quality SSP in 11 to 12 mm. Had I bought the earrings at Aldevinco, I’d be stuck with a smaller pearl so yeah. Since we will be traveling to Palawan next year, I will buy cheaper SSPs there na lang.
I also got a couple of bracelets for my mom, a strand of gray freshwater pearls and a brass bracelet. According to the seller, the brass bracelet is handcrafted by the T’boli, an indigenous tribe in Mindanao.
The freshwater pearl bracelet, on the other hand, was harvested and crafted by the Badjaos, another indigenous tribe in the PH. I love how these local products are helping the community! Also, I noticed how proud the Mindanaoans are when it comes to selling their products.
The Food: Seafood, Seafood, See-food
We made it a point to never eat meat during the trip. And we stuck to that! We had everything from tuna panga (or jaw) to grilled clams and everything else in between!
The image above was our first meal in the city. We had the grilled tuna jaw (tried this for the first time in Japan), tuna eggs sizzling-style, and tuna sushi and maki.
HORY MORY everything was so goooood! I cannot even begin to describe how amazing the seafood is in Davao. I suppose you just need to travel there and discover for yourself! BTW, below is a dish made with tuna eggs done sizzling style… so good!
One of our most memorable meals involved dropping by Roxas avenue’s night market. The night market was a long stretch of makeshift BBQ stalls. The farther end of the strip was comprised of sellers selling handicrafts.
The BBQ stalls have all sorts of skewered meats and seafood, all beautifully presented for people to see. Ordering is done “turo-turo” style, which is a Filipino term for point-point. You literally point the stuff you want and they grill it for you. They have tables nearby and you wait for your order.
As you can see, we had grilled squid and grilled tuna jaw (they were massive so we didn’t order more). We got steamed rice and lato salad, which is a type of seaweed. We see lato on every menu in Davao, btw. They are clearly fond of their lato.
We also had fruit shakes because we’re in the tropics after all. Mango shake for the hubs and avocado shake for me. Unfortunately, I think my drink was the reason why I had the stomach flu. It was the only food that the hubs and I didn’t share.
When the dishes are served, fresh off the grill, you will be given plastic gloves so you can eat without using any utensil. I hope these plastic things were biodegradable. The number of plastic wrapping they use for every customer was making me uncomfortable. I took comfort knowing Davao was quite eco-friendly.
Durian: As Bad Smelling as I Remember It
A trip to Davao isn’t complete without buying durian. Now, I can’t stand the smell and taste of durian but somehow my mother loves the fruit. We asked several locals where the best place to score durian and most suggested Magsaysay Park.
Magsaysay Park has a long strip of fruit stalls where locals sell everything from Durian candies to golden pomelo. Since durian happens to be the most popular Davaoan fruit (and it’s in-season), the stalls have loads of durian fruits piled high by the road. It’s great that the sellers will cut and pack the durian for you. A container is hella expensive though. We paid almost PhP 1,700 for a single container.
Back in the day, durian was not allowed by airlines because of the stench. Thanks to the new packaging, the durian is now travel-friendly… but you gotta get it checked in still!
We also got a taste of the local chocolates! Malagos’ Dark chocolate is an award-winning brand based in Davao. The brand specializes in “single-origin” chocs, which meant the chocolates were ethnically planted, harvested, processed, and packed in a single origin. In this case, Davao Oriental.
I love dark chocs and would choose them over milk chocs anytime so this was a great treat. Usually, PH chocos are quite grainy and sugary. Malagos Dark chocolate is anything but! The chocs were so smooth and flavorful. There are three variants, as seen above. The bitterness will vary and I chose the 72%. So good! My only regret is not getting more cuz these are hella expensive.
… and that concludes my travel diary! Still missing the beach and hoping to return to Davao soon. Can’t wait for the summer, we’re headed to Caramoan, woot!