Published: February 11th 2010February 8th 2010
Davao isn't normally a tourist destination for foreigners (Lonely Planet barely even acknowledges it) but I wasn't going to let that stop us from visiting my good friend Pearl. It ended up being super fun and a perfect intro to the philippines.
Our flights to Davao were at ridiculous hours, but at least we made all of them. The first one left bangkok at 12:30 am on febuary 3rd, and was supposed to get in to manila at 4:50 am (1 hour time difference = 3 hrs 20 min flight). I barely slept on the flight because they kept turning on all the lights for some reason. It got in to manila 30 minutes early. Hooray! 30 more minutes to sleep on the benches at the airport. Our connecting flight left manila at 8 am, and got to cebu at 9 am. Finally, we flew from Cebu to davao at 11am and got in at 12 am. We were pretty groggy but we gave our best effort to rally throughout the rest of the day.
Pearl surprised us by meeting us at the airport, and we took a taxi back to her place. On the way pearl gave us the scoop on transportation. There are basically 3 ways to get around on land in PI: Taxi, tricycle, and jeepney. No buses. Taxis are pretty much as you'd expect, but the others are weird. Tricycles are a little bit like tuk-tuks, which you find all over mainland SE asia, except the driver sits on a motorcycle off to one side and the passengers sit beside him in a side car. Some of them also have seats in back, where you sit facing one another. Jeepneys look like jeeps in the front, but they are much longer and have two benches facing each other in back. So far I haven't been in one that I can sit up straight in. After we unloaded at Pearl's, we took a jeepney to our first Filipino meal: BBQ chicken. Delicious! They sure do know their BBQ here.
That evening we went to Pearl's "uncle" Caesar's house (they aren't actually related, but Filipinos treat close friends like family). He is retired but spends a lot of his time raising roosters for cock fighting (Sabong). He has over 20 birds, all of which live a pretty privaleged life until they are fought. They each have a large area to peck at, and a high sheltered perch to sleep. They are groomed, bathed, and even massaged. He showed us the extremely sharp knives that they attach to the cock's left foot during the fight. We also learned more about the betting (more on that later) and how Sabong is so important to Filipino culture. By the end of the evening we had made plans to go to a real live Sabong on Sunday. Yay! Before we had talked to Pearl's uncle, steph was pretty opposed to the whole idea of cock fighting. But after seeing how well the birds are treated, and hearing how crazy the betting is, she agreed to tag along for the sunday fight.
The next day Pearl, Steph and I went to Paradise. Literally - it was a resort called Paradise, on the nearby island (3 minute boat ride) of Samal. We had a pretty awesome time just lounging on the beach, eating more BBQ and sipping drinks out of coconuts. We found some hermit crabs on the beach, and started collecting them in a cup which we called the "Crabitat". When we had about 10, we decided to race them. We drew a big circle in the sand, threw them all in the middle, and whoever got out of the circle first won. I think Pearl's crab won 3 times, and steph might have won once. Mine was a loser. Paradise had a great band, too. Here's a video of them playing "Help", a Beatles cover:
Pearl had school for the next two days, so she left steph and I in Paradise. We basically just did the same think as the first day, except no more crabitat :(. We rented some goggles the first day and checked out the reefs, and rented innertubes the second day to float around and feed fish. We slept in a lot to catch up on sleep. Pretty relaxing. On Saturday we took the boat back to Davao and met up with Pearl again. We went to one of the malls in Davao, so that all the locals could stare at us (the only white people in town).
And then came Sabong day. Sunday, sunday, sunday!! In the morning before we got there, we heard a loud sound outside Pearl's house. It turned out to be a goat screaming. A construction crew was starting to build a new house, and apparently it is custom to cut the throat of a goat and leave a trail of blood around the perimeter of the place. Then they slaughter it and eat it. Pretty weird. Pearl and I went down later to try some, and it was actually pretty good!
We left Pearl's and got to the Sabong at about 1 pm. Pearl's uncle is good friends with the owner of the Sabong, so we got sweet VIP seats. Air conditioned, ring side, with only a sheet of glass between us and the chickens. The fights were already going when we got there.
At first it was a little hard to watch the chickens - I spent more time watching the crowd. I can't believe that anybody gets their money when they win. Basically, when it is time to bet EVERYONE in the whole place starts yelling, and wavin their hands in the air. Apparently the hand waving is actually a kind of sign language. First they throw out the odds they want, and then the amount of money they are betting. Once they lock eyes with someone else in the crowd that means they will take the bet. Pearl warned me not to make eye contact with anyone for this reason. Then, once the winner is declared, the loser crumples up his money and throws it into the ring. Somehow the money makes it over to the winner. It is all honor system. Here's a video of the betting process:
We ended up staying at the Sabong for like 10 hours. During that time we were served drinks and complementary food, VIP style. For some reason steph didn't want any of the fried chicken, but I helped myself. After a while we started getting in to the fights, although I don't think steph ever looked directly at the chickens as they were fighting. But she was pretty good at picking the winners, so we set aside a few thousand pesos to bet. Pearl's uncle's friend made it easy. We just told him which chicken, and how much, and he'd place the bet. We were doing pretty good for a while, but I guess we got greedy and we were down 500 pesos by the end of the night. We had a great time though, pretty unique experience.
Our last day in Davao we went to the crocodile farm. It had hundreds of crocodiles, if you count the babies. Dozens of big ones too. Also a small zoo area, including monkeys and tigers. Pretty cool. You can even pay to feed some of the smaller crocs. Well actually tease them, with meat tied to a string. Here's a video of Pearl feeding the crocs:
We finished off the davao trip by an awesome meal at Jack's Ridge, which sits on the top of the hill overlooking Davao. Highly recommended. We said goodbye to Pearl early on tuesday morning, and caught a flight to Cebu city, then a boat to Bohol. We had a great time in Davao. Here are some pictures: