Beyond Mati’s Sambuokan
(article and photos by Jojie Alcantara, click to view large image)
Mati City, the capital of Davao Oriental province, was once a quiet seaside community now laden with beach resorts lining coconut-filled shores, offering amenities and island banca tours to islets and secret coves. It has now become a most visited destination three hours away from Davao City.
The young city successfully celebrated its Sambuokan Festival last October 20-31, 2011. This week long festive celebration is both a thanksgiving and observance of the commemoration of its founding anniversary every 29th of October.
Sambuokan (“buok” meaning one) showcases Mati’s “oneness” despite diversity of fascinating culture and ethnic traditions, lifestyle and way of life. Add to it the blessings of abundance in natural resources carefully preserved and enhanced by ecotourism.
Highlights of the celebration include night shows and events at the Baywalk, parties, a pageant, photo competition, fun run, frisbee event, dance showdown, bikini open, trade fair, exhibits, a market showcase of local products, banca race, and the most watched skimboarding competition set in the stunning clear blue waters and white shores of Dahican.
Sambuokan’s Indak – Indak sa Kadalanan (street dancing competition) became a highly charged atmosphere of energy and colors as the crowd cheered over participants. Emerging as the winners were both Matiao National High School (last year’s champ) and Matiao Central.
Beyond the merrymaking, this festival aims to unite the people working together for a common good, turning this once unknown town into a fast-developing settlement and the next potential tourist destination.
When you visit Davao, try Mati on a sudden road trip whim. Endowed with one of the longest and most beautiful white coastlines in Mindanao, travel to Mati involves zigzagging through well-paved roads that snake up and down a cliff overlooking the sea. The now familiar Barney-shaped Sleeping Dinosaur is a landmark that indicates you have arrived in the once quiet municipality and provincial capital.
Learn how to skimboard, a sport popularized on wild Pacific waves that fringe white sand shorelines. Dahican is a long strip of mesmerizing powdery white sands and startlingly clear aquamarine waters that gradually change into deep azure in the horizon. Skimboarders practically camp by the beach for an adrenalin encounter with the waves.
Meet the local heroes, athletic teens popularly known as the Amihan Boys. They bring skimboarding to a new level by winning various regional competitions and bringing home top prizes, thanks to their mentor George ‘Jun’ Plaza, who raises and disciplines them like sons while they work for a living. Plaza is also staunch supporter of the turtles and dugongs who ply his beachfront headquarters.
A dolphin tour showcases hundreds of frisky species of the beautiful mammal (Fraser’s dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, long-snouted spinner dolphin, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, to name a few) freely cavorting alongside fishermen’s boats. Dive tours and island hopping packages are available for arrangement in the city tourism office.
The simple yet unique distinction of this new city and friendly locals are remarkable features that will keep you coming back for more.
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(Jojie Alcantara, who writes for SunStar Davao and other publications, is a photographer, solo traveler and an artist, who was born in Mati. Exploring unknown islands in the archipelago armed with cameras and asthma inhalers, her fascination for her beloved country keeps her rooted to the land. She wishes everyone can see its beauty from her perspective. Visit www.pbase.com/jojie_alcantara and www.dabawenya.me for her adventures).