Mati, Davao Oriental- We spent our holy week break at this south-eastern part of the Philippine archipelago facing the Philippine Sea and the vast Pacific Ocean. Not coincidentally, this family trip was literally a trip down memory lane, at least for the oldies in the group, since Mati had been part of our family history, my folks having met there and three of us brothers were born in Mati. Unfortunately, we moved to Cotabato City before I would have turned three years old that explains why I don’t have any memory at all of this quaint little town (now city) which I write down as my birthplace whenever I fill out a form that asks for it. This trip to Mati was long overdue, especially for me who have not been back since the day we moved out in the early 80s.
Like meeting someone for the first time, I did all the background check on Mati online. Logically, most of the travel preparations were also made through the internet. In this digital age, travel has really become a bliss. Mati government’s official website was not very helpful. It is a literal bulletin board, no more no less. It is not interactive, it does not offer helpful travel information and its directory of restaurants and resorts does not link users to a particular establishment’s website. Fail.
Luckily, bloggers and online travel magazines rescued the otherwise scant information about Mati on the web. This article by Nina Tirol-Zialcita gives not only an exciting and exacting narrative of her travel to Mati but also a montage of great photos. Then there is the soulfully romantic travel story by Nathalie Tomada published in PhilStar.com giving both historical tidbits and future prospects of this faraway paradise. And when it rains, it pours! I stumbled on Travels & Interests, Amazing Davao, and tons of tips and tricks to Mati from my award-winning and prolific travel blogger-friend and Davao Oriental-born Olan. Thanks to Google, and to our local bloggers, I found a wealth of travel information about Mati. I also received a long email from my local friend listing all the things I can do- eat, visit, drink- while in Mati. Now these are the kind of links that should be featured in a local government tourism website!
I did my reservations after checking out the most interesting places written about Mati. Considering that we will be traveling as a big group with kids in tow, I deliberately skipped the island camping trips and kept a mental note of where to go next when I will be back in Mati. Belatedly, I discovered (online of course!) Joji Alcantara’s breathtaking photos of and Journeying James’ journey to Waniban Island, a truly secret paradise that attracts a wanderer like a magnet to a steel.
For accommodations, I chose the quiet Tropical Kanakbai that promises a secluded and pampered vacation like no other. Unfortunately, all other days are taken so I just decided to stay here for a day and move to Botona Dahican Beach Resort the next day. I called both resorts, placed my reservations and paid reservation fees through BPI and BDO online. Sweet and no sweat! For our vehicle requirement, Davao has plenty of car rental providers but this one I found to be the cheapest and thankfully reliable.
Finally the big day arrived. Our driver came 30 minutes before the appointed time. It is a new Grandia, sparklingly clean inside and out. That gives me a sort of assurance that we have a responsible driver with us.
Some three hours later, we were welcomed by the sight of Pujada Bay, and a geological formation popularly known as the Sleeping Dinosaur. After a hearty lunch at my aunt’s place, we proceeded to Tropical Kanakbai, our home for the night.
Kanakbai delivered on its promise. It is located at the far beach end of a coconut plantation. It is quiet (before we arrived), there are plenty of lounge chairs and hammocks hanging between tall trees, the beach is just a few steps away from the guest house, and there’s plenty of space for kids to run around.
There are only 2 guest houses with each guest house having two big bedrooms with large king-sized beds and toilets complete with the usual toiletries found in respectable hotels. The rooms are on the second floor, with a veranda that offers a good view of the landscaped garden, the white sand beach and the deep blue sea beyond. At the ground floor is an open air (minimal walls), open space (no dividers) living room cum kitchen cum dining area. The living room has comfortable couches and satellite TV while the kitchen is equipped with cooking and dining utensils, a coffeemaker (bring your own ground beans though but flowing instant coffee is available all day all night), hot and cold water dispenser, refrigerator- all the works! The biggest surprise was each guest house is assigned with one all-around helper who can cook your meals, do the dishes and keep the place tidy. There is also a billiard table and some gym weights, perhaps for a last minute work-out to get that beach body tone. For kids, a wading pool can be had. It is a good enough diversion to keep the kids happy and wet especially when parents shy away from the heat of the midday sun. Kanakbai is a perfect place for couples in honeymoon, solo travelers on a retreat and big families like ours.
The Botona Dahican Beach Resort on the other hand is a stark contrast. I’m sure Botona had its heyday as a charming little resort but poor maintenance of its existing facilities has deterioted the whole place. But Botona is also sky apart from Kanakbai in terms of fees. So I guess we get what we paid for.
And the Dahican Beach? Wow, the photos can tell you more than the words that I can put in.
All in all, it was a memorable trip down Mati, my birthplace, my home once. In this age of the Internet, travel has become more convenient and people have become more trustful. We trust that the websites we visit are real and not hacks, we trust our bank system that payments will reach the faraway resorts, we trust the van rental service and the designated driver, we trust Google Maps and the mapmakers, we trust the the bloggers and their stories.
The Internet has admittedly changed the way we travel. But some things remain the same, maybe better – we still have trust in humanity.
This is our epiphany.