Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
Before the month of October ended, I was invited by Dashiel Indelible, Jr. to witness the 22nd Sambuokan Festival in Mati City, Davao Oriental. For the first time since the pandemic, the celebration was already live, in contrast to the virtual in the last two years.
Sambuokan is a week-long celebration as a way of thanksgiving for the year’s bountiful blessings of bountiful harvests. It is usually observed in the last week of October, as the founding anniversary of the city happens on October 29.
“Sambuokan” comes from the Mandaya word “buok,” which means “one,” thus, the celebration unites and brings oneness among the people of Mati. The city is known for the Mandaya tribe, whose unadulterated culture and traditions are still being practiced and evident in their daily activities.
But since we – my sister Marilou Eplite and I – arrived a day earlier for the highlight of the celebration – the street dancing called Sayaw Sambuokan – we decided to visit some of the city’s tourist attractions.
The first stopover was, of course, Dahican Beach, the venue of two events: frisbee and skimboarding.
I never get enough of Dahican Beach as it has this remarkable fusion of natural splendour. It offers a long stretch of white sand beach, sparking blue-green waters, and rich marine life (a nest for the endangered marine turtles).
It is also a prime destination for surfers and skimboarders. This is the reason why Gabby Sibala put up a place called Dahican Surf Resort, where visitors can stay, eat and have fun at night.
The Amihan sa Dahican-Balod sa Paglaum, Inc. – an environmental group – has also exhibited some photographs of the endangered marine species teeming in the waters of Pujada Bay, touted to be one of the world’s most beautiful bays. Some bones of these endangered species were also displayed.
From there, we went to the Guang-Guang Mangrove Forest. This protected mangrove forest encompasses 21,000 hectares where you can see 18 of the rarest, mostly endangered, mangrove species in the country.
We went back to Mati City just in time for the Kabaw sa Kadalanan, a parade of carabao. It was my first time to see such an animal parade, and it was stunning as the carriage was decorated with something that reminds you of rural areas.
The following day, we went to the Mayo Bay Park and Beach Resort located in barangay Mayo. Here, the water of the natural spring lagoon goes to the beach. The owner made an infinity pool where the fresh water overflows to the sea. A sight to behold.
The resort is the coolest area in the city; it is 8-10 degrees cooler than everywhere in Mati. Entrance fee is only P10 per person, and there’s a parking space, too, where tall trees help protect your vehicles from the heat of the sun.
From there, we went directly to the eastern part of the city – the Masao Beach Resort in barangay Bobon. It overlooks the Pujada By, and the area is protected with railings that improve its ambiance. Recently, it has added an infinity pool where you could directly see Waniban Island and Mount Hamiguitan, the one and only World Heritage List from Mindanao.
I also had the opportunity to visit the plantation of the famous Menzi pomelo fruits. The fruits noted for its sweet taste and without seeds, are produced by the Menzi Farmers Cooperative, which has managed the operation since 1995.
The fruits are usually sold in fruit markets in Davao City, but they come all the way from Mati City. In 2010, during the 9th Agraryo Trade Fair held at the SM Mall, the pomelo fruit was recognized as the Best Fresh Produce.
After having our lunch, we went directly to the Baywalk area where the Sayaw Sambuokan was to be held. Due to the pandemic, only five contingents competed against each other for the grand champion, which was won by the Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy and bringing a cash prize of P100,000. It was also adjudged as Best in Costume.
The runner-ups were Matiao National High School (P75,000), Mati National Comprehensive High School (P60,000), City of Mati National High School (P50,000), and Mati Doctors Academy, Inc. (P50,000). Matiao National High School also won the Best in Musicality award.
There were other events at night, but we opted to stay at the hotel since we were tired and had to leave the city very early in the morning the following day.