I took a deep breath as soon as I stepped out of the arrival area at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao City International Airport). It was both a feeling of relief that I made it to NAIA on time and of great satisfaction that I finally got the chance to travel again after a while. I’m blessed to be here.
Wasting no time, I hailed a cab to take me to the hotel where I was billeted at. I was in a dilemma at first though. I thought that if I took a cab at the airport, the driver might ask for a higher fare, just like what taxi drivers in Manila do most of the time. I thought of walking towards the gate leading outside the airport’s vicinity and hail a cab there instead, but I immediately dismissed the idea as soon as I realized that doing so would require much effort.
It was 7:45 pm and my stomach was starting to grumble, so I swallowed all bits of hesitation. The taxi driver was courteous enough to admit that he didn’t know where my hotel was located, so I just pulled out my phone and fired away Google Maps. I found the exact location and told the driver where to take me to. He obliged.
I initiated a conversation with him by asking a few questions, starting with, “Are you going to ask for an additional amount on top of the metered fare?” I almost sounded suspicious rather than inquisitive, but the driver willingly answered my query.
“Ay, bawal po dito ‘yan, Sir. Bawal pong mangontrata dito,” he said.
(“That’s not tolerated here, Sir. Demanding a fixed amount is not allowed here.”)
That’s great! My first impression: Dabawenyos are honest, obedient and disciplined.
We talked a bit more about the traits of Dabawenyos, the tourist spots, the food, the surroundings, and the bombing that shocked the nation, among others. That’s one way of getting to know the place—asking questions and seeing from the perspective of a local.
About 20 minutes later, we arrived at Bahay ni Tuding where I settled down for a few minutes before heading out for a night stroll. My mission: Wander around and experience downtown Davao at night. Oh, yes, Bahay ni Tuding is in the downtown area where you can find almost everything.
Since the hotel’s restaurant was already closed by the time I arrived, I opted to dine out. The receptionist advised me to try Kusina Dabaw. I obliged.
I found in the menu a dish that was new to my ears. Balbacua. I asked the waitress what it was, but since my stomach was already complaining, I placed my order upon hearing “beef.” Several minutes later, my order was served and, well, it was something I never expected. Apparently, balbacua is a thick soup dish with cow’s skin, seasoned with chives. I learned later on that it is a specialty dish in Davao and there’s a place in the public market called Balbacuahan, a strip of eateries serving the dish.
I didn’t like it though. Not that it wasn’t delicious at all; it just wasn’t my type of food.
As it turned out, I didn’t have a satisfying dinner, so I strolled around, looking for some redemption.
I stumbled upon a brightly lit old house that had been turned into a café and bar. Letting my curiosity take over, I entered Claude’s Le Caféde Ville.
Built in the 1920s, the old structure is owned by the Obozas, one of Davao’s highly esteemed families.The foyer was adorned with family mementos ranging from framed photos, plaques and trophies, and bottles of wine, among others.
Inside, it felt like I was transported by a time machine. A wooden floor, wooden walls, and old furniture made up the interior bathed by dim lights, adding to the serene and relaxing ambiance of the place.
They serve Irish coffee (I forgot the price), wines (P300 per glass) and cocktails (P250 per glass). I had a glass of Bacardi cocktail and a plate of cashew nuts. One thing I realized, though, was that the place is better enjoyed when you’re with someone, or with a group, because it is a place for a good conversation. There’s no live band; just some old music playing softly in the background.
A few minutes later, the waitress approached me and asked, “Sir, okay lang ba kayo? Kayo lang mag-isa?”
(“Sir, are you okay? Are you alone?”)
I just smiled and said that I was okay. In my mind, though, I screaming, “I don’t feel lonely. I’m just enjoying my time alone.” And then I left (of course, I paid the bill first).
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