MANILA, Philippines - Seven years ago, Davao Oriental became known as the Philippines? sunrise capital when locals and foreigners converged at the Pusan Point in Barangay Santiago in Caraga to witness the first millennium sunrise.
Today, the province, just three hours away from the Davao International Airport and Sasa wharf, is promoting its other side.
In September, the Department of Tourism-Southern Mindanao and provincial government launched the 1st Surf and Skimboarding Safari in Dahican Beach, one of the best white-sand beaches the capital city of Mati has to offer.
?This is a fabulous province. We are hoping that Davao Oriental will become the next favorite tourist destination. This is the best place for lovers of nature, culture and history,? Gov. Corazon Malanyaon said.
The DOT also launched ?Baybay nato ni Bay? (This is our beach, pal), a coastal-management campaign designed to create environmental awareness among different communities.
Surfers and skimboarders are now common sights at the Dahican beach. George Plaza, the 34-year-old trainer of about 13 skimboarders, said they tried the sport two years ago.
?Dayo dayo lang mi pag nay competition sa ubang area. Ang uban pud sila gadayo diri sa amo,? he said (We went to places where there were competitions. But other people also came here.).
When a Japanese national saw their plight, he said, he donated five surf boards worth over P50,000 each.
Best waves and beaches
?He surfed with us. He said we had the potential, we had the best waves and best beaches for practice but we were not using the right surfboard,? Plaza said.
Plaza said most of those engaged in surfboarding and skimboarding were sons of local fishermen.
So, even if a skimboard cost only P1,000, they could not afford to buy it because their parents were only fisherfolk, he said.
Plaza said the boys were elementary and high-school students who practiced during weekends.
He said one of his trainees, 13-year-old Sonny Aporbo, a Grade 3 student already won in several surfing competitions. The youngest surfer in his team now is 9-year-old Jovec Monares, also a son of fisherman.
?Kana siya, walo na sila ka mag-igsoon. Gusto ra gyud skimboard. Bug-at pa ang board kaysa sa iya pero maayo nga bata, naa gyud talent,? Plaza said. (They are eight kids in the family. He really wants a skimboard. The board is bigger than him, but he is a good kid and has talent.)
Today, the province has at least three diving sites and one surfing site. Unknown to many, these sites are already frequented by foreigners and they may be the next top tourist and surfing destination in Mindanao.
Sonia Garcia, DOT-Southern Mindanao regional director, said the department was developing new destinations and new skimboarding and surfing sites.
?The coast here is very clean. Marunong mag-alaga ang mga tao sa coastal areas nila dito sa Mati. We hope that this will be the next tourist destination. We have great places to dive and surf here,? she said.
?People can visit this place. If they want to stay on a weekend, we have the best beach. We also have the Carmelite Monastery,? Garcia said.
The Carmelite Monastery in Barangay Matiao is a good place to visit during Holy Week. José Barcena has sculpted the mysteries of the Holy Rosary for the 16-hectare monastery.
Garcia said a local Mati businessman, Efren Dupa, had also constructed in Barangay Badas the first 50-room coastal resort in Davao Oriental.
Dupa said, ?Gwapo atong mga dagat diri. Daghang mabisita nga gwapong lugar. Diri sa resort they can try fishing. We have bangus and dangit. We also have floating cottages.? (Our beach is nice and guests can also visit many other nice places. Here in the resort they can try fishing.)
Garcia said, with the new resort, Mati would be attracting more visitors. ?It is a boost for Mati. Hopefully in the next few days or weeks, tourists will now be coming,? she said.
The province?s famous attractions also include Pujada Bay, Wason House, 17th-century Caraga Church, Cape of San Agustin, San Agustin Altar Cave, Mandaya Village, Tuboran Muslim Village, Menzi Tourism Complex, Provincial Capitol Park, Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel, Sleeping Dinosaur Peninsula, Calapagan Hotspring, Sigaboy Island, Mt. Hamiguitan Bonsai Forest in San Isidro town, Pujada Island, Waniban Island, San Victor Island and Lake Diomabok.