Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Davao City, Mindanao Part 4: The Philippine Eagle and My Participation in Local Politics.

The Philippine Eagle

Once we left Samal Island we immediately began our long journey to the Philippine Eagle Center to get a glimpse of one of the most largest, rarest and powerful eagles on the planet, the Philippine Eagle. The Philippine Eagle, also known as the Monkey-Eating Eagle, is an endangered species which cannot be found in any other country. Due to the high rate of deforestation caused by logging, the existence of the eagle is on the brink of extinction. Killing the endangered species is punishable by a 12 year prison sentence. Not sure why this isn't applied to the real culprits who are responsible for the removal of the eagle's habitat - the essential fabric of its existence. But I digress.

Again, like everywhere in the Philippines, it takes a few modes of transportation to reach any destination. This included a taxi, a jeepney, and a motorbike.

Election-eve tricycle rally.

Our motorbike driver whisked us through villages with pretty surrounding scenery, as many onlookers nudged their friends as we passed. Again, I'm sure this area doesn't see many foreigners.

The Philippine Eagle Center is a sanctuary to roughly 36 eagles, half of which were bred in captivity. The center, which is supported by the Philippine Eagle Foundation, also serves the public by promoting environmental awareness and educating them about the dire state of affairs in which their national bird continues to find itself.

The Philippine Eagle astonishingly reaches 3 feet in height with a wingspan of 6.5-7 feet.


It's a shame that a bird as large as the Philippine Eagle has to be held captive for the sake of its species existence. Nevertheless, it was a privilege to witness such a fascinating creature as its future is uncertain.

After a wonderful visit to the Philippine Eagle Center, Sheila and I left and began our long journey back home as it was getting late and we didn't want to be traveling at night. We hired a friendly motorbike driver to take us back into town where we would then take a shuttle to Davao City. Along the way, however, our driver's hat flew off as we were cruising down the road. He pulled over, and I quickly ran back to retrieve it. Our driver appreciated the gesture and expressed his gratitude with a candid smile. Sheila aka Ms. Paparazzi did an excellent job capturing the moment.

Simply classic.

My Participation in Philippine Politics

Back at the house, political posters were hung as her cousin-in-law, Bobby, was running for re-election. He held the position of an elected low-level government official. From what I could ascertain, his position was the equivalent to a city council member in the United States.

Bobby, who was holding an election-eve rally with his fellow party members up the street, invited Sheila and I to attend and join the family. As a political junkie, I couldn't have wanted to be anywhere else. Sounded great. And just before we left, Bobby handed me a t-shirt with his name on it and asked if I would wear it to the rally. Initially, I must admit, I was a little hesitant as this is a country known to be extremely politically corrupt. According to Transparency International (TI), a non-governmental organization that monitors political corruption, its Corruption Perception Index for 2010 has the Philippines scoring at a 2.4, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). To get an idea where this ranks with other countries, the Philippines tied with Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone on the Corruption Perception Index.

If I was to ever to get involved in politics in the future, I could definitely see this biting me in the behind. I was caught between a rock and a hard place. What was I suppose to do, say no? Yeah right. But I'd heard Bobby talk about politics earlier and what he stood for, and it appeared that his political views were sane enough for my liking. He came off as an extremely friendly and honest man.

It was quite a memorable experience walking to the rally with Sheila's family, as Bobby stood by my side. I aroused inquisitive stares, smiles and laughter from bystanders as we walked through the busy streets. As I'd mentioned earlier, it didn't appear that this neighborhood had received many foreigners. And as one can imagine, I stood out like a sore thumb.

"Iboto si Bobby! (Vote for Bobby!)" I repeatedly hollered, as Bobby waved and shook hands with friends and supporters.

"Oh my God," Sheila said, who looked down and covered her face. "You're embarrassing me."

It's safe to assume that I was enjoying myself.

By the time we had approached the stage, I'd gained a following of children who laughingly surrounded me.

I was really impressed with the diversity of candidates who were running with Bobby. There was a woman - the captain or elected leader of the group - who was running for re-election; a Muslim; and a homosexual. And there were heaps of people in the crowds in support of these candidates, wearing shirts and holding signs. I was impressed.

This woman (pictured above) was a supporter of the opposing party - a party who had had their rally the previous night; however, she felt the need to crash this one. She was a bit unstable mentally, if you catch my drift, who was decked out in clothing and accessories that indicated her support for the candidate that Bobby was running against. She was really creepy with a mischievous smile, who constantly felt the need to spit. Yuck.

At the end of the rally, the popular Filipino singer-comedian Blakdyak (pronounced: Blackjack) performed. He really knew how to entertain the crowd. And as the only tall, white foreigner in the crowd, I knew it was only a matter of time before he honed in on me. In between songs as he was speaking to the crowd, he stopped, looked at me and comically made a comment about me being handsome. The crowd responded with cheers and laughter.

After his performance, as the rally was coming to an end, Neri, the Captain, called me up to the stage. Before we left for Davao, Mindanao never did I imagine that I would be participating in local Philippine politics. But there I was, up on the stage, holding hands with political candidates as everyone took a bow. Oh, life on the road . . .

Sadly, the following morning Sheila and I had to return to Manila. I couldn't have asked for a better experience during my travels in Davao City, Mindanao. I'm so glad that I ignored all the travel advisories that warned foreigners against traveling here. Just think of all the amazing experiences in which I would have missed.

Thank you, Bobby, Mercy and family for hosting us during our travels in Davao. Your generosity and hospitality is much appreciated.


Monday, November 29, 2010

The Philippines: Samal Island, Mindanao Part 3

After an unsettling night from our traumatic experience at the slaughterhouse, Sheila and I left for Samal Island to relax our minds. Samal Island is located just off the coast of mainland Mindanao in the Davao Gulf. We were anxious to get to the island as we had heard and read good things about it, mainly that it was supposed to be a beautiful, unspoiled island.

It was a difficult decision (as there were so many options), but after much research, Sheila and I reserved a room at the Bluejaz Beach Resort & Waterpark. To reach our resort from mainland Mindanao we had to take a few modes of transportation. This included 1 tricycle, 2 jeepneys, a 10 minute walk, and 1 ferry ride.

Once we arrived at Bluejaz Resort on Samal Island, we were met with a d├ęcor of colorful flags which I found to be quite inviting.

Initially, Sheila and I were somewhat disappointed with the beach. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was pretty and all; however, we wrongly assumed that there would a longer stretch of it. The island of Samal appeared to be saturated with resorts, and with everyone wanting their own little slice of heaven, the beaches have been allocated accordingly. So yeah, we were a little disappointed, because that’s ultimately why we had come here . . . to see the island’s beautiful beaches. And when we inquired at the front desk about venturing off the resort to find other beaches, we were told that other beaches were only accessible through other resorts, in which we would have to pay an entrance fee. In the end, we made do with what we had and had a great time, regardless.

Bluejaz is a new resort and is still in the process of being constructed. It had a waterpark, a rock climbing wall, an open-air restaurant, and an infinity pool with a view of Mt. Apo (the largest volcanic mountain in the Philippines) overlooking the Davao Gulf.

Despite how crowded it was at the resort, we somehow managed to have the beach to ourselves.

After swimming in the ocean, we had dinner under the open-air restaurant just as a storm bypassed us which made out for an enjoyable, cool pleasant breeze off the gulf. As we were waiting for our meal, Sheila and I took a few pictures in front of the red carpet backdrop and runway banner and viewed a fire show.

After dinner, Sheila walked up to the musical pavilion where a few performers were playing and asked if she could sing a song. She sang the song "Para sa akin" by Sitti Navarro, a famous Filipina singer, as she knows how much I enjoy it when she sings that song. It was a lovely ending to our night.

The following morning Sheila and I left Samal Island. We really enjoyed our stay here and would have loved to see more of the island; however, time was of the essence and we needed to make our way back to mainland Mindanao. We had an eventful day in store for us.