Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wow Davao! Part 1: Pearl Farm

I am so proud to say that I have finally gone to all the major islands of my country, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao!
I chose Davao for our trip this year because I got jealous of my balikbayan uncle and cousin who lived most of their life in the US but got to Mindanao before me, a Filipino who was just an hour and 40 minutes (by plane) away from Davao. Luckily, I got half-off my plane tickets and also got discounted gift certificates at Davao's very chic Pearl Farm.

We arrived in Davao at night and promptly checked in at Ponce Suites, a hotel/gallery far away from the main part of the city.

The small beach beside the parola and Samal suites.
 We had to wake up early the next day to get to the marina which would take us to Samal Island and arranged to have breakfast at the hotel by 7am. And then, the deluge. We woke up to a very rainy morning and the hotel's cook hadn't arrived yet due to flooded roads! We had our rice(!) breakfast wrapped up as soon as it was cooked and got a taxi to the marina where we found a large group of priests and nuns also waiting to board the ferry. (They were having a seminar there. Sosyal!) I told my mom to ask the nuns to pray to Blessed Pope John Paul II for sunny weather so that 1) our vacation wouldn't be ruined and b) that would count as the 2nd miracle to get the Pope canonized! Win-win!hehehe!
Note that bringing of food and drinks to the Pearl Farm is not allowed so we had to eat our breakfast of daing na bangus and rice at the marina.
It stopped raining but it was still cloudy when we arrived and since check-in was still at 2pm, we just hung out at the parola, fed the fish  and ate lunch at the Maranao resto. I was not pleased with the weather.

We  decided to order a la carte and NOT partake of the buffet because it would cost us P1,100 per person! Instead our very filling lunch for four just cost us P1,407 total (P1,425 minus Papa's senior citizen discount)

Seafood platter (P600) kinda expensive considering the crab was not fat.

Lapu-lapu fillet in 2 sauces (P400) rather bland. We asked for patis.

Fried chicken (P350) pricey for fried chicken.
I assume the place had wifi as people with laptops were clicking away while we poorer mortals were pleased to read the newspapers provided at the resto. Please note that Globe and Sun Cellular cellphone signal is spotty on the island.

When it was time for checking into the rooms, we got on the electric-powered vehicles that were also used to tour guests around the resort.
 At P6,600+ (for 2 people with buffet breakfast) our Balai hilltop rooms are the cheapest rooms in the resort but they sure were luxurious enough for us! In fact, we could have all slept comfortably in just one room with this huge bed and another bed near the TV. But I think management only allows a maximum of 3 adults in a room. Don't you just love how Architect Francisco MaƱosa has integrated traditonal Filipino houses on stilts with all the amenities of a modern resort.

Tip: To get the most out of your overnight stay, get a ride on the earliest ferry at 8:00 am and get a ride back to Davao on the last ferry at 4:00pm. They have a baggage counter where you can leave your bags after you have checked out of your room.

This is the room I shared with my brother. It has a ref, safety deposit box, electric kettle, hair dryer and free coffee and tea which my parents loved. Plus, extra pillows in the cabinet!
Towels and toiletries including toothbrushes and towel caps. The only thing missing was a bath tub!
A veranda where I guess one can relax or sneak a smoke. Davao is a no-smoking city!
Then it was time to swim and we rode on a small speed boat (available for free to all guests every 30 minutes)to get to nearby Malipano island where the villas are located.
Tip: If you want privacy, there's a secluded beach  with fine sand and water as clear as glass beyond the pavillion area.
Or you can choose to stay at the beach right next to the wharf and mangroves which has a view of Samal island.
Check out the starfish on the beach!
3 peacocks roam freely around the island. Too bad I wasn't able to film it, but we saw 2 of them climb up the verandah of one of the villas and fly down using his tail to steer. It was amazing. The men who guard the island sometimes get spooked when they find the peacocks perched up on the trees at night. They thought it was a ghost! hahaha!

Tip: Befriend the waiters. When my mom stold our waiter Reynan that the a la carte menu was very limited, he offered to get us some grilled pork, which was not on the menu. While the staff at the Pearl Farm treated us very well, Reynan made our stay extra special with his attentiveness and care. Papa always gave him a nice tip afterwards.

Sinigang na lapu-lapu (P350) and behind it, grilled pork(P350) Definitely better and cheaper than our lunch choices
A free fruit platter compliments of our awesome waiter.
Tip: If you do not want to avail of the buffet, try to eat a little later than the buffet diners. By the time they are done and if your waiter is nice, he will get you some more grilled pork and a plate of fruit from the buffet.

 After dinner you can take a leisurely walk by the beach....
...or have a drink at the parola bar ...

The next day we were blessed with sunny weather! hooray! But first we had breakfast
They have beef tapa, longganisa, bacon, paksiw na bangus, an omelette station, cereals, bread and jam, salads and fruits. The real challenge was how to get the most of the buffet while keeping track of the time. You have to remember that a new batch of guests will be arriving by 9am so you only have till that time to have the pool and the beach all to yourself.
You can also go to the beach at the Mandaya side but I wouldn't recommend it. There are lots of stones on that side so we went to the pool and jacuzzi instead...

...before going back to the Parola to swim with the fishies!  You don't even have to snorkel to see them. Just a few steps from shore you can already see the brightly-colored fish who don't seem to be afraid of the people as Samal has been declared a protected area, meaning no fishing!

After all that swimming it was time to check out of our room and get ready for lunch.

Only in Davao: Pomelo juice (P100)
Chef's salad (P275) just okay

Sinigang na hipon.(P350) A good deal with lots of fresh prawns

Gasp! Crispy pata (P550) Sinfully good

Surprise, surprise! More free goodies from our waiter! Above: maja blanca, carrot cake, banana cake and brownies. Below: Pomelo, pineapple, mango and makopa!

After lunch it was time to swim again! Don't worry about towels and showering: Towels are available near the spa area and day tour guests can still shower and change at the Mandaya beach area.

But before long it's time to say goodbye. Wish we could stay longer but there's still so much more of Davao to explore! 

Truth be told, though, there are better and more affordable beach vacations in the Philippines. So far, the best for me are still Bohol and Boracay outside of the peak season because both places are more accessible (no need for boats or ferries) and they both have accommodations and restaurants to suit all budgets.

1 comment:

CarmisCaprice said...

I love PF! but i have to agree that Bora (off-peak) is still the best in terms of accessibility and budget.


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