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POV Philippines by Jon Joaquin

“Maticity”

  A boy rides the waves in Dahican
 
A boy rides the waves in Dahican
 
Enjoying the waves in Dahican
 
Enjoying the waves in Dahican
  Watching the waves in Dahican
 
Watching the waves in Dahican
  Pacific Breezes back gate opens up directly to the beach
 
Pacific Breeze's back gate opens up directly to the beach
  Pacific Breeze
 
Pacific Breeze
  The writer standing and wife Dadai with Pacific Breeze owners Jing left and Nicolo Rabat right
 
Jon Joaquin (centre) standing and wife Dadai with Pacific Breeze owners Jing left and Nicolo Rabat right 

by Jon Joaquin

Mati City in Davao Oriental is one of my family’s favourite places in the world. We first went there in 2000, about 10 years before it officially became a city, and in the past 19 years we have seen it grow from an almost isolated town to a serious tourist destination.

Getting to Mati was something of a challenge for us back then. Before we owned a car we would squeeze into an overloaded passenger van for the three-hour trip. The roads were pretty good, save for some pockets of repair work that never seem to get done, and for several years much of the highway had only two lanes (one for each direction). Overtaking another vehicle was, in local parlance, buwis-buhay (you pay with your life), but the drivers always managed to pull us through.

These days, however, the trip has been made much easier and more pleasant because of the construction of additional lanes in almost the entire stretch. Because of this, the trip has been cut to about two hours, and so going to Mati on a whim is an easy decision to make. That’s what we did this weekend; my wife had a buyer in Mati for one of her paintings, and instead of sending it by courier we decided to just drive there for a short overnight stay.

The central business area of Mati itself has changed little over the years. It has been the typical provincial poblacion with streets lined with various small businesses that offer anything from clothes to grains to fuel tanks to food. The only difference is the number of establishments that have been put up. Some years ago a Jollibee store rose in the downtown area, and just recently a ground breaking ceremony was held for a MacDonald’s.

The best parts of Mati are its beaches. Its unique geography gives visitors two very different kinds of water: one side faces the open Pacific and so it is pummelled by large waves that are ideal for surfing and skim boarding; the other side is a bay that has the most serene waters you will ever see. Both are magnets for tourists who have different ideas of what a weekend in the water should be.

In our first years visiting Mati we gravitated towards Pujada Bay and enjoyed swimming and boating in the clear peaceful water. A few kilometres off is Waniban, a 4-hectare island surrounded by white sand that is basically untouched by any development. Because of that it is a perfect spot to enjoy a peaceful day, with no distractions from the modern world.

These past years, however, we have found ourselves staying more and more in Dahican, which has a stretch of white-sand beach that faces the open Pacific. It used to be very difficult to get there because the road was unpaved, and driving to the few resorts that were there could take up to an hour. But a few years ago the city government under then-Mayor Carlo Rabat concreted the entire stretch, and now it takes only minutes to drive from downtown Mati to the now numerous resorts that line the beach.

The road development has made it possible for one of the resorts to open a coffee shop – a real one, with an espresso/cappuccino maker and a beauty queen barista to boot (although she has taken a leave after winning a recent pageant). Balud Coffee House, owned by Charisse Sardinia and Carlos Mangcupang, has been making waves (balud is Bisaya for “wave”) since opening last year because it serves seriously good coffee. Located inside the popular Dahican Surf Resort, Balud is the perfect spot for coffee lovers like my wife and me.

Even with the rapid development, the city government and the community have managed to keep Dahican clean and postcard – er, Instagram-perfect. It is still so pristine that the beach and surrounding water are home to numerous creatures like dolphins, dugong, whale sharks, and sea turtles. In fact there is a sea turtle sanctuary being cared for by a community of surfers called Amihan Boys, and they frequently release hatchlings into the sea.

The resort owners are also mindful that they need to care for the beach because they don’t want the place to end up like Boracay, which had to be closed down for six months last year because it had become “a cesspool,” according to President Duterte. Before that can even happen, they make sure to follow the directives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It can be difficult and expensive, says Jing Rabat, owner of Pacific Breeze where we frequently stay, but in the end it benefits the entire city.

We love Mati so much we’ve coined a word to describe the cool “island” vibe that is made possible by the balance of progress and environment protection the city has succeeded in maintaining: maticity.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the original author, and do not necessarily represent those of the Pilipino Express publishers.

Jon Joaquin is the Editor-In- Chief of the Davao City-based Mindanao Daily Mirror. E-mail Jon at jonjoaquin@gmail.com.

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