Monday, December 2, 2013

Magnetized by Mati City (Part 2)

Mati holds a special place in my heart. There’s something about the capital of Davao Oriental that seems to have magnetized a part of me. Perhaps it has something to do with those precious memories of my childhood that had taken place there so many summers ago. As a young boy, I used to spend not a few vacays in Mati where some of my maternal relatives used to live. 

All these years, I’d been hankering to visit the city anew. True enough, this came to  fruition last June when I, together with a group of high school buddies, went on a weekend wandering to the city (see my post at It was, however, an overnight trip so we had little time to roam around. 

Landmark at Mati Park and Baywalk
So, I promised myself I’d return to Mati before the year ends, with or without travel buddies. After so many starts and stops, I pushed through with a lone—but not lonely—journey into the heart of Coconut Country. It was a bold decision that gave me cold feet for weeks prior to the trip, lasting up to the very day of my departure for the city! Go or no go?, I kept asking myself many times. 

Part of the zigzag road
What’s so scary about Mati? Absolutely nothing! It’s only me who has some unresolved issues that have kept me from exploring it on my own. Blame it on childhood traumas I haven’t conquered that time. As a kid, I remembered puking each time the bus started to negotiate through the serpentine stretch leading to the town. The rough and rugged condition of the road that time made it all worse.

Pujada Bay as seen from Badas
Lest I give the wrong impression, be assured that it’s safe, secure and stimulating to take your vacay in Mati. If one is coming from the cities of either Davao or Tagum, the well-paved stretch to the city is arguably one of Mindanao’s smoothest—so much so I was driving at speeds ranging from 80 to 110 kph at certain points! Good grief, traffic enforcers would have skinned me alive if I did that in our city!

It was truly a helluva catharsis for this vagabond who hasn’t run a car at those speeds for the longest time. What made me uncomfortable though was driving over the homestretch—the eight-kilometer zigzag road starting from Badas all the way to the city center. Surely, the sight of picturesque Pujada Bay and the distant cityscape of Mati would take your breath away but that’s not the issue here. 

One more look at Sleeping Dinosaur Island
Those who’ve driven a Mati-bound vehicle know how intimidating it is to navigate through that part of the road network. Definitely no room for error; any miscalculated maneuver by the driver on the way to the city could send the vehicle skidding into the edge of the ravines and—heaven forbid!—end up in a lethal fall down below. Now, that’s the part that really scared the hell out of me!

Archway to City Hall
But I was determined to conquer one of my fears. I’ve made a pact with myself that whenever I turn a year older, I have to overcome at least one of the things that had been sending shivers down my spine. Mustering up enough courage, I went on with the solo sojourn to Mati, which, to my delight, ended up as one of the most exhilarating stunts I’ve ever pulled in my whole life!

Fresh seafood stew for the soul
Mati Pylon
Having survived the gut-wrenching episode at the gorges, I felt new reserves of courage circulate throughout my nerves, arming me with renewed confidence to win the battle against self-doubt. Geez, I’ve freed myself from one of my greatest fears!, I heard myself saying. As a fitting reward for that feat, I treated myself to a hearty meal at one of my favorite seafood restos in town—Seaside Grill!

Dahican Beach
Surrounded by two bodies of water—Pujada Bay and Mayo Bay–Mati is admired for its white-sand beaches, foremost of which is Dahican Beach, which I, together with my travel mates, explored last June. Located about ten kilometers away from the city proper, the beach, known as the country’s Skimboarding Capital, attracts hordes of swimmers, skimboarders and other sun-worshipers. 

On this recent escapade to the city, however, I missed out on the captivating beach as I spent more time roaming around the downtown area. Instead of staying at a resort in Dahican just like the last time, I billeted myself in one of the old hotels in the city center so I can easily explore the interesting places there. I wanted to revisit a few landmarks and visit the new ones I didn’t see last June.

St. Nicholas of Tolentine Cathedral
On top of my itinerary was going to St. Nicholas of Tolentine Cathedral to say a prayer of thanks for a safe journey to Mati. Too bad, all the entrances to the church were locked that time so I proceeded to City Hall, which, I forgot, was also closed for the weekend! Whew, I ended up taking shots of two nearby landmarks I saw, the Mati Pylon and the City Hall Archway. Not bad. 

Pujada Bay at dusk
Later that afternoon, I went to the park and baywalk, which are just a few meters away from my hotel to watch the sun go down. Dusk was about to settle and I wanted to capture the fabulous event. Got to have my own take of that picture-perfect scene, I thought. To my dismay, the sunset over Pujada Bay turned out to be a bummer for me! It was a far cry from the picture-perfect snaps I’ve seen from various websites.  

Looking back, I take comfort at the crowning glory of my sojourn, that is, seeing two of Mati's three islands—Pujada and Wanibanalbeit from a distance from a lookout point near Badas. Of the three, Pujada is the biggest, Waniban is next while Oak is the smallest, visible only at low tide and vanishes at high tide. I’d been raring to capture all of them in one frame but managed to snap only two. Too bad, I didn’t get to be in any of them.

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Undoubtedly, the second coming to Mati this year was a dream come true for this dyed-in-the-wool thrill-seeker. It was a personal feat that upsized my sense of self into something I’ve never imagined. It was an exhilarating joyride that gave me not only a gritty taste of personal triumph over one of my fears but also a grisly aftertaste of life on the edge (pun intended…LOL!) while driving on my own. 

That confidence-building solitary sojourn to Davao Oriental’s capital arguably boosted my spirits.  I now feel more adequate, competent and empowered to mount yet another sojourn around Mindanao’s cities. After Mati, could Butuan, Iligan, Surigao, Tandag, General Santos and the others be far behind? Hmmm, the idea of driving my way to all of them thrills me to the max! 

A day after my Mati escapade, I came across these  wonderful, inspiring lines which I thought of quoting to wrap up this post. I couldn’t agree more with whoever wrote them. For me, it hit the nail right on the head. So, I say, many thanks, Mati, for helping me “cheat on one of my fears, break up with my doubts and get engaged with my faith. Now, I’m married to one of my dreams.” :D

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