Hidden Wonders of Sta. Maria, Davao del Sur
Written by Jojie Alcantara
Photos by Jojie Alcantara and Rhonson Ng
There’s a tempting getaway from stress and urban hub in a matter of two hours or ninety six kilometers south of Davao City. All it takes is a bus or private vehicle for a smooth and scenic ride to a little municipality called Sta. Maria in Davao del Sur. How do you know that you’re there? After a panoramic vista of Malalag Bay over a cliff, you’ll see their municipal building built strategically in front of a hill, with a fountain in the foreground.
This quiet municipality will seem to be untouched by time, yet thriving in its simple life. In its poblacion, tricycles and motorized cabs ply the roads. In farflung barangays, habal-habals (modified motorcycles) fetch passengers to destinations. If you’re brave enough, you can ride a “skylab” which is designed to fit six to eight passengers sitting precariously on makeshift wood slabs tied or bolted together around a motorcycle.
In remote coastal barangays, pumpboats and bancas are used as transportation. Newly opened roads finally gave access to folks who used to travel to the barrio in the waters and where kids went to schools in small boats.
Sta. Maria boasts of hidden wonders that may surprise you yet. A foray into its 22 barangays will take you from coastlines to highlands, showcasing natural riches, from sprawling virgin forest, arable crop lands, beaches of varied textures, cascading falls, winding brackish waters, and a diversity in flora and fauna. Add to that the warm hospitality of tribal communities like the Tagakaolos, upland dwellers who still perform tribal dance rituals.
There are so many picturesque scenes of local life to appreciate: the fishing village, floating cages and fish sanctuary in Malalag Bay, the abaca hemp plantation, the well-crafted native “banig” products, the tasty lechon delicacies and popular pansit in Don Miguel Foodhaus.
Get a taste of various beaches that line coastal areas, from black sand to pristine white shores, like Colongan Beach Resort, Wow Kiss Resort, Titanic Beach, Splash Blue and others. Resorts are simple, accessible and with adequate amenities to provide guests. There is a cove in Colagsing Point which cradles a hidden spectacular white strip. Its sands are like soft powder. A mystical large rock at the tip of the cove resembles a face of a man (or The Grinch, depending on how you see it), and they call it “Lungag Bato” (hole in a rock), describing a small cave beside it.
The most popular landmark, however, is Little Boracay Beach Resort, a hidden scenic cove frequented by those who crave for privacy and retreat. The calm, blue sea is at high tide in the morning, but by noon waves pull back to expose a lengthy expanse of creamy shoreline perfect for a family outing. Cottages (P500-3000) vary in sizes, and can accommodate ten in a dorm- type airconditioned room. A restaurant can hold retreats and seminars. You can also order a sumptuous lunch of kinilaw and fresh sugba sent to your room.
Young men will offer banca rides (Ph20-30) for a smooth tour along its coast. Fishermen sell fresh catch from the boat. Trek by a rocky cliff side pockmarked with interesting patterns from the impact of waves.
Daily flights are available from Manila and Cebu to Davao City. To reach Sta. Maria by public transport from Davao City, both aircon and non-aircon buses are bound for Malita (Php80-150) on a regular schedule. From the town of Malita, ride a tricycle (P20 per head) into Sta. Maria, the quiet municipality with the welcoming locals, who are eager to show you the hidden wonders. Currently, the government’s tourism project is encouraging people to come visit the place with its enticing slogan, “I Love Sta. Maria!” And you will.
Araw ng Sta. Maria is celebrated on June 15-18, 2011. Come visit!
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(Jojie Alcantara is a travel photographer and lifestyle columnist based in Davao City, who explores off-the-beaten paths that she shares through stories and images featured in publications and online (www.pbase.com/jojie_alcantara). Rhonson Ng is an award winning photographer who contributes to international magazines and rode the “skylab” perilously uphill on a cliff to shoot the Tagakaolo tribe who was last documented in the 70s. Both documented unexplored Sta. Maria for tourism. (http://rhonsonphotos.com)