Life is full of many first times and we have to be open for these new experiences and events in our lives. On the third week of August 2015, I was able to experience another “first time” in my life – be a solo traveler! I was scared and excited at the same to be honest, but a lot of women have been doing it for years and they have been successful at it. Well, for my first time to be a solo traveler, I went to one of the world’s safest city in the world: Davao City.
I was blessed to be able to fly for free because of the flight voucher I received from Cebu Pacific when our flight from Manila to Cebu was cancelled and we were transferred to another flight. I had only 6 months to use it so I booked it on the third week of August; little did I know those dates were the dates for the Kidayawan Festival in Davao City which I learned only a week before my flight. I got excited with the thought of actually attending a well-known local festival, but unfortunately I was not able to see it up close and personal and only from the hotel’s TV feed. It was very hot that weekend in Davao City, a lot of people were in the place where the street dance was being held and it was kind of traffic around that part of town. So I ended up skipping watching the Kidayawan street dances. But you know that there are festivities going on because my flight was full and there are also many tourists in Davao.
I’m baffled every time people learn that I am alone on that trip when many other tourists have been roaming around the world alone, and Davao City is a major Philippine destination and for sure many solo travelers had gone that route as well. I learned quite a bit from being a first time solo traveler. For one, it’s much more expensive since you need to shoulder all the bills and have no one to split it up with. It was ok though; I’ve prepared and saved up for this trip and have a set budget already. You have lesser photos of yourself in all the places you’ve visited. I didn’t bring a selfie stick with me (I was kinda shy to bring one actually) and I’m not good at taking selfies. Thank God for nice random strangers, hotel and restaurant staff and guards who willingly took photos of me. But it was ok, I was able to appreciate more of the places I visited and focused less on taking photos of myself which I have had so much in my previous trips. This made me appreciate more the places I’ve been to, the food I ate (which was a lot!) and the people I met. I also was carefree with time; I would leave and go back to the hotel whenever I want to. I don’t have to wait for other people and waste time and bargain in deciding where to go and where to eat.
I learned a couple of words from the local dialect too! Travelling solo wasn't so scary or lonely after all, like others think it would be. I also got to practice independence and courage; I didn’t worry if my itinerary wasn't followed or if I got lost. But of course to be on the safe side, I always send a message my family as to where I am currently located or tell the hotel staff where I am going. I would love to do it again actually and go to more unfamiliar places. Well maybe, who knows…
Bankerohan Public Market
On my last day in Davao City, I woke up early and hailed a cab to go to Bankerohan Public Market to check out and buy fruits that I can bring home as souvenirs back to Manila. Bankerohan Public Market is located at the A. Pichon Street and E. Quirino Ave. Poblacion District and is one of the major and biggest public markets in town. Davao City is a well known place in the Philippines that produce fruits and seafood, which is what the Kidayawan Festival is actually about.
I am one of those people who doesn’t mind going to markets with wet floors and pungent smells, I actually have roamed around streets and alleys in Divisoria and Binondo that I know many wouldn’t dare to go. So I basically enjoyed my short trip to the Bankerohan Public Market. The timing of my trip couldn’t be any more perfect because most of the fruits that Davao produces were in season like marang, durian, rambutan, mangosteen and their sweet pomelo.
The day before, I already asked one of the staff from the resort to teach me some words from the local dialect so I can get products at a much lower price or haggle a bit so that sellers would think I’m a local or I know how to speak the dialect. These are the phrases I learned: “tagpilan ni?” (how much?) and “pahangyo” (give some discount please). Which I think kinda worked somehow.
The people I’ve talked to about going to Bankerohan Public Market actually told me to go there in the wee hours of the morning so that I can haggle more than usual and also get to taste the puto maya (sticky rice) and sikwate (hot cocoa drink) being sold in the area. Unfortunately I was not able to do so. But the seller of the fruit stand that I went to was nice enough to let me taste the fruits first before I decided to buy.
I was curious about this fruit marang which I saw on TV, read in blogs and from friends’ stories. That’s what I looked for first and I was amazed of how good it tasted. I ended up buying only one because most that are available were already ripe and marang gets easily over ripe in hours. I also bought a couple of pomelo which I got a PHP 5 discount per kilo. I didn’t bought durian and other fruits anymore since the weight of my check-in baggage were very limited. I also had to buy a box where the fruits were placed because the airlines don’t allow them to be hand carried. Marang and durian have a certain smell to them that can be unpleasant to some.
I wish I could have stayed and roamed longer at Bankerohan Public Market and eat puto maya with sikwate but my budget and time was limited and I had to go to other places for my last day in Davao City. Aside from that, I also regret that I should have had learned Bisaya or asked my mom to teach me when I was little, it could have been very helpful and I could have haggled some more. Well, there’s always a next time.
A. Pichon St. and E. Quirino Ave.
Poblacion District, Davao City, Davao del Sur