When people ask me, “Why Davao?” I always have to restrain myself from raising an eyebrow and giving them my “Are-you-freaking-kidding-me?” look. Because why NOT Davao? What is not to love?
Please excuse the attitude. It is not a superiority complex and we do not mean to offend. You see we Davaoeños truly do not understand that question. It is like a given in a mathematical equation that we no longer try to solve any further. We are just grateful we live here and wonder why there are still people who do not get it.
If you cannot go to the bukid, the bukid will come to you. So when my colleagues at the Mindanao Commission on Women (MCW) suggested we eat at “BalikBukid” for lunch, my first thought was “how far do we need to travel for that?” Turns out it is very close to our office in Juna Subdivision, Matina because there is a “BalikBukid” along Quimpo Boulevard (near another favorite, “Yellow Fin”).
And they were able to recreate the farm atmosphere with their bahay kubo (nipa hut) restaurant and an urban garden of vegetables growing in recycled containers just outside. Even the furniture inside the restaurant are made of recycled materials and you have to visit it to see how creative and innovative they are with their design.
When Davaoeños have to go to Metro Manila (because I don’t think we really want to, right?), we are filled with dread. We immediately get stressed thinking about the traffic (sure, we have school zone speed limits now, but at least vehicles are moving); the pollution; the smoking; the alarming crime rate (at least, here there are no random killings, it’s all deliberate, targeting only specific criminals or so I would like to believe). But I think what stresses us most when going to the national capital is the lack of fresh, locally-grown, thoughtfully prepared slow food.
Eating French conjures images of fine dining in a fancy setting with strict dress codes and snotty waiters mocking your difficulty in pronouncing the expensive items on the menu. And for basically laid-back Davaoeños who avoid everything pretentious and anything that would require them to go through all the fuss of dressing up just to eat food they hardly understand and priced ridiculously high, French dining would be too intimidating and too exhausting an exercise.
But Bon Appétit, the French bistro owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Yves and Rosalie Monestier, made eating French food accessible and affordable for Davaoeños. Bon Appétit just opened at Plaza del Carmen in Loyola Street, Davao City (it’s that street opposite F. Torres when you cross J.P. Laurel Avenue) last June 18, 2011. A bistro is usually described as a “small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting.”
But only the price and the space are moderate about Bon Appétit, everything else is simply divine.
And so it happened. Starbucks has come to Davao City courtesy of the newly opened Abreeza Mall. A friend of mine, a dermatologist, told me how shocked her well-traveled 13-year old daughter was when they first visited Abreeza. “Mom, why are people lining up to go to Starbucks? It’s just a store that sells coffee,” my friend’s daughter asked. To which she replied: “Anak,it’s also like that when Dunkin’ Donuts first opened in Davao. Because it’s new.” (By the way, many Davaoeños also swear by Dunkin Donuts coffee.)
For those of us who were there when Dunkin Donuts first came to Davao in Ilustre Street (now Duterte Street), we all remember the long lines of curious and excited people that lasted for several weeks. And then we also remember when people stopped going there and went back to their favorite neighborhood bakery for good old-fashioned “pilipit” and hot, greasy donuts rolled in regular white sugar and instant coffee.
I asked my 12-year old goddaughter, Alexie Sencio, with whom we have been spending our summer vacations for two consecutive years now, if they are asked in school to write an essay about how they spent their summer vacation. Alexie gave me a puzzled look as if I just asked her a very strange question. “No, tita, we were never asked to do that in school,” she said.
Alexie dreams of going to college in University of California in Berkeley
Alexie goes to the Immaculate Conception Academy (ICA) in Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila. It caters mainly to Chinese-Filipino female students. Alexie is not Chinese, but she goes to ICA because, according to her mom, Mayie Sencio, it’s the closest school to their house. I don’t know if it’s just ICA or if this is something all schools now no longer do, but I do remember being expected to write an essay entitled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” in every grade level during my elementary school years. In fact, this essay has always been my inspiration to do something exciting and new every summer vacation of my childhood.
The most memorable trip we took in 2011 was not to a destination that needed a passport or a visa. It just took us three and half hours drive from Davao City and we did not need to pack a lot of stuff. In fact, we wore clothes that we were most comfortable in since we were kids — t-shirt, shorts, and slippers. We did not plan the trip and we had no prepared itinerary. And it’s the best trip we ever had!
I watched the “Eat Pray Love” movie with my mom at NCCC Cinema after voting in the Barangay Elections. I have the book gathering dust in my bookshelf since 2008 but I haven’t been really inspired to read it for some reason. I was hoping the movie would push me to go read it already (you know what they say, the book is always better than the movie – something that did not bother the book author, Elizabeth Gilbert, who said that the movie is a different entity from the book so it is kind of ridiculous to compare the two, or something like that).
The movie poster for “Eat Pray Love”
I was interested to see how the movie’s director, Ryan Murphy (yes, the creator of the TV phenomenon, “Glee”), would translate Gilbert’s travel memoir into film. Will there be musical numbers? A soundtrack by Lady Gaga, perhaps? Will Sue Sylvester make a cameo appearance as one of the spiritual gurus?
City folks that we are who operate on a different time zone, we naturally came late to the Malagos Farm Fair on Sunday, August 8th, the second and last day of this first-of-its kind event in the country. Our late noon arrival was greeted by Davao rain and some people were starting to get into their cars and heading home as we were getting in.
Charita Puentespina (or Tita Charie), is the mother of the amazing Puentespina brood and Davao’s waling-waling
Angel Puentespina greeted us at the reception area and he and Neil immediately engaged in bonsai talk. A few weeks earlier Neil and I were at the Puentespina Gardens in Bolcan Street, Agdao looking for bonsai pots. Angel happened to be there and helped us rummage through their old pots, unearthing treasures under the thick dust in their storage area, and delighted that someone is nurturing an interest in cultivating bonsai and gardening in general. Angel’s mother, Tita Charita Puentespina, has a beautiful bonsai garden in Malagos, which she left for cacao farming, where her heart now lies.
I can still remember the first time I tasted the fabulous Malagos Bignay wine. It was at the Holiday Gym at F. Torres Street. Yes, I am a regular at Holiday Gym. Not to “work out,” but to “eat out” at their coffee shop, where Chef Paddy Lascano introduced me to a whole new level of eating. I may not be among the most physically fit Holiday regulars, but I am definitely one of the well-nourished ones.
Olive Puentespina made Patmei’s life taste better than ever
While Chef Paddy and I were talking about the South Beach diet after lunch one day in 2006, Olive Puentespina dropped by with this huge jug of red stuff. Chef Paddy insisted I take a sip as he gushed about how good it was and how everyone who drinks it gets transformed. Curious to find out about how it could possibly change me, I excitedly took a sip. And I have never been the same again.