My family ends and starts each year in our hometown, Davao City, and 2012/2013 was no different. Apart from spending time with our extended families, this is also the time we explore all that is new in the city.
To a great extent, the city is like a microcosm of the Philippines. It has come a long way since I left in 2000, but the road to get to where it is now has not always seemed to be a straight upward path, much like the rest of the country. There’s the story of the new airport terminal, which took ages to open after having been built…very much like the story of Manila’s NAIA 3…typical victims of squabbling that seems to be mandatory in every government project.
There were also periods where there seemed to be nothing going on, when time seemed to stay still…and also times where everything seemed to be happening at the same time, when you feel the world is in a rush. The past couple of years has been like the latter. There’s construction all over the place…hotels, malls and condominium buildings sprouting up, all vying to alter the city’s skyline…a small-scale mirror of the same resurgence we are seeing here in Manila.
SM Lanang Premier
The end of 2012 marked the opening of city’s second mid-to-high market mall. A year or so after the Ayala’s opened Abreeza just a few kilometers away in the northern half of the city, the SM group opened their second mall in the city, but this time they brought their “Premier” brand with it. Unlike the older SM City Davao in the southern half, the SM Lanang Premier is not your typical provincial SM mall – and you see the difference all the way from the interior styling, to the layout of the basement parking. The sprawling complex revolves around a 3-level central atrium, and branches out to an SMX convention center, two outdoor dining strips – one of which is a shortened copy of the SM North Edsa’s Sky Garden, and a wing for the movie houses. The parking is likewise equipped with the same sensor system used in their flagship malls – a first in the city. Indeed the place is, in some ways, like a chopped-off version SM’s Mall of Asia, their latest flagship – only, this one does not have the benefit of a view of the Manila Bay sunset. The mall is right along the highway in Lanang, one of Davao’s urbanizing districts.
I’m not sure when this next place was built, pretty recent I guess by the looks of it, but I only found out about its existence during the last Christmas break. It is perhaps one of the most unique religious sights you’ll find anywhere. The Covenant Mountain and Prayer Center in Tamayong, Calinan district – also known as the “Garden of Eden Reborn” – is indeed a garden like no other. Though a “holy site” for the followers of the “Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name”, the place is open for visitors (reservations required, and a dress code is enforced), and they don’t seem to mind what religion or denomination their visitors come from.
The place is indeed a very beautiful and relaxing place – religious differences aside – but beautiful as the place may be (it looks like a well manicured park actually), just treat it with reverence, as you would any place of worship. Reservations can be made at the office of “Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name” along Diversion Road (near the Airport Terminal).
20 years ago, more or less, Victoria Plaza was the place to be. It was the city’s first mall, though nowadays it’s been reduced to a shadow – or not even – of its former self. However the immediate surroundings of the mall still has some kick in it, so to speak, especially if we talk about food. Some of the restaurants within the vicinity have become legends, like Ah-fat and Emerald.
Davao has also been no stranger to the “Korean wave”, and indeed it’s not uncommon to find Koreans in this city, and along with them came a number of Korean restaurants and grocery stores. I was looking for a good Korean resto in the city and was guided to this quaint but brightly lit corner in the Victoria Plaza compound called Seoul Ga. As we went in I found the place half full, mostly with real Koreans – a good sign, I thought. I ordered my usual favorites, and was quite happy with what we got. I’m no connoisseur, but I could say that what they had was certainly not bad at all, and was certainly better than any Korean food I could find in the malls here in Manila, and for much less.
Seoul Ga is within the Victoria Plaza compound, in J.P. Laurel Avenue.
The phenomenon of small, “non-commercialized”, family run restaurants that’s been the rave in Manila since some time ago has not quite caught on in Davao, but it might be heading that way. Casa Munda, deep inside Juna Subdivision is one such. Situated in an old family house converted into a restaurant, the place gives a quiet, cozy feel that no mall restaurant could hope to offer.
Unlike most “hole in the wall” type restaurants though, that mostly focus on one type of cuisine, Casa Munda has a curious mix of local and international dishes on their menu. The pictures below practically describes what I mean…you get bread with olive oil and vinaigrette (Italian) at the start, then next comes a local soup, sinigang – two flavors that don’t compliment each other in any way. However if you are not particular about this stuff and just love food for what it is, then it’s no big deal. We could have added pasta to our orders too, but we decided to make our dinner an all-Filipino one (except for the bread and olive oil).
Overall, we had a great dinner at this place, and I would highly recommend this to anyone seeking a bite…and a break from the noise of a growing city.
Casa Munda is along Ma. Loreto St. in Juna Subdivision, near the St. Paul parish and Philippine Women’s College.
For my previous posts about my hometown, click here.
* All photos taken last December 2012-January 2013, with a Panasonic Lumix LX5