The sound of the waves hitting the shore was music to my ears after enduring a 12-hour travel from Manila to Mati. The travel experience included rushing out of the airport, ala "Amazing Race", as soon as the plane landed from Clark, to intercept the bus that my brother hopped on in downtown Davao. Four and a half hours after boarding the bus, we were rolling in to the sleepy city of Mati. We were tired, hungry, but EXCITED.
When my Mindanao-based brother and I first talked about taking a trip somewhere in Mindanao, Mati was his obvious choice. He missed riding the waves after moving in to Cagayan de Oro in 2017. I loved the idea because Mati was new place for me to discover and explore.
The city of Mati is not like most cities. Located on south eastern side of Mindanao, it is void of the usual high concentration of buildings and establishments that we usually find in an urban set-up. It evokes a provincial vibe more than a city. It is a popular weekend beach escape on this side of the country and its claim to fame are the waters of Dahican Beach which is ideal for skimboarding.
Join me as we explore the sites and the sounds of Mati, the provincial capital of Davao Oriental.
Our first stop for this trip is its famous Dahican Beach!
Located 30 minutes away from the city center, my brother and I opted to make Dahican Surf Camp our pitstop for this trip. The surf camp is a beachfront resort located in the middle of Dahican's seven-kilometer shoreline of white sand beach facing Mayo Bay.
Dahican Beach is Mati's prime tourism draw. Its white sand beach attracts beach bums for its chill and laidback vibe. Watching the sun rise on its horizon is a great reward for early risers. Or you can also enjoy watching fishermen haul in their catch in the morning. For evening persons, you can have your fix by enjoying your fave drink while indulging yourself to house music blending perfectly with the sound of the waves crashing along its shores.
The waves of Dahican also attracts adrenaline junkies. It is a popular skim boarding spot in Mindanao, and there are spots in the area where you can also enjoy riding its swells. My brother had a grand time body surfing while I enjoyed watching skim boarders skim along its shores.
The raw beauty of Dahican Beach can give other Philippine beach spot a run for the money. I loved how unassuming the place is despite its beauty. It has something to offer for all types of travelers, from beach chilling to challenging its waves.
Davao Oriental prides itself for having an area that is rich in biodiversity. And a visit to the Subangan Museum will give you an overview of the province's rich ecology, culture, and history.
The first floor of the museum showcases the rich cultural heritage and history of Davao Oriental. It gives you a glimpse of the way of life of the different tribes from its region, from a historical point of view to the present. You will be amazed at the colorful artistry found in their body ornaments and the way they dress. A special room also gives its guest a walkthrough on how the region was affected by climate change.
The second floor is an exciting exhibit that makes you feel, see, and hear the rich beauty of its natural resources. It walks you through the Davao Oriental's tourist attractions, mossy forests, and awesome cave systems. And it walks you through the exhibit by making you experience how it feels to be in those places. The exhibit is experiential which makes you excited to discover the real thing.
At the center of all the exhibit is the skeletal remains of Davor, a sperm whale that died in 2010 along the waters of Governor Generoso. It is the first whale exhibit in the country and the 7th largest on display in the world, measuring 53 feet in length. Its name is derived from the province's name to signify the rich biodiversity of Davao Oriental.
The Subangan Museum is one the well-curated museums that I have visited here in the Philippines. I came out full of new information that I picked up in a fun and interesting way. Definitely, it stands by its name derived from the local phrase "Subang sa Adlaw" which roughly translates to "first light of the day". The museum does serve as a the "first light" in understanding its culture, history, and natural beauty of Davao Oriental.
Provincial Capitol and People's Park
Standing atop a hill overlooking the Pujada Bay, the Davao Oriental Provincial Capitol is the province's seat of power. It is the most dominant structure in Mati's skyline.
Adjacent to the Provincial Capitol Building is the People's Park - a sprawling open space park. A small monument honoring Andres Bonifacio and a Children's Playground are the prominent attraction in the park.
Cathedral of San Nicolas de Tolentino
Located at the heart of the city, the Cathedral of San Nicolas de Tolentino is the center of the Catholic faith in the city.
Its modern and minimal approach in its architecture make the structure blend with the modest atmosphere of the city. From the outside, the church may seem like your usual neighborhood church but you will appreciate it more once you step inside the church.
Its modern minimalist design extends to its interiors. You will be impressed with its high ceilings and its simple altar with its wood finishing that gives it a very warm and homey feel.
Mati Bay Walk
Just a few meters walk from the church is a sprawling park facing Pujada Bay - the Baywalk. The open field park sits behind the breakwaters giving its guests a beautiful view of the bay and the surrounding mountains of the province.
This is a popular afternoon spot for locals where they can enjoy the view and the breeze while spending time with family and friends. This is where you would also find the "I Love Mati" sign with the Pujada Bay as its backdrop.
Mati City Hall
The City Hall of Mati serves as the center of governance of the city. Located two blocks away from the Baywalk, you can take a 5-minute walk to the city hall and you also get to enjoy a usual day in Mati.
Check out the city's watchtower and its garden that bears the busts of the city's mayors. You will also find the city's pylon a few meters from the city hall gate.
Sleeping Dinosaur of Mati
Another famous spot in Mati is its Sleeping Dinosaur. It is a viewing deck atop a hill that overlooks Pujada Bay and the surrounding landscape around it. It got its name because the landmass that separates Pujada Bay and Balete Bay looks like a sleeping dinosaur resting on the bay's waters.
The view deck is located along the city's outskirts on the western side. You can take a bus bound for Davao or Tagum and you can ask the driver to drop you at the Sleeping Dinosaur View Deck. Alternatively if you are coming from Davao, you can ask the driver to drop you off at the view deck before you head off to the city center.
Be prepared to be physically challenged with a short and a bit steep 15-minute hike to the view deck. This part of the trip caught me off-guard that I was huffing and puffing when we reached the view deck.
But your huffing and puffing will be rewarded by the amazing views of the land and sea of Davao Oriental. I was lucky to come in without the crowd that I was able to enjoy 30-minutes of unadulterated view of the "Sleeping Dinosaur" while getting refreshed by the breeze coming in from the sea.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
At first glance, the city of Mati may seem to be a sleepy and unassuming Philippine destination. Most people would probably associate it with Dahican Beach and skimboarding. But beyond the white sand and the adrenaline, the city gives you an interesting sneak peek of what you can discover and explore in this city and Davao del Sur.
The province is a pot of gold for travelers and Mati has not seen the last of me yet. Well, kelangan lang talaga na matibay ka if you plan to visit Mati. The travel from Manila alone can be taxing but it's a trip worth taking. Maybe on my next trip to Mati, I should take it a "notch higher".
Tara! Mati, Bai!
Getting There: Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, and Philippine Airlines have regular flights to Davao City from Manila, Clark, and major cities in the Philippines. From the airport, you can walk to the highway where you can take a bus to Mati City. You can take a tricycle or ride a habal-habal to go to Dahican Beach or to go around the city.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.