Flight to Manado

Davao Philippines

“I would suggest you take the flight from Manila to Davao on the southern tip of the island of Mindanao, South Philippines, and for your forward journey take an Indonesian airline across to Manado.”

The travel agent stared at me as I looked at options for my journey. It made little sense for me to return to Singapore and make a round trip through Jakarta to Manado on East Indonesia’s island Sulawesi. That would take the best part of two days by air with necessary stopovers, whereas what the travel agent suggested appeared to involve a few hours of air travel. So I instructed her to buy the tickets trusting all would be well.
The Portuguese were the first to refer to Sulawesi as ‘Celebes’ however the origins of this name are unclear. One suggestion is the Bugis word si-lebih for ‘more islands’ – a reference to its shape suggesting it was more than one island. The modern name ‘Sulawesi’ possibly comes from the words sula (‘island’) and besi (‘iron’) thought to be reference to the rich Lake Matano iron deposits. Other suggestion is that it comes from the Portuguese word “celebres” or “famous ones”, as these islands were famous for their spices throughout Asia and even Europe, this being the reason that attracted them to these islands. Wikapedia
So I headed for Manila with the calm assurance our travel agent knew her business and all would be well. It was in Manila I paid my customary respects to the financial institutions in downtown Makati which I now knew my way around rather well.

I also had no problems in Cebu City or Cagayan de Oro where I’d similar business matters to attend to. I assumed the same pleasant circumstances would follow me to my international transit point Davao. As it was my first visit there Davao was an unfamiliar city to me, but as it was a transit point I approached that leg of the journey with confidence. My confidence was misplaced.

On arrival in Davao I made my way to the ticket counter of the Indonesian Airline I was to take across the ocean to Manado Indonesia. Everything was deserted in that part of the airport. Attempts to find someone who represented the airline proved to be futile and no one seemed to know what was happening. But it was obvious other intending passengers must have been notified because no one was there at the check in time written on my schedule. Eventually someone of authority at the airport came to my rescue, and after several phone calls informed me the flight for that day had been cancelled and I should present myself for the flight next afternoon.

As I’d already exchanged my Philippine currency thinking I’d not need it at a transit point I was in a bit of a quandary. I’m sure taxi drivers would have been delighted to take me anywhere in Davao for a USD 50 note, but that would be the costliest taxi ride in the history of Davao and I’d no intention of being the one to provide that excessively generous gesture. So I looked around and eventually found a fellow traveller who provided me an assortment of currencies for my USD 50 note, including a peso top up. With my newly acquired local currency I was soon on my way to town in search of accommodation for the night. Eventually I found a place to stay for a reasonable price and after depositing luggage in the room returned to the foyer to see what was worth venturing out to see. As I’m always curious about the history and culture of a place when I arrive for the first time I looked for information brochures on Davao.
Davao Region, designated as Region XI, is one of the regions of the Philippines, located on the southeastern portion of Mindanao. Davao Region consists of four provinces, namely: Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Davao del Sur. The region encloses the Davao Gulf and its regional center is Davao City. Davao is the Hispanicized pronunciation of daba-daba, the Bagobo word for “fire” (the Cebuano translation is “kayo”).
This region also bears the nickname Silicon Gulf.
CULTURAL GROUPS The region is an in-migration area, with a mixture of migrants, which include Cebuanos (making up the majority), Ilonggos and Ilocanos. Its ethnic groups include Manobos, Bagobos, Maiisakas, Maguindanon, T’boli, Tirurays and Muslims.
CLIMATE The region has a generally uniform distribution of rainfall through the year. It lies outside the typhoon belt.
NATURAL RESOURCES Aside from its forestland and fertile fields, Southern Mindanao has mineral resources of chrornite, iron, nickel, and manganese, gold, copper and other non-metallic minerals. Five of the major fishing grounds of the Philippines are located in the region.
ECONOMY While the region’s economy is predominantly agri-based. it is now developing into a center for agro-industrial business, trade and tourism. Its competitive advantage is in agri-industry as its products, bananas, pineapples, fresh asparagus, and fish products are exported abroad. The region can be a vital link to markets in other parts of Mindanao, Brunei Darussalam and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia.
There is a gradual shift to industrialization as shown with industry’s growth rate of 8.1% in 1996. Other economic activities are mining, fishery, forestry and agriculture.
FACILITIES The region’s principal ports are the Sasa International Seaport in Sasa, Sta. Ana Pier in the Chinatown District, Panabo Seaport in Davao del Norte, and Mati Seaport in Davao Oriental. Infrastructure developments in the cities within the region are considered excellent.
The airport in Davao City is the largest and most developed in Mindanao. The region is accessible by land, air and sea. The region has adequate communications facilities, reliable power and an abundant water supply. Wikipedia
I didn’t see much to tempt a tourist in that information sheet so after a brief walk around streets near my hotel I retreated to my room and sought comfort in an evening of TV entertainment, but trying to guess what was happening on screen without knowledge of the language soon became tiresome and I opted for an early night instead.
Next day I was at the airport bright and early. I’ve discovered even if your name is on a reserved list it can disappear miraculously unless you are the first in line and check the list. Being first in line gives plenty of time to go inside the inner sanctum of the day duty officer and persuade them to put it back on again if a bad fairy has taken it off. My name was not on the list, but after appropriate respect had been shown it reappeared in someone else’s slot.
Now the airline I was booked on was a carrier that didn’t have a fleet of the latest jets. My craft turned out to be a four engine relic of another era which looked like it had been resurrected from a WWII graveyard. However it had lots of courage and made its way painfully to the required altitude to cruise on to Manado. On board was an assortment of passengers including high ranking officials. I was nominally in the no-smoking section along with these high ranking gentlemen who collectively lit up their cigarettes in a joint attempt to smoke me out of the cabin. When I pointed out this was the no smoking section to the petite little lass attempting to feed us and care for our needs she glanced at the offenders with a terrified look and shook her head sadly. “Sorry, I can’t help you!”
Out came the food. I have to tell you Indonesian food is some of the best in the world, and they made the nation proud on that ancient aircraft. Included in the goodies served though was an interesting fat green vegetable I’d not seen before. The high ranking officials had been watching me closely since I’d attempted to bring them into line as smokers in the no smoking section. It had been unnerving at first, but I was now used to it and concentrating on the delightful food set before me.
I munched on the fat green vegetable and fires of hell descended on my throat. Caught again! I should have learned my lesson in Trivandrum, India under similar circumstances. This was the mother of all chilies. Its power to destroy was magnificent and I reached for my water bottle as tears and sweat formed a torrent down my cheeks. There was an explosion of mirth in the cabin as the high officials observed my plight. That would teach me to question their right to smoke!
But eventually we reached our destination in Manado and it was wonderful to see my friends at the airport waiting to receive me. I could only whisper my thanks and greetings much to their puzzlement, but by the next day I was fully recovered from the ordeal and able to share the humor of it all with my friends.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2014 All rights reserved”

32 Comments Add yours

  1. Jane Thorne says:

    You are made from frontier stock my friend and this was another good read.. 🙂 x

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    1. There were times when that “frontier stock” had reached its limit! lol

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      1. Jane Thorne says:

        Yes, I am sure you were sorely tested at times! 🙂

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  2. Mags Corner says:

    Happy to know that you were able to get your name to reappear on the board even if it was in another slot. 🙂 Your travels are very interesting to say the least sweet Ian and you seem to have taken them all in stride no matter what you were surprised by or problems that came up. Wow, that must have been a really hot pepper, I doubt I would ever wanted another pepper in any way, shape or form had that happened to me. I love peppers but have never had a taste of any as hot as that…I will pass on ever having one if I have a choice. Another great and educational read my sweet friend! Hugs

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    1. Actually after some of those 6 week trips out in the boonies I’ve been so stressed out with the uncertainties of travel and lack of sleep that I needed a doctor to straighten me out again. lol

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  3. I love the humorous vein of your travelogue! 🙂 The sequence of events at Davao airport (flight cancelled without notice, name struck off reserved list) would have exasperated someone like me to the point of tears, perhaps – maybe I haven’t toughened up yet to the vagaries of international travel. I wonder what dish or chilli in Trivandrum has seared its mark in your memory. South Indian food is spicy, but I haven’t heard of anything so chilli yet… I would love to hear what that dish was. 🙂

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    1. It’s a long time ago, but I clearly remember we had travelled all night to reach Trivandrum, audited all day without stopping for breakfast or lunch and by evening we were ready to eat anything. But it was 9pm and hard to find a place to eat. Not typical as India never sleeps and you can usually find a lot of places looking for business. We had a slab of fish and this green thing that looked like that relative to the time bomb green chilli but usually impotent vegetable called green pepper. We buy them here all the time in Australia and they sit sedately in a salad without any malicious intent. Mind you I can’t eat anything without a little chilli help but there are some varieties which are placed in this world for the single purpose of destruction. I’ve tasted them in India, Indonesia and in Mexican restaurants. But think of how boring life would be without a little surprise at times, and of course there’s the added attraction for onlookers who enjoy watching people humbled. lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! Well, I’m glad this WMD gave you something to remember that Trivandrum night by 🙂

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  4. Damyanti says:

    Such an adventure, on both travel and gastronomical levels!

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    1. After spending much of my life in planes, brim full taxis, air-conditioned buses both with and without windows, rickshaws and even bullock carts I was ready to retire in this most beautiful part of the world and just enjoy it without going anywhere. I have all the pictures necessary to relive my travel memories.

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  5. jstansfeld says:

    Well told story Ian with a touch of tension introduced in the first paragraph. I even suspected that you would eventually end up going through Singapore. I’m very cautious with hot spices even though I love a good curry. My palette isn’t astute enough to savor flavor through a hot spice so I take ’em mild.
    We planted what looked like a decorative Mexican shrub in our garden. It grew fast and in time bore tiny red berries. My husband ate one and was overcome as you were in your journey. The odd thing is that the bush attracts a beautiful bird,which Dan has seen several times and, as yet, not identified. I have not seen it so still don’t know if it is maybe a figment of his imagination brought on by too much heat in his mouth!

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    1. Mexican chilli is renowned for it’s talent to surprise the palette. lol. My father in law used to eat those little red jobs you refer to like candy. He was Hungarian. I’m afraid I wouldn’t attempt to copy his habit. I like a little power in my curries but do have the upper limit gauge. The story is told of an Indian missionary who was on furlough in the US. He was eating in a restaurant and a man at a table opposite noticed he’d sprinkle some red powder on his meal and devour it with satisfaction. So he asked what it was and if the Missionary would allow him to try some. On sampling tears flowed, sweat poured and it took him some time to recover his voice. When he did he exclaimed, “I’ve heard about you fellows, you preach hell fire, but this is the first time I’ve found someone who actually carries a sample in his pocket!”

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  6. borika45 says:

    What empires you gave stored op ergo tears…thanks for sharing them

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  7. billgncs says:

    Ha! That reminded me of a time I went to dine with an Algerian friend. He ordered something, and I ordered the same. He and the waiter looked at me surprised but didn’t say anything. When it arrived, as I was taking the first forkful into my mouth, I happened to inhale. Before I could even take a bite, I had to put my fork down as I had started coughing from the aroma of the chilis.

    I love hearing your stories of travel, and the feel you give for the people who live there, and the cadence of their lives. Next year my wife and I hope to spend 2-3 months in New Zealand and Australia.

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    1. It’s interesting how people “in the know” about cultural foods like to see a new recruit to the cuisine initiated so they can enjoy their distress. lol. Humans are a mean bunch aren’t they? I’m sure you’ll enjoy your trips to Australia and New Zealand. So much to see. Australia is the same size as the USA without Alaska and the whole of Europe will fit into about two thirds of this countries area. But most of the country is desert or semi-desert and the edges of the country are cultivatable so most of our population live there. Another interesting comparison is that the Australian population, big as the land area is, is no more than the population of that dot in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka.

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      1. billgncs says:

        Thanks Ian – good point about the population – the West in the US has sections that are barren like that – but not on the massive scale. We’ll try to spend 2 weeks in Fiji, then split 2 – three months between Australia and New Zealand. The Great Barrier Reef is in our plans, and there’s a drive along the ocean that is recommended – but really to me, I just like to feel the flavor and pace of the people who live there – as opposed to whirlwind tours. We’ll see.

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      2. That’s a good plan. In 1980 we did that kind of trip around the USA by car exiting wherever we felt like it and meeting the people. You will find that kind of activity gives an entirely different perspective to the movies made in respective countries of travel. The Barrier Reef is a good one, Some take a look at Ayer’s Rock in Australia’s centre. I think the ocean road you refer to is out of Melbourne in the deep south. The climate here goes from temperate to sub tropical to tropical much like the USA though topography, fauna and wildlife are very much different. Australia Zoo not far from where we live is one of the tourist must see places. Gold Coast south from us is another tourist trap and has all the Los Angelis type of tourist stuff. The Kimberly areas of north west Australia are interesting if your are into Aboriginal sites. Oh, while you are on your way to the Barrier Reef you will probably boat out from Cairns. If that’s your plan go to the Jabakai Aboriginal theme park just outside Cairns, take the cable way up the mountain to Karanda on the Atherton Tablelands and return by the scenic railway to Cairns. New Zealand has a lot of scenic stuff and Polynesian culture.

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  8. cardamone5 says:

    I would have died, not liking spicy food in the least. Your experience is well written and the tone evokes memories of being anywhere foreign: the fool hardiness of assuming control and then having that assumption squashed. Love it.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I’ve had an interesting life and travelled extensively. However there is still a lot of the world I have not visited. I do like spicy foods but not to the limits of some cultural delights. lol

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  9. Madhu says:

    Ha, not surprised your memories of the trip are still so vivid Ian! Chuckling at the stewardess’s reaction to your request 🙂

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    1. I think you will understand the reason for the stewardess response better than most. lol

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  10. Yoshiko says:

    Seems that you travel a lot.

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    1. I’m retired now Yoshiko, no more travel for me. lol. That journey would have been back in the early 1990s

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yoshiko says:

        Oh I see. Normally, what do you do now?

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      2. In my retirement I took studies in creative writing so I could write stories and poems.

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  11. susanai says:

    Love the photos’.

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  12. Eddie & Esther Norton says:

    What a trip you had! I remember attending a potluck in Bangladesh where the church member were eating hot-hot peppers with tears streaming down their faces. I asked them why they ate the hot peppers if it made them cry. Their answer was, “we love them!” Made no sense to me. Thanks for sharing – Esther

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    1. Well I like chilli in my food but there are two chillis I can remember vividly. One in Trivandrum South India and that one on the flight to Manado.

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