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Embracing the sun in Samal |

Travel and Tourism

Embracing the sun in Samal


MANILA, Philippines - For many years now, the Island Garden City of Samal, more popularly known as Samal Island, has always been the weekend refuge of urbanites from nearby Davao City, as it’s just about a five-minute motorboat ride away.

Beyond its famous sand, sun and sea adventures, Samal also has its share of tales from its first inhabitants, the Isamal tribe, who arrived on the island as part of the first and second waves of migration from the Malay region of Southeast Asia.

Known as peace-loving people, the Isamals, who settled in coastal communities, lived in harmony. A dynasty of their tribal chieftains or datus ruled the island for years, extending until the early part of the American occupation. The last ruling tribal chieftain of the island was Datu Taganiyug, who lived in Malibasa (now known as Peñaplata, its capital) where he exercised his sovereignty. He died on Jan. 28, 1948.

Under the Department of Mindanao and Sulu during the American regime, the Samal archipelago was established into a district municipality composed of the islands of Samal, Talicud, Cruz, Ligid, the Malipano islets and Arboles (now Sanipahan).

After being an island municipality of Davao del Norte for many years, Samal finally became a city through Republic Act 8471 on Jan. 30, 1998. This paved the way for the dissolution and merger of the three former municipalities of Samal, Babak, and Kaputian into one local government unit, now officially named as the Island Garden City of Samal.

Today, Samal is far from its primeval past. With its white sand beaches and other tourism lures, it is now considered a resort city that boasts of numerous beaches, coral reefs and dive sites that have attracted tourists around the world. Being one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the country has made tourism one of Samal’s main sources of revenue.

Visitors to Samal simply cannot get enough of its tropical paradise charm, enjoying its popular island destinations such as the islets of Small and Big Ligid, Malipano and Talicud, as well as its unspoiled coves and beaches.

The island has also become the home of renowned resorts such as Paradise Island, BlueJaz Resort, Camp Holiday, Isla Reta, Leticia by the Sea, Bali-Bali, Maxima Aqua Fun, Chemas by the Sea, Precious Garden, Buenavista, and Pearl Farm Beach Resort.

Aside from the usual island hopping using a motorized banca, the island now has water taxis, banca cruises and sunset cruises — more fun ways to set adrift around the islands.

The island’s inland attractions have also become as celebrated as its aquatic destinations. These include Putting Bato, the island’s highest peak at 162 meters above sea level; its various waterways such as Hagimit Falls and natural springs; mangrove forests; and the Monfort Eco-Park, a Guinness Book of Records holder for being the habitat of 1.8 million Geoffroy’s Rousette fruit bats. Its rugged terrain has also become a favorite venue for sporting events such as motocross, mountain biking, trail running, and trekking.

To further intensify the island’s promotional endeavors in making Samal the island of choice for Filipinos and foreign tourists during the summer months, the local government, in partnership with the Department of Tourism-Region 11, created the Visit Samal Island 2012.

Visit Samal Island, which aims to boost tourist arrivals in the island, began last April 21 and runs until July 15. Aside from offering guests with discounts and promotional packages, the stakeholders have also lined up various events for the campaign’s entire run.

On its official opening salvo last April 21, Peñaplata played host to a number of activities highlighted by the Motorkada sa Isla Float Parade and the attendance of 300 Philippine Military Academy cadets performed a silent drill during the opening ceremonies. Field drumbeats, fire dance and live band performances kept the island alive with the festive vibe for the rest of the day.

Visitors can still look out for the following activities: line fishing and kayaking competitions (May 19); Kabasan Weekend, showcasing the Bangkalakasan, cross-channel swimming, motocross and big-time derby, and mural painting (May 25-31 at Babak); White Nights, featuring a fair and exhibit, culinary festival, and sand sculpture, beach volleyball, frisbee and mountain biking tourneys (June 15-18 at Kaputian); Davao Region International Film Festival (June 26-30); Araw ng Davao del Norte Off-Road (July 1); Araw ng Samal (July 6-8); IGaCoS Regatta (July 9-13); and the Miss Body Beautiful 2012 and Hudyaka sa Isla (July 14-15). 

With all the flurry of developments and activities on Samal Island this summer and beyond, it is safe to say that this paradise is more than just a weekend hideaway for the city dwellers. With the surge of tourists coming to the island, Samal has become a fully developed, one-stop destination that many island worshippers have started to enjoy and embrace.

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