CANIBAD, SAMAL—The trip would take forty-five minutes to an hour, I was told. From the wharf in Babak just across Davao City, I thought of a butt-numbing ride in the lonely winding roads of Samal Island. But this trip has to take place, by hook or by crook.

Samal Island is my home province’s tourism star, yet for some reason, I still find the island remote and distant. Although I have been to this colossal island many times before, a tinge of mystery still shrouds the island—at least for me. Its former name is already an invitation—“Island Garden City of Samal”—and any tourist would discover for themselves the richness of its offerings ranging from islands to highlands.

Despite the bothering hour-long ride on a habal-habal, the locals’ choice of transportation,  getting to Canibad is a treat in itself. Canibad, one of the island’s prized gems, is a relatively quiet cove facing the ecologically-diverse Davao Gulf. Thanks to the persistent infrastructure development spearheaded by the convergence of the Department of Tourism and the Department of Public Works and Highways, roads leading to the island’s tourist spots have been improved, thereby making them easily accessible to the public.

This is a surprise, as I was worried of the looming rain as I saw billowing clouds in the horizon that are seemingly pregnant with rain. Challenging terrain often give headache to motorists here, and a horrifying personal experience years back in the same island somewhat discouraged me from exploring Samal’s beauty. As they say, fears have to be faced in order to conquer them. Now I’m back on the road.

“That’s Puntalinao,” my habal-habal driver told me as we carefully navigated the downhill road to Canibad, referring to the idyllic cove right across Canibad in the town of Banaybanay of Davao Oriental. From this point, summer breeze smacks you right in the face, and the vast body of water below is a picture of calm.

Situated at the northeastern portion of Samal Island, Canibad offers a calm panorama for weary tourists escaping the rowdiness of metro living. A quiet cove dotted with inexpensive laid-back resorts, Canibad is a weekend paradise. For the thrill-seekers, a jump from a cliff could somewhat release the stress. Locals bragged that in their place, the sun and the sea are king, and it always feel like summer.

SHADY RESPITE. One can just laze around on any Sunday afternoon in Canibad.

Truth be told, it’s always summer in Samal. In nearby Talikud Island for example, one can spend a day navigating the island and its treats—white sand beach, coral gardens perfect for snorkeling, and a sky bathed with stars come night time. In Talikud, shutterbugs are gifted with a postcard-worthy scene.

One activity worth repeating in Samal Island is the taklobo tours, where you will be amazed by the giant clams lying in the seabed off the coast of Malipano Island near Pearl Farm. A community-maintained project, tourist guides won’t only let you explore the beauty of these giant clams up close, but will also take you into their conservation efforts in protecting these endangered clam species.

Samal Island is blessed with numerous caves, some are considered home by fruit-eating bats. In fact, these bats’ population range more than two million, making the Monfort Bat Sanctuary the largest single colony of Rousette fruit bats. Here, tourists can take a look how these creatures hibernate during daytime, although the smell of manure would tend to shoo tourists away.

Back in Canibad, I chanced upon a group of mountaineers taking respite under the shade of talisay trees. It was a Sunday, and the beach is just a perfect place to unwind before braving yet another week at work. Some of them have already disassembled their tents, perhaps preparing to leave after spending a lazy Sunday afternoon at the cove.

I talked to them for a while and learned that they just climbed Mt. Puting Bato the day before. Puting Bato is Samal Island’s highest point and from its peak, it would only take a one-hour descent to Canibad, which makes a perfect case for Samal’s island-to-highland pitch.

They shared to me how they had a wonderful time at the peak the night before, especially how they slept under a blanket of stars above them. It’s naturally cool at night, they said, and sunrise there is a stunner. I had scaled Puting Bato a year ago for a day hike, but never had the chance to spend a night there.

True enough, reasons are plenty to go back to Samal and explore its rawness. If you go there alone, never mind the butt-numbing habal-habal ride, because you’ll get your money’s worth. Its island to highland treats are enough manifestations that indeed, it’s always summer in Samal.

Samal Island can be accessed through Davao City and is only a 15-minute ride by either a barge or a motorized banca. Head on to either Sta. Ana Wharf or Sasa Wharf where boats and/or ferry can take you to Samal. If you are adventurous enough, you can circle the island via habal-habal, the island’s top choice for going around

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