By Aurelio A. Pena
It doesn’t have an attractive name, this secret little island northeast of this island city of the Davao Region. Even the German magazine editor Ulli Kronberg whose Filipino family owns it could hardly pronounce it: Tagpopongan.
Buenavista Island Resort in Samal
It takes less than an hour to reach this place by a four-wheel-drive vehicle or by motorcycle, navigating thru a rugged, narrow winding dirt road full of potholes atop a hill that ends in a sudden, steep slope. Behind the wheel of his van, Ulli waves to a flock of children all excited to see him, screaming. “Uli! Uli! Uli!” while passing by the small coastal village near his secluded resort around the bend of the rugged, narrow road that ends at the edge of a dark, dense forest.
Ulli pulls up, stops the van and steps out of the mud-strewn vehicle, his thick hands combing back his long, wavy hair, fixing his loose khaki jungle shorts and pointing to me the way thru the man-made forest. “This way, this way, Boy,” this German editor said, leading me to the steep mossy stone steps down the cliff, amidst the dark coastal forest that opens to a wide panorama of a picture-perfect tropical paradise in this little nook of the South Pacific.
To Ulli, it wasn’t so much his showing off his own little paradise on Earth, but to introduce me to another German travel writer and his Filipino wife — whose names I can’t recall at the moment — who were visiting Davao for the first time.
From the open porch of his little wooden cottage, one could see two islands, Big Liguid Island and Little Liguid Island to our left against the hazy blue mountains of Pantukan, Compostela Valley where small miners dug the muddy earth below for precious ounces of gold — which was the topic of my conversations with the German writer, one of Ulli’s correspondents writing feature articles for his three travel magazines for sailboat owners.
This German writer confessed to us that he never saw “such a beautiful place” that wasn’t touched by commercial resort owners and property developers. On the opposite side of this island in the middle of Davao Gulf facing the southern city, every inch of beaches and coastal areas have already been gobbled up by developers and investors who dreamed of turning this island into a “better Boracay” that world-renown island paradise in the Visayan region.
With cocktails served to our small group of writers and editors by Ulli’s private resort caretakers, we watch the golden sunset sink behind the distant hills of the two islands, its ever-changing hues turning the sparse cumulus clouds from gold yellow to orange to vermilion red to magenta red and finally to purple and violet, as the early evening swallowed up the rest of the darkening sky.
Two bancas (outrigger boats) with white sails cut thru the placid waters of the Gulf, crossing the vertical streak of the glimmering red sunset. With that magical moment enveloping us at that open porch, the Germans wondered aloud why Samal Island had to be changed “officially” into Island Garden City of Samal when the island’s original name sounded so beautiful to the ears (instead of the name “Igacos island) but just laughed it off later, noting that the name Samal will never disappear from the lips of foreigners who discovered this little paradise on Earth….
Checkout resorts in Samal Island – Hof Gorei Resort Samal Island