Americans who have heard of Mindanao in the southern Philippines usually associate it with the classic World War II movie, "Escape to Mindanao."
These days, escaping to Mindanao means finding a tropical paradise of spectacular scenery, smiling faces and delectable fruits you never knew existed.
Mindanao has yet to be discovered by American tourists, primarily because of the perception over the last decade of instability in the Philippines, especially in the south. The good news is the political climate has become quite tranquil recently, and precisely because it hasn't been overrun by tourists, Mindanao remains relatively unspoiled by development.
A case in point is the city of Davao, "Gateway to Mindanao" which is the host city for the Southeast Asian nations' tourism forum this year. Showing confidence in the city's safety, the ASEAN tourism ministers met in Davao to discuss issues affecting the region. They couldn't have made a better choice. Davao has been called the "cleanest and greenest" urban area in the Philippines. Though a bustling metropolis on the one hand, the city maintains its unique historical traditions, and has been scrupulous about preserving its ecosystem. Just minutes outside the city, for example, the Eden Nature Park gives visitors a primer on the flora and fauna of the region, which include such rare (to Americans) fruits as: Atis, also called the "sugar apple"; Guyabano, like creamy fruit candy; Langka, aka "jackfruit"; Mangosteen, more delicious than the mango; Rambutan, related to the lychee, but sweeter; and then the "King of Fruits," Durian, known for its pungent smell but heavenly taste.
With its wonderful white sand beaches, crystal-clear water and rugged mountains, Mindanao is a mecca for those interested in such adventure sports as snorkeling, windsurfing, and white water rafting. Or, you can enjoy the rich cultural traditions at the many festivals held throughout the year, or have a wonderful time just getting to know the friendly, helpful (and English-speaking) people. Not the least of the attractions is that the Philippines is one of the few remaining countries where the dollar is strong and Americans are welcomed.
(Shoppers take note!)
For more information, contact the
Philippine Department of Tourism in New York at (212) 575-7915, or go to the website www.wowphilippines.com.ph. Enjoy!