Mati—Making Waves: Discovering Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental

Skimboarding the waves at Amihan, Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental

Skimboarding the waves at Amihan, Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental


“Mati—Making Waves” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, July 2014.

The afternoon is on its last rays of sun as I saunter across the gentle sands of Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental. The Amihan strip is haunted by a cabal of young surfers who have a faraway look in their eyes and a board in their hands. Each one is staring intently at the waves. Suddenly one makes a break for it, darting into the swell of water to glide upon its surface for a magical moment before it crashes ashore.

Meet the skimboarders of Amihan Sa Dahican. Young men, and a couple of women, some of ‘em below drinking age. They frequently gather here seeking that glorious rush.

Dahican is an alluring stretch of beachfront along the southeastern coast of Mindanao, Philippines. It’s the prime attraction in Mati, a lovely small city in the province of Davao Oriental. Despite a fair number of resorts lying along its sandy strip, Dahican still feels rugged and untamed. Perhaps the endlessly pounding surf takes some gloss off its allure, though that’s exactly what brings the skimboarders to Amihan. Continue reading

Mati SummerFrolic: Dahican Beach Party 2014

Mati Summerfrolic sign at Dahican Beach

Mati Summerfrolic at Dahican Beach

I have an article coming out soon about Mati City as a summer destination. Here’s a little preview highlighting Dahican Beach and the Mati SummerFrolic 2014 party (that only gets a brief mention in my piece).

Mati City is located in Davao Oriental in southeastern Mindanao, Philippines. You can get there by flying to Davao City and then taking a bus to Mati. The coastline in this area is beautiful. At Mati, you’ll encounter Dahican Beach, a stretch of coast that gets excellent waves. You’ll see many local skim boarders hanging out there, in the area known as Amihan. Continue reading

Character, Culture, and Chinese Dumplings: A visit to a Taipei art park and a famed food street

Taipei art park "Huashan 1914" at night

Taipei art park “Huashan 1914″ at night

“Character, Culture, and Chinese Dumplings” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, November 2013.

Huashan 1914 Creative Park / 華山1914文創園區 (map)

A cluster of aged buildings in Taipei’s central government district, Huashan 1914 Creative Park has become a hotbed of commerce and culture ranging from the sophisticated to the avant-garde of the streets. It’s come a long way from its origins as a winery erected by the Japanese a hundred years ago during Taiwan’s colonial period (1895-1945).

Today, the weatherbeaten walls of the colonial-style buildings evoke a richness of character that lends a haunted elegance to the delapidation upon display. Despite the cracked brickwork, the paint-stripped concrete, the corroded metal supports, and the splashes of graffiti, the area feels grime-free—indeed it’s almost genteel. Continue reading

Remembering Leyte, a Year Before the Super Typhoon

Seascape at Calubian

Seascape at Calubian — Photo by Oz Mendoza

It has been over 100 days since the Eastern Visayas province of Leyte was hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan). The devastation it brought was shocking, especially to those of us who have ties to Leyte, Samar, and other severely affected parts of the Philippines.

This is my small tribute to Leyte, along with a gallery of images showcasing its beautiful landscape from the year before the storm struck. Continue reading

High Art Rises From Beijing’s Industrial Ashes

Outdoor sculpture in 798 Art Zone, Dashanzi District, Beijing

Outdoor sculpture in 798 Art Zone

An alleyway in 798 Art Zone

An alleyway in 798 Art Zone

“High Art Rises From Beijing’s Industrial Ashes” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, August 2013.

When asked to think about “art and fashion,” what normally comes to mind? “Art” is likely to spark a memory of a famous painting or sculpture, or some timeless piece of graphic art such as Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. “Fashion” might bring up images of sleek runway shows or poised women in Prada strutting down New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Less likely to come to mind are visions of corroding machinery, rusty metal pipes, and towering smokestacks.

Yet such views abound in the streets and alleyways of Beijing’s most vibrant art and fashion district, Dashanzi—home to the refurbished factory spaces of 751 D-Park and 798 Art Zone. Here, post-apocalyptic grunge meets hipster contemporary in a fascinating fusion of artistic reinvention, engineered solution, and good old-fashioned Chinese pragmatism. Continue reading

JJ: Not Just Another Manic Market

Happy shoppers at JJ Market

Happy shoppers at JJ Market

“JJ: Not Just Another Manic Market” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, July 2013.

Bangkok is a city of temples, tuk-tuks, and tourists galore. And let’s not forget: shopping. Glitzy temples to commerce scintillate along the sides of Rama I Road. Tailored gents and sophisticated ladies buzz through the malls alongside bubbly teenagers with k-pop inspired dresses and ‘dos. It’s a glamorous wonderland of designer goods and electronic trends. But it feels a little too shiny—maybe even a little too tame—for Bangkok. And you’ll be running the risk of sticker shock.

For a memorable and authentic Bangkok shopping experience, you can’t go wrong checking out the Chatuchak Weekend Market (map), or JJ Market as the locals have nicknamed it. You can’t pass up a visit to the biggest weekend market in the world. Once you get there, you may find yourself combating heat, crowds, exhaustion, and countless temptations to spend a little more baht on whatever’s just caught your fancy. But it’s a wonderland in its own way. Continue reading

Bar-Hopping in Bangkok

WTF Cafe and Gallery — photo by Oz Mendoza

WTF Cafe and Gallery

“Bar-Hopping in Bangkok” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, July 2013.

Bangkok is known for being a party town. And perhaps no “town” in Southeast Asia offers so many varied ways to party. From the glamorous perch of Sky Bar at The Dome to the plastic chairs of a cheap speakeasy on Khao San Road—Bangkok provides watering holes to suit every taste and budget. Here are some of my latest bar-hopping finds, from artsy hangouts to headbangin’ clubs. Continue reading

Haw Par Villa: A strange theme park in Singapore

An artificial lake at Haw Par Villa

An artificial lake at Haw Par Villa — photo by Oz Mendoza

A few days ago, I gave a talk at the 3rd Travel Massive Manila. The talk was entitled “Culture as Adventure,” and as part of my presentation, I showed pictures of the bizarre theme park in Singapore known as Haw Par Villa. It’s a place that I think of as Singapore’s version of Disneyland – gone insane.

Apparently, it’s not that unusual a theme park. A Thai friend told me that he visited a similar place on a school trip when he was a kid. But it provided my first experience with Buddhist mythology as a freaky (but cool) educational experience. What follows is a smattering of pictures depicting the more outlandish sights at Haw Par Villa. But these photos don’t truly capture the feeling of walking around the fantastical attractions that are so outrageous to the eyes of anyone who hasn’t grown up on Buddhist myths and tales (and traumatic school trips, I imagine).

Be warned: Some of the images that follow are somewhat gruesome. Continue reading

A Taste of Culture in Quezon Province

“A Taste of Culture” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Mabuhay Magazine, January 2013.

Sinugnon na Pla-Pla

A tilapia dish at Kamayan Sa Palaisdaan — photo by Oz Mendoza

To experience the true local character of a place, you can’t merely look at the culture—you need to taste it, too. That’s the spirit behind the Kulinarya Tagala, a culinary and heritage tour that winds through several towns in the Southern Tagalog provinces of Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon. In my case, I only got to visit places in Quezon. But what lovely things I got to taste (and see): crispy kiping, charred kulawo, sweet leafy pako, and spicy longganisa. (And some nice houses, too.)

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The Wooden Chair and the Footprint of Christ

“The Wooden Chair and the Footprint of Christ” by Oz Mendoza was originally published in Enrich Magazine, June 2012

Author visiting Bangkong Kahoy valley

The author visiting Bangkong Kahoy valley — photo by Oz Mendoza

The description of the place intrigued me. “Birds and butterflies, plants and flowers abound. The sounds of nature, the movement of the wind, the gush of pure water, the dance of the rain are all in harmony.” It was like a song, calling me, whispering of a better place to be than the one I was in.

Those words led me, three days later, to be jouncing along in the back of a Hummer on a rugged mountain road, finally about to see the fabled valley that is Bangkong Kahoy.

I wondered whether it would live up to my expectations.

Continue reading