IF you ever want to experience the feeling of standing at the edge of the world, head out to Cape San Agustin, the southernmost tip of Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental, Philippines.
Up at the very tip of this quiet municipality is one magical destination known to many but dreamed about by more and continues to draw visitors from all over the world.
Pundaguitan is the last town in Governor Generoso where the buses either make the round trip to Davao City or sleep for the night. From the bus stop, my photographer buddy Arjoy and I hired one of the motorcycles for 200 pesos per passenger and up we went to passing barangay Lavigan heading to the famed Cape San Agustin.
I had been to the Cape twice in the past, but a lot has changed in the last decade.
The once-rough road that I used to call stomach-churning, butt-numbing motorcycle ride as drivers try to reach the destination without falling into the deep ravine was now smooth and paved snaking its way up and around the mountain until we reached a clearing on top of the hill and then we were there.
There was no one at the Cape aside from a family with a small child who takes care of the property. I was back to one of the places I consider my favorite on earth.
I wanted to stand at the very edge of the Parola and watch the endless stretch of blue ocean merging with the blue skies, dotted by the red and yellow sails of a couple of fishing boats in the far distance but Arjoy and I got to work right away. For the next couple of hours, I forgot about everyone and everything, and only my camera and the magical place I was in mattered.
A few meters away from the very end of the cliff we were standing on was The Islet which looked like a small piece of the island chopped and pushed off from the cliff a bit farther.
Under the cliff facing the Last Islet is a hidden cave that opens out into the ocean. The waves come in through the small openings in the rocks. The best feature of the Pagoda is the three lighthouses, with the oldest built in 1938 featuring an external spiral staircase
I was looking forward to climbing hundred-plus steps to the top of the middle lighthouse but the door was locked and our guide/motorcycle driver told us the key-keeper was out for the day.
The top of the lighthouse offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the Cape and the point where the raging waves of Celebes Sea blend with the peaceful calm of Davao Gulf.
From the Pagoda, we made our way down the hill under tall coconut trees to the Pagoda Beach below. The ocean seemed angry at the interruption and sent out huge waves rolling to the shore but it was not even scary, only mesmerizingly beautiful. A few hundred feet away is the Altar, an extraordinary rock formation believed to be the place where the Spanish missionary St. Francis Xavier, Spanish missionary said his first mass in 1550. I’ve climbed it in the past but didn’t have time to do it on this trip as we had to catch the last bus that leaves at 3 p.m. to stay the night in a delightful fishing village but that is another story.
Half the fun is in getting to Cape San Agustin. The four-hour trip on a public bus from Davao City takes you through green lush forests and picturesque coastal views past quaint fishing villages, vast rice fields, jungles, limestone walls, mountainsides, and breathtaking cliff lines. It is where goats and cows rule the road and won’t budge so that buses and other vehicles have to go around them to pass through.
When in the southern part of the Philippines, don’t miss a visit to Cape San Agustin. It’s a place that never ceases to mesmerize everyone.
From Ecoland Terminal in Davao City ride any of the public buses to Governor Generoso. The buses travel daily from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. in one-hour interval. As an option, check out the L300 vans outside the bus terminal. Travel time for L300 vans is about two and a half hours.