Before the emergence of the Gumasa white sand beach area in the Sarangani province municipality of Glan, the primary big-leagues beach getaway to be found anywhere in southern Mindanao was just off the city of Davao, within Davao Gulf. This was the Island Garden City of Samal, a city in its own right but part of the Metropolitan Davao area. Samal and nearby Talikud Island have been sites of prominent island beach resorts; in fact Samal itself is considered the largest primarily resort city in the Philippines and a fast growing tourist destination that generates premium revenue and taxation. But that was years ago; a series of mishaps both natural and caused by man have begun plaguing the once shining pearl on the gulf.
Perhaps the one incident that gave Samal some worldwide (but negative) attention was the tragic hostage abduction crisis that took place there last Septmeber 22 of 2015. A group of Islamic militant terrorists from the dreaded Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) broke into one of the island’s high-end resorts and made off with a startling number of hostages, a Norwegian, two Canadians and a Filipina who was girlfriend to one of the Canadians.
Taken off the island and into hiding in the terror cell’s secret jungle hideaways, the two Canadian hostages were eventually beheaded after their government refused to pay any ransom for them; the Filipina and Norwegian were later released after payments of the ASG ransom demands by unidentified parties not with their respective home governments. But the fact that the group were simply marched out of their accommodations by the terrorists in full view of one of the resort’s CCTV camera generated a great deal of bad press regarding Samal, and international tourism responded by holding aloof for a time.
A more recent issue of concern for the Island Garden City emerged from the results of a hazard mapping assessment performed on Samal the same year as the abduction. According to local news source DavaoToday.com the Region-XI offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, an agency under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, identified an astonishing total of 135 distinct and individual sinkholes dotting both islands of Samal and Talikud. MGB-XI action officer Lowell C. Chicole warned that most of the whole Island Garden city area could be in danger from a possible Karst subsidence hazard. In this situation limestone in the islands’ subsurface would begin to be eaten away by water flow, leading to the creation of sinkholes that could grow and swallow surface areas whole.
Between the stigma of the past and the danger of the present, it’s like there’s no end to the problems being encountered by Samal, an Island Garden City that is now under threat. While its resorts still manage to bring visitors in, its past glories seem on the verge of fading away.
Photo Courtesy of Mindanao Tours