A quiet and placid neighborhood in Juna Village, Matina was where the original HARANA barbecue grill was located. It was in the mid 60s as we hark back to one of the city’s most peaceful eras recorded in its colorful history. Quite secluded and distant from the main highway, its customers were mostly youngsters and students who spent the night out with friends, away from the din and clatter of the city. Customers swore it was the best skewered grilled chicken and pork one can chew on before, during or after a round of beer.
In the 70s, HARANA hopped to MacArthur Hwy (where the Budget Bldg is now located). Its visibility to the public became quite resplendent, shining brightly like a lighthouse guiding the customers to navigate the city’s north-south thoroughfare, MacArthur Hwy. The move brought about a stunning success in their new habitat. This time, the operation had been scaled up, as it continued to maintain its high quality native dishes and its- out -of -this -world flavored barbecue, becoming a top drawer for customers, local or foreign. Many years later, it joined the restaurant row along F. Torres St.
Along MacArthur Highway, in the 70s, just before one drove up the steep slope of Matina Heights going to the Gallera cockpit, there was a modest, simple, low-key barbecue joint called MEKENE ABE, which had a novel twist in taste. Like moths around the flame, motorists swarmed its front sidewalk, going for its new flame- broiled taste. Incidentally, it was within the neighborhood of the two adulated nightclubs of the 70s, JIMMS and MARRAKESH, each with its own opulent ambience that meticulously served Davao’s night owls.
Back to the late 60s, SUMMERLAND, along the highway, with its refreshing swimming pool as their come -on gimmick became popular for family outings and get- togethers. But a little closer to Toril was the great arena, the renowned night spot of the mid 60s – THE GARDEN. The place was well thought out to veer away from the crowded downtown area. In the heady days of youth, folks really didn’t mind driving about 12km south of the city to have a good time in this hottest piece of real estate in the city. Every fun loving night folk would give an arm and a leg just to party in this youngsters’ paradise, the prohibitive fuel price in those days notwithstanding.
Most of the Davao’s folks from different prominent clans who regularly patronized THE GARDEN seem to know each other like classmates in a small school. The familiar ties sparked into a friendly, harmonious and homey ambience. On weekends, mostly youngsters pack up the place for an all boys night out, or meet prominent dazzling beauties, or just sneak out of school after hurdling the final exams.THE GARDEN happened to be the most congenial place for these nocturnal events.
The physical layout was a well-contrived masterpiece to match its Pinoy native motif. About a dozen nipa-thatched huts circled around a huge salakot-themed dance floor. The well interspersed shacks worked incredibly for customers who felt the need for privacy and intimacy within their company.
What really stood out in this out-of- town’s night spot was the great live band playing dance music, specially for the folks with lively feet, which lift them up to new heights of conviviality. And they just can’t get enough of the native dishes, the exquisite “hors d’oeuvres” to go with their beer, wine or whisky. There was just no way to go easy on their hedonistic proclivities.
When everybody is busy, imbibing in liquor, chatter and laughter, and the action shifts to high gear, the atmosphere becomes a little woozy. Accidents on the way back to downtown became a stark reality.
Having one too many drinks, they revved up their engines in the parking lot, their vision and control impaired, head down the highway unaware of the danger lurking ahead.
The situation did not help when conflicts between groups began to flare up, like a gang-land feud. It didn’t take long to trash down the peace and security level of the place. And management found it just too tough to handle. Soon the place had become uncomfortably perilous leading to its fortuitous demise. As the saying goes, even the good times must come to an end. To be continued.