Life is full of ups and downs. Hopefully we will experience more ups than downs, and if that is the case, most of us will be pretty happy. The same goes for places, I suppose. Sometimes places experience good times, other times places experience bad times. Over the past 5 years or so, for example, the United States (and much of the world) has been going through some relatively bad times, economically.
I first came to Mindanao back in July of 1990. Relatively, it was a fairly good time for the island in 1990. Previous to that, Mindanao had been through some pretty bad times. War had engulfed the island of Mindanao through much of the 70’s and even the 80’s. A peace accord was signed between MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front – an Islamic Rebel Group in Mindanao) and the Government of the Philippines in 1977. The nation of Libya was one of the big brokers in that peace agreement. Unfortunately, the agreement did not really hold up over the years, and in the 80’s there was a lot of unrest in Mindanao. In 1990 when I came to Mindanao for the first time, things had been fairly quiet on the island, and remained so for the most part through the 90’s.
In 1996, the MNLF and the Government of the Philippines signed another peace treaty under which the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) came to be. The Muslim groups now had their own autonomous region in Mindanao, which they could administer themselves. A lot of folks were happy. Unfortunately, though, some other groups splintered off from the MNLF and started their own aggression in Mindanao. Not long after we moved to the Philippines, in 2000, another war broke out, this time between the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front – one of the break away splinters of the MNLF) and the Government. President Estrada squashed the rebels pretty quickly. However, over the years since then, skirmishes break out on the island somewhat regularly. Usually this fighting is very localized, and it has always been far from Davao City where we live.
About 3 1/2 weeks ago, fighting broke out in Zamboanga City. Once again, it was the MNLF that took up arms. Why? Because the Government has been nearing a resolution of the conflicts with the MILF this time, and the MNLF basically felt left out of the process, so they made a siege in Zamboanga City. The City was under attack for nearly 3 weeks, and there are still problems there to this day, although not nearly as bad as things were a week or two ago.
During this time of the Zamboanga siege, Davao got hit too. Two bombs exploded in two different Mall Theaters in Davao about 2 1/2 weeks ago. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured.
These kinds of bombings are fairly regular, although not often, in other parts of Mindanao, but almost unheard of in Davao. Dabawenyos (people who live in Davao or are from Davao) have always taken pride in how safe Davao City has been over the years, and that the city is relatively immune to such attacks. I have felt that way myself for the most part. So, when these theater bombings happened recently, a lot of Dabawenyos were shocked, myself included. It was a real slap in the face, and it made people here think more about the safety and peace situation in the City.
Luckily, as of now, there have been no additional attacks in the City. I will say, the City Government has taken this very seriously and has instituted a lot of additional security around the City trying to prevent any future occurrences of similar violence. So far, the measures seem to be working. I hope they continue working too.
For the most part, I still feel that Davao is a good place to live, and is safe as well. Bad things happen everywhere, even in very safe places. An area becomes unsafe if bad things keep happening over and over and are unabated. As of now, that cannot be said for Davao.
Over the years, when people have asked me about visiting Davao I have always said that it is quite a safe place, in my view. Right now, I am being a little more reserved, though. If you ask me now if it is safe to visit Davao, I would say that I consider it relatively safe, but it is a good time to keep an eye on things to see how developments go. If further incidents of bombing or other types of violence occur, it will be time to re-evaluate. If things continue with a lot of bad occurrences in or near Davao, it will be time for Feyma and I to evaluate our future here. I sincerely hope that does not happen because we both truly love living in Davao, and don’t want to leave the area.
So, we are in a period of what I would classify as Madness in Mindanao. I hope things return to a more sensible pattern soon. Who needs the problems? Not me.