In 2002, it became evident that we would be moving, as I spelled out in my last article. That move brought us to the City of Davao! Davao City is about 2 to 3 hours drive North of General Santos where we used to live.
Davao City is the largest City in Mindanao, with a Metropolitan Area of more than 2 Million people. The Metropolitan Area is the third largest in the Philippines, following only Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. The City its the largest City in terms of population in the Philippines, outside Metro Manila. So, it is a large City.
However, in many ways, Davao City has a small town feel to it. When you go out and around town, you often see people that you know, or people that you are familiar with and exchange a quick wave, nod of the head, or say “hi” to people all over town.
There is a saying in Davao that the City covers “The Islands to the Highlands” referring to the fact that on the same day you can go cruise around Samal Island or Talikud in the Gulf of Davao, and in only a couple of hours be on the tallest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo. You can be in a downtown metro area, and just 30 minutes or an hour later be at Eden Nature Park or Malagos Gardens, very secluded eco-tour areas. Davao really seems to offer any kind of atmosphere you might want.
Davao also has a reputation of being a very progressive area. In many areas, Davao is sort of a leader. The coffee culture of the Philippines all got started in Davao with some of the earliest up-scale coffee shops in the country. Following that, Davao led the way with free WiFi connectivity at many public places – Coffee Shops, Hotels, Restaurants, even some Gas Stations offer WiFi! I am only aware of one place in Davao where you must pay for WiFi access and that is at the Marco Polo Hotel. There may be others places, but I am not aware of them.
Davao has two major Festivals each year. On March 16 is the Araw ng Davao, or the Day of Davao. This is the celebration of the City Charter, and creation of the City. There is a big parade, street dancing and such. The streets are full of revelers, the malls are full of shoppers. People are just out having a good time! Business seems to almost come to a standstill at this time! The kids are out of school for Araw ng Davao, of course.
The second major festival of Davao is the Kadayawan Festival, which is held in mid-August. Kadayawan is the BIG festival of Davao. It celebrates the harvest season, particularly the harvest of fruits that are native to the Davao Region. And, of course, what is the king of fruits in Davao? Durian! Anybody who is a true Dabawenyo has to be a Durian eater! I know that I am! When you go around Davao during Kadayawan, the streets are lined with fruits of many kinds being sold at very low prices. Durian can be purchased as low as P15 per Kilo during Kadayawan. To show how good that is, I recently purchased a Durian and while the vendor started off at P130/Kilo, I got him down to P100/Kilo, still about 6+ times higher than you can get it during Kadayawan!
One thing that I hear from a lot of people who are considering moving to the Philippines is that they are worried about Typhoons. Well, Davao is south of the typhoon belt. Ever since weather records have been kept, there has never been a typhoon that ever hit Davao. It simply is not a worry here. The weather in Davao also remains fairly constant all 12 months. We do not have a rainy season and a dry season here. It can rain any time of the year. Usually, though, in Davao, rain happens at nighttime. It rarely rains during the day here. Of course, it happens from time to time, but not often.
Being a central hub for shipments of fruits and vegetables grown throughout the Davao Region (Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Davao City), Davao really has an abundance of good fruits and vegetables, and at low prices too.
No place is perfect, though, and there are some things in Davao that are making me weary. Like what? The biggest issue is traffic. Traffic in Davao has gotten terrible over the years, as I’ve mentioned several times in recent months on this site. It has gotten to the point where if it is rush hour, getting around the City can be a real headache. Lately, there has even been talk of implementing an odd/even system where cars could be on the major City streets on only days that match the odd or even numbers of their license plate numbers. So, traffic is becoming a concern here. Another big downside in Davao is that the drainage here is very poor. Even a hard rain for 15 minutes an practically bring the City to it’s knees with severe flooding. This can be a major hassle.
OK, probably the most controversial thing about Davao is something of a touchy issue, but I will address it briefly. I hear from a lot of people concerned about extra-judicial killings in Davao. There is a sort of “unofficial” group, some say, called the Davao Death Squad, or DDS. Does the DDS really exist? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know for sure. The DDS, supposedly, is a group that kills criminals, a vigilante group. Criminals, it is said, in Davao don’t make it to trial, they die first. Is it true? Well, sometimes that does happen, but I don’t know that there is anything official about it. People die every day, and not everybody who dies is killed by vigilantes. I am not talking about petty criminals now, I’m talking people like murderers, drug dealers, etc. There are some who say that Mayor Duterte, the tough Mayor of Davao City, is behind the group. The Mayor denies having any ties with any such group. For me, I believe the Mayor, until or unless he is proven to be untruthful about this. What I know about crime in Davao is that crime here is very low. I can go out and walk the streets anywhere in the City at any hour of the day without fear. I have never felt uneasy or unsafe in Davao City. I credit Mayor Duterte for keeping Davao safe and livable. Whatever tactics have been adopted have worked, because the crime rate in Davao is the lowest of any major city in the Philippines. I am not condoning any criminal means of keeping the City safe, but I know of no such activity. I know there have been accusations of it, but it has not been proven. So, anybody who brings this up in the comments, feel free to comment, but please have some kind of proof before making accusations. I will not accept slanderous comments, they will be deleted. If you have evidence of any accusations, bring it on, but don’t make unsupported accusations, please.
Overall, though, the pluses of Davao City far outweigh any minuses. I love living in Davao City, and I would encourage anybody to consider it as your destination if you are still trying to decide where in the Philippine is the right place for you. Whatever you are looking for in a place to live, I think you can find it somewhere in the Davao area.
Ang Dabawenyo ko. Ikaw pud?