Before moving to the Philippines, I was very sure about where I wanted to live. I talked about it with friends and family for a number of years. My heart was set, I was going to live in General Santos City. No way that anybody could convince me otherwise. General Santos was a smaller town from where I was living in the States, and I so looked forward to small town life again.
Over my life in the States, I had lived in a number of small towns, and I loved it. I longed to return to that life again, and that is one of the reasons why I so relished the idea of living in GenSan. Also, the fact that Feyma’s family was from GenSan was a factor that drew me to the place. I had enjoyed every visit that I made to General Santos, and I couldn’t imagine that it would be any different when I came to live there.
Well, we moved to GenSan in 2000, and I liked living there. But, there were also things that were lacking. Part of that might have been because I was adjusting to the entire idea of moving to a new culture, adjusting to so many new things, etc. To this day, when we visit GenSan, which is fairly regularly, in my heart there is a small tugging that I can feel and a little voice saying – “hey, I wouldn’t mind living here again.” But, when my brain kicks into gear, I realize that I probably would never live there again.
So, why did we decide to move? There were a number of reasons. Let me tell the story, a condensed version, of course.
When we moved to General Santos in 2000, as we got off the plane in Manila, the Immigration agent saw that we had Immigrant Visas and said “Oh, you are going to be living here?” Of course we replied that we were. Next, the conversation went like this:
“Where will you be living?”
“GenSan” replied Feyma.
Immigration agent yells at another agent at the next counter… “GenSan, isn’t that where they had all the bombings today?”
Bombings? They had never had bombings in GenSan before, so we were shocked, and a bit worried about it. But, we forged ahead and went to GenSan after clearing all of the Immigration hurdles in Manila. Over the two years that we lived in GenSan there were a number of bombings, and bomb scares. It got to the point that it wasn’t a big deal, because it was so normal!
During this time, I had taken a number of business trips to Cebu. I grew fond of the place. In the early months of 2002, I told Feyma that I wanted to move to Cebu. She was adamantly against it. No way! She explained to me that the kids were established in school in GenSan, and we just were not going to move. I accepted that. I had been the one who wanted to live in GenSan after all.
In April 2002, a big bomb exploded just 30 meters outside the front door of one of our businesses there, FB Net Business Center. As I recall, about 15 to 20 people were killed. Dozens were injured, some badly. It was a bloody scene, even with people dripping blood coming into our business seeking assistance.
We had grown used to bombings. But, when you have blood on the floor of the place where you spend a great deal of your day, it tends to wake you up. We were moving to Cebu.
I told my good friend, Jon, in Davao that we intended to move to Cebu. Jon convinced me and Feyma to come up to Davao and let him show us around town and see if we wouldn’t like Davao a little better. When we came up, Jon’s expert guidance did convince us that Davao was the right place for us, and I am thankful for that, because we have become true blooded Dabawenyos. We love Davao.
So, the biggest reason that we decided that GenSan was not for us was the Peace and Order situation there. But, that was not the only factor in the decision. We had tired of other things there too. Many products that we needed and wanted were not available there. There were actually times when we wanted butter, cheese or diet coke and would have to travel to Davao for it. That’s a 3 hour drive each way for simple every day products. Now, I will say this, things have changed a lot since then, but this is how it was back in 2000 through 2002.
There are not many decent restaurants and other entertainment venues in GenSan either. As a matter of fact, back in those days, the sidewalks of GenSan “rolled up” at about 6:30 or 7pm. The town was dead after those hours. It’s primarily a farming and fishing town, and those people start work before the crack of dawn, so they naturally go to bed early. Internet was very slow there, almost non-existent. Broadband? What was that?
So, what was really a hard set fact in my mind and in my heart when I moved here changed over the course of 2 years. To be honest, when we left GenSan in June 2002, we were happy to see the City in our rear view mirror! As I said earlier, my opinion has softened since then and I often feel a bit of an urge to return someday. Most likely that won’t happen, but I do enjoy making a visit there regularly. And, I will say that a number of the things that I’ve addressed as negatives there have improved a lot over the years.
So, now you know why we no longer live in General Santos City.