WHAT MAKES DAVAO BEAUTIFUL
“I’ve seen faces, places and smiled for a moment, But oh, you haunted me so…” goes Matt Monroe’s ditty which became a theme song in a James Bond movie “From Russia with Love.” Of course, the cyber generation has lost track about it since it was shown in 1963, almost a hundred years ago going by the digital influence of our times. It was a song that depicts the slushy beauty of a land, in the song it was Russia, but for me it was Davao.
I have been to a few places, several countries actually, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore, Sydney (Australia),Tokyo (Japan), HongKong and locally, in Baguio, Laoag, Vigan, Legaspi, Naga, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga, Iligan, Ilo-ilo, Pampangga, Bulacan, Batangas, Tagaytay, well, in almost all cities and municipalities in the country and had spent time in these places and had seen faces too. But none haunted me like Davao.
Kuala Lumpur was spanking and grand but its taxi service was lousy, I prefer the neat, and clean and honest taxi services of Davao. If only for this service alone, Davao tops. Singapore was almost a paradise except for its police state like atmosphere. I prefer Davao’s DDS anytime. Sydney was grander because of its respect for historical or ancient sites except that it is culturally reactive when it comes to its visitors. I was nearly mauled by giant Fijians during the Sydney Olympic and nobody responded to my calls. Very impersonal. I nearly lopped off the ears of one giant had he not run for his dear life! And there was Tokyo, the center of global fashion. I was amused by the crazy short pants and colored hair of youthful Japanese when I was there. Only to see it in vogue in my country 15 years later. The place was very expensive for a cash conscious persons like me. In Davao, your cash can go a long way and the people are not fashion-conscious, generally speaking. Folks here are conservatively decent and smells better.
Baguio was a sentimental choice if only because it was always the carrot whenever my parents wanted us, the children, to behave. The place was for us the equivalent of paradise, except that today, it has become virtually an overcrowded marketplace. In Davao, there are a number of places where you can relax and another where you can haggle for bargain and be vigilant too. Vigan was historical but it was just a few meter stretches. Davao it has been said on record is the biggest city in the country in terms of its size. Legaspi has an imposing angle to watch the grand Mayon Volcano with its perfect cone. Grander still if the volcano is on the verge of erupting. Davao has Mt. Apo, the tallest mountain in the archipelago. Its spring water is called “Dumoy” not only taste great but the cleanest mineral water in the world!
Cebu like Davao is a de facto capital but the island province is but a dot comparatively speaking. While Cebu brags of several tourist destinations, Davao has overtaken it in terms of its exotic contents. Like Davao, Puerto Princesa is the biggest city among chartered towns in the country. Unfortunately, if one is enterprising, Davao is better than its Palawan counterpart in terms of tourist attraction and economic activities. You want to see Davao 40 years ago? Go to Puerto Princesa.
Zamboanga is a small village still haunted by its Spanish influence as revealed by its Chavacano dialect. In Davao, its Japanese and Batangas influence and its language Cebuanon.
Today, Davao is highly cosmopolitan and virtually a conglomeration of various culture. Its social outlook is eclectic. It has the best every culture has to offer. It has a Japanese restaurant which only an authentic Japanese bistro in downtown Tokyo can boast. It has a HongKong eatery which is true to its origin. It has Korean cuisine which is a clone to its Korean foundation. Spanish, Italian, American foods are offered in its genuine style. But of course, Filipino food finds its better competition in this side of the universe and more.
It was only lately that I preferred to stay in Davao instead of Metro Manila (where I was born, educated and had spent a great part of my career) because I could no longer stand the gridlock in traffic, the pestering peace and order challenges, the virtual space living along the fringes of crime and treachery, the stressful movement of a struggling population. Only the youth can survive such an atmosphere.
I am already too old to confront these challenges. I fancy a place where my mind would be settled, my thoughts nestled in ideas, my health nurtured in a stress free environment. I wish to spend my time in a place where my physical condition can be sustained by healthy and amusing surroundings.
Davao may have reached a period of modernity but it is still old-fashioned and rugged. One cannot but be subjective when you are in the area. Its beauty does not lie on its pristine beaches, exotic orchids, lush mountain vegetation, trustworthy people, but may be in the eye of the beholder.