The art of simple living in Davao

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably just about (re)discovering your hometown. In most ways, I think plants are better off than humans (read: me). They at least must have some deeper awareness of their environment as they take root, grow, and thrive.

I’ve lived in Davao since shortly after I was born in Cebu. My mom’s from here so everyone relocated soon after I was born. I stayed until high school, left, spent over a decade in Manila, and came back three years ago. I can honestly say though that I know more of Manila and its outskirts than the city where I grew up.

It’s kind of fun to get to know Davao again. Although it has its awkward moments. Friends from everywhere who want to play tourist find me an unreliable source of information. During my first year here, I feel like an alien so far removed from the locals’ flow of life. I finally decided to take on a mindfulness mindset. I need to be aware of what’s happening around me thus get to know the place.

Simple living is synonymous to Davao. And here are some of the (delayed) discoveries I’ve collected in the three years since I’ve been here:

  • Our Mayor(s) rule! – A young political dynasty, iron rule, etc. – call it whatever you like but Davaoenos love their mayors. Both father and daughter (especially the former) have displayed strong will in leading this city. Perhaps many outsiders would say people here turn a blind eye on issues like vigilante killings but that’s not essentially true. I’m not much informed on local politics but I think the citizens aren’t stupid enough to vote for people they don’t trust.
  • No smoking pleaseDavao’s ten-year no smoking ban has gained national and international renown.  I love how the local government has implemented this over the years. It’s illegal to smoke in public places. The same rule applies in private establishments such as restaurants, malls, etc. There are designated areas outside buildings for smokers who can’t seem to live without their daily fix. It’s not a perfect system since I frequently see some individuals who try to circumvent the law in non-smoking zones. But still, the ordinance works for me.
  • Keep calm and carry on – Laid back. That’s the first thought that came to mind the week I arrived from fast-paced Manila. It’s like Europe to Manila’s New York style frenzy. For someone used to the always-in-a-hurry life, it was a bit of a shock to adjust to a much slower pace. I used to stress over how slow everything seems to be. Grocery cashiers take their time to check-out items, people always walk around leisurely, and more. Life here is generally one big chill-out mode. I still haven’t changed my I-like-to-be-on-time-always mindset but I’ve improved quite a lot in chilling out.
  • Spend less for more – Food is cheaper here than in Manila. Eating out is not a hardship on a shoestring budget. And there are grill restaurants everywhere. You haven’t experienced Davao fully if you haven’t tried anything grilled. There’s a BBQ place in almost every corner. A few weeks back, I was pleasantly surprised to try a Php26 one rice and pork BBQ meal. The BBQ was all meat. Not bad for a lunch treat.
  • Life is a beach – You don’t have to plan to go to the beach here in Davao. You just grab your things and go. Travel time to the nearest beach wouldn’t probably take over thirty minutes (depending on where you live, of course). But most places here are near to sand and saltwater. It’s also an added bonus that the Island Garden City of Samal is less than an hour’s travel time. You can practically see the island across at certain parts of the city. There you can choose resorts that suit your mood. From pricey popular tourist spots to the less known but equally beautiful beaches around the island. I suggest you take time to visit the island in backpacking mode. Ride the habal-habal to explore the Monfort bat sanctuary, Hagimit falls, and more.
  • Fill your fruit basket – Fruits are cheap especially when in season. Apart from the usual suspects of sweet ripe mangoes, bananas, and more; Davao offers the finest durians, pomelos, and mangosteens. Regardless of the season or the price, purchases are always worth every peso spent. Delightful and healthy, what’s not to love?
  • More than meets the eye – There’s always more to Davao than meets the eye. From its people, culture, to nature – everything seems to deserve more than a first glimpse. All you need is an open mind. Because like anywhere else, you don’t get to enjoy a visit here laden with baggage of what a city should be. You simply embrace and experience every moment.

I haven’t been here long enough to know more than I do now. But what I know so far pleases me. Simple, laid back, and beautiful. Again, what’s not to love?


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