It’s been five years since I’ve come home to Davao after almost two decades of living in Manila. In all those years, I’ve never regretted the decision to relocate back here despite the drastic changes in my lifestyle. It’s not because Davao is a perfect place to live a perfect life. It’s just as idyllic and as flawed as any place would probably be.
The following are the good, the not-so good, and some things I’m either ambivalent or undecided about living in Davao:
The Good: Davao is no longer the dangerous place it used to be. I remember frequently hearing news about shootings and executions when I was little. One of my childhood memories was that time when I heard gunshots while I was out and about in the heart of the city. I don’t know how the city transformed from a scary place to one of the safest places in the country. I already left for college when the changes started. But the local government’s peace and order program’s one of the chief reasons I decided to come back and live here. Mayor Duterte’s been at the forefront of initiatives related to that. He’s even known to have a good relationship with the NPA often serving as mediator if needed. For me, he may not be the best leader everyone would rally behind. But he’s a sincere leader who does his best to get the job done for the good of his people. Both his admirers and haters have plenty of things to say about his style of leadership. I’m one of those who admire him but not to the point of joining the ranks of those who are pushing that he run for higher office. I respect the leadership he’s displayed over the years. And that respect went up a notch when the mayor himself squashed some groups’ clamor to have him run for president.
The Not-So-Good: The lack of a solid succession plan can be a weakness. I can stand behind Mayor Duterte’s daughter who has previously served as mayor as well. But I think that for Davao to really stand out, the city’s leaders have to do what many local government units aren’t doing. And that’s to invest time, effort, and resources on leadership development that goes beyond the immediate family. There are several good reasons to do that, especially now that there’s a glimmer of hope for the anti-political dynasty bill. But even if the said bill doesn’t get past the gauntlet of some lawmakers who are products of political dynasties themselves, succession planning should still be a priority. It creates a winning team for the local government and ensures that there’s no dearth of potential leaders who could step up at any time.
The Good: Change is fluid and dynamic. It’s good yet painful at the same time. Since I’ve been back, I’ve seen a rapid development that introduced several obvious and subtle changes in the city’s environment. In a small way, I experienced how business investments altered the city’s look and feel. In 2011, I’ve seen one of the city’s biggest malls rose from the ground up. I’ve processed business permits as well as other requirements I previously didn’t know about and recruited several employees for the Manila-based group of restaurants I was working for. Since that time, another popular mall and several shops have opened across the city.
The Not-So Good: Now, I’m having a hard time recalling how the city looked before these developments came about. The changing environment has created more opportunities for Davao. Business investments translated to more employment opportunities. But the economic progress seems to outpace initiatives to protect the environment. I’m not privy to the urban development plans of the city, but I certainly hope that our natural environment doesn’t suffer from it. It’d be nice if the city doesn’t get swallowed by a concrete jungle that appears to be growing at a fast rate.
The Good: Davaoenos are fairly disciplined people. I don’t think Davao would’ve progressed this far if not for the people who rallied behind their leaders. They may complain a bit at the start when ordinances like the anti-smoking, liquor ban, curfew on minors, and speed limits are rolled out. But they’d follow the rules.
The Not-So Good: One of the things I’m most curious about is how a city of disciplined people can also be a place where queuing appears to be an alien notion. It’s not automatic for people to queue at taxi stands, outside malls’ or banks’ entrances minutes before they open, and many other places as well. It’s not unusual either to see people cutting in lines to get ahead. I’ve observed this several times and I can’t still get used to it.