Davao (Or Why I Really Think Life is Here)

8 months. This has been the longest time I was away from home. The hyper-sensitive OFW would of course strangle me to death, believing that 8 months is a mere walk in the woods if you compare it to their years of separation from Patria. I wouldn’t even try to argue.

How was my 8 months here in Davao? Well, after all the hype from the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” internet meme, I should say without reservation, living in Davao is fun! Let me count the ways.

1. Beach in less than 30 minutes.

Being a beach-bum (minus the beach body), I feel like I’m in heaven knowing that Samal island is just a jeepney and a barge ride away. I live in the Bajada area of Davao and I can always catch the jeepney going to Sasa wharf where barges going to and fro Samal ply the Davao Gulf hourly.

The official name of Samal is “Island Garden City of Samal” and yes, it’s an island, but a garden? Well, they still have to convince me with more flowers and anything that would probably suggest it’s an island garden. And not to be confused, it’s not an urban, sprawling city like Davao or Manila.

But the real seller are the white-sand beaches! While in one of the beaches of Samal, take your shoes off and feel the powdery sand on your feet. Relax and take the worries of city life off from your mind. Exhale a sigh of relief and let the Davao sun do the tanning!

While in Samal, try diving in the shallow coral reefs of Talikud Island, experience the cool fresh water of Hagimit Falls and photograph the Guiness World holder for the most number of bats in Monfort cave (just don’t forget your mosquito repellent!)

2. The highest mountain in Pinas, right in your own backyard.

The Grandfather of Philippine Mountains, Mt. Apo or Apo Sandawa, sits in the boundaries of Davao City, Davao del Sur, North Cotabato and Bukidnon. Six indigenous peoples call Mt. Apo home – the Manobos, Bagobo, Ubos, Atas, K’lagans and the Tagacaolo.

The best time to see Mt. Apo here in Davao is during sunrise, when it’s clear and the sun bathes the mountain in red, yellow and orange. When you’re lucky enough, Mt. Apo also clears just before sunset and there are areas in Davao where Apo is framed by buildings and the right time, right light and right location, would give you an awe-inspiring sight. If you’re a photographer, you would know what I mean. There are times when you’re tired from office work and you’re on your way home, a traffic jam maybe along JP Laurel induces a severe migraine, then you pass by these open spaces where you can perfectly see Apo in twilight hues of gold and red – you’re all of a sudden reminded of much bigger things than your migraine, work and aching toes.

If you’re looking for adventure, why not climb Mt. Apo? For amateur hikers start in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. I was told that the climb is both back-breaking and gratifying! Plus, you get to boast of climbing the highest mountain in the Philippines!

3. Gastronomic Paradise.

Italian, French, Fusion, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino or Uber-seafood? Davao boasts of restaurants galore!

La Toscana in Quirino Avenue serves the best Italian food with red wine to match. From prusciutto, selection of cheese, insalata, pasta, pasta and pasta! Top it all off with affogato and grappa. Why go to Italy to eat Matriciana, Aglio oglio or Marinara? Chef Pierro cooks it al dente and in no time you will be saying ‘molto delizioso!‘ like a pampered Italian!

For French cuisine, Claude’s in Rizal Street is to die for. Owned and managed by Chef Claude Le Neindre, they moved from the original little restaurant near Casa Habana to the Oboza ancestral house. One feels like being transported back to colonial Philippines because of their exquisite ambience and delectable European cuisine. Try their Salade Nicoise with fresh vegetables from Bukidnon and for main Chevreuil a la Canneberge, pan-fried venison with cranberry sauce – match it with red wine from Bordeaux and you’ll be speaking like Sarkozy-crazy! Crepe Suzette for dessert will make you want to forget your own name.

Krua Thai in Torres Street is another experience entirely. Sawadee Kha-style! Try the chicken pandan, Tom Yum soup (extra hot for Bikolano-oragons) and the Khao Khai Chaio, omelet with rice, chili and cucumber. The spices and the aroma from all the food served would remind you of the wars fought because of the spices of the East.

For Filipino seafood, Marina Tuna in Lanang District near the airport is a must-try for tourists and locals alike. Feast on their 10 tuna recipes and other scrumptious seafood from oyster, crabs, lobster, tanguigi to a wide array of truly Davao delicacies. You haven’t tasted Davao if you haven’t tried the fish eye soup!

And then there are the fruits! August was supposed to be the harvest season, but people here are saying that the season has changed and it’s now January when you can find the cheapest Durian, Mangosteen, Suha, Rambutan, Lanzones and Marang. Banana (all kinds) is available all year round. For fruit lovers, Davao is truly a feast!

4. Treasure Trove of Cultural Wonders.

Being in Mindanao Island, where Lumads have found a home even before Christians settled here in the early 1900s, Davao City has become a melting pot of different cultures. From our Lumad and Muslim brothers to the Indian, Indonesian, Korean and other foreign nationalities who have called Davao home, this city is a model of acceptance and tolerance of different beliefs, customs and traditions.

The Kadayawan Festival celebrated every August is a showcase of a people embracing the plurality and multi-cultural milieu of the city. The ten tribes of Davao: Ata, Matigsalug, Obo-Manobo, Klata-Djangan, Tagabawa, Tausug, Maguindanao, Maranao, Kagan and Sama have all etched a special mark in the city’s spirit. You can see their arts in traditional weavings and baskets, hear their songs played by bands advocating traditional and World Music in Taboan, Matina Town Square. Even the paintings of local artists like Kublai Millan have been influenced by these groups.

Visit the museums in Davao and you will see the rich culture of these peoples. One will also understand their struggles and their hopes for equality, justice and peace, which are oftentimes being denied them.

The proximity of Davao City to provinces with Indigenous Peoples Communities like Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, Malungon and Malita in Davao del Sur, Cateel in Davao Oriental, all off which are very warm and welcoming, makes it a destination of choice for people who want to experience the lives of our Lumad brothers and sisters.

5. So much to see! So many things to photograph!

If you’re in to photography or just a plain wanderlust, Davao has so many things to offer.

Malagos Farm in Calinan is a showcase of arts by Abueva and landscaped gardens where birds of different species simply amazes the visitor. I went there once with a major hangover and when the birds (of all colors) started swooping down on me, I was suudenly cured of my hangover malaise.

The Philippine Eagle Center, also in Calinan about an hour drive from the city proper is simply an amazing must-see. Also try the Japanese Tunnel in the diversion road – just make sure you’re not claustrophobic!

The Crocodile Farm in Ma-a is not just a simple crocodile farm, they also have birds and mammals that children would surely love. Not to mention their Tribu K’Mindanawan area, where cultural performances are shown every night.

If you’re the asthmatic type, go to Eden Nature Park and breathe-in the fresh pine-scented air. Never to be missed is their zip-line – yes, free shouting!

Life of the party? Don’t miss Taboan in Matina Town Square, an all-week long street party. Or videoke night in Torres street. And how will I forget Starr Bar, in which I was recently introduced? Indeed, if you’re the type, party all night and sleep all day in Davao!

There are just so many things to do and so many things to photograph in Davao City. One week is not enough. Living here is a much better idea.

Ahhhh Davao! It’s an honor to say Madayaw!


I Won’t Stoop Down to Your Level (061809)

Some things I consider important in my life, says my friend, are not that important at all. They are sludge or a much better term I guess would be morass baggage (I so love that new-found word, MORASS, as if it denotes something anatomical other than MESS or MIRE). Like my current angst towards catching the A(H1N1) flu virus or (I think this has more weight) getting a lung cancer from all the smoke I’ve inhaled consciously and unconsciously. Or my tendency to worry too much about the 2012 doomsday prediction. See, I carry a lot of this stuff and deem them as being abstemiously important in my life. But really, in this age, who knows what is of value and not?

I’ve been absent for 2 days now. This was never on my life-plan really (being absent for 2 consecutive days is usually planned and noted down on my calendar 3 weeks before) but my cohort-friends took me to a beastly inuman-session last Tuesday night, I had to take Wednesday off because of an un-godly hangover which was trying to reclaim my body from heaven’s light and pull me to an infinity of migraines. BUT that was not my excuse actually. It was more of paranoia: I thought I had the Swine FLU!! I deduced silently in my head that 1.) Friend R just came from Manila that Tuesday (where almost half the cases of the virus in Pinas has been reported) 2.) He was a bit feverish 3.) He has flu, I think 4.) I had contact with him i.e. shot glass, doorknobs, etc. 5.) Small, invisible particles of the virus indifferently landed on my nose 6.) I breathed-in the small, invisible particles 7.) I am now the sweet and hospitable host of the virus 8.) Everyone is plotting to kill me now.

I was really feverish Wednesday morning (plus a throbbing headache) and I thought I’d better sleep on this one, so I texted my bossing telling him I had a fever. His reply was short and oh so powerful, as if by merely reading it, anyone would be miraculously cured of his or her malady: Magpahingalo ka na muna. Dai ka tabi magdarang virus digdi sa office.

 So, I took Wednesday AND Thursday off. Isn’t that sweet? And there’s also a good news. I DON’T HAVE THE FLU!!! YAY!! So please terminate your evil plots and call off the assassin you hired from Brgy. Putingbato, the ruffian with the faded heart-tattoo on his right arm that was following me yesterday.

That wasn’t you??? Hmm, maybe another stalker. (I sometimes get tired of this FAME thing).

It was raining so hard yesterday, I thought the guy up there forgot to mention that I needed to build an ark and bring with me both male and female species of the kingdom Animalia. Thinking about it, what would be my reaction if God suddenly gives me the abovementioned directions?


I’m sitting on my favorite chair, the one that my dog Gayon (+ R.I.P.) gnawed off. I’m reading John Irving’s ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ and I was on the part where they were talking about the perfect breasts: Nice, rounded and well-cleaved or conical and slightly tipped?

There is a stirring in the air. I felt my back shiver as if the whole air is electric and any moment from now I would smell the scent of burning flesh and hair. It felt like time stopped and even the steady constancy of breathing has ceased and there is just THIS.

I looked around, figuring out what’s wrong. Maybe, this is a dream or I’ve had too much cigarette, I think to myself.

My head felt light, the same feeling when you’re underwater playing “Pahaluyan Hinangos” half-wishing you’re not being dissed by your friends and you’re the only one left underwater, the only clue you’re being played at is a fart-bubble that came from your yowling friend.

And then a knock on my door.

Gingerly, I opened an inch. The same electric air wafted through and there was an eerie silence in our neighborhood, even the dogs were silent.

I will not chicken out, I thought to my self. I opened the door and stick my head out.

A mangy old woman smiled at me and said “Hello, I am God.”


“Yeah. I am God.  I always get that look from people’s faces.”


“Really, I’m God”


I was thinking so hard my mind was about to explode from strain. If I tell her to shoo off and she’s really God, I’ll be damned for eternity and all the angels would be pissing their brains out laughing at me down in hell. If I kneel down and shout “Praise You!! I love you! Heal me, I’m a sinner!!!” and she’s really not God, just a schizophrenic bum who happens to have an episode, I’d still be blaspheming and I’d still go to hell. Major dilemma.

“So?” she finally said.

“If you’re God, what color is the brief I’m wearing?”

“You tell me, I don’t snoop around looking at people’s underwear. And besides I have much important things to do than use X-ray vision on you. Here,” she hands me a piece of soiled-out paper with squiggles on them.

“I know you can read, so read it ok? I have important directions there. Don’t mess a thing or you’re dead. I don’t have enough time so don’t screw anything. This is not the only planet you know. So Babush!”

To my disappointment, she didn’t vanish into thin air. She staggered in the heat heading to wherever.

I looked at the piece of paper and saw drawings of a boat. A very very big boat with numbers on them and a note saying: bring with you 2 of each kind of animal, male and female. It will rain for like 40 days and 40 nights (or more) don’t bring your umbrella, it’s useless. You’re the only hope of this planet! I’m not stressing you out, mind you, but you only have 30 days to build this very very big boat!!! BTW, your brief is blue and you might want to buy another pair because it’s starting to be a little bacon-y on the edges. LOL.

“Oh crap.” And I returned to John Irving and his breasts which were much easier to understand.


BUT WHAT IF? Well, I don’t have the right answers. Nobody has the right answer. But I guess it would be easier if she was accompanied by flashes of lightning and a booming voice that would frighten the hell out of me. FEAR compels one to believe. Either a physical fear or a metaphysical fear, I would immediately get papa’s nails and hammer and start building that damn ark and look for every animal endemic, endangered and what-have-you. But I guess God lost or discarded that glam and opted for the lowliest level.

I won’t stoop down to your level.

I guess, God would say. Instead I will be lower than you people: the flu virus, a beggar, the pouring rain. Things that make you stop. See, the flu virus started with the pigs and never caused this much panic, until the first cough was heard and we stopped, straining to hear that cough again. And there it was, hacking, out of breath. And suddenly the lowly, is not that lowly anymore.

Some unimportant things are not that un-important at all.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, what if God was one of us? Just a stranger on the bus…. La la la la…”

Oh crap. I need a cigarette.



Not a Debate but a Search for Truth

LETTER TO THE EDITOR of Philippine Daily Inquirer

This is in response to the article “Mining Confab Minus the Miners” (page B3) dated January 30, 2012.

Daxim L. Lucas, the author of the article, bluntly accused the organizers of the International Conference on Mining in Mindanao as having “a pre-ordained result in mind” by not inviting representatives from the mining industry. Of course, the conference had a pre-ordained agenda. All conferences do – they are called objectives. He was, as a matter of fact, correct in saying that the conference was “by-invitation-only.” This was because part of the objectives is to “strengthen the networking among people’s organizations and NGOs doing work on mining” and “promote greater participation in dialogue and exchange among the peoples of Mindanao affected by mining.” The organizers only invited representatives from LGUs affected by mining, NGOs and POs doing work on the environment, Academe and Church, because the conference objectives were clear that it would be a meeting of like-minded people, “a homogenous group in order for participants to level off in their campaigns.” The conference, in short, was NEVER an open conference. Representatives from the mining industry were not the only ones excluded from the conference.

That the miners were not invited does not assail the internationality of the conference. Representatives from different international institutions were present: Human Rights Watch – New York, UNESCO, Revenue Watch based in New York, Mining Watch Canada, World Wildlife Fund, London Working Group on Mining in the Philippines, Triple 11 Movement and researchers from Ghent and Carleton Universities, to name some.

The conference was an academic exercise with a stated purpose. Not a debate but a search for truth. The mining industry cannot dictate its agenda on academe. We did not want a debate but a deliberation towards a deeper understanding on the mining industry in the light of what our invited experts had to say.