It’s feels a bit odd that I’ve written quite a bit about far away places, but barely a word about my hometown, so here I go.
They say you don’t know what you got until it’s taken away, and I consider this one of the most relevant pieces of wisdom man has imparted to his fellow. I left Davao 10 years ago, right after I finished school, excited about the prospect of working for a company that gets advertised in international TV, and at that thought of working at the country’s CBD (Central Business District), the very turf of the captains of industry. Back then my peers would ask, “Where are you going to work?”, and back then nothing would beat the answer “In Ayala Avenue”. I could almost wear that on my neck, and beat any medal from any school.
Of course, I have been back to Davao many times since then, twice a year would be the minimum, but often more frequent than that. In the first few years since my transfer to Manila, I flew back mainly to catch up with friends and school buddies, or to avoid a lonely Christmas. Recently though, I started to fly back for entirely different reasons. One is to allow my son to see his grandparents, but there is something else besides that.
It’s been ten years since I transferred to the big metropolis, and eventually I started to notice that I was always short on time, even on weekends. It felt as if God somehow miscalculated the speed with which the Earth rotates on its axis. It never felt this way back then, and for sure the Earth did not change its speed. So what gives?
I began to notice how much time I spend on the road, just sitting there in the middle of traffic, wishing time would also stop when the stoplight is red. I also noticed the time it takes to find parking at the malls’ multilevel carparks, and the time it takes to wait for elevators in high rise buildings, or the time it takes to go from one end to the other in a gigantic mall. I used to be awestruck by towering office buildings, and today I still marvel at these architectural wonders, but now I’d rather work on the ground floor, thank you very much.
On the flipside, I also noticed that in Davao one could go to the beach, buy groceries at SM, pickup something downtown, and prepare for lunch, all in one morning. It is actually possible to run out of things to do in a weekend. It used to be that I thought life’s just like that, then I realized Davaoenos were just lucky.
I can’t think of any “must see before you die” attractions in this city, but I guess that’s the magic of it, you can “live” life here, instead of rushing through it. As Davaoenos step out of their houses, they can take a pick for their next destination, the white sand beaches, the coral reefs, the mountain resorts, the zip lines, white water rafting or the Philippine Eagle. All are within a one-hour’s distance, or less.
They can watch time go by, instead of having to chase it. It is also due to this, perhaps, that I also find that people of Davao are more considerate of each other. Taxi drivers give exact change – no need to shortchange passengers since they have time to pick up plenty more in a day. Drivers also keep intersections and pedestrian crosswalks open – no need to wage war over every inch of road way, there’s enough time to get from point A to B.
It is a big city, but not affluent by any means. People eat at home, or eat out for a reasonable price on occasion (Manila’s expensive cuisine never thrived there). There are malls, but no signature shops or designer stores. No Zara, no Marks & Spencer, and definitely no Louis Vuitton. But time if time is gold as they say, then this city must be 24 karats rich.
This is the other new reason why I fly back, time and again. Something that you’ll find in dire scarcity in Manila, even if you can afford to pay for the most opulent spas. To bathe in the luxury of…time.
* Photos were taken September, 2010
* all photos taken with Olympus E-420 and Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6