Last June, I was fortunate to have been chosen as one of the participants of the Davao Food Appreciation Tour. DFAT is an annual food tour organized by the Davao Bloggers Society for bloggers from different parts of the country. The four-day event gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with Davao after five years. Or rather, after living there for more or less four years.
My family and I lived in Davao from 1974 to 1976. In fact, I completed my Kindergarten and Grade 1 schooling at Ateneo de Davao, while my dad worked for Marsman Estates and mommy was with Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
I remember my sister Connie wanting to ride the schoolbus with me. I remember living with my uncle (the late Mario R. Nery) and his family at DBP Village. I remember our house on Tomas Claudio. I remember my Kindergarten graduation and eating ice cream at Merco.
But that was way back the 1970s. We moved back here in Cagayan de Oro in 1976. Davao soon became a part of my childhood memories.
In 2010, my friends and I decided to explore Davao. We were there for four days (Saturday-Tuesday). Our weekend was spent touring Samal Island, but we still had a lot of time to go around Davao. We weren’t able to see much (as we also had to work), but the city really left a good impression on us. I especially loved the color-coded taxicabs and the drivers who were so polite.
When I went back to Davao last June, I did not know what to expect. But, I was overly excited. One reason for this, of course, was the fact that it was my first time to join a food tour. Second, I was traveling with my cousins. And third, because I was really excited to discover just how wonderful Davao was (is).
And I wasn’t disappointed.
It was not just the food tour or my newfound blogger friends. It was not just the dining places and cafes that we went to. It was the overall feel of the place. It was how Davao made me feel.
I felt totally safe and at home in Davao. Like I was welcome and I belonged. Everyone was so kind – from the taxi drivers and hotel personnel, to the participants and organizers of the food tour. I came home to CDO with a happy heart – and I vowed to return as soon as I can.
True enough, a couple of weeks later, I rode on the bus to Davao again. This time, I traveled alone. My sister was spending a couple of days in President Duterte’s home turf to take care of work, and we decided it would be a good opportunity to spend time together.
It was my first time to travel on a bus alone. It was a 7-hour trip, so I thought I’d get bored or restless as I had no one with me. But, surprisingly, I felt totally relaxed and comfortable. I wasn’t afraid, too. I just read, watched some TV series on my tablet, ate some crackers and chocolates, and then slept.
My second time in Davao this year was the real eye opener for me. On my first day there, I explored the city on my own. The hotel I lived in was near Abreeza Mall, so that was the area I first got quite familiar with. When my sister arrived the next day, I was able to explore more as I moved to the condo that she rented for us – which was in the opposite side of the city.
Yes, there was traffic on my way to Ecoland from Abreeza. But, it wasn’t of the Manila (or even CDO) magnitude. Every taxicab driver I encountered was so kind and helpful. They took only the exact amount; I had to force one of them to take the extra coins I gave him as tip.
Moving through crowds of people allowed me to experience what it really felt like being in Davao. It allowed me to see Davao in different views. It made me admire Davaoeños more.
I left Davao with a heavy heart because I wanted to keep on exploring it. It was the break that I needed. The relaxing treat I long promised myself. Even before I left for the bus station (and my sister, for the airport), I already knew I’d be going back to Davao as soon as it was possible. It has become quite an addiction for me.
Now, Davao is thrust in the limelight for a different reason. For a heartbreaking, tragic reason. Although I did not really go to the Roxas Night Market, we did pass by the area several times during the food tour. And the hotel I lived in was quite near the place (if I remember it right).
So, the minute I heard about what happened, dozens of images flashed in my mind. Images of people – young and old, women and children, all with fear on their faces. I could not believe what happened. Fear, anger, and shock battled inside me.
But Davao is strong and Davaoeños are fighters. I know they will get back on their feet in no time. I know our President Duterte will not leave his fellowmen behind. I know the perpetrators will soon be apprehended and justice will prevail. Davao will stand strong.
After surviving years of darkness, Davao will not allow anyone or anything to take away its light again. Ever.
My trips to Davao were all a homecoming of sorts. It’s a journey I want to continue for years.
I will be back soon, Davao. I’m looking forward to exploring your wonders again. So, stay strong!
(For a more detailed take on my DFAT experience, click this: http://www.hofmag.com/davao-food-appreciation-tour-unique-way-experience-dutertes-home-turf/164459)