When I was a child, I used to believe that the greatest dream of every promdi (from the province) is to step on the imperial lands of Manila: Luneta, Nayong Pilipino and the so-called great sights of the Philippine capital. I believed as a child that if you stay in Manila, your kababayans in the province would take pride of you so much because you have been to Manila, never mind what kind of work you do there.
The first time I stepped in Manila was on December 1993. I was in grade 6 on the way to Mount Makiling for the First Asean Jamboree. I was so excited! We arrived at dawn and I was so amazed at the dazzling lights of the port, I had mistaken it for Malacañang!
Our contingent had a tour first. Our first stop was on a popular late afternoon variety show and whoa, it was truly an experience I could not forget. While the show was going on and a young actress was singing, I heard a person at the lobby, “sige sumigaw na kayo” and this group of people shouted with their hearts out, pretending to be die-hard fans. They received payment for that after the show.
The next sights were not really beautiful: floating garbages in their sea waters, dumps of plastics in electric posts, busy people, busy roads and smoke-belching vehicles. However, I also had fun in Luneta, Nayong Pilipino and Manila Zoo.
When I went home, I was surprised to see our neighbors asking me to tell stories about Manila. I felt like a god being listened to. I told them my experiences but deep within me, I saw that my ever dear Davao province is more beautiful than the Manila many of my kababayans dreamed of.
After some time, I have been to and fro in Manila and the place became so ordinary that it lost its wonder on me. It always interests me to see Visayan and Mindanaoan people speaking Cebuano dialect on the boat, and instantly metamorphosing into Tagalog-speaking mammals at the South Harbor pier in Manila. Naa poy mga kusog kayo magtagalog sa barko gikan sa Manila, magpaka-paka sa pagtagalog, pero pag-abot sa Cebu ug Davao pier, bisdak diay kaayo. Hilas kaayo ba. Atik kaayo oy.
Manila became my second home for quite a while. I have seen its sights and its wonders, its lights and its shadows. The more I stayed in Manila, the more I have appreciated my dear Davao. When I lived in Manila, I heard from many Manileños and other people how beautiful Davao is! I learn to appreciate Mt. Apo, waling-waling, durian, the people of Davao and its other sights and sounds. It really takes an outsider to see what’s beautiful within our own backyard. I have become more grounded with my Dabaweño identity.
I take pride to be a Dabaweño. I have goose bumps when I smell durian scents at the Davao International Airport. I always crave for durian ice cream! My heart swells when I hear Paradise Island, Pearl Farm, Eden Garden and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Long Live Davao!