Thursday, February 12, 2015

Davao: (My) life is here, so best get on with it

Travelling (some of) the world has taught me nothing. When I lived in Scotland for three years I lamented that I rarely bothered to see the country that was a damn sight more scenic than practically anywhere I've been since, and since I plonked myself in Davao City about two years ago I've similarly failed to do much in the way of sightseeing. I seem to mentally separate places I'm visiting from places I'm just living in, so don't need to bother.

But there have been certain weekends when I've been free from work obligations and felt the need to escape the flat, and have sought out some of what this place has to offer. There's really not much. Obviously there's plenty of surface area, and I see a lot of nice green from these vantage points, but as far as categorising and monetising this natural beauty with convenient package tours goes, this place is lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbours. Then again, if I am going to be living here long term, I shouldn't use it up too fast.

After the last day out I finally have just about enough pictures to justify a blog post, so here are assorted Davao-based activities enjoyed over the last two years of my life. See me mildly age before your eyes like I'm in some kind of superficially intriguing Hollywood coming-of-age film.

San Pedro,

Giant durians flank City Hall, where a sleazy staff member will copy your girlfriend's phone number down one time when she hands over the myriad triple-authenticated and notorised documents that are required for every aspect of life here, and subsequently send her salacious texts at all hours of the day and night until you email their employer about it and hopefully get someone in trouble.

Always love a clock tower. Plus whatever the Catholic version of a mosque is called

People's Park, a small area with more concrete than grass that many locals are inordinately proud of (it's not even a park)

Davao Baywalk,

Once a popular place for teenagers to make out, this seaside attraction rapidly fell into disrepair after the Queensland Hotel was demolished. That must have happened at some point in the last two years, but Google Maps and the entire internet haven't been informed about it, so I guess you heard it here first. Even the trike drivers don't have the enthusiasm to honk optimistically at the foreigners any more, it's just depressing.

Dave². I saw the real fake David outside the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence (I didn't see the real real one, you had to queue for that). Davao's David is better though, because it's BIGGER and it's GOLD yellow. Michelangelo didn't think of that.
Renaissance: Filipino!

This used to have sharks swimming in it. Doesn't even have water any more

No one bothered to rehouse the zoo animals when the money went away, so dishevelled sheep and ostriches are just sort of wandering around eating anything green. Is that okay?

Jack's Ridge,
Shrine Hills

There are several places in (the same part of) Davao that had the idea of combining views with food. This is the most famous (and crowded), apparently due to the site's irrelevant World War II significance, but it's not necessarily the best. Partly because of that crowding I mentioned.

The city's nicest neighbourhoods are reserved for the dead

Vista View Resto,

Just down the hill from Jack's Ridge and up another hill, I don't see what's worse about this place that means it doesn't make Wikitravel and Lonely Planet lists. But since I enjoyed having the entire place to ourselves and hope to do so again, I personally hope business continues to remain just above the point at which it would be unprofitable to continue operating.

That's not the view I'm supposed to be looking at, but I liked it better. All that green, and no practical way to access it


I was flabbergasted when I walked past this restaurant near our old place, as I didn't think self-deprecating humour (or failing that, frank honesty) even existed in the self-parodying Proud Philippines. So well done.

But at the end of the day, it's still a marketing gimmick and I'm not going to be drawn in. Get a view and we'll talk.


Not far from our apartment, this is one of the only wildlife/family activities I can find in Davao, apart from the Philippine Eagle Center which I haven't been bored enough to visit so far. Maybe if there's a catastrophic internet failure one day. Blog coming in 2017.

Your children can share your guilt at helping to support the inhumane caging of noble beasts. You don't even have any guilt, do you? I'm carrying the burden for all of us


The first place we ever visited and still the furthest I've been outside the city limits without getting on a plane, since after this it's apparently bandit country all the way. That's nice. Contains a few animals, child labour tribal dances and that thing ^

Life is here. And possibly in other places in the world too, but don't spoil it for them


  1. Davao looks quite nice. I've certainly been to worse places.

    1. It's fine. Despite being on the same island where all the terrible stuff happens, it's supposed to be the safest and most crime-free city in the country. There are unpleasant looking bars in the city centre with names like 'Hot Legs 4,' but we don't get many of the sex tourists. But since there are no direct international flights (except an expensive one from Singapore) and most local people's idea of an activity is going to the mall, there's not much for regular tourists either.

      It's an okay place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit there.