A number of email exchanges with Bob Hyatt and I was finally granted the permission to conduct and email interview about his travel experience in Davao on the condition that his contact information will be kept confidential. In this interview, Bob tells us of his honest observations of Davao City.
1. Which country or city are you currently living?
United States of America, San Francisco Area of California. City name is Alameda.
2. Is this your first visit to Davao? When was the last time you visited Davao City?
My first visit to Davao. However not my first visit to Philippines. My second wife was from Manila. I met her in the US, and visited relatives in Metro Manila area in 1981, 1982, 1985, 1988, and 2005.
3. Do you have specific reasons for traveling to Davao? Are you here for vacation, business travel, or some special event?
About 2 years ago I decided to see if I could retire early. I began by determining how much money I would have available and to find locations I can live in. I researched the Metro Manila area, including Tagaytay, but decided the Metro Manila area is too noisy, too smoggy, and expensive compared to the rest of the Philippines.
My research resulted in my deciding to visit Davao City. It seemed large enough to have the resources I might need, yet small enough to be friendly.
4. Did you travel alone or with some friends or with your family?
I traveled alone to Davao City, to be greeted by what is now my fiance’ and her family.
5. Before coming to Davao, what was your general impression of the place? Which websites, books or resources have been helpful to you in getting useful information about Davao?
I did extensive web searches to find information about various parts of the Philippines. I got excellent information at the Living in Davao Yahoo Group. They have numerous pictures and documents that helped me decide to visit Davao City.
6. Now that you have traveled down to Davao, what can you say about the city in general? If you have been to other parts of the Philippines, which place can you compare it to and why?
I found the city to be very Filipino. Most people are friendly, helpful and yet busy with their daily routine. I say ‘most people’, but I did not encounter a single ‘rude or inconsiderate’ Filipino on my visit. I assume they must exist, but did not find any.
I met my fiance’ at the airport. She and her family took care of me on my tourist looks at the city of Davao, Panabo, and Tagum. The first week I took taxis and ‘all day’ vans to get around and to get some things ‘started’.
The second week was much more relaxed. I rode buses, jeepneys, and tricycles more. Yes, my knees and head was banged up a bit, but was fun. I am 5′ 11″ tall. Jeepneys have very low ceiling heights. Most of the time, my head touches the roof when I am sitting. I end up ‘stooped’ over. I also did a lot more walking around than I normally do (a good thing).
The buses have, to me, very small spaces between the seats, so my knees and legs endup cramped and ‘sideways’ to fit.
But the prices are good. To ride the bus from Panacan to Panabo was 24 pesos. A taxi is more like 250 pesos. Each ride into Davao went through a number of security checkpoints. About one in three rides into Davao resulted in all male passengers being asked to exit the bus while the bus is searched. The whole process is less than 5 minutes (bus stops, we are told to get out, get out, stand while the bus is searched, get back in, bus goes on).
I also looked at some housing options. There is a strong push from sales persons to buy into the ‘international’ neighborhoods / housing developments. In my ‘opinion’ I consider such places self imposed segregation, which I consider not a good idea.
I also found the prices higher than necessary. The combination land prices and the ‘expected’ size and price of house to be built meant I considered these developments ‘pricy’. Not pricy for American neighborhoods, but pricy for Filipino communities.
7. What can you say about the people of Davao? Do you find it hard communicating with them? Do you speak the Cebuano Dialect? Are they friendly?
- Davao is a very safe place:
In the U S, when you are in a shopping mall, on the street etc, you don’t let any packages out of your grasp. In Davao, I saw many occasions of packages sitting with no ‘obvious’ owner nearby. This is a level of honesty I have not ‘seen’ in many years.
- Davao is a very friendly place:
I know a few words of Tagalog (perhaps 1000 words), and each time I spit out one of them, I got great responses and help from all persons I met.All persons were friendly, willing and able to smile, make jokes etc, even while doing ‘serious’ things (like banking).
- Davao has a lot of traffic:
there are over a million persons in the Davao area, and not a single freeway. Numerous and very convenient buses, jeepneys, tricycles, cars, trucks, etc means a lot of noisy and smoky traffic. Traffic moves very well considering the high volume of vehicles. There is also a lot of road construction.However, in spite of the traffic, I do not consider Davao a smoggy place. Davao has enough wind to clear out the smog. However, like most cities around the world, they should begin to make plans to deal with smog, etc.
8. What are some of places in Davao that you have been to? Which one is your favorite?
I found the Victoria Mall and Gaisano Mall both interesting places. I also visited some other malls furthur south (for me the wrong direction) and they look more like the ‘usual’ United States shopping mall (a bit boring).
My visit to Davao City and the area was not as a tourist, so I did none of the ‘tourist’ activities. I did not go to any beaches, gardens, concerts, zoos, etc. Perhaps on my next trip?
9. What are some of the things or travel experiences you will never forget in Davao and that you wanted to share with other travelers? Got some tips for travelers or tourists?
The jeepney and tricycle rides are fun. There is nothing even close to this in the U S. The convenience of these transport ‘tools’ is wonderful.
10. Would you like to visit Davao City again in the future? What do you expect to do in your next visit?
I expect to travel back to Davao City in July 2007, when I begin my retirement. I have purchased land for a home and have begun the process to finalize a design and to have it constructed. If I am lucky, the house will be done by the time I arrive in July.
Bob Hyatt is based in Calfornia, USA and works as a programmer and systems analyst since as early as 1970.