BATANG MINDANAW: Why life is here in Davao

by Reicza Gene Cariaga Olojan

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 April) — Davao City was put in the spotlight last year when its mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, announced his candidacy for the presidency. As the May election draws closer, the interest in our city has reached new heights. So, it is high time for the Dabawenyos to speak out and let the rest of the country see what Davao City truly is.

Davao City has a lot to offer. There are local beaches and pools if you want to escape from the summer heat. But if you are more of a nature lover, destinations like the Philippine Eagle Center might be more suitable to your taste. Endangered Philippine Eagles reside in the area, which are taken care of mostly by volunteers. Various animals like owls, monkeys, and crocodiles can also be seen in the Center.

If cuisine is your haven, many restaurants offer good food in Davao. If you want one with a commanding view of the city, you can go Jack’s Ridge restaurant on Shrine Hills. Aside from the food and the beautiful view, you can also go on a tour of the grounds or relax in the café. The downtown areas boast of fine restaurants as well, aside from the usual fast-food chains. But aside from these tourist attractions, the local government itself runs like a well-oiled machine, leading to the peace and security that is felt by the Dabawenyos.

For instance, public safety and security is a major concern in Davao, and a tour of the Public Safety and Security Command Center gave me an insight on how the local government is dealing with this. Seventeen long-range traffic cameras and 173 security cameras placed in critical areas such as malls and points of entry help the city government monitor daily life on the streets. Established in 2010, PSSCC provides real-time monitoring of the city’s security, which leads to the prevention of crime, terrorism, disasters, and traffic accidents. Aside from the PSSCC, a fully-equipped 911 Central houses 19 ambulances, one of which is a pediatric ambulance. It also has amphibious ATV vehicles which are useful in rescue operations.

For young offenders, male juvenile delinquents stay at the Bahay Pag-Asa Children’s Village at Brgy. Oshiro, Tugbok. It is a temporary shelter for children in conflict with the law, where they are taught occupational skills. They play basketball and board games, while music is also a welcome sound in the shelter. Of course, they undergo counseling and disciplinary measures if they misbehave. Bahay Pag-Asa employs 32 personnel and currently has some 81 children under its care.

The Ray of Hope Women’s Facility is a unique feature of Davao City. Instead of the usual prison cells, the facility offers “cottages.” There are 20 such cottages divided into two  phases. Each one houses 28-30 women. Christians are housed in cottages in Phase 1, and Islam inmates are in Phase 2. Today, the facility has 423 “bakasyonistas,” the term used by the inmates to refer to themselves. Aside from the cottages, the facility has several amenities like a laundry area, a kitchen, and a visiting area. The “bakasyonistas” showcased their talents through a short program during our visit to the facility. Eighty-three percent of the inmates had drug-related cases. Eighty-two percent of them are mothers

In another part of town, the House of Hope serves as a temporary shelter for children undergoing cancer treatment. Duterte, himself reputed to have a soft spot for children, initiated the opening of the House in 2007.  Residents know him well, being a regular visitor there. Unlike traditional politicians, Duterte has showm genuine love for the young cancer patients, according to Dr. Mae Concepcion Dolendo who is head of the modest facility. She said the mayor has never cared much for media exposure or publicly announcing his visits or the many occasions he made donations to the facility.

As for the people who believe that Davao’s night life is dead, well, they are dead wrong. Yes, a liquor ban is imposed but it doesn’t mean that one can’t have a good time in Davao. Several bars like the Huckleberry, Beer Avenue, Primo—all located within the downtown area—offer a wide variety of drinks, be it imported beers or locally brewed rum, and food for people who enjoy the night life.

You can go home at 2:00 in the morning without fear of being mugged. You can bring out your mobile phones inside jeepneys without worrying about snatchers. Peace and safety prevail in the city. One can have fun, but laws must be observed, such as the liquor ban and the no-smoking ordinance. Life is truly here in Davao City. For people who believe otherwise, come to Davao City and see and experience for yourselves what we have to offer. (Reicza, 22, is graduating in April this year from the University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City, with a degree in AB Literature. She hopes to teach Literature and write for newspapers in the future.)