SEVERAL years ago, I left Manila and went to a place I’ve never been before. I only relied on what my father told me, since he’s the one who grew up there. He said it’s a place I can call my new home. I had doubts about it. I thought there’s no way it’s going to happen. But I had no choice.
I remember how I used to look at Davao. For a Manilenya like me, it’s a place far away from civilization, with people speaking a language I never heard of and eating fruits I’ve never tasted. I even thought it was a province at first. Simply put, I was not really happy with the idea of going to Davao.
However, things change, and for some reason, all of my first impressions faded with time.
It happened when I entered high school. It was a very different environment I considered way too challenging. See, I used to go to a private school. Encountering the muddy oval, dusty classrooms, and worst of all, the really dirty comfort rooms, made me think twice of continuing my studies here. I remembered almost crying after a week’s stay begging my parents to send me back to Manila. But I thought it was a selfish act since my brothers didn’t complain about the situation. Again, I had no choice.
In the end, I chose to stay.
Looking back, it was something I never regretted. Choosing to stay, I discovered that there is this a certain attitude that makes Dabawenyos different from students coming from other places. I’d like to call it the “gahot” attitude, which means to give or perform way more than what is expected. All throughout high school, I’ve witnessed a lot of gahoteros and gahoteras. And I would like to believe I became one of them.
This continues to be crystal clear now as two Dabawenyos, Richard Saavedra and Kenneth Yap Hubiera, topped this year’s Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Licensure Exam and Architect Licensure Exam, respectively.
This makes me proud that I studied here in Davao as its education did not only taught me the basic knowledge, but the character as well to really give my all in everything I do, even if I'm the only one seeing it.
Also, I’m thankful for the security here. Unlike in Manila, where danger could be anytime and anywhere, I can calmly walk down the streets in Davao even in the middle of the night.
I’m not saying that there’s zero risk here. But compared to other places, it’s more peaceful here in Davao, which is contrary to what other people think of. It's not really in Davao where wars and battles happen. It might be in Mindanao, but it's not in Davao.
See the difference?
Anyway, I think the city owes this safety to our brave officials who really perform their duty of protecting the people and the place itself.
This was obvious at the recent rescue of kidnapped businesswoman Sally Chua at the Allied Bank, where Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senior Supt. Ronald dela Rosa, and a handful of policemen, showed courage in the incident. Even though the human rights of the killed suspect are questioned, it can never erase the fact that they have been heroes.
Sally Chua owes her life to these Dabawenyos.
So do I.
Another thing I'm proud of here is the fresh air and affordable food. Before in Manila, I can't eat nutritious food since they're expensive, making me sick most of the time. Here in Davao, I can buy almost anything I want to eat using my own money. I seldom have absences in school too. And if I am, it's not for health matters.
In the six years I spent with Dabawenyos, I can say I became a different person.
I can now speak Bisaya, which was really necessary so I can communicate with them.
Durian has become one of my favourite fruits, which at first didn't really appeal to my taste buds. I also enjoy festivals like the Kadayawan as there were none in my past hometown.
But most importantly, I can now mingle with others despite their different culture, like the indigenous people and the Muslims, as here in Davao a melting pot of culture exists.
True enough as in the Davao hymn on diversity, we, the Dabawenyos, are united.
I plan to return to Manila after graduation (hopefully in two years time) as it was my family's original plan. However, I would never ever forget all the things I learned here. Anywhere I go, I would always remember the place I once thought I can never call home.
I was wrong.
I may have been born and spent my childhood years in Manila, but it is in Davao where I really 'grew' up learning all there is to learn in life.
Davao is my home. And I'll always be a proud Dabawenyo.Kathleen Rose Pate