Mims' Musings

A London Girl in Davao

Posted on: 10/03/2011


It seems appropriate that on our 2010 trip to the Philippines, we spent the most time in Davao. After all, it is greatly significant in that it’s where my parents met. As the biggest city on the island of Mindanao, the chances of my parents, a volunteer from Manila and a Jesuit Novice from Zimbabwe, meeting in Davao, seems nothing short of a miracle, or fate perhaps!

Before last year’s trip, I hadn’t visited the Philippines for 18 years (my last visit being when I was 5 years old).  However, Davao had always been part of my vocabulary. As a young child I knew it as the place where my parents “walked under a full moon and I was just a twinkle in their eye”. Like much of my Mum’s home country though it remained mysterious until our trip.

Our first stop was the Ateneo de Davao, the university which my Dad was visiting during his studies as a Jesuit. Compared to the bustling streets of Davao it seemed like a lush oasis with its’ shady trees, and blissfully air con offices (sweet relief for someone truly acclimatised to London weather). Nestled amongst the labyrinthine faculty offices is the office of Fr Ting Samson (a friend of my Aunt), whose collection of innumerable curiosities we admired. They oddly felt like a connection back to my western homeland, perhaps as they seemed like such a personal touch when we’d spent 3 weeks going between anonymous feeling hotels and apartments.

As we had visited three different universities during our trip, I couldn’t help but compare them to the university I attend. The first thing that struck me was how my Mum had never actually seen the campus, which suddenly felt important to me. Secondly, I couldn’t believe that university students at Ateneo wear uniforms! In our school students sometimes resemble prostitutes. I can’t see uniforms at universities going down too well in the UK, at all. However I did find it interesting that I could draw comparisons in the architecture of some of the buildings, in the pathways and the shrubbery. It’s interesting what can feel comforting when you are far from home.

By night there is no better place to be then Jack’s Ridge. With a beautiful vista of the city, it’s hard to believe that Davao has a population of nearly 1.5 million people. From Jack’s Ridge it feels so removed and peaceful. They serve enjoyable food, and as it’s at a raised altitude there’s even a chance of catching a breeze. After dinner there’s a charming area to walk around and admire the Parol (star-shaped lanterns) and read signs about the etymology of the name Davao and various facts about the city.

What I miss most about Davao (and the Philippines in general) is the fruit. At a gathering of Mum’s friends we were spoiled by a variety of fruit straight from the plantation, including  Santol, Rambutan, Lanzones,  Mangosteen and of course- Durian! In fact 6 months on from returning I bought freeze-dried Durian just to get the taste of it again (of course it didn’t even come close to the fresh stuff).  We did manage to bring home two Kalamansi plants which are still alive, so at least one day I might be able to make myself a Kalamansi juice (which I ordered pretty much every time we were at a restaurant!).

Our last day in Davao was spent on Paradise Island, which had been developed massively since my Mum’s student days in the 80’s. It’s now dominated by a large seated eating area and families. Eager to take a break from being ‘on parade’ to infinite friends of Mum and Dad, I spent most of my time just lying in the sea, trying to forget the argument we’d had about my swimwear despite the fact that on the table next to us there were girls dressed far less modestly than me.

Following our trip I was glad to have connected with a place that’s so important to my personal history. Perhaps next time we visit we’ll have less pressure of needing to rush between groups of people who will only ever know me in reference to my Mum or Dad, and I won’t have to constantly repeat the same answers to questions that I’ve been asked a hundred times in 3 weeks. As much as it’s exciting to have made this connection, I guess the saying still stands that there is… no place like home.

 

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1 Response to "A London Girl in Davao"

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