Coming to Davao is the most important decision I’ve made in my life so far. I had felt then that I would regret this decision, which is why I don’t remember the date when I made it. But it was in late May of 2007, and my parents and I were discussing about where I would go to continue my studies. Certain circumstances had forced me to look for another school other than the one I had attended for fourteen years.
I was given three options: to transfer to a “lesser” school in Manila, or to start working at a call center while taking a short computer course on the side, or to move and study at the Ateneo De Davao University and so at least maintain the name of my previous school.
I was born and raised in Manila. Though I often visit Davao, it lacked the feeling of home. I was not really close to my relatives here because most of them were either too young or old for me to bond with. Also because moving to Davao would take away all the luxuries I’ve grown used to in Manila. I would be living in the house of my grandparents which is almost a hundred years old and much of the change done to it was courtesy of time. But having made the choice, and with the beginning of the classes drawing closer, I had to take a deep breath and dive into unfamiliar territory.
It was early June when I packed my bags and got on a plane with my Mother to take us to Davao.
Like everything a person does for the first time, the move was hard for me. The place was unfamiliar and so was the local dialect. I did not know anyone in school and I’m not really the kind of person who goes up to strangers so as to make friends. In a sea of people, I felt a sense of loneliness unlike anything before.
Luckily, my new classmates, like a lot of people here in Davao were very friendly and accommodating. They took the time to get to know me and not wanting to seem snobby, I got to know them as well. It felt very good to finally have some people I could talk to and spend time with between classes. Slowly, but surely, the feeling of loneliness was leaving me.
A few friends in particular opened my world here a bit wider than the rest. One of the first people to start a conversation with me was my classmate and soon to be best friend, Nikki. When I first talked to her, I could sense something in her that was different from everybody else. It was really easy for me to talk to her and she made me feel normal while others, not that I mean to brag, seem to think highly of me because of the school I came from. Nikki was and still is the closest and “bestest” friend I have in Davao. Meeting someone like her really made my life here easier.
One afternoon as I was about to go home, I saw Nikki and she asked me if I wanted to go with her to an audition to become a radio DJ at a local station. I really had nothing better to do and I wanted to support my friend so I came along with her to the audition. A few days later, we both got a call from the station manager telling us that we could go on training to be a DJ if we really wanted to, which of course we did.
I’ve been going on air for six months now and more opportunities have opened up for me. I’ve shot a television commercial for a local hotel and I’m host on a television show along with other DJs. Looking back this was all possible because I accompanied Nikki to that audition. Something I really thank her for.
So many good things have happened to me here in Davao, with work, school and my personal life, the likes of which would seem nearly impossible to happen in Manila. But having lived here for more than a year hasn’t changed me that much. I’m still the same Manila boy I was when I got here but I’ve experienced first hand how it is to live in a place with a different culture. I can take whatever good things I’ve learned from my life in Manila and apply it to my life here now in Davao and vice-versa. “Having the best of both worlds” if one is to put it simply.
I feel like this experience has made me into a more well-rounded person and has prepared me for the future better than any school lesson could ever teach. Looking back on that particular decision I made more than a year ago, the biggest decision of my life so far, I can be at ease knowing I made the right choice. And as each day passes, I know this can only get better.
(Jose Antonio Andres is a third year AB English student of the Ateneo de Davao University.)