I have been here in Davao for five years, so I am no longer a stranger in this city. But I still find many things amusing and interesting.
The principal means of transportation in Davao is the jeepney. It really makes me crazy. I like the jeep but I am afraid of it. I like it because it is very colorful, and has varied forms, and has a nice sound system.
My fear comes from the jeepney driver. He is the boss of the road. He moves when he wants to move, and he stops when he wants to stop. The only rule for him is no rule. New drivers are really afraid to drive in the streets, although some say it is the best practice to learn to drive.
The traffic department is not strict with regard to the vehicles. As long as it can run on the road, they will allow you to drive it. Therefore, some cars look like tanks, and some cars sound like airplanes.
Of course, there are traffic lights at the crossings, and in the past few years, more traffic lights have been installed. But the funny thing is that the traffic lights have rest periods at night and during Sundays. Then all that the traffic lights do is to blink off and on rapidly. You do not know if you are supposed to stop or to go.
Besides the traffic lights, there are the traffic police who stand by for the emergency situations or to help out when the traffic lights are at rest. The local traffic police are completely different from the Chinese traffic police. The local traffic police are livelier and far more interesting. They usually stand under the sun and dance. Really dance! The only problem is that the gestures can sometimes be confusing, especially to the new drivers.
Apart from the traffic police, you also find some cigarette hawkers at the crossings. Here the cigarettes are not sold by the pack but by the stick. When all vehicles stop at a red light, the hawkers run onto the street, knocking the covers of their wooden boxes – pak, pakpak! If you raise your hand, they will run to you and light a cigarette for you. A very thoughtful service, indeed. They don’t look like they’re doing business, but meeting good friends.
If it is not the hawkers, then you meet some young beggars. They use a dirty cloth to wipe your mirror or windows. If you do want your mirrors or windows, er, cleaned, just give them two pesos and they will walk away after saying thanks. Or you can knock at the window to stop them. In which case they will leave and turn to the next car. They do not get angry with you at all. That is their nature, to just be happy.
Such is Davao. It is a city of music, dance, and sun. Music makes the city alive. Almost all the cars have audio and each radio station plays music. Even the tricycles are equipped with a sound system. Filipinos really like working with music around to enjoy life.
And how they dance! Dance is like a spiritual exercise. It is not only the traffic police who dance. Every Filipino dances. If they hear music, the Filipinos will dance. They seem to be like the angels of dance.
The sun shines throughout the year in this beautiful land, that is why the Filipinos have a sunny disposition. They laugh, listen to music, swing their buttocks, and enjoy life every day.
I am slowly falling in love with this place and have become half a Filipino.
(Liu Bao is a foreign student now on his fourth year in AB English at the Ateneo de Davao University.)