There’s this video uploaded by YouTubers Dane and Magnet that shows a little slice of life in Davao City. Dane Policarpio and Magnet Navales (who I presume are from Metro Manila) simply ride jeepneys and taxis and walk down a few streets as they make their way to People’s Park and the fruit stands outside Magsaysay Park, but it is not the two destinations that they focus on (in fact the video doesn’t actually show them inside People’s Park or eating fruit outside Magsaysay Park). What we see are not necessarily the best places the city has to offer, but we see a glimpse of the character of the people living here.
Here, watch it first if you haven’t seen it yet:
What caught my attention was their amazement at how orderly the city is. Dane, in particular, couldn’t stop talking about how vehicles would stop before pedestrian lanes, keeping the path open for people. “Hindi sila humaharang sa pedestrian lane. Sa Manila pahirapan e (They don’t block the pedestrian lanes. In Manila, pedestrians have a hard time).”
They also marvel at how clean the city is, and how it doesn’t smell like urine (the prevailing smell in Manila, according to Dane’s foreign friends). Dane is also bowled over by the fact that no one casts an evil eye or makes a move on his camera (which we presume is a fancy one based on how smooth the video is). In their short visit, they immediately see one quality that Dabawenyos have always been proud of: discipline.
The video is dated November 17, 2016, or four-and-a-half months since Davao City “lost” Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the entire country. In that span of time, the city had been under the leadership of his daughter Inday Sara, and she has been largely in the background due to her pregnancy. She is hard at work, make no mistake, or else the city government would grind to a halt, but she is not very visible for understandable reasons.
In other words, the discipline that Dane and Magnet saw was not imposed by some authoritarian ruler or by a kind and benevolent leader. It is an inherent discipline, one that was developed over decades of difficulty that was overcome by a common desire to achieve a peaceful and prosperous city. We are, in a sense, on autopilot, with each element doing its task without having to have someone looking over its shoulder.
As a Manileño transplanted to this city, I often wish the same thing were true of Metro Manila. I echo Dane and Magnet’s title to their video: Sana ‘sing ayos ng Davao City ang Manila. Perhaps in due time the entire country would wake up to the realization that it is not a President — not even one as strong and popular as Duterte — or a mayor or any government official who can clean up the Philippines. It is all of us working together, disciplining ourselves and looking out for each other. Dabawenyos are not perfect, but at least we work hard together to keep our city clean and safe.
That’s the spirit of Davao City, and I dream of the day it would catch on to the entire country.