Feeling at Home in Dusty Davao City: Parallels to Living in Peru

Jeepneys de las Filipinas Como Viviendo en Peru

It’s been 6 years, maybe 7, since I’ve been to the Philippines. The last time I arrived in Davao City, we used a staircase to exit the aircraft, suffocating in the dust and heat as we walked ourselves to the terminal, which was really just a simple box-like building. I would never have guessed that this time, I would walk into a renovated airport through the jet bridge that I’m used to and into maze-like hallways pristine in white that I associate with larger airports to ease our transition to a new world.

Jeepneys de las Filipinas Como Viviendo en Peru
Jeepneys in the Philippines are much like combis in Peru.
When my dad saw what it was like for me living in Peru, he told me that Huancayo looks a lot like Davao City when it was still a town 30 years ago. Instead of movie theaters, they both had their cabinas where we’d sit on beach chairs and watch a pirated movie in a private room. Their marketplaces are a bustling community and the general population doesn’t have Internet in their own homes, so Internet cafes are widespread.

When I first arrived in Huancayo in 2008, the first supermarket had just opened, overshadowing all the little mom-and-pop shops. And within months, Huancayo would inaugurate Real Plaza, its first mall with its first movie theater. It became how I remembered Davao City as a child on various summer vacations where everything happened at Victoria Plaza, the only mall in town. People pack themselves into jeepneys (combis in Peru) to get around town or leave the city where you’ll find yourself surrounded by farms (durian and pomelo by Davao City, artichoke and potato by Huancayo). And then just a bit further is the vastness of seemingly untouched land.

I find that the two cities continue to parallel in dustiness, the garbage on the streets, the near nonexistence of traffic rules, the Catholicism interwoven in everyday life, the slower pace of life, the warmth of the people, and the sincerity of smiles.

Nevertheless, it’s amazing to see how much Davao City has grown and changed with 5 major malls and highways replacing dirt roads, and to imagine how Huancayo may follow a similar path toward development for better or worse.

How has your city changed in the last 5 years?

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Comments (8)

  • Dutch Harbor AK. hasn’t changed in the ten years I’ve lived here. The highlight was in 2009 when our Safeway store was remolded. The only thing to do here is WORK, WORK, WORK, fish or drink. Just like most people, I don’t go fishing, I don’t drink so I WORK.
    I will say I have seen some amazing changes in Huancayo though from my first visit in 2009 and my most recent visit in 2012. Huancayo has gone from having Real Plaza (Plaza Vea) to having two Plaza Vea stores and a Meastro Do it yourself center (Home Depot). The most exciting thing I noticed was how busy both Plaza Vea’s were in 2012 compared to 2009. Real Plaza was a Ghost town in 2009 and the food court was empty . Today you are lucky to find a place to sit if you eat at KFC or any of the other fast food places that are offered. I also noticed the road from Chupacca to Chala has been paved. The once 60 minute drive on the ever bumpy dirt road only took a whopping 15 minutes. I get excited about these kind of things.

    • I almost crave that kind of stability. =) It must be nice, in a way, to know that you can rely on your city to remain there mostly unchanged. =) I so know what you mean about Real Plaza being empty. Now, it’s turned into a hub with major activities at the food court every weekend. I like it contributes to community like that. And definitely lots of paving. The city sure is growing – I wonder what other changes you’ll see the next time you’re there. =)

  • Hi!

    This entry was referred to me by my cousin. We are from Davao City, and we love Davao City so much. I found your blog very true and it gave a tinge of nostalgia as I remember as a child going to Victoria Plaza to see the only mall being put up at that time. Our family even had our own small thrift shop while the mall was still in its toddler years. It’s so nice to see it compared with a place on another side of the planet. It makes me think that we’re living in two different cities at the same time. At the present time, I am living in Manila as my work is here, but I still crave the simplicity and familiarity of home, which is Davao. I do hope you enjoy your visits in Davao. I know that it has undergone a lot of transformations and I am proud to be a citizen (somehow) of it, and hopefully those transformations had done more good than bad. Hopefully Huancayo would progress into a beautiful and bountiful city as well.
    Cheers!

    • Great to meet you, Gee! In some ways, because of all the time I spent there as a child, Davao feels like home to me too, so I think I can relate. I love how you describe that parallelism about living on different sides of the planet yet seeing similarities. The world is so small these days. =) Thanks for your positivity!

  • Certain areas of Baltimore seem to b frozen in time while others have changed significantly. In my immediate area, everything is perfectly the same except for the commercial centers which have grown in size and offer a lot more variety for shoppers.

    As you noted, Samantha, small towns in “so called” underdeveloped countries seem t be undergoing significant changes in a very short amount of time. Even Lima is radically different from what it was a very few years ago. Life, indeed, is becoming much more modern and complex everywhere and the simplicity that you love so much is increasingly difficult to find. Hopefully, you will be able adapt to all the changes in life that we face in life and at least be able to enjoy your memories of the “good old days” when life was much simpler than what it is today

    • Ooh! That’s so true about Lima – the metropolitano, the renovated stadium, and all the new apartments in Miraflores just to name a few places. I also hope that I’ll be able to adapt or at least be able to create simplicity for myself within my own space. =)

  • Interesting comparison. Sounds like both Davao City and Huancayo are booming though it may be just modern times encroaching on the old. I note that some things such as the pace of life haven’t caught up, so far, but change is bound to happen. It’s good but not when you see Burger King, McDonalds, and Wal-Mart invade a foreign culture. In sixteen years, I’ve seen Tijuana, Mexico go from a dusty ugly town to a dusty modern city with a vibrant artistic and cultural community and emphasis on the arts. I’ve seen other cities and towns grow beyond recognition, and I’m at the point in life where I have poignant memories of cities and towns before houses were torn down and fields sacrificed to make way for roads and buildings. I miss the good old days when life was much simpler but it was also harder. You lose some, you gain some.

    • Haha! Interesting examples. Burger King invaded Huancayo in 2008 and Starbucks just this year, but not McDonalds or Walmart yet. =P Whoa! I totally still imagined Tijuana to be a dusty ugly town. =) How weird to imagine it evolving it into a modern city. I’ve never experienced those good old days you describe, but boy do I miss them too. Maybe they were “harder,” but just in a different way.

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